Ancient History

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I wake up

“Mama! I wake up!”

Ollie shouts this news nearly every morning as he picks his way down the stairs. Being awake is worthy of notice when you’re coming up on age three. Your little lids part to find night-night time has fallen away to something bright and new. Everyone must feel that way, right?

His tone suggests not only is he gobsmacked it’s morning again, he’s rejoicing and believes I’m right there with him in his love affair for something as novel as a new day.

He never complains or stomps or criticizes the cereal inventory. He’s never hunched over the printer praying it spits out that thing that’s due in an hour. Someone else will find his shoes if he can’t, but that’s rarely an issue because I’m the one who puts them away in a certain place. His size 8s are easily found and rocked onto his feet.

A new day is a fantastic opportunity to surrender to the flow. In his world, that cereal is fine. What is an outline and why are you upset there is no color ink? Who cares? “I wake up!”

I wake up, too, but have nobody in particular to bestow with an announcement. It’s obvious. The stairs creak. I come down them because that’s where the coffee lives. If the stairs don’t reveal I’m awake, the sound of coffee mugs clattering as I hunt for the one that suits my mood will do the trick.


I wake up.

My father’s death in June knocked me out. I’ve been functioning okay. I’m getting things done, moving forward, enjoying activities, laughing too. Naturally, there are tough minutes, hours, days. They come in waves. His death fundamentally changed me and shuffled my priorities. Writing—anywhere—was suddenly difficult and utterly trite. I struggled because I had the desire to expel my reeling astonishment through writing while wanting to keep everything to myself. My dad was an intensely private man and I want to honor him while telling my own story and that is practically impossible.

The days leading up to his death were the most raw, gritty, real days I’ve ever experienced. I hope to never find myself in that situation again and I hope anyone reading this never does, either. But if I do, I will be armed with the experience of knowing there are moments of sublime beauty, spontaneous humor, and sustaining grace that are unexplainable and probably unbelievable to anyone who was not there.

Sunflowers remind me of my dad. They didn't before.

Sunflowers remind me of my dad. They didn’t before.

But now, I wake up. My dad was proud of my writing and the places it has taken me. I can feel his hand on my shoulder as I move forward. I might not tell his stories, but I can tell my own and in that way honor him. He’d want to hear about the zoo. He’d want to see the first day of school photos. He’d love seeing his grandchildren’s birthday cakes, their antics, their energy.

Most of all, he’d be mad if his death meant the death of something I love: Writing.

I wake up!

10 comments to I wake up

  • Susan Wells

    Beautifully said Gretchen. I’m so glad you are back to writing. I enjoy your stories, your shared thoughts and your talent.

    This one really illustrates where I too have walked.

  • I’m still waiting to wake up. I’m very grateful that you are there.

  • Mom

    My tears are trickling down my face and I’m glad I have water proof mascara on since I am headed to church. You are so right. Your Dad was so very proud of you,and our family and the fact that you were all there for him, to help him on his way to meet our Lord shows that he raised some very incredible kids. I love Ollie’s optimism. I share his joy at meeting each new day even though I am missing my dear sweet, John. Thanks for waking up and sharing your stories and life with your readers.

  • Wonderful column. My Father influences my writing every day … in so many ways large and small … since his passing. So glad you’re back blogging.

  • Hay my friend… my heart cries out for you, sending love. So good to hear your voice again. Take all the time you need and then a whole lot more.

  • Shauna

    Missed you. Glad you’re back. 🙂 So sorry for you loss.

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