Still Here…

“Let’s go to the bar!” Craig said over the phone on his way home on Tuesday night. “I don’t feel like cooking.” To be honest, I didn’t either. It has been a huge adjustment going back to work – even just two shifts a week. I had just woken up at 4:30 and starting my “day.”

Carver got his cowboy hat and new paisley shirt we got him at the Western store. His cowboy boots completed the look. Looking in the mirror he was so proud. “I’ll bet Papa Moo would love this!” gesturing to his cowboy get up.

We all piled in the van and drove two blocks to our favorite bar. I had my 22nd birthday here. We celebrated Mom and Dad’s new house here. The owner brought us fried chicken the day after Dad died and stood outside the bar as his funeral procession moved through town in June 2019. He plays peek a boo with the boys from behind the bar and always gives M&Ms as we leave.

I remember the first time I ate at Riverside. I was probably 5 years old. We were in the West barn at the farm. I was hanging out with Dad as he finished milking. He said to me with a goofy smile – “When the cats are away the mice will play.” He loaded me up in the little ranger and took me to Riverside where I had my first taste of quality bar food.

We walk in the door, the boys fight over which booth to sit in while I get the cards. We deal while the waitress brings us our drinks. They usually don’t even have to ask what we’d like to drink, they know. Gannon asks if Grandma Jo is coming to join us, I hadn’t thought of it but she’s just down the street. I call her, take her order and she will be there in 5.

Mom walks in just after our “hodge podge” (also known as a combo basket) comes. I win the 4th round of “Junk” and put the cards away to make room for food. We all eat together and admire Carver’s “cowboy” get up. I joke that he needs a duster just like my Dad used to wear to church on Sunday’s. I can remember how heavy his authentic leather jacket weighed, I can still smell it. My mom comments, “Papa Moo would love your shirt, he loved pearl snaps.”

Craig talks about the farm, the same one my Dad worked at for 32 years. We talk about Craig’s fire meeting and the upcoming pancake breakfast, the same one I’ve worked at since I was old enough to pour milk and coffee. Dad served on the fire department and first responders my entire life.

Soon enough my brother Karl walks in the door. We didn’t know he was coming but saw our cars and stopped in as we were finishing up. He grabs a beer and a pool stick and soon enough he’s teaching Carver how to play. Mom talks about how Dad used to be in pool league as she tells Carver to “choke up” on the cue stick. Karl makes jokes about how he hates his bald spot, the same one that he inherited from Dad. Dad started losing his hair in 8th grade.

Karl pulls out a dollar bill and puts it in the juke box. He asks what we think he should play and Bat out of Hell is the first song that comes to my mind. Meat Loaf was Dad’s favorite. We listened to Bat out of Hell on cassette tape any time we were in the astro van growing up. We even all went to a Meat Loaf concert together my junior year of high school.

Soon enough I’m using my White Claw as a microphone. If Dad was here he would roll his eyes in that lovingly annoyed way. If Dad was here…that echoes in my mind for a minute. If Dad was here…

But he is. He is in everything we do but at the same time he’s not. His absence is so palpable on nights like these but also, he’s still very much here, sitting in this booth, ordering another Miller high life, stealing all the cheese curds from the basket, and telling Gannon to sit and eat his food. He would have loved a night like tonight. His absence and his presence have become one. It makes me happy and sad to think of him missing out on a night like tonight. But deep down, I don’t think he did miss it.

We pay the bill and all head home. On the way home, as we pull in the driveway, “Mom, I’m really sad Papa Moo died.” I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Gannon must have felt it too. “Me too, Gan.”

As I set Anders’ car seat down underneath Dad’s picture that hangs in our dining room, I wipe a tear from my eye. It gets harder and easier to talk about it. It gets better and worse in the same breath. I feel his presence and absence in the same moment. It stops me in my tracks and keeps me going. I can hold grief and love in the same heart. Thanks for the visit last night, Dad.

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  1. Lolaquilts
    January 11, 2023 / 8:17 pm

    According to genetics the baldness gene comes thru the mother to her sons.

  2. Paula
    January 11, 2023 / 9:45 pm

    I know what you mean, I lost my dad in June and I still catch myself thinking I need to call dad and tell him……. It is getting easier but there are just those moments when the tears just fall!

  3. Cheryl Regan
    January 11, 2023 / 9:57 pm

    Those good and hurtful memories are keeping your dad alive for all of you….very healthy and glad you enjoy your family time together!

  4. Becky
    January 11, 2023 / 11:23 pm

    1/19/23 will be. 4 years since I lost my husband to bladders cancer, still miss him like it was yesterday!

  5. Marie L.
    January 12, 2023 / 12:59 am

    Keep hanging in there. Grief is a strange thing. Some days, it is like my husband has been gone so long, and other days, it is like I can feel him, smell him, and he is right there. Enjoy the moments when they come to visit.

  6. Debbie Speltz
    January 12, 2023 / 2:24 am

    Oh Kalissa!!! This touched my heart so deeply. All those feelings and the spur of the moment get together in that special place.. Your dad orchestrated that!! You have a great gift of placing your feelings and experiences for all of us to think about in your blog. We start to see that this is us too, missing those so special people but realize that , yes they ARE here watching over us💖Hugs to you and your family

  7. Brenda
    January 12, 2023 / 1:51 pm

    What a lovely tribute….and all because you didn’t want to cook! This is one of the best pieces of writing that casually shows up on a blog post…you have a talent, my dear…..

  8. Donna
    January 12, 2023 / 2:00 pm

    Beautiful post. Papa Moo would be proud.

  9. Elle
    January 12, 2023 / 3:17 pm

    I love that Papa Moo is present for you all. I love that you talk about him, his habits, his character, what he would say. I love that he is part of your boys’ life. I love that they “know him” and “miss him” along with you.

    I feel ya sister! We keep Dad alive too and the grands that never knew him “know him”. I’ll share this story so you can laugh and cry again, with me.

    My youngest nephew was born 2y after Dad died. We were driving the 2h to see Mom for her birthday. From the backseat “Aunt Elle…….yes Ty,… Grandpa loves me….yes Ty, he does…..ya know where he’s livin?……where Ty?……he’s livin’ with Jesus”. Gosh, 29.5 years and I still get tears on this one.

    Hugs to you all.

  10. Beth T.
    January 12, 2023 / 6:25 pm

    Oh, Kalissa. My Mom died in 2000, my dad 2 years before her.. At first I had very clear delineations: things were either “Before Mom died” or “After Mom died”–things I had shared with her, or things I wish I had shared with her. But after a few years, those lines blurred. I started to see that I couldn’t remember if a book came out before or after she was gone, because I had talked to her about it…in my head, to heaven, all the while I was reading it. A tv show I thought she would love, that made me think of her every time I watch it now feels like a show we shared, even though it didn’t start until a year after she died.
    Nights like the one you described are a good example of the how the blurring happens, in the best way. Gannon misses Papa Moo, even though he was so tiny. You shared an evening with your dad and your new baby, even though the dates should make that impossible. Love makes it possible, because we hold on tight. Thank you for sharing this sweet evening with us.

  11. Ginny
    January 12, 2023 / 6:42 pm

    I am older than your Mom and probably old enough to be your grandmother, but I miss my dad everyday, there is never a day I don’t think about him, wish I could talk to him, show him something or just give him a kiss , he is gone this April 13 years. Yes, it gets easier but I still miss him. His loss was hard to deal with the first few years. Your post made me cry (for you) because I understand how hard it is to miss them. A very smart person told me when Daddy died and I was heartbroken how lucky I was to have had a relationship like that with him because alot of people don’t , they are secretly pleased that their relative is gone.

  12. Susan the Farm Quilter
    January 12, 2023 / 7:31 pm

    What a beautiful time with family!! Papa Moo is always in your hearts and in the back of your mind, reminding you of his steadfast love and support. I’m sorry Gannon doesn’t really have personal memories of Papa Moo, but you all are sharing your memories of him, teaching Gannon who he still is to you.

  13. Donette Kurtz
    January 12, 2023 / 7:48 pm

    I lost my Dad in 2017. My mom last august. And you just wrote so well how I feel. It never goes away you just deal with it better as time passes. Thanks for telling you story I related so much. You are a beautiful family hang on tight. Those boys will be on there own to quickly. Mine are mine are 33 and 29 and it seems like yesterday I was chasing them Thur the house with a leaky diaper. Lol.

  14. Kim from TN
    January 12, 2023 / 8:19 pm

    Your dad would be so proud of you. He would love the family that you and Craig have. Loosing someone has its bittersweet moments. There is no right or wrong way to deal with loss or remembrance of someone who we have loved and miss.

  15. Sharon
    January 13, 2023 / 3:40 am

    That was a great post about your Dad,my Dad died a year ago and I miss him!you said it perfect,I feel the same way.😢

  16. Christina Wheeler
    January 17, 2023 / 6:00 pm

    So true about your grieving. So we’ll written!

  17. Penny J Holliday
    January 23, 2023 / 6:38 pm

    ♥️ your personal story with your fond memories! I admire your wonderful family so much! Thanks for sharing!

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