So, once one of my posts was published on the Times parenting blog, I received a few comments that seemed, well, just a bit judgmental. A few people believed I was “burdening” Audrey with the extra responsibility to remember her father. A few just couldn’t understand why it would be important to me that she remember her father.
These are clearly people who have never suddenly lost a spouse and had a young child at the age of 22 months to care for amidst this overwhelming grief.
I think prior to this, I would’ve been bothered by the comments. But at a time when I am so vulnerable and broken, it just doesn’t matter. I gave one response explaining as graciously as I could that I would never place that burden on Audrey- that I had in fact taken many practical measures to do this for her, by placing photo albums and photos around that she seems to enjoy looking at — she even picks up our honeymoon album and says “uhny moooon!”– by having photos and video taken at both memorial services, and by collecting words from hundreds of friends and family to create a bound memorial book about her father for Audrey to read through. This blog may also be read by her- but as I state in my profile, it is primarily a means for me to process. I called it “Dear Audrey” because I liked the sound of it, but most of the entries end up a conversation in my mind or with Dan. The particular post they read is a part of a collection of writing that is more about process. What was described there was a poignant, symbolic moment shared between mother and daughter I wanted to memorialize in words, and by no means an essay or guide for dealing with a grieving toddler. In later entries like this one, it is evident to me that my grief is evolving and there are many layers and reasons as to why it is painful for me to think about Audrey forgetting.
But then just now as I was thinking about it again, I was stunned that it would be that hard for people to understand my sadness at her lack of memories of her father. Is it not sad when an Alzheimer’s patient succumbs to the disease and has no recollection of his wife or child? Is it not sad when the years of investment in a relationship are erased by a fallible memory? Audrey had a loving relationship with her father. He was the second most important person in her life for her entire life. Their relationship was foundational for her and that is obvious by the number of times each day I hear her say his name or make some association with him. Audrey has no future with him. He will not accompany us on her first day at kindergarten, he won’t attend her first ballet recital, help her with her homework, wave her off to college, or walk her down the aisle as we’d imagined. But she does have a past with him. And this past is not just about the love he had for her, which I could easily remind her of if this was the case. But it is also about her love for him. If he ceases to exist in her memory, will that love she had also cease to exist? Or can it be refashioned into something even more sacred and beautiful? I hope so.
So, even though a child losing early memories doesn’t seem as unnatural to us as an Alzheimer’s patient losing his, for me- to witness my daughter forget her own father- is quite unnatural. But I am trying to believe that, just as my grief counselor said a few weeks ago, “Whatever you need, it will be there. God will bring it,” you also will find what you need, whether in the form of memories or something else, to feel the love of your Appa. I will do everything in my power to make it so. I find myself helpless in so many things, but in this way, I will honor him.