The Fifty Cent Tour

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Last Firsts

photo by Mary 2007

"Well, there's a first for everything"  my mother declared as she sealed up a greeting card envelope.

What do you mean, Ma?, I say kinda casually, waiting for her to say something funny.

"It's the first time I signed a card with just Grandma, instead of Grandma and Grandpa".

She catches me off guard and I stop for a second, to process what she had just said.
Because of the "you're not going to believe this" tone of her voice, I thought she was going to say something witty or tell me story.

I didn't fully realize the heaviness in her heart when she said what she had said.

This was just another thing to check off on her list of firsts.
The list that replaced her last list..of lasts.

Since my father's passing in August 2008, we have been through many lasts and many firsts.
We were together as a family, through most of them.
Planning the wake, the funeral, the Mass.
Picking out a plot.
Keeping my father's wish of not being buried near a tree.
The things that you find out about people when choosing burial sites!
These were firsts for all of us.
Sorrowful firsts.

I mentioned, because I live a distance away from my the rest of my family, that I missed the joyful firsts.
Babies being born, first steps, first words, first day of school, first dates.
Yes, e-mail has made the world smaller but, like the song goes, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby."
I remember telling my Dad that one time.
That I wished I lived closer for the firsts.
And he told me that he wished he could help me.
And somehow, I'd like to believe that he did just that.
For me...

My Dad's health had been rapidly declining.
Each day was possibly his last day.
And everytime the phone would ring here in NH, I'd swear it was going to be "that call"...
Each day he bravely hung on to live another day.
We all thought the impending arrival of yet another grandson was the reason for his struggle to live another day.

 Unfortunately, he was two days short of the mark.

The night of my father's wake my sister-in-law went into labor.
And on the morning of my dad's funeral.
My nephew was born.
My brother and his wife's first child.
A funeral and a birth on the same day, in the same family.
That must have been a first for a lot of folks.
I know it was for me.

I was happy that I got to hold my beautiful new little nephew, just hours old, in my arms.
These are the firsts that you just want to make last..forever.

The bitter with the sweet.

Thank you Daddy, for giving me the opportunity to be home for my first joyful first.
I'm sorry it took a sorrowful one to make that happen.

I also take it as a blessing to have been with my mom for the first time she signed a card without adding my father's name.
I admired her strength and her bravery for telling me how she felt instead of bottling it up.
I comforted her and told her that "this was the last first time that she would ever have to sign a card with just her name only."
To which she replied. "Now say that 10 times, fast." ;)
The gift of humour.
Fortunately, that is the way we roll...

With holiday seasons coming just around the corner, there will be a lot more firsts.
There will be Christmas cards to send, Christmas cards received from far away friends who aren't quite up to speed on the news.
One less gift to purchase.
One less place at the table.
But we will speak of our father, without effort, as though he were beside us.
We will laugh and recount stories of Christmases past.
"Pictures first, before you open your presents!" was my dad's only request, every Christmas morning.
Did that ever drive us crazy.

Oh, Daddy , we will miss your photo shoots this year.
But we will get through the holidays, together.
Without you.
You will be first in our hearts and in our minds.
We loved you so...T'was heaven here with you while it lasted.

You were the best Daddy ever!

Peace - Rene   ~~~

This was originally a post from 2009, the year after my father's death.
I felt this best fit the Red Writing Hood prompt of finding  joy or beauty in a place where that may be difficult. This is my first submission to The Red Dress Club.


  1. Rene, your Daddy was an amazing man as I can feel the deep love coming through your words.
    And I just 'know' that his passing and the birth of your nephew is spiritually and devinely related...somehow.
    Glad you re-posted this one!
    And that photo...great job, Mary :)

  2. That's a special post. Thanks for putting it up. I missed first time around.


  3. Rene:

    Thank you. I didn't see it last year...but thank you.

    I know that feeling of firsts, and my heart goes out to you.

    And the bit about your dad not wanting to buried near a tree? Priceless, pure gold. In that instant, I felt like I knew him all of a sudden. A person, not just pixels. Peace, my dear.

  4. I try to keep dates out of my strikes me that that is the same day my dad passed in '92.

    Well written. Thanks

  5. I missed it too. Thank you for posting again.

    Appropriate timing, indeed.

    Love Gumby's comment about the gold. I agree.

  6. I hate those kind of "first." No fun for anyone. It's the small ones that hurt the most too. You expect the big ones to hurt, and prepare for them, but the little ones sneak up on you. I recently made my mothers bread pudding, and realized it was the first time I had had it without her. 6 years later and there are still "first's". I could barely choke it down.

  7. Yeah, there's a lot of those firsts that come creeping up on you.

    I remember my Mom finding the sink without the usual layer of grime and splatter on a Saturday morning, when my Dad would come in from his little condo sized work shop and clean up for lunch.

    It always pissed her off that he left that mess, and then she came apart when it wasn't there.

    What a thing to miss, it really brought it all home, the permanence of the loss.

    A nice tribute to your Dad, Rene : )


  8. I love that many of you are using this space to share your stories and memories of loved ones that are no longer ...
    just beautiful
    this is the time for those memories
    I encourage anyone reading to do the same, take as much space as you need :)


  9. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing again, for those of us who are "new."

    My husband had the kind of father you had. Your blog reminded me of him.

    I miss him.

  10. Thanks for re-posting, Rene.

    My dad passed 23 years ago and never a holiday goes by where we reminisce and laugh about somethings my dad did. Trust me, he did some humdingers! That's how you keep their memory alive.

    I was very grateful that he was able to see all his grandchildren born before his passing.

    I bet your glad he took those pictures, now.
    God Bless our dads!

  11. 'Fitting' indeed. Wonderful thoughtful post. -Jayne

  12. it's clear to me
    that your Dad handed down
    some unique and amazing gifts!

    we never ask for the torch
    but it gets handed to us
    and - somehow - we
    find a way to honor
    the request.

    peace and love~

  13. Rene, Thanks for this beautiful (re-)post. Yes, today was a fitting day for sharing and honoring your Daddy (and your Mom... what a gracious woman).

    I agree with Mary Jane... I bet you're really glad your Dad insisted on taking so many pictures.

    May your sweet memories live within you always (I'm sure they will).

    Peace and hugs,

  14. this is such a lovely post. I'm glad you reposted it. how wonderful a tribute and how wonderful to have had such a father. I hope one day my kids will write of me in such a way too.

  15. I missed this the first time. It's truly lovely Rene.

  16. This was good, thanks for posting it.

  17. So this is my year of seconds... which is a little easier than the firsts... but not really. We just celebrated an early Thanksgiving with all my side of the family, and I had to wipe a few tears away because I didn't want anyone to see that I'm still teary during my 2nds. I think it's always going to be hard not to have him with us, especially when all the family is together without him. But I also think that somehow our dads do help us in ways they couldn't before. Peace, Love & Joy... (my dad used to always end his letters that way.) Love your writing!

  18. Oh the tears! I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I loved this post.

  19. What a blessing to be able to focus on something joyful during such a sorrowful time. You seem to have a strong family. One that is close despite your distance from them. I love this post - well done!

  20. Welcome to Red Writing Hood!

    This is a beautiful tribute, to your late father, to your mother's grace and humor, and to you as a grieving daughter.


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