Emotions… real men, we’re told, are able to keep them under control.  I used to be one of those guys who fought like crazy to do just that.  In addition to “Never let’em see you sweat”, I added “or cry, or be sad, or get your feelings hurt”.  Whether it was stupid pride or wanting to be strong for others, I did my best not to let my emotions get the best of me.  But then my Daddy died.  A year and a half later my Mom followed him to Heaven.  Everything changed for me since they’ve gone.

I can still watch the blood and guts movies, the sci-fi horror flicks, and even laugh when they tazer the guy on the opening sequence of Cops, and do all of that without even one emotional or teary flinch.  However, let me stumble across a Hallmark movie, or a heart wrenching scene on a TV drama involving parents and their kids and I come apart.  It seems that the temporary nature of life has become very, very real to me.  Each family holiday since my parents have died always finds me somewhere alone, quiet, and crying.  Why?

I miss the “only them” stuff.  My dad’s smile… it was infectious.  Not known much for wearing his emotions on his sleeve, that changed drastically as he aged, and especially when the grandkids came along.  Nobody had a smile like my Daddy.  My Mom, on the other hand, was the sassy joker of the couple.  A wit as sharp as a razor, and tongue as sharp as one to go with it, she used them to make us laugh and keep us in line!  Together, their over 50 years of marriage served as a model for their five sons and their wives.  The reputations they had built for themselves are still living legacies to this day, highlighting that they lived their lives well, and that mattered.

I miss the feeling of our family being complete.  We still get together with the brother, wives and kids, as well as some of the extended family.  But there’s always that slight feeling of emptiness.  Happy sadness.  Thanksgiving truly was a time of thanks when you heard my Daddy pray over our family lunch.  Christmastime bubbled with enthusiasm out of the overflow of my Mom’s heart.  Although we still give thanks to God for His blessings, and we laugh and enjoy the Christmas season, there’s still those two empty chairs that leave me a little melancholy.

pic019I miss the stuff that might have been.    Not every family is as blessed as ours to have had parents like we had.  I’m so grateful for the times we’ve had.  But I look at my daughter and think, “I wish your Papa and Grandma were going to see your wedding someday.”  I think about my boys, and the wives I know that they’s marry one day, and wish they could have spent time in the kitchen and in the shopping mall with my Mom.  (She was much better at shopping than the kitchen, by the way.)   I was blessed to remember know and remember my great grandmother on my dad’s side…  And I know the only things my grandbabies to come will know about their great-grandparents is what we tell them.   My Daddy worked hard and long as a college president, and retired only 4 years before he died.  I wish he and my Mom had longer together as a retired couple, to travel, to enjoy each other and their family, and to just be.  So many good things that might have been, aren’t and won’t be.  It makes me sad.

I realize that although the world is a better place because they were here, it’s not a better place without them here.   I know that I’ll see my parents again in Heaven, of that I’m sure.  At 50 years of age, I may have another good third of my life left on this planet before then.  I still have opportunity to encounter many of the people whose lives were enriched because they crossed paths with my Dad and Mom.  There are hundreds more that I’ll never know or know about, but whose lives are fuller and more blessed because of Bill and Sondra Cole.  When I take in all that their lives accomplished, I am grateful, and proud, and happy to have called them my parents.  But this world was a better place with them in it, and I miss them.

So what will I do?  I’ll be OK with crying at those tender movie moments.  I’m satisfied to be teary as I write this.  I will put aside those foolish, prideful macho man attitudes.  In those quietly, lonely moments when my heart trembles and my lip quivers as  I think about my parents, I’ll remind myself that real men DO cry… especially when they miss their parents.