When I used to think of life’s firsts, what would come to my mind were things like a first love, a first kiss, a first child, a baby’s first step or word. However, now I think of the long list of firsts without my dad.
My family and I have suffered a year of firsts: first holidays without him, first birthdays, vacations, and even first games without him. Each of those firsts broke my heart in more pieces. Like Humpty Dumpty, my broken heart can’t be put back together.
One example of a devastating first for me personally was just last month. On October 12th, I sat curled up on my couch crying uncontrollably and watched my first Big Blue Madness without my Daddy. To give some background information and why this was a significant first for me, I have to explain how much my dad loved the Cats. He was true blue. He loved them. He would schedule “business trips” to Lexington that just coincidentally coincided with a home game. He instilled that love in me. We shared that mutual obsession. If we weren’t together when a game was on, we were texting or calling each other. Big Blue Madness was one of my favorites to watch with him. We would comment about our new Cats. Who we thought would have the biggest impact? Who we thought had potential? All sorts of back and forth that I lived for with him.
It may seem silly to some to be so upset over what boils down to a basketball practice, but to me it was the accumulation of a year without him; a year of adjustments I wasn’t prepared to make. Big Blue Madness represented the life I would have to lead without him. A life without his advice, his love, his friendship, and his larger than life presence.
A year ago, today, I smiled. I left Vandy Hospital with a renewed sense of hope. I knew Daddy was going to walk out of that sterile environment. He was talking, finally eating substantially, and telling anyone who would listen that he was retiring. He needed to spend time with his grandbabies in his pool. However, I didn’t realize it was to be the last time I would smile in days, weeks, or even months. I didn’t realize it would be my last Saturday with the “real” him. He would be consumed by disease, his mind would slowly slip, and I would lose him forever in just a few weeks.
This year of firsts has been one of the hardest in my life. My family and I have tried to focus on the memories and the short time we had with him, but it has been difficult to say the least. No one can truly prepare you for the year of firsts. It is almost impossible to describe the desolation and loneliness. As we approach the first full year without him, I look back and I realize that God gave us that Saturday with him to be our “last” because He knew all the firsts were coming.