About Me

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In this blog I have created a haven, a place I allow my deepest emotions to go and sit. I can write easily about what I’ve accomplished. This biography I can recite in my sleep. But I’ve always written poetry and in diaries since I was a teenager. I continued to write poetry in my journals, and not until 2006 did I show them to anyone. I generally write every day, at the present in memoir form. I haven’t written poetry since my mother died in January, 2007. I didn’t write at all between her death and the death of my father three years later in January, 2010. On my father’s birthday in March, 2010, I began this blog, to honor my father and to help me grieve. But I also desperately needed to write, and this stream of conscious style emerged. I needed to find my organic voice.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Journey has begun

So, here I am. Hello. My world has changed forever, my heart cracked open. Today is my father's birthday. The first birthday on which he is not here. He passed away in January. I have a whole first entry for this blog hand written in my journal, from which I will begin but will inevitably get derailed by the wandering of my fingers and my heart, my soul and its memories. My mother died three years ago, but that felt so different. I was different. The circumstances were caped in disbelief, cloaked in repressed anger. And then we were all, honestly, relieved, when she was gone. She freed our family from the tyranny of alcoholism. I grieved for what could have been, but not for what *was*.  I wasn't angry with her; she gave my family back to me when she passed away. A gift she withheld our entire lives together. So I'm grateful for that. Grateful to her for that.

The news of my father's terminal diagnosis came five months after my mother died. I felt myself slip to the ground---just like I've seen in the movies---as he told me over the phone. We lived 1500 miles apart, so most of our communication happened this way, or through an occasional email. Lung cancer, inoperable, terminal. Sure, there's chemo but all that will do is forestall the inevitable. That was good enough for my father. "I have stuff to do," he said, "I'm not done." Well, he wasn't.  I don't need to relive the next two and a half years, or share it with you, but I can say with utter certainty that it was one of the most galvanizing experiences of my life. My dad and I had been close, on his terms, but I never felt more than about 16 years old. At once emotionally gratifying and devastating I got to break out of my Daughter phase and walk into...hmm...I don't know what to call it. My father called me often and I called him often. More than the once weekly -life-is-normal catching up between two busy people. Although he kept his cancer and diagnosis private from most of the world, he honored me by sharing his fears with me, his litany of physical complaints rendered by chemotherapy and medication.  It profoundly changed our relationship, and this bond continued up until our last words to each other: "I love you. I'm proud of you. You inspire me."  Teary? You should be. I am changed forever to have been by his side the last month of his life--most of which was pretty damned good, he'd admit, even on massive handfuls of painkillers. He made it so, all the way through the family Christmas--which he hosted! And then it was almost like his mind said Fait accompli.

He agreed to go the hospital two days after Christmas, because he couldn't keep track of his painkillers and was having incredible breakthrough pain from the large tumors on his arm and leg. So, we gently took him to the hospital--my husband, my sister and I, met by his extraordinary oncologist nurse-practitioner--where we knew he was going to die. He knew he was dying but kept going.

One day he asked--no, told--the doctor: "I need about thirty minutes' notice before I die, because I have things to say to my family." The doctor, stunned into laughter, said he couldn't guarantee that sort of accuracy, so perhaps, the "things" could be said now. Once assured he wasn't dying at that particular moment, my father declined.  HA. Love it.  God, he was such a protector, such a fine human being, he didn't want us to be upset until the very last minute.  Such a dad.

Near the end, we were able to say all the things we wanted to, all the things one imagines one would want to say to a dying parent, to a living child. Is it hard to understand when I say it was a beautiful experience?  He was in a lot of pain, suffering debilitating anxiety and on stupifying doses of morphine...how is that beautiful? Well, that part's not. It's ugly and frightening and horrifying and soul-draining.  But to have a bubble of time where life is boiled down to its most basic and beautiful essence is indescribable. My heart broke from the giving and receiving of love. I've never felt it before. I may never again. I don't know if I ever want to feel it again.  But here's the thing: I never knew it existed.

So here I am, on his birthday, missing him like crazy. Even though I've been walking around in a haze today, I've spent a lot of time working on his estate as Executrix, being as productive as possible, doing what I need to do. "It is what it is," he said throughout the past few years.  There's no better way to honor my father than to do the work at hand.  It is what it is--bills need to be paid, investments need to be rolled over into beneficiary accounts,  services still to be cancelled. But who says I can't do it with a box of tissues next to me?

Happy Birthday, Dad. I don't know if there's an afterlife, but if there is, I hope you know how much you are loved.

As a venerable friend says...more anon.