Day 315/365 Your Father’s Favorite

It hit me today unexpectedly, and with the sudden force of a freight train.

I was sitting there, in my parents’ house, having coffee with my mother.  I had spent the night, and I was enjoying a cozy and relaxed morning in my pajamas.

She pointed to an enlarged photograph behind me on the wall and said, “I should probably change that to something more recent. Will was only five in that picture….so it is more than a decade old…but, it was your father’s favorite….”

Your father’s favorite.

That’s all it took to knock the wind out of me.

It surprised me, for I think about my father every single day, but lately it hasn’t rattled me as often…not like this. If anything, I have found a new way to be with him. I have been talking to him a lot. Of course, he probably thinks I only call on him when I need something…

Typical kid.

Okay, fine…maybe praying for him to let me make it to the gas station on fumes was kind of an abuse of his potential on the other side (although I did make it…thanks Dad).

Back to this morning…

Your father’s favorite.

There I was…about to dissolve into a puddle. For a panicked second I considered making a dash for the bathroom before the floodgates opened. I thought I should protect my mother from my pain…she doesn’t need this…not right now with all of her worries, but…

It was too late.

“What did I say?” she asked, “Is it…Dad?”

I nodded my head yes. “Sometimes I just expect him to come walking around the corner,” I said, tears streaming down. “I wish he were here right now.”

I know what you mean,” she said, gently. “I still think it’s him whenever the phone rings, or whenever someone pulls into the driveway.”

I couldn’t help but imagine the small death she must feel every single time she remembers that isn’t possible.

He’s gone.

As if reading my thoughts she said, “He’s still very much here.”

My mind flashed back to a conversation we’d had a few months after he died. Trying to comfort her, I had said that very thing – “He is still here.”

Somewhat angrily (and justifiably so) she’d replied, “What good is it for him to be “here” if he can’t be HERE?!”

I felt a slight sense of relief; glad that she has since found some peace within his transition into spirit.

I wondered what it was like –  to live with a ghost.

Then I realized, I already knew.

Day 314/365 A Blog Mostly Full

One year ago (one year and two days, to be precise) I announced that I was going to write a blog a day for 365 days.

You may ask…

What the hell were you thinking?

That’s a fair question – and one I have asked myself more than once. The answer is…I was drowning, and somehow I knew that writing would help me to keep my head above water.

I wasn’t wrong.

I wrote every day for more than half the year, but at a certain point I began to relax a little and to allow myself to take a pass, or two…or as it turns out…51.

I can choose to see this as a blog partially empty or as a blog mostly full. Personally, I think writing 313 blogs in 365 is an accomplishment, so I am going to go ahead and take this as a win…with the condition that I will keep writing. Stopping now would feel like tripping and falling with the finish line in sight. If I had 314 blogs in me, I am sure there must be 51 more kicking around in here as well.

I’ll find them. 

The truth is I wasn’t sure exactly when I started the blog (the precise date), but the first ones started showing up in my Facebook news feed as “memories” two days ago, so…there was my answer.

All this time I have deliberately avoided going back to read any of them. I honestly have no idea how doing so is gong to make me feel, but I am curious

Will the me from a year ago seem far removed from the me I am today? Will I relate to my own words differently now with the perspective I have gained?

Is it a time capsule I am really prepared to unearth?

For Dad – you’re why I’m here…asking the questions and seeking the answers.

Day 290/365 The Way You Made Us Feel

Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 72 years old.

Everyone I have ever talked to about losing a parent has said that the loss has stayed with them, always. To me it feels like a hole that can never be filled. I can learn not to fall into it so easily. I can even plant flowers around it to make it more beautiful. Perhaps the flowers are manifestations of all of the memories I cherish. Yet the awareness of the hole, and the beauty of those memory-blooms, can never make it cease to be.

I’ve been thinking all day about what I’d like to say to honor the day – to honor him. I thought of making one of those lists of “things I learned from my father” but instead of a list, a quote kept coming to mind.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

That’s just it. He was kind and wise in gesture and in words, but it wasn’t what he said or what he did that made him the man he was. It was the way he made us feel. It was the way he made everyone feel.

A few months after my father passed away, my brother, Bill, found this poem in my father’s desk. I’d like to share it with you. Happy birthday, Dad.

Growing Old by Rollin J. Wells

A little more tired at the close of day,
A little more anxious to have our way,
A little less ready to scold and blame,
A little more care for a brother’s name;
And so we are nearing the journey’s end,
Where time and eternity meet and blend.

A little less care for bonds or gold,
A little more zeal for the days of old;
A broader view and a saner mind,
And a little more love for all mankind;
And so we are faring down the way
That leads to the gates of a better day.

A little more love for the friends of youth,
A little more zeal for established truth,
A little more charity in our views,
A little less thirst for the daily news;
And so we are folding our tents away
And passing in silence at close of day.

A little more leisure to sit and dream,
A little more real the things unseen,
A little nearer to those ahead,
With visions of those long loved and dead;
And so we are going where all must go —
To the place the living may never know.

A little more laughter, a few more tears,
And we shall have told our increasing years.
The book is closed and the prayers are said,
And we are part of the countless dead;
Thrice happy, then, if some soul can say,
“I live because of their help on the way.”

Day 274/365 I’ve Gotta Go, I Love You

Sometimes I find it really hard to write the blog because my head is so filled with something that I don’t want to share, either because it’s too mortifying (yeah, there’s stuff in here I don’t share – scary considering all I do share, I know) or because I feel like people are tired of my whining.

I really don’t walk around like Eeyore all the time. Life goes on. I mean, I smile and laugh and carry on with my day, almost always…but sometimes the core of me is just really sad and writing anything other than that seems inauthentic.  This blog is supposed to reflect how I really feel. It’s supposed to be about all of the stuff that is percolating under the surface, threatening to suffocate me if I don’t get it out.

Yet – how many blogs can I write about losing my dad?

Well….quite a few, as it turns out…but how many will you want to read?

It’s then that I have to stop and remind myself why I started doing this to begin with – not for you, but for me. So, I’ll write. I’ll purge. I’ll let it out.

I’ll exhale.

(Still, somehow I feel like I owe you an apology. Like I’ve lured you into a dramatic film and you’re kind of stuck here waiting for the happy ending so you don’t have to go to bed sad.)

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They kept my dad heavily sedated (can you believe they can sedate someone who is already unconscious? Oh, the things you learn…).

They had to do this because he was having seizures, constantly – petit mal – the kind you can’t see. The doctor described them as electrical storms in his brain. They didn’t want the storms to (further) damage his brain, so they sedated him to stop them.

The problem was, with the heavy sedation they couldn’t tell whether there was any “normal” brain function.

So we had to wait, and wait. They’d cut back the sedatives, and the storm would begin again…so they’d put him back on them…again…and again.

The entire week – this week last year – we were in this horrifying purgatory…and we all keep having flashbacks.

Both of my brothers called me today, and I talked with them each only for a few minutes as I was at work. At a certain point in each conversation, someone needed my attention and I said, “I’ve gotta go, I love you,” when what I wanted to say was…

I know.

I’m there too.

I’m right there with you.

I’m watching my tears drip onto his impossibly warm hand.

I’m soaring at the sight of his suddenly open eyes, only to realize they see nothing.

I’m sitting on the cold floor in the corridor, because it is somehow less depressing than the waiting room.

I’m sitting in the hospital chapel, embarrassed by the fact that my first real talk with God is happening here – in a glorified closet – after all of the hallowed places I’ve been.

I’m there, in the cold conference room with too many chairs, waiting to hear them say what we already know.

I’m there, wanting to throttle the neurologist with the nervous habit of smirking while she says the worst things a person can say. Doesn’t she know her words cut like knives?

I’m there, but I also have to be here – today.

So, life goes on…despite the storms in my brain.

Dad, I’ve gotta go…I love you.

 

Day 226/365 Signs

After my dad died I went to see a medium.

“Have you received any signs from your dad since he crossed over?” she asked.

“Umm…I don’t know, maybe?” I said, awkwardly.

The truth was, I didn’t really feel like I had, not since the hawk visited me in the ICU. Somehow I didn’t want to say that, though. I wanted to believe.

Ten months have passed now, and while my family sees signs of my dad in birds and in sunsets, he visits me through the ice machine.

Yep, the ice machine.

(You can laugh; I sure am.)

The two summers prior to my dad’s death, my parents stayed with me for a week (or two) while they rented out their house. I am so grateful for that time.

When you live close to your family, you see each other more frequently, but it’s typically in quick bursts – a pop in, a dinner…

When you actually have family come and stay with you, it is a whole different experience. It’s those little moments – coffee or a cocktail on the porch, sitting together reading or doing crosswords, impromptu dog walks….being together for no particular purpose or set duration. I loved it.

Except for the ice machine.

The damn thing does not work, but my father refused to accept this reality. Every time dad came to visit, he would turn it on. I’d inevitably walk into the kitchen and find a pool of water seeping out from the freezer, or I would open the freezer only to have ice shavings fall out all over the floor.

It drove me crazy.

For God’s sake, Dad…I have ice trays…why must the ice machine make ice? It clearly does not wish to!

So now that he’s gone….every once in a while I will open my freezer, and ice will come pouring out onto the floor…or water will have inexplicably pooled on the floor.

There is no explanation, for I do not turn on the damn ice maker. 

Whenever this happens I can’t help but laugh and say, “Very funny, dad.”

I know, it sounds silly, and of course it could just be a random occurrence, but nevertheless, I love it.

When the ice machine goes haywire, it feels like one last joke I get to share with my dad.

Do you get any unusual signs from loved ones?

Day 213/365 Death’s Time Warp

The weird thing about death – or at least one of the weird things – is how it distorts time.

It has been ten months since we lost my dad, yet sometimes it feels like just a few days since I last saw him. As I write this I am sitting on the couch in his house, and part of me expects to hear the familiar sounds of his homecoming at any moment.

I always loved that sound throughout my childhood. I can actually imagine myself a little girl, running to the door to greet him, throwing my arms around him and breathing in the familiar smell of his suit. It is a visceral memory that delights my senses.

He is still here, in every corner, in every space in this house. Sometimes, it feels like he never left. In a way, he hasn’t.

At the same time, sometimes it feels like he’s been gone for years. It feels like he has missed so much.


Last night the girls and I ate at The Brick Alley Pub.  As we were sitting there I remembered that the last time we were there was to celebrate my birthday.  We came with my parents. In my mind I thought that couldn’t have been my most recent birthday (a little less than a year ago); Dad has been gone longer than that.  I thought it had to have been my birthday two years ago that I was recalling.

But…it wasn’t. It was only eleven months ago, that birthday celebration. This year will be my first birthday without him. I didn’t necessarily see him on each of my 44 birthdays (I would wager to say I did on most), but without fail, from near or far, I was serenaded by him.  Oh, I will miss that sweetly terrible sound so very much.

I miss him every day, and I suspect I always will…even as the days, weeks, months and years blur and warp and weave in my mind.

It matters not, how long has passed…

The ache is just as deep.

Day 198/365 Say It

The other day I ran into my dad’s former administrative assistant at the grocery store. She worked for him for twenty years – most of her adult life (she isn’t old!). He loved her. We spoke for just a few minutes. At the end of our conversation, she said, “I still really miss your dad.” I’m not even sure what I said in response…whether I said, “Me too” or “I know” or if I just nodded. I know that when I turned away, I started to cry….but I loved that she shared that.  It meant a lot to me.

This afternoon I attended a meeting for an organization for which my dad acted as President for many years. One of his dear friends got emotional as he mentioned my dad’s passing and suggested that my brother take my dad’s place as President.  After the meeting, he apologized to me for getting choked up. “He was a good friend, and it was just…so sudden.”

I just want to say…don’t ever be afraid to express your love and/or feelings of loss, over someone dear to you, to their family.  I so appreciate hearing that other people miss my dad, and loved him…when others become emotional expressing that to me, I feel like my heart expands. I am so grateful to have had a father who touched so many people so deeply.

The thing is, people who have lost a loved one recently are thinking about them all the time anyway – you are never going to make them more sad by sharing your feelings. You are not going to remind them of their loss by bringing it up – believe me, they remember. 

It is actually a welcome, and lovely, gesture when someone expresses their feelings.

Don’t be afraid to share the loss, and the love.

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This pic has nothing to do with the post…but I love it. Mom and Dad circa 196?