Friday, February 10, 2017

Six Years

Six years ago this morning, my father died.

I used to try and find more delicate language about his death, say things like "passed away" or that we'd "lost him". I stopped doing that a while back because I think part of our society's twisted way of dealing with death stems from our general inability to talk about it in real terms.

We focus on youth and health because the alternatives scare us.

We talk about how brave people are when they fight cancer, as if that really has anything at all to do with whether they live or die, and we do it because it creates this illusion of ownership - like we're somehow in control of whether cells metastasize or not simply based on effort.

It gives us a false sense of security, but does no favors to those who've been through the hell on Earth that a cancer diagnosis truly is.

My dad died of cancer, and nothing about it could possibly be romanticized. It was ugly and painful and heartbreaking and then one morning it was over.

And none of it is fair.

He should still be here. I should still have him around. His grandchildren should have a chance to get to know him, instead of only ever really being exposed to him though the stories we tell.

I wrote a long-ish post on Instagram last night after I left work. I'd spent the night playing songs that remind me of him, telling the people I was subjecting to the music that it was all in honor of my birthday.

It was for him.

Me, trying to finish my blog for work,
but finding myself entirely distracted today.
They were the songs he sang, the ones I remember watching him dance to, the ones he'd whistle in the car. My love of music comes from him, and it is one of the things that I'm deliberately and consciously passing down to my kids with intention.

In that rambling Instagram post, I was trying to say something about how the past few months have been very difficult for me personally. I hit yet another bottom of sorts, this time stemming mostly from years of my perceived inadequacies and failures. Depression and anxiety don't play well together, and they're terribly convincing liars.

Among the many personality traits he refined in me as I was growing up, strength. Strength in the face of adversity, strength of such a stubborn variety that it can (and does) cross the threshold into a denial of sorts.

I am so independent that I don't want to need other people.

I am so strong that I convince myself that I can take care of things by myself.

I'm that way in large part because I am his daughter, and he made me this way. Partly deliberately. Partly through his own examples. Partly through the conflicts that ran between us for the first twenty years of my life or so.

But it isn't always a good thing, this resolute strength and independence, because when I'm sinking down down down to the bottom of the pit, I can't always pull myself out alone.

I need help sometimes.

And I'm completely terrible about asking for it.

I don't want to need it.

I want to be okay without anyone else's involvement being required.

And I can't always do that.

At this point in my life, I'm not just still learning the lessons he taught me, but I'm learning to unlearn them too. To tease out the nuances.

To save myself, I have to do the thing that scares me the most in the world - rely on someone else.

When I am at my most vulnerable, I have to be willing to ask someone else to help me.

And it sucks.

If he were still here, I know that he'd be worried about me. I know.

The number of times he whispered into the phone that I could just come home whenever I needed to, I couldn't even tell you.

Halfway down the aisle on the day of my wedding, he was still giving me an out.

And until he died, I had one.

Once he was gone, I was left here floating in the universe without that safety net.

So I had to learn to build one for myself.

And that net, it's messy. It has a few holes. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it needs to be cast a few times before it catches anything. It doesn't look like a net should, it's woven together in part by people I've never even met but who reside in my computer.

To create this net, I have to do this here. I have to write.

I have to because it is what has saved my life more than once, and it is what has built this network of people willing to grab me and hang on.

He'd worry.

He'd think I was sharing too much.

He'd worry that I was being too vulnerable.

He'd call and make sure I was really okay.

I'd give anything for just one more phone call, but I've lived here on this side now for six years in a world where that phone doesn't ring anymore.

I'm a realist. Sometimes painfully so.

I'm so different than I was when he was here. I wonder sometimes if he'd even recognize me.

I know he'd have some questions about the tattoos. Heh.

But, I think he'd get it...I think he'd get me, and I think he'd understand because he was always the one person who seemed to know me better than I know myself. My brother has sort-of stepped into that role these days.

My dad was the first one to refer to me as a writer, even before I called myself that. He followed me, read everything I published while he was here. He knew that I needed to do this for whatever reasons I needed to do this, and he never focused on the end results. He knew it was about the process, the journey. And he knew that it made me better. Safer. Healthier.

Even if sometimes I have to exorcise my personal demons to get there.

I think he'd be proud of me. I hope he'd be proud of me.

I'm proud of me.

Sometimes being strong isn't about being independent at all. In fact, sometimes it is exactly the opposite.

It just took me this long to learn that lesson.

Thanks, Dad. I miss you.


  1. I can't say it enough, how much I admire you and how much I look up to you, someone I don't even know. Your words, your writing, always seem to be to me and about me. I don't know if you understand that. Please keep writing keep sharing.


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