Saturday, October 26, 2013
Before my dad went on ahead, I’d never really considered the way that the birthday of a loved one can transform from something that fills you with anticipation and excitement to something that seems so sad. It seems so odd to me the way that happens; certainly I still want to recognize and celebrate the birth of one of the most important people in my life, even when he isn’t still here to celebrate himself. I think for my family, the sense of enhanced sorrow and grief that comes with this week is exacerbated by the fact that it was the same week that he was diagnosed with the brain cancer that took his life only ten short weeks later. That, as much as his absence, makes it seem counterintuitive to celebrate.
For me, in fact, it feels like salt is being rubbed into a wound, and a lot of the emotions that are usually just hanging out beneath the surface on a typical day seem to be bubbling up and threatening to erupt with the week when everything changed for my dad, for my family, and for me. The annual marker, which I prefer to avoid thinking of as an anniversary since I tend to think of anniversaries as happy and worthy of celebration, approaches without hesitation and haunts us without regard to our ongoing pain. The week represents such a major shift - an ending of things as they were and an awareness of what should have been.
I long for just one more hour, one more conversation, one more hug, one more anything with him. I want to push through the pain and focus on the importance of the day of the year on which the man who means so much to me came into this world; the challenge to do so is far greater than I ever imagined it would be. There are so many things that my dad will not get to experience now, things he would so love to be a part of or to know about or to see. His presence in my life continues to shape me on a daily basis, and I do celebrate that fact as much as the grief will allow. Sometimes though, especially when I can’t avoid the what if, the should have, or the should be kind of thinking pattern, I am overwhelmed by it all, missing him so much that I struggle to move through the ache. The only thing that seems to be of comfort to me when I think about those things is to remember the life that he led that I know he considered to be a great one, to recall the way he was filled with such joy and gratitude, and to recognize the fact that I know if he knew anything at all for certain during the days of his illness it was that he was loved. Happy birthday, Dad; you are loved and you are missed.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I've heard it said that within two generations after a person is gone from the earth that it will be as if he was never there. This is a statement with which I completely disagree, though; I think people who think like that have not considered the rippling of a person's presence, the mark that is left behind forever by association on generations to come. If something about a person affects me in any way at all, there is a shift in my actions, in my perspective, in my words, or in some other area, and those around me are likely then to be impacted to some extent, which then affects others in their path in the future. That's how the rippling effect works; that's how our presence is maintained long after each of us is gone. This is something that has become very clear to me since my dad's death, and it is a truth in which I find comfort.
Once when I was in college, I heard someone make an off-hand comment about how it drove her crazy when my dad put a glass of water down on her coffee table without using a coaster. "It's like he doesn't even think about the water marks he's going to leave," she complained. I didn't really see her point at the time and I still don't; like my dad, I guess, it's never been something that I've thought was worth adding to my Worry List.
In fact, I noticed a water mark on a piece of furniture in my house just the other day and thought, "Damn, what I wouldn't give if I knew that mark had been left there by my dad."
I don't think my dad went through life thinking about the water marks that he was going to leave behind; he wasn't that self-centered or that existential in his philosophy. I wish he could know now, though, about at least some of the ripples he created; certainly his presence and the waves of his existence continue far beyond what he was able to see.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Sunday, October 20, 2013
It always feels strange to have something significant going on in my life that people around me aren’t aware of. I’m sure that’s true for most people; one common example of this is when it’s a person’s birthday and most of the people with whom he or she crosses paths that day don’t know that it is. Whether it’s something good or bad, oftentimes it seems like the information just isn’t comfortable or appropriate or relevant enough to share. In many cases, I think it would feel awkward, somehow attention-seeking or maybe even like bragging, to tell the people around me, and in some cases I don’t really even want them to know for various reasons – but it still feels odd, as if I am driving on a side street or an access road alongside the main highway.
That’s how it feels to me going into the week that marks three years from the time my life – and essentially my perspective and my bearings – shifted, the week that holds the series of days during which my dad was taken to the hospital by ambulance, when we found out about the mass in his head, when he had surgery, when we got the definitive diagnosis – and his 67th birthday which we spent hunkered down in the Neuro-ICU, in shock and in terror.
There is such a maelstrom of emotions and thoughts going on in my head right now, a source of confusion that makes it difficult to know how to identify my feelings or what needs to be done to get me through the time ahead, by me or by anyone else. Over and over, I wonder in shock how a span of three years has passed already. I wonder how we got through those days that seem even more unbelievably difficult from my perspective now than they did at the time. I wonder when each of the series of shifts in me occurred after that first shift – and when, if ever, the process will slow down or come to a halt. I wonder whether it is better to try to forget about the panic and the pain of the days of my dad's illness or to let the remaining sadness and the swirl of other emotions that goes along with the anniversary of that first week play out; I wonder if sharing my feelings and my perspective is the right thing to do.
Remembering what was happening at this exact time three years ago is oddly both grounding and disconcerting. Thinking back about what my dad and the rest of my family were doing in the weeks and the days leading up to the beginning of the trauma, it was as if we were on an airplane right before the plane hit an air pocket causing a sudden drop. In regards to the significance for me of the upcoming days, a lot like the people around me now, back then I had no idea that a shift was happening, that something was occurring in those days that was affecting someone close to me and that would eventually change everything.
|My dad, helping his youngest granddaughter across a rocky path, just weeks before his diagnosis|