Thursday, December 17, 2015

Just Getting It All Out

I'm sitting here with my fingers on the keyboard trying to wrap my head around the last 3 months.  September 1st, 2015, my dad died.  There are nicer, gentler ways to say it, but I'm not in a nice gentle mood.  He died.  He's gone and all I have left are my memories which seem so faded.  We knew he didn't have a lot longer with us, but we thought we had at least a year.  What we got was 2 weeks. I know we were lucky.  Those 2 weeks were a gift for us.  How many people get a warning wake up call that shit's getting real?  I'm so thankful for those 2 weeks, and particularly, those 3 days I spent in the hospital talking with my dad.  We did a lot of important work in those 3 days.  I thank God for those 3 days.

He collapsed when the cancer literally broke his back and he lay there waiting for his friend to come walk his dog.  Thank God for that dog.  I don't know if I'm ever going to stop crying when I think of him waiting for several hours on the bathroom floor. He said he wasn't scared, but it doesn't matter.  I have so much guilt that I wasn't there, that I didn't do more to improve our relationship faster, that I was a selfish little brat.  We'd gone through some bad times, there were hurt feelings and broken relationships and things needed to be repaired, but I was reluctant to accept he had changed.  The fact is, he did change .  He grew.  He was becoming the father I'd missed for 10 years.  He had to go through some stuff himself and recover from his own pain and he did.  I learned that.  I forgave him. In the end, instead of being angry at him, I get to mourn him.  That's infinitely better, though it doesn't really sound like it.

I didn't know what to do when I got the news.  I did strange things.  I didn't think of calling my friend for help to pick up the kids.  I acted like a complete weirdo at school pickup because I just didn't know what to do, how to tell people, how to not lose it in public with kids around, I didn't know what the hell I was doing.  I was outside of my mind.  It bothers me that I acted like that.  It bothers me that my friends didn't know that I didn't know how to act and maybe think I was a freak.  Did they  know how devastated I was even though I was trying to keep it together?  I don't know.  It shouldn't bother me that I didn't know what to do or how to behave or how to tell people, but it does.  Pain that new and raw is scary and I seriously didn't know what the hell I was doing.

I've learned a lot in the past 3 months.  Here's one of the most important things: Ask your friends who are grieving how they are.  I know people don't like to ask because they are afraid of the tears.  They don't want to upset their friend. But I'd rather be asked because then I know who cares about me.  We aren't mind readers.  If we don't tell people we care, show them with our actions, then it goes unknown and unfelt.  Be brave enough to ask the question. Even if it leads to tears, it's better than the alternative.

Death sucks.  It just SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS!!!  Here's something else from Captain Obvious that kinda hit my idiotic brain like a ton of bricks: Everyone I love is going to die.  Of course I knew that.  But when you feel the pain of loss, you don't just get to say, "Well, I had that experience."  It's not a one and done kinda thing.  Shocking, I know.  But my dad died.  And I still have 3 more parents to lose, I have my husband, I have a lot left to lose.  A lot.  And though I knew intellectually that we all die, when someone you love dies and you're left to grieve and pick up the pieces of your life, you realize that this is not what you thought it would be.  It's so much worse.  All of your important relationships come into sharp relief, especially with parents.

Yesterday, Anne-Marie asked me what my dad's favorite color was.  I don't know.  And that upsets me.  Maybe my sisters or brother know, but I can't just call him up and ask anymore.  This kind of thing is going to keep happening, I know.  The sorrow is going to keep catching me unaware like it did when she asked an innocent question, or when I'm in the middle of something fun.  Some unknown trigger will remind me of my dad and I'll be swimming in sorrow again. We were at the Zac Brown Band concert the other day when out of nowhere, I just felt crushed by grief.  I don't even really know what it was.  I was feeling happy and having a good time, then some random memory popped into my head and there I was fighting back tears.  It sucks.

I know that I'm not the first one in the world to grieve. I'm not the only one in the world right now grieving.  Sometimes I'll think of those who have lost their loved ones and their stories are more painful than mine and I'll feel I should just suck it up, that I don't have any business grieving.  It's been 3 months, I should get over it. But that is bullshit . I don't know where that thought even comes from. That is makes me feel terrible tells me it's probably a trick of the devil.  He says, "you don't deserve to mourn.  You haven't earned it.  Other people's losses are more important than your father."  Well, I know not all grief is the same, but it's still grief and I still have to experience it and go through it.  I should grieve and I need to own that I'm grieving and not believe the lie that I should just pick up and move on.  To do that would be damaging to my heart and soul.  One day, I'll find the new normal and I'll stop fighting it.  I'll just come to acceptance, so they say. But truthfully, I'm afraid to find the new normal. I don't want to be sad, but I don't want to NOT be sad.  What if I stop missing my dad?  I don't want to carry on business as usual.  I think that's why I've been resisting getting back into my fitness routine.  It was one part of my  life that I feel like, when I get back to it, I'll be over it.  Hey, brain? Stop being crazy!  I just need to get the courage to resume my real life again and just let time and God heal my sorrow.   My friends who've been there for a long time tell me that this is true, so I believe them. But HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO TAKE????  The answer: it takes how long it takes.  That's a crappy answer.

Let me tell you what I'm grateful for.  The hand of God.  Looking back, it's clearly there.  In August, we were visiting Kevin's parents and did a tour of Missouri.  We went to Silver Dollar City, Branson to see a show, Mansfield to see Laura Ingalls Wilders homestead, Lambert's restaurant, the Royals game, FC Kansas City match. I told my dad all these things and he suggested visiting Hannibal, MO, home of Mark Twain.  It was trip he took when he was 11 and he loved it.  Oddly, that summer we learned of a new route to get to Missouri and it turns out, it goes right through Hannibal.  So we were going to go on the way home.  But on the way home, we were tired and we were going to skip it.  In the middle of nowhere Missouri, my sister texted that my dad collapsed.  We decided to go to Texas right then.  The only place to get gas and turn around was Hannibal, MO.  So we decided to go to the Mark Twain museum because Daddy wanted me to go.  In the gift shop I found a book called Conversations with my Father, a question and answer book about his life.  So I bought it.  That's the book I spent 3 days filling out with him in the hospital.  Sadly, we didn't finish.  We had a car full of clean laundry, the perfect place to turn around and 3 days with my dad.  2 weeks to mend fences.  I got a priest for my dad so he could have the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and he got on the roster of Catholics in the hospital so Eucharistic ministers could bring him Holy Communion.  His final 2 weeks on earth and he died in a state of grace.  That brings me more comfort than you can imagine.

Did I get it all out?  I don't know, but I feel a little better now.  Thanks for reading this whole long rambling mess.  And so this isn't all about me, let me just tell you mend your fences while you can.  Say your sorry. Forgive.  Spend time with the ones you love and tell them you love them.