The day-to-day processing of emotions is really shallow, if you think about it.  And I think we men are more shallow than others in this area.

We tend to be happy, or sad, or depressed, or pissed off (and, as men, we are really good at anger, particularly when it allows us to ignore the tougher shit underneath that’s causing that anger).  But rarely do we ever talk about experiencing multiple emotions at the same time.

I have found that after losing a son, I experience concurrent emotions regularly.  And it’s kind of a bitch.

I was recently in a conversation with another grieving father and we were talking about some holiday events.  He shared that he had his grandchildren in the car with his other child there too.  He looked up in the rear view mirror and saw the whole gang when two thoughts came crashing into his head:

  1. “I am so fortunate to have this family”
  2. “I wish my son was here”

As I write this, my older son is celebrating some very important milestones in his life.  Recently, my wife and I took him out to lunch.  While I was sitting there, so proud of him, and feeling so much love among the three of us, I couldn’t help but think that the only thing that would have made that lunch better was if our other son was still alive to be with us.

Now you know the first feeling.  As men, we get to have these feelings.  We generally don’t talk about them, but we all know that there are moments when we are like “no matter what I did right or wrong in my life, these people are awesome and I love them.”  And normally that emotion can exist without contradiction or confinement.

But, for fathers who have lost a child, those emotions are often accompanied by an element of emptiness.  Just a recognition that the moment – no matter how good it is – is not quite what it should be because there is someone missing. 

The country singer, Cole Swindell wrote a song titled “You Should Be Here” that’s about the loss of his father.  I hope Mr Swindell is okay with my repurposing his words, because I think they apply to any situation where you’ve lost someone with whom you’ve shared so many good times.

We played that song at Michael’s funeral.  I’m not gonna lie, I can’t listen to it without getting choked up.

Here are a couple of my favorite lines.

“It’s perfect outside its like God let me dial up the weather
Got the whole crew here, I ain’t seen some of them in forever
It’s one of those never forget it, better stop and take it in kinda scenes”

“You should be here, standing with your arm around me here
Cutting up, cracking a cold beer”

“Yeah this is one of those moments that’s got your name written all over it 
And you know that if I have just one wish it’d be that you didn’t have to miss this
Aw you should be here
You should be here”

What I find is that I miss Michael the most in moments that are great and I want to share them, not in moments that are sad and lonely.  

It’s a mind-fuck because the honesty of both the good vibes of that current moment and the reality of missing my son are so real.  They both exist, at the same time and with the same intensity.  And I find that I have had to just get comfortable with the duplicity.  

And yeah, yeah, yeah, I could just “choose” to enjoy the memory of Michael and the times we had.  And I definitely do take comfort and enjoyment in those memories, but I also call bullshit on that simplified reality.  It isn’t just “choosing happiness,” or “choosing to remember the good times,” it’s also being honest about the loss of a good man and the future memories he’ll never have a chance to create.

It is my belief that the only honest choice is to recognize both emotions. 
I’ve learned that there are a lot of things that I just have to accept.  The emotional mind-fuck of those conflicts is one of those things.

I think that is why my affinity for cigars really increased after Michael passed.  When your head is conflicted, and your heart can’t figure out whether to be happy or sad, sometimes it helps to just sit in the moment and be distracted by a cigar.  I don’t know that smoking cigars has ever provided any answers, but those moments made the unanswered questions less painful.

My cigar that night was the Mata Fina, which is sitting atop an Old Fashioned.  The cigar bar makes good Old Fashioneds.  Mine are better, but theirs are pretty good.  Here’s a hint, I smoke raw sugar for four to six hours and then I use that to make my simple syrup.  I’ll post the recipe sometime.