This is so very true. As a mom I put a whole ton of pressure on myself to do ‘all the things.’ All the time. It’s exhausting.
My brain is constantly swirling with my to do’s for work, for home, for my kids and sometimes even myself. I often joke that my brain looks like an internet browser with 30+ tabs open. Because, well, life. And that is a lot. All of the time.
Sometimes when you’re running like that all of the time you forget that you can stop. The Earth will not stop spinning and fall off its axis. Your to do list will still be there tomorrow.
When Benny died, the world paused for me. Those to do’s suddenly disappeared. Everything just stopped, it was almost as if time stood still. All of a sudden I wasn’t running, hell I was barely crawling.
Me, who always had a plan always knew the next step, had nothing in my sights. I was injured so I figured I’d be home for a few weeks from work. Well, a few weeks turned into a few months and then a year, and then a decision to leave my career. I walked away from a job I loved with people I adored. And it took me a year to come to that conclusion.
I didn’t drive for about four months after the accident. I couldn’t handle the responsibility of being in control of a motor vehicle, even though we were hit outside of my car. It all seemed like too much. It took me about 18 months before I would drive longer than a half hour. I still won’t go longer than an hour or two by myself in the car. And I used to sit in my car from 3-5 hours a day at my old job.
What’s my point? Be kind to yourself. Grief takes time, so take time for grief. You do not have to figure it all out today. One of the best pieces of advice we were given was to not make any big decisions / life changes during that first year. It may not work for all but it worked for us. It gave me a chance to get my footing back and decide what was next for us so that we could start walking towards what the future held.
My relationship with my dad could be summed up as fun, contentious at times, but aways honest. He was an alcoholic who fell apart after my mom died, so I had a lot of resentment towards him once I became a parent. But our relationship grew and changed as did I. Our bond might have been complicated, but it was ours and I was ok with it.
Eulogizing my dad actually came quite easily. In remembering the good parts of him (because let’s be honest, no one wants to hear about the bad), I was able to realize the impact he really had on who I was in positive ways. I sent him off the best way that I knew how to, with sarcasm and sass. Just as he would have wanted.
Being the youngest Fletcher daughter, it’s only fitting that I should speak last. Hi, I’m Sheri and I survived my childhood as one of Hank’s children. The three of us girls may have different memories of our dad, but I’m sure that we can all agree that growing up with Hank as our father was more like growing up with Hank as a younger brother.
Not many people can say that the life skills they have learned from their father include giving a good wet willie and crossing their eyes. On vacation one year we got into a huge prank war where toilet seats were covered in Saran Wrap and you had to be careful turning a fan on in a room for fear of what would come flying off of it. The man taught me how to TP the neighbors house and was the king of mooning us kids out the front window as we rode by on our bikes. To say that Hank was an unconventional father would be an understatement.
My childhood consisted of learning to walk, talk and water ski. There was nothing that my dad loved more than being on the water with his girls. When I was a teenager he bought a Boston Whaler, taught me how to sand the bottom, seal and paint it and then set me free in Mt Sinai Harbor. Life was always an adventure and he honestly showed me that anything is possible. And even though he REALLY wanted a son (especially because I’m daughter #3) he never made me feel because I am female that there were any limits to what I could do.
There were days when I would tagalong with him at the shop and he would set me up to sharpen chainsaw or circular saw blades. When I was in college I did a whole report on welding and he was happy to give me the helmet and torch and show me how to make a smooth bead.
He also begrudgingly sat through years of dance recitals (I think mostly to watch the women dance around in tight costumes) and school plays. He was heavily involved in the drama club at my high school and was a little horriffied when I landed the part of the ‘temptress’ in the school play as a freshman. There was one night we were at the school working on the sets and I had to practice grabbing this senior guys backside, with my dad standing 2 feet away, armed with power tools. Definitely made up for all the wet Willie’s he gave to me that night or the amount of times he goosed me as a kid. He would always say, paybacks a….female dog.
I’ve heard that as a girl you seek to marry someone just like your father. The day that my husband Parker and my dad met, things just clicked. I remember Parker getting involved in a brotherly squabble between my dad and my Uncle. Anyone willing to jump into a Fletcher disagreement at a first meeting is a definite keeper!
Parker and my dad bonded over all things mechanical and would spend hours in his shop during visits futzing around. Their common interests lead us to buy our family boat and be able to share his love of the water with our children.
My dad lived life large and by his own rules. My childhood consisted of tickle wars, random backside grabs and water fights. He taught me not to take life too seriously and to enjoy all the moments. Even when you’re knee deep in baby poop, everything can still be shits and giggles. He taught me about the type of parent that I wanted to be for my children, relentless, embarrassing, inappropriate, but above all fun!
Because my kids are so young, I will have to try my damnedest to make sure that we are able to keep my dad’s memory alive. Most people would do that by sharing stories and man are there some doziies. I can mention how he tried to vacuum toilet water with his mom’s Electrolux Vacuum to see if it would work (it does) or the countless times he dressed in drag, of which there is ample photographic evidence. But what they need to know the most is how my dad loved with all of his heart. He loved his family more than anything, maybe even more than the latest crude joke. He stood by my mom and took care of her when she was sick and he supported Sharon through her treatments. He may not have been the perfect person, but his capacity for love and how he showed it were real. Every time I spoke to him on the phone, the conversation would start with hey girl and end with I love you.
Thank you everyone so much for being here today to say good bye to Hank, the man, the myth, the legend. In his own words, were off like a prom dress.
Love you Dad.
I remember wondering after Benny passed how I would navigate through my grief. How would I handle all of the holidays without him? Could I survive his birthday?
Benny was born in May, a big month for birthdays in mine and my husband’s families. We start with Mother’s Day, which I had just finally stopped grieving once Darcy was born, throw a whole bunch of birthdays in there, including my father’s and Benny’s, and wrap it all up with the day my mom died. All of this happens within a span of 13 days or so. It. Is. A. Lot.
Every year around Benny’s birthday in May, we do a gathering at the cemetery and then something small for the kids back at the house. We sing happy birthday and share memories. I want to celebrate the fact that my son lived, not focus on his death. I have one child who barely remembers him and two children that have never met him. It’s complex and confusing and we muddle through this new world as best as we possibly can.
Every May I am sent into a tail spin. I will add as many projects to my ‘to do list’ as possible. I spend hours on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist looking for bargains that I can transform into something.
I need to keep my hands busy. I need to keep my mind clear. I just need to get through the next 13 or so days. I am in survival mode.
It’s as if I begin to notice everything around me that needs to be fixed. Oh, the cats destroyed the couch?
I got this! I just noticed that the kitchen looked very blah, looks too much like every other new house. Time to add a backsplash!
I’m desperately trying to fix my surroundings in an attempt to fix myself. It’s not possible. I cannot fix this.
No matter how much planning I do, no matter how much I think I have done, I will always add something to Benny’s celebration of life. In part it has become my way of still planning a party for my son, even though he is not here.
I try to find the perfect book to be read at the cemetery. I look for a creative craft for the kids to do in Benny’s memory. I am constantly looking for new ways to celebrate his life. Which is hard because it was so short.
Is all of this crazy? Sure. Do I need to put more pressure on myself to what is already a month heaped with emotional grief? Nope. But here’s the thing. This stuff, this trying to fix things, this need to plan a celebration of my son’s life, it helps. It helps me feel the tiniest bit like I can have control over something, anything in my chaotic life. I like keeping my hands busy and my mind focused. It’s like meditation to me. It gives me a chance to be truly present in the moment.
This is my process. This is how I have learned to make it through an emotionally charged month of ups and downs. My husband and kids have learned to take it all in stride and just accept that this is what I do. This is what I need. And for now it works. Maybe some day it won’t and that’s ok too.
There is no guidebook friends. There is nothing to make it all better. But if you can find something constructive to make it tolerable, you do you. Do what feels right.