Monday was a difficult day. On Tuesday, I determined a possibility as to why.
A friend lost her father to a freak accident as the weekend started. On Saturday I spent time with another friend and her father (as well as her mother, husband, three kids, a dog and some extended family). On Sunday, I watched as a 17-year-old made her way to the "adult" table at a dinner party and with obvious comfort and in silent agreement with her dad made a place for herself on his knee.
That picture captured me. I smiled. And later, much later, after a day and a half of frustration mounting, small inconveniences transforming into major intrusions, and I general sense of bitchiness, I realized that behind that smile was longing.
Grief hits me at the oddest times. Movies. Commercials. An offhand comment. Or a 17-year-old sitting in her father's lap.
I can't say I miss my father. He died when I was 10 and before fathers were encouraged to take active roles in parenting, before they drove to soccer practice, and shifted their schedules to make not one but both performances of the school play, and went shopping.
When asked how the early loss of my father has affected me, I'm usually at a loss as to specifics. I don't know what it's like to have had the paternal influence so I don't recognize the implication of its absence.
But I do recognize longing.
At least I did on Tuesday. And upon its recognition, it was much easier to accept my admonition to myself to keep moving, to allow for the pain but also anticipate the next adventure, the next opportunity to be with friends, to engage in laughter, to live.
There really is joy in the mourning. Sometimes I just need to remember that.