Tuesday will mark one year since my dad’s heart stopped while he was exercising. One year since my mom had to endure losing her husband of 40 years. One year since my siblings and I have had to keep on throwing birthday parties and acknowledging holidays. One year of telling our six children about Poppy so he won’t be forgotten.
Nearly 365 days later, my heart continues to beat. I know that crucial organ is doing its job because I’m alive. There have been days I didn’t feel very alive. I’m told that’s normal. I dread February 19th because it’s a marker in my mind that I don’t want. For the past year I’ve said to myself, “This week last year dad was in Washington D.C. for a DAR conference” or “At Lily’s birthday party last February I thought dad might whip someone else’s kid for being too rough!” On Tuesday I can’t play this mental game anymore. This new year is one my dad did not get to experience at all. There are a lot of emotions: sadness, anger, disbelief, and reluctant acceptance to name a few.
I have talked about my dad a lot in my blog posts. I’m not trying to make anyone feel sorry for me or make anyone cry. I’m just sharing because that’s what I have to do to survive.
Here is a just a short glimpse into his life and who he was and continues to be: My dad was the oldest of five siblings. He was the first one to ever go to college and graduate. His dad was a coal miner and he learned at an early age how to raise a garden and hunt for squirrels. Dad got hit by a car at age 8 while walking home from school. He spent almost a year in the hospital with severe internal injuries and wasn’t expected to live. My mom and dad eloped to Jellico, Tennessee when he was 23 and she was 19. Every single time we drove past the Jellico exit on I-75 we had to listen to the story. My dad worked too hard. He had one speed and that was turbo. He taught me how to drive and made me so nervous I backed into someone’s car while trying to parallel park. My dad liked to drink Pepsi and Mt. Dew but gave them up for Lent several times and totally proved me wrong. Dad was generous to a fault. If my mom hadn’t been so good with money (but equally as generous), we would have been broke. Dad loved to fish but rarely took the time to actually go fishing. He also loved basketball, bluegrass music, Broadway shows, and movies. My dad was loud; talking, chewing, or singing very badly during church. He loved his family with a fierceness that is hard to describe. He was a great Poppy and took great pleasure in spoiling his grandkids. According to my husband, my dad knew at least three quarters of the general population. We called it “Six Degrees of Mike Mullins.” Finally, dad never would have left so suddenly if given a choice. I guess God knew how persuasive he could be and didn’t give him a chance to argue.
My family and I have a long way to go in our healing process. I have no regrets in our relationship. I knew exactly how much he loved me and he knew how much I loved him. Marking the one year point won’t make the pain go away but it forces me to accept that I’m still here and still living. I know my dad would want me to be happy and never accept defeat. He would want me to help keep my family close. So I will do all of these things to the best of my ability. I might even do them while drinking a cold Pepsi, listening to some Allison Kraus, and telling my girls about the time Poppy let me skip school to stand in line for Big Blue Madness. I love you dad and I will for the next 365 days and all the days that follow.