Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He would have turned 74. He died at 68, three weeks after a stomach cancer diagnosis turned his life and the life of my mother and I upside down. His decline was swift, the disease so sure in its’ quest to end his life. My mother and I barely had time to catch our breath to try to regroup before he was just….gone.
For him, I think that was for the best. He would not have done well with years of dragging chemotherapy and constant appointments with strange doctors. He was not one who liked to feel exposed or in the spotlight. He preferred to quietly go about his business, never bothering anyone but providing continually for his family. He only wanted happiness for ‘his girls’. Didn’t want us to worry. I think that’s why he died so fast. There’s no way he couldn’t have known something was wrong for a while before the diagnosis. Just, no way.
I think about that often and wonder how he was able to go so long without speaking up. Did he really just not know? Or, did denial rule over his mind? Most likely it was the latter. And I accept that. There’s nothing like the finality of death to help me ‘accept what is’. He is gone. I’ve lost a stupendous amount of opportunity because of his death, but there’s nothing to be done to change it. Not one thing, other than accept it as fact and move forward. I do my best to do just that most of the time….but it is especially tough on days when I would have loved to see his shining eyes and hear him say, ‘Hey, kid’ as I stood on tiptoe to give him – my 6’4″ gentle giant of a father – a hug.
God, this life of mine surprises me all the time. I held the death of my brother in such a brutally angry way that I lost years mucking through it, trying to understand the why and the how and the where it exactly went off the rails. I repeatedly beat myself up for not being better equipped at 17 to be able to grasp a loss like that. I tortured myself so much that I convinced myself that I actually deserved to feel as broken and hungry for love as I did. I fully believed I wasn’t worth enough to try and imagine a life without pain as a central concept.
Losing my dad was a different animal entirely. I took care of my mother through it and shared my grief with her – I ran from her when my brother died. I wrote and read aloud a eulogy at my father’s funeral – I remained silent and numb at my brother’s. I mourned my father openly and without apology – I hid in the pain I felt when my brother died, covered myself up so completely that I became addicted to food, sex and eventually booze. Now, I allow myself to miss my dad and cry for his loss whenever I need to – I bottled up my rage, my fear, my outright brokenness when my brother died.
I still feel those old, familiar and oh, so restless beasts that were born back in ’97 prowling around in my mind from time to time. The ones that don’t know how to tolerate sitting in an emotionally uncomfortable or painful period of time without something to else to take the edge off. The ones that whisper that I am FAT and DISGUSTING. The ones that assure me that I could never go back to school to earn that elusive Master’s degree. Sometimes I give their voices and muscles too much room to speak and move. Sometimes, but less and less often, I let them take over completely and I want to isolate isolate isolate and forget forget forget. The farther away from that pattern I get, the more I recognize how useless it is. It brings me nowhere but down. Nowhere but removed. Nowhere but Alone. And, holy shit, I don’t want to be alone like that anymore. Ha! I love that.
Even though they exist – when sometimes I wish they would just cease that shit – and even though I let them take over for much longer than I wish I had, I know my worth now. I know I deserve all the ideals, happiness and over the top fucking dream world fantasies I have ever thought up. I just do because I’m here for some purpose and it sure as shit isn’t to sit home alone, watching tv and sipping wine with a cat on my lap forever. Nope. Not so much. I want and deserve soooooo much more than only that.
I still have some work to do, some education to seek…I don’t think that will ever not be true…and I am going to dig deep to try to resolve what’s conflicted within me. I’m going to cross the bridge between what was and move into the land of what is and what I want to be. I’m going to keep my head up. I’m going to focus on what’s good for me. I’m going to remain open to new adventure. Nothing but forward, positive momentum.
I’m going to make my father proud because I know he’s quietly watching and rooting his heart out for me.