“and when you hear a song or see a bird I loved, please do not let the thought of me be sad…”

(Disclaimer: sorry if I reiterate the same ol’ stuff I’ve talked about in posts before; it’s hard to keep up with what I’ve said about him and what I haven’t.)

Today marks five years since I’ve talked to my dad, since I’ve heard his voice in person in this house, not just through recordings.  Technically, it will be as of around 6:30 a.m. (my memory’s fuzzy on the exact time I went to bed), but it doesn’t matter.  October 6 will always be a day I solemnly remember, a day that will never go by unnoticed.

And so much about my life has changed.  The pre-October 6, 2007 Christina’s life seems like a dream sometimes rather than memories.  Or like a really elaborate movie I’ve had in my head all these years.  If six-year-old, even sixteen-year-old me looked at my life right now, she wouldn’t recognize much at all.  She probably wouldn’t believe it.  How could things be this different?  How could dark wood paneling become bright pastel walls?  How could the machine shop and wood shop in the backyard not produce the sound of hammering or bandsaws or the hiss of the air compressor anymore, but the former stand as a storage unit, yet both tombs of their own?  How could the sound of heavy footfalls in boots not echo through this old house anymore?  It’s unfathomable to the past-me, but it’s my present-me’s…well, present.  I can fathom it now because I had to.  Cancer doesn’t care.  It’s a learn-by-experience kind of thing; you can’t possibly know, really know–understand, comprehend, etc.–until you’ve been there.

I definitely think my dad would be proud of the woman I’ve become.  He would understand the mistakes I’ve made.  He would probably be surprised (along with a lot of other people who’ve expressed such) that I “kept on truckin'” as he often said–complete with silly motions–through college after he died, graduating in the projected four years, and with honors.  He would be happy I chose a field of study that makes me happy, odds of finding a job in that field just after graduating with just a bachelor’s be damned.

Sometimes I think his death even helped me blossom as a young woman, made me let go of stuff I realized doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things (though I am always still learning with this, too).  I’ve made the steps to mend friendships I thought forever broken because his death made me realize life is too short to hold grudges.

And he left me–us–in good hands.  Mom and I have such a strong safety net of family and friends, and we have each other.  I hope I help her as much as she helps me.  And our family and friends are wonderful to us.  I know without a doubt I could not have made it through college without their help and love and support and care packages and exam-o-grams and encouraging words (and I didn’t say all this when we were gathered in the Oak Mountain cabin on the lake the day of my graduation because I was so overwhelmed by it all–in a good way–but here it is now, and I hope they read this and know how much I appreciate them and all they did for me–us–over the years, and continue to do for me–us–now).

He was not overly-religious, never attended church in the years I knew him, at least that I remember, but he knew the Bible more than most Christians I know.  He always quoted and stressed the Golden Rule, and often bent over backwards for people who probably didn’t deserve it.  probably didn’t deserve it at times, but he was always there.  He led by doing instead of telling.

But I think it’s wrong to leave out people’s faults when talking about them or thinking about them.  It isn’t doing their memory justice, because it isn’t the whole picture of that person.  He had a short temper and would complain about Mom and me taking a long time to get ready and then make us late because he’d take so long getting ready when we were done and ready to go!  He fell asleep during NASCAR races, but when we changed the channel he’d wake up and gripe because “he was watching that.”  I guess snoring was just part of his Watching NASCAR Routine.  When he was working on one of our many used cars, he’d cuss and yell and get mad about the stupidest, littlest things (a trait I must have inherited).

But he was–is–my dad, and I feel his absence almost everyday.  It’s hard when I realize I haven’t thought about him in a day or two, like a fresh punch to the gut after the last punch’s wounds began to heal.  Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever fully accept that he’s gone.  One night recently Mom and I were laughing loudly in the living room late at night, and as I got up and walked to the bathroom–walking by Mom’s bedroom–I thought, Crap, we’ve gotta be quiet or Dad’s gonna wake up and be pissed.  And the second I thought it, I realized it didn’t matter how loud we got, because we only had each other to answer to.  It was a jarring and upsetting thought and brought me, face-planting and bruised, to the floor of fresh grief.

But, I’m dealing.  I have a nice little routine that doesn’t change too much day-to-day, trivia every week with few exceptions, and Limbo when I can get my lazy butt up early enough (it’s not my fault Sundays are supposed to be ‘lazy Sundays’, okay?), and writing stories, and watching lots of TV and anime and movies, and working somewhere in between all that.  It helped to have college to take my mind off it all sometimes, too; instead of crying and moping about Dad, I could cry and mope about papers due, or tear my hair out over lack of ideas for said papers, or worry about being late to a presentation in a class I loved, or making it to College Night Purple Orchestra rehearsals late at night.  It was a way to be stressed out about something other than something I could never change.  I had some control over school.

So many times I’ve needed to ask him a question only he would know the answer to, and so many times I’ve wanted his advice as I cried to him about whatever was ailing me at the time.  But I can’t have that, and I can’t have him back, and I have learned to let go of so many regrets and grudges and negativity I was holding onto because that’s no way to live one’s life.  He taught me so many valuable things; both my parents did (but one is still teaching me valuable things).

He encouraged reading and learning, soaking up as much knowledge as you can, and he and Mom both taught me the value of hard work and diligence and putting the best effort forward more often than not (of course, everyone has off-days, and I’m no exception).  Mom shares many of these good qualities, and I know she has just as much to do with how well I turned out as he did.  But she’s still here, I’m able to still learn from her; I don’t have that advantage with him.  Mom’s stress manifested itself differently and she and I are so much alike that we butted heads all the time when I was younger.  He always seemed to get me, even if he went and told Mom later.

The things he taught me are invaluable, and as much as I constantly wish he were still here, I’m so grateful I got to know the Dad I knew, and that I had so much time to do so.  Eighteen years is a long time, and I was able to say all the things I wanted to say (except ‘goodbye’) to him, apologize for how I acted in the past, share my early college experiences with him through photos and stories.  I’ll never forget texting him the grade I’d gotten on my German test, an A, and his silly response: “Guten Grade!” even while sick and feeling miserable, I’m sure.

Today, Mom and I plan on doing stuff he loved or would love, because what better way is there to celebrate the life of a loved one?  I’ve already cried many times writing this post, and I know I will cry more today, but that’s okay.  He’s still very much alive in memories, home movies, recordings on old cell phones, the smell of the inside of his tall rolling toolbox standing in our living room, my bed and dresser and ceiling-high bookshelf he made me, the computer desks he made my mom, the hardwood floor he laid in the living room, his favorite songs and records and CDs, and everything that makes up the remnants of my dad’s time here on earth.

Isn’t that all you can ask for when you can’t cheat death?

Here’s to five years, some of which felt like forever ago, some of which feels like just yesterday.  Everything changed five years ago  today, but doesn’t everything change at some point?

Goodbye, Dad.  I don’t know if I’ll ever say it enough.  Thanks for being there and for being you and for not hating me for being a little twerp when I was a teenager and for everything you taught me, from how to hammer a nail correctly to how to treat people with respect.

And thanks to you, reader, for letting me share my experiences with and stories about my dad, for helping me to keep him alive.  I appreciate it more than you can imagine.

-o-

“We’re meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?” -The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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whutevah, I do what I wawnt!

After making an emotional post on tumblr about my dad, I realized two things:

  • it’s been a hella long time since I’ve posted here
  • I should probably post here.

So, what’s been going on in my life since I made the announcement of my plans to do NaNoWriMo on August 2 (whew, okay, that’s not as long as it’s been since I’ve posted on Livejournal, that’s okay, that’s just a little over a month, right?), you may ask?  Well, a whole buncha nothing.  I’ve worked, gone to Texas (more importantly, a beach in Texas – most importantly, an island in Texas), worked some more, and oh, I started playing World of Warcraft…oh, and I went to a club for the first time.  That’s about it, though – as far as life-changing events, I have undergone few to none in that time-span and these days my life is spent on tumblr, WoW, worrying about money because god, paychecks sure do go fast, and picking up bowling again.

So, what do I have to write about?  Well, who’s surprised – it’s -dun dun dunnn- my dad!  Sort of.  He’s kind of just a mention in this post, which  instead is going to attempt to focus on my blog itself (and by attempt I mean the good ol’ “paper attempt” – that is, I start out with a topic, a rough idea of things I want to cover, and before I know it, I have eight pages of stuff I’ve come up with while attempting to write the actual point of the paper…much like this parenthetical aside. whoops!).

My friend and manager, Kevin, has this blog he is currently calling “Hannah and Caroline and The Little Kumquat and Me.” Now, he’s had this blog longer than I’ve known his brother-in-law/my ex-boyfriend and therefore his family/him, and has said multiple times he made it as something to give to his first daughter Hannah as a way to show her a glimpse into her father that she may not see during the day-to-day routines – and I certainly hope I didn’t butcher what he’s said before, and if I have, I’m deeply sorry – really!  It’s a really cool idea, an excuse to start up a blog, and an excuse to continue blogging.

But it got me thinking…or rather, thinking about my dad and this blog and how I’ve neglected it lately got me thinking.  If I showed my future daughter/son (I’m hoping I have one of each, so…both?) my blog from my college/just-after-college year(s, because I’d love to continue this for years, and I’m really going to make the effort to), if the internet is even still around, what would they think?

Wow, Mom, you sure do talk about your dad a lot.  Was Grandpa REALLY that great?  Christ, did you ever see a therapist?

NaNoWriMo? HAH, good one – isn’t this your ninteenth attempt?

But I haven’t written solely about Dad.  I don’t know why I’m even remotely self-conscious about him being the subject of so many entries – I suppose because I don’t want to rehash the same stuff over and over again without coming up with new thoughts or feelings or realizations.  I guess part of me doesn’t want to seem fixated on it all, because if I have to be honest (and I do, I mean it’s my blog holding me accountable, right?), I don’t think of Dad very much in the grand scheme of things during my everyday routines.  Don’t get me wrong – I think of him at some point everyday, whether it’s something someone posted on tumblr that reminds me of him, or a South Park episode about NASCAR, a sport he loved (the only sport he loved that much, probably?), or a song that plays in PSP that reminds me of him.  No matter what, there is always SOMETHING that reminds me of him or makes him pop into my head.  But in terms of getting depressed about him, crying about him – these things happen rarely these days.  In a way, I’m glad, because it would be awkward of me being in customer service to start bursting into tears every single shift.  It helps that I have amazing family and friends to keep me from fixating on being sad, too.  It’s good that – no matter how much I complain about customers – I have work to keep me busy.  And tumblr, and WoW, and drawing, and writing – all of these things are great.

But I wonder how much my future children would see of my general moving-on-from-Dad’s-death I’ve done.  Would it seem overwhelming?  Do I really care?  His death defined my life in a way – it’s not the only thing that defines my life, I mean I’m not Taylor Swift whose songs pretty much only have to do with being a teenager and dating someone and he broke her heart and she’s not a cheerleader and blah blah blah predictable – but it’s one of my biggest life-events, right up there with graduating from IB and then graduating from college and my seizures.

But I’ve realized something.  My fear is not that my children won’t find another topic than my father in this blog – because my categories to the side of this “post an entry” page prove that there are other topics – but rather, I fear they will see it as a negative thing.  That they will see it as “our mom obsessing over losing her dad/our grandfather” instead of how I want them to see it, how I want anyone who reads my blog to see it – that I was lucky enough to have such a wonderful, caring, good man of a father, who still had his faults (because please, god, let me never completely sanctify him like people are wont to do about deceased loved ones – the man had a temper, and a terrible habit of falling asleep during a NASCAR race and then getting pissed later if we turned it off since he wasn’t watching it), that I wanted to share with the world some of the light he brought into my life, and to share how deeply it affected me.  He meant that much to me that I write about him often; he is remembered and loved still in my mediocre blog-writing, which can hardly do him justice but attempt to do so.

I want to teach them that all fathers out there aren’t horrible, because they will almost surely meet somebody or hear of somebody whose father abused them, who is no father to a daughter or a son.  The amount of poetry discussing abusive (sexually or otherwise) fathers to the amount of poetry discussing wonderful fathers, fathers like mine – is extremely disproportionate.  And I get it.  Writing is a wonderful outlet for pain, but sometimes the good guys need to be highlighted too.  More than anything, I want my children to know how great their grandfather was, how he was one of the kindest souls one could ever meet.  I want them to have a glimpse of him, and not just think, “Wow, Mom really should see a counselor about her obsessing over Grandpa.”

He’s just a character of my blog…but he’s a major character.  More people than I think realize are major characters of my blog in so many ways, and I hope my children get a picture – no matter how brief – of how their mother never allowed her sad experiences keep her from enjoying life, because despite the number of entries involving my dad, they are ways of keeping him alive and sharing his love with as many people as she can.

Isn’t that a fair reason?

if you haven’t, you can’t possibly imagine it–

In the past not-even-a-year, four friends of mine have either gone through losing a parent to cancer, or are going through a parent with cancer.  Seriously?  I mean, really, cancer?  Could you not touch my friends and my friends’ families?  That would be fantastic.

I don’t mean this in a crass way, but I love talking to and helping people who are going through dealing with such things – though I would never, ever wish this on anyone.  At the time of my dad’s decline because of his liver-and-lymph cancer(s), I was pretty much alone.  I don’t mean in the sense of not having friends or family for support, but in the sense that nobody close to me had ever gone through this at my age or around my age before.  The last half of my senior year of high school was wrought with tears and a horrible sense of loneliness that I couldn’t shake, no matter how much I cried on Joseph about it, no matter how much I tried to not think about it and tried to have fun.  All of my cousins have their healthy parents – and I wish no less for them, of course! – and my sister was going through this with my mom and I, and she has a family of her own, too, so it wasn’t like I was going through this with someone my age.

And honestly, I’m glad I don’t have siblings my age.  I don’t think I would have handled it well with them, and that’s just me, personally.  I don’t want to imply it would be the same for all siblings close in age.

And so, when I talk to those who have gone through similar things, it makes me feel good that they can come to me for support from someone who has been through it.  Even if I don’t know what to say (and believe me, I don’t – I’m so socially awkward, even if I come across as not sometimes; I’m just a mistress of disguise, I guess), I can share my experience with them and talk about it with them.  I found a quote on tumblr the other day that was “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels; and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it,” and god, that’s so true.  I think you can hypothesize about how it would feel if you were in that position, and I think you can have sympathy of course, but it’s such a profound thing that it really almost forms a bond between two people who have gone through it.

I was talking to one of my former professors, whose mother recently died of pancreatic cancer (and who had been diagnosed the semester I took her class) and we talked about how, when people say they’re sorry, they mean well but it’s just not what we want to hear; that’s not why we tell our story.  She went on to grasp my hand and say, “We’re sisters in this.”  Tying in with the quote above, I really think she’s right – it’s not a club you want to be in, or anything cool, but it’s something that links those of us who have experienced such soul-wrenching loss.

The other night I had a breakdown, which you can experience if you wish here, and I think the combination of me not having cried that deeply about him recently, stress of school and the milestone of graduation approaching, and just life in general brought it on.  I really thought I wouldn’t be able to stop crying.  It gets easier, sure, but I think I’ve just grown numb to it instead of letting it truly affect me, and all the emotions I’d shoved aside in favor of “being stoic” (which is stupid, in my opinion – just cry if you want) came to the surface and boiled over, and I cried for an indeterminable amount of time before I fell into an uneasy and not-long-enough sleep.

Anyway, I kind of digressed… but going through this helps me help people; yet, it’s a double-edged sword, because when I talk about my story and listen to people tell their story or vent or whatever, it takes me back to that time.  I’ve turned back into the scared 18-year-old I was before college and during the beginning of college, spending time away from home so I wouldn’t have to face it yet wanting to savor each conversation I had with my father and each night we spent watching the Food Network – of course, I am not this person anymore.  Time has made me a still-depressed but better-at-handling-it person, and a more confident young woman.  Grief closes up my throat and sometimes it’s hard for me to talk, but I will.  Anytime, I will be here, because having been through that ‘alone’ (again, because no friends of mine had been through that exactly, not for lack of bodies/people to sympathize) sucked.

It’s a loss which has affected me in ways I’ve felt and in ways I can’t even begin to imagine yet and while I don’t want it to necessarily define me, it’s something that defines my life as an adult.  Everything takes on a new meaning now.  But to those struggling with similar situations, you have a friend and an ear (or eyes, depending on your mode of contact) in me.  We’re all brothers and sisters in this, after all.

he doesn’t need your voice —

Sometimes it feels like my soul will split in two from how much it hurts, and it’s then that I think I’ll never learn how to deal with this.  I haven’t cried this hard in a LONG time (even with Gurren Lagann and Black Butler, seriously) and especially about him.

The only way I can think how to describe it is like when you’re throwing up and there’s that spasm of the stomach muscles and diaphragm and you can’t control it, but instead of, well, throwing up, it’s just sobbing.  And in these moments, irrationally I know and I don’t rationally feel this way but, I feel like no one on Earth has ever felt like this and that I will never be okay.  Is this what a breakdown feels like?

Daddy I miss you.

I want someone’s arms around me, want someone  to rock me as I cry, but I don’t want to wake up my mom and this is a dumb post and I will probably think it’s dumb tomorrow/later today but I just had to get my feelings out and I don’t know.

This shit sucks.

thoughts about life and life’s hardships, from a 21-year-old, whatever worth that may be.

When I was eighteen I lost my dad and it was absolutely the most life-changing thing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always been kind of morbidly fascinated with death, but having it hit so insanely close to home, it just changed my life as quickly as turning a completed puzzle upside-down and letting the pieces fall.

I took a week off, as he died on a Saturday morning, and while we prepared for the memorial service (he was cremated) on the following Saturday, I slept a hell of a lot, most often characterized by mostly-sleepless nights and impromptu naps on the couch when my mom and grandmother (who stayed with us that week — I had to sleep on my dad’s side of my mom’s and his bed; it certainly didn’t help my sadness but oh well!) would be watching the 6 o’clock evening news, lasting until 9pm or so.

Anyway, I was able, after that Saturday of his memorial service, to bounce back into school, and I made the Dean’s List that semester. The following semester that very same grandmother died, and this became my second most life-changing moment.

The point of all this is that I don’t like to be defined by “my dad died when I was eighteen and just 3 days over six months later, my grandmother/second mother died” but it’s hard not to be. Such huge events have to impact someone a hell of a lot — and I was no exception. But I’m a strong person, apparently, because I pulled through, and I’m still in college and yes I still cry a lot, but I’ve dealt with it pretty well.

But instead of being defined and crippled by these moments, I chose to use them to realize not only the fragility of life and the suddenness with which it can change in ways one can never imagine, but also the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I have life experiences few others my age do (though perhaps more than one would think, as sadly enough, I’ve helped both my former roommates with the death of one of their parents, also from cancer because I had this experience) as well as talked to a professor whose mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of the semester I took her daughter’s class, as well as chatted with her again not long ago. She said we were “both sisters in this” and that’s something I’ll remember forever.

I’ll be the first to tell you, life fucking sucks sometimes. It’s horribly unfair. But life is worth it. You’ll experience things greater than you can imagine, even if they’re not overly outstanding. You’ll make connections and friendships and even just read a good book or a story that will really touch you and make things a little more bearable.

I understand things may suck now, but I truly believe in the saying, “Everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Push through it. You’ll be a stronger person for the experience. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety and endured these losses, I can, with full confidence, say I’m damn proud of the person I’ve become despite, and maybe in part because of, these losses I’ve endured before I turned 19.

And if anyone ever needs to talk, I’m here. Please don’t think that just because I’ve been through such things that I’ll think your problems are trivial compared to mine. That’s not how I think at all, and if I bring up my dad or grandmother, or my depression or epilepsy (which, yeah, the summer of epilepsy was probably my lowest point, emotionally and physically) it’s only to help relate.

I know how much somebody just listening can help, believe me.  If you need me to be that person, I will.

happy birthday

Monday, the 24th, would have been my dad’s 57th birthday.  It’s hard to picture him as 57, but he never looked his age until he got sick, anyway, so he’d probably look the same except maybe with a little more gray hair.

For his last birthday, I got off from work study early, picked up some chicken and dumplings I’d called to have ready at Cracker Barrel in Trussville and took them to his newly-rented/founded own business in Irondale and we sat by this little wood stove he had in there because it was so cold in that mostly-concrete-and-steel building.

He told me he was glad I visited and was spending the time with him and that he was glad I’d written that letter to him that I’d left on his table in the dining/back room (I can only think of a handful of times we ever actually dined there, why do we call it the dining room?), and I fought back crying as we ate and talked about the letter.

It’s one of my favorite memories, not just of him, but ever.

Happy (early) birthday, Dad.  I wish we had gotten to share many more.

“He’s a character in your blog.” -or something like that, as wisely stated by Kevin

Reason #564 why grief sucks: sometimes it hits out of nowhere.

I just got out of the shower.  While I was in there and washing my face, suddenly I remembered this project I had due in sixth grade.  We’d just finished reading The Secret of NIMH (a great book I intend to reread over Christmas break) in my Literature class, and we had to do a diorama of their little house.

My dad ALWAYS helped with school projects; he probably really did too much for me, I think because he hadn’t been able to be around his first children as much as he was around me.  But, anyway, I did do some work on the project, I promise.

But to help me with this project, he took little pieces of wood (he was a patternmaker so he made all the furniture in my room — even my bed — with heavy-duty wood that will last FOREVER, sort of like Amish furniture) and made tiny bookshelves, tiny chairs, and a tiny table.  Then, for books, he cut the tops of legal pads and glued the “loose” edges and they made little books by themselves.  Then he stacked them, having some leaning on others and some shelves full.

It was the coolest thing ever, and I’m sure we have pictures somewhere, but God only knows where.

But anyway, that just randomly popped into my head and I have no idea why and I almost started crying while loofa-ing my face.  It made me so sad, because I don’t know if I ever properly thanked him.  At that time I was hormonal and bitchy and miserable and so I don’t know if my pride let me thank him then — I probably got mad or something, even though everyone loved it at school.  But I just wish I could thank him for little stuff like that.

It’s so stupid, it probably doesn’t even matter.

I just shouldn’t have acted like such a bitch to him at that time.  Apparently he would say to my mom, “What did I do?” and god that makes me feel so guilty.

Anyway, I think all of this is brought on by some combination of exhaustion and just general melancholy over winter like I talked about in a post on another blog last week.

But it really sucks.  And people have told me “oh he knew” or “he knows” or “you can still tell him” and yeah, all that might be true, but we don’t know what happens after life.  Maybe there’s nothing.  Maybe he can hear me if I talk to him.  But I can’t tell him in person, right now, and that’s the worst.

Maybe I’ll make a diorama over the break.  I think that would be therapeutic.  I don’t know what it would be of, but that doesn’t matter.  I’ll figure it out as I go along.

Isn’t that all we can do?