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Missing day

20 Jun

Missing day

Today wasn’t as difficult as Dad’s birthday, Christmas, or any number of the days when I missed him horribly. Still, it was the first Father’s Day without him.

I avoided dealing with this reality by watching a Breaking Bad episode and meticulously removing cat hair from my duvet cover. This plan worked brilliantly until it suddenly didn’t, and I burst into tears while putting away some face cream.

Managing the loss gets easier with time, but the pain is just as deep as it was when he died. These days I don’t talk about it too much. I can’t, because the pain is still bigger than I am. If I let myself, I cry so intensely that I lose control of my physical being. My body shudders, my lungs don’t know which way to move, my nose turns into a waterfall of snot. It feels like I could go on for hours like that. The worst part of it is that whenever I’ve felt broken-hearted in the past, my dad comforted me. Now I can’t go to him, because he isn’t here.

So today was not an intensely miserable disaster. But tomorrow could be soaked with tears. That’s the thing — you can’t predict when, or how, the grief will swell. It just keeps coming in different ways. Sometime it feels like a jagged gash, other times like a splinter. It’s always there, though, and I suspect a part of it might never leave.

Bright skies

9 Apr

Bright skies

The sun is different in California. I said this to JC last year, and he didn’t believe me. “The sun’s the sun,” he said. But when he and Alex visited and the morning light roused them, he reconsidered. Other non-Californians have said the same thing: the light is softer somehow.

While walking around in the mornings, I like seeing how the light bounces off buildings. I enjoy watching pigeon shadows soar over sidewalks, and I love the days when the fog rolls in elsewhere but I’m standing in sunshine.

This week has brought happy news from friends: a pregnancy, an engagement, a new job. These things made me smile, choke up a little in the good way, find a moment of quiet pride for them. “There is magic out there in the world,” one commented.

There is, and during my morning and evening walks I usually look for a little of it. Sometimes I literally stop and smell flowers, which is so maudlin, but since my dad died, I try to appreciate things like that more. And I am trying to shift my viewpoints overall. Lately I’m trying to find different perspectives by radically redecorating my room, finding new routes to familiar places, and looking at the city as though I were a visitor. I keep going back to an Einstein quote that Toby sent me a few weeks ago:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Monty, I’ll take door number two. 2.

Languor rises, reaching

1 Apr

Languor rises, reaching

After work, I decided to take the train to 16th Street. It was a bit of a roundabout way to get home, but when the sun stays out later than it used to, you might as well enjoy it. My little limp comes out if it’s rained recently, but the important thing is to keep walking despite the ache, and so I did.

I have taken thousands of steps on Valencia Street, but no matter what happens there, it always reminds me of the afternoon I arrived in San Francisco. I’d been driving for days and was excited and scared to be somewhere new. Dad was in the passenger seat, taking in the details of a neighborhood he’d never seen. “I think you’re going to be happy here,” he said.

“I hope so,” I replied.

Before sunset, we drove up and down the steepest parts of Russian Hill. The experience filled both of us with glee, and Dad’s delighted laughter revealed a glimpse of the little boy he’d once been. Even then I knew it was a moment I’d always remember. I was freshly 29, he was 76, and while pushing our way up those inclines, we were young together.

To a sea of stars

25 Mar

To a sea of stars

Mourning is a cycle, spinning over and over, and I’m not sure when it will stop. The five stages of grief exist, but they don’t necessarily happen in order, and they don’t happen just once. They keep moving in a general loop, yet they’re unpredictable; the intensity sometimes fades, but the pattern keeps repopulating itself.

I am able to reach acceptance, but there’s no triumph in that accomplishment. It is a sad place. It isn’t a place I really want to be, so I slip back into denial. Then I have to plunge into the icy water of reality, mentally replay the loss, and sit with the absence for a while. It’s lonely.

I am not yet used to how different things are now, and I have to frequently remind myself to create new behaviors and responses to replace long-established habits. For instance: When I travel, I instinctively look for a postcard to send to Dad. It is OK to think of him, of course, but it still takes me a few seconds to remember that I can’t really send him a card. Or if I did, it would never reach him, because he is gone.

I haven’t slept well in months, and this is doubly frustrating because dreams are the only place where my mind can regress beyond denial and temporarily bask in an extinct existence. I can dream about the life I used to know, without the internal scold whipping me into looking at the cold, sad facts. I know the happiness is not real, but the escape is still welcome whenever it comes. Dream-Dad comforts me as he would if he were still here, and things feel better.

Sometimes, if the air and light are just right, I let myself forget while I’m awake, too. Just for a minute. The last time I did it, I was walking down 21st Street on a quiet morning. For a city block, I allowed myself to pretend. The sun on my back felt like being loved, and I slowed my pace to feel less alone for a little bit longer. Eventually, I had to turn left on Mission, where buildings were blocking the light. I returned to accepting the unwelcome truth, but for a tiny sliver of time, I got away from it.

I don’t know if this coping mechanism is normal. I’m not sure it’s completely healthy, but it’s not like I do it often or stay stuck in that reverie. Occasionally it is what I need to do just to get through the day, because sometimes the absence is overwhelming. I know things will get easier as time passes, and that I will be able to think of my father without feeling so sad, but right now it is still difficult. I need him, he isn’t here, and so the cycle begins anew.

A play starring my mom

1 Apr

My parents came to town for a few hours yesterday. We had brunch at Ann Sather with Jen, Drew, and Traci. My mother fumed at my father because he had cat hair on the sweater. My father removed himself from all conversation not related to basketball. Mumsy kept calling Traci “Terri” for some reason, and she succeeded in embarrassing me greatly toward the end of our meal.

– – –


MOM: Have you heard about Annie’s crushes?!

JEN: Well, some—

MOM, interrupting: Well! On Monday she’s going to a concert with [established crush]. Now, you know Annie and how she gets nervous and overanalyzes things…

EVERYONE ELSE AT TABLE: Ha ha ha! No, you don’t say! Chortle chortle!

MOM: …but I think she should be confident with this one, because they have a lot in common. Now, she had told me about him last time I visited, and we saw him and I asked him about Fugazi—you know how she likes to tease me about me liking them—but she seemed convinced that he didn’t know she was alive.

ANNIE (mumbles): Moth-errr.

MOM: Well, I say he was just a little shy! So I put a Mom Hex on him! I just knew it would work! She has nothing to worry about. Now, have you heard about Whoa? Let me tell you about Whoa…

ANNIE: (crawls underneath table, dies)