Saturday, March 25, 2023

It still hurts, but that is natural. It's going to be all right.

 It's difficult to believe that Dad died four years ago. This week marked that most terrible anniversary. 

The week of March 22 in 2019 was a spate of the most beautiful spring days imaginable. The temperature was perfect and it was sunny, but gentle breezes kept the days from feeling too warm. It was perfect weather for gardening, or just for sitting out on the porch. The loss of Dad in some way put what has felt like a permanent damper on the enjoyment of perfect spring days, March 22, and even Fridays. For four years I've felt like the very best of life was behind me. The parking lot at the post office near my house will always be the place I was when the call came in from Mom telling me that Dad had collapsed and was in an ambulance en route to the hospital, but that it didn't look good and to prepare myself. I fairly flew the three blocks home, threw together my suitcase, gathered a few dresses, some black, and shoes and anything I might need. Maybe 10 minutes later, I was back in my car, starting the engine to leave when Mom called to tell me that they couldn't save him. I remember going back in the house and sitting down and just bawling my eyes out. 

A long time ago, someone told me that people freak out about their own mortality when their parents die, because in some way the parents were a kind of psychological buffer that obviated the need to think much about their own death. The effect for me was opposite: the loss of Dad made me feel less connected to this life. It made me feel much more at ease about the prospect of my own demise. My only caveats are that I don't want my Mom to have to go through losing a child in this lifetime, and I also want my pets to be loved and properly cared for after I'm gone. 

Fortunately for me, I was working on my Master's and I had the freedom to take care of everything that was going on with my classes, so I didn't have the stress of having to negotiate my absences with an unfeeling employer. It was actually quite fortunate that I was running on rails in a way with my degree plan, and it gave me tasks to complete and things to do that in some way kept me occupied even as I was in a traumatized state. 

I think of Dad all the time. It feels so wrong to be in this world without him. I know I am not special and that everyone who loses a beloved parent feels the the loss mightily. I know Dad would not be surprised or disappointed that we all love him and miss him so dearly, but it has dawned on me that he'd be aggravated if I just give up on myself and my own purpose in life. I'm not going to apologize for the way I've dealt (or not dealt) with this grief. I think grief is different for everyone, and we all just have to experience it, and get on with life as best we can. We don't get over it, but we simply learn to live with it.

It would be so easy for me to say that losing my Dad was the worst thing, but there are many far more worse things. It would have been worse to have a terrible father, or no father. It would have been terrible if he'd had a lingering illness that made a man of incredible vitality into an invalid. It would have been worse if I'd not lived into my 50s with my Dad in the world to give advice and to share my joys and comfort me in my times of disappointment. I've been so richly blessed, so I don't have things to regret about my Dad, who he was in the world, or the state of our relationship. The truth is that every kid on earth deserves a father who is so loving, kind, and true. I won the Dad lottery, and no earthly riches could ever compare to that wealth of experience. For that I am grateful.

I've been trying to get my house in order. I'm naturally chaotic, and my things get messy far too easily. I've been sifting through the paper glaciers on tables, and it looks like the real disarray (based on envelope postmarks) dates from (surprise!) March of 2019. It was messy before, but that time is the real moment the whole shebang climbed into a handbasket and went to the place where handbaskets go.

I've had many quiet times at home recently to sort through things and work on cleaning and organizing, and today I was doing just that, listening to things on YouTube as I worked along. A video came on that pricked up my ears. Professor of Rock interviewed Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins about their hit from 1979, "This Is It". I've heard it in the background many times, but never really listened to it. They collaborated to write the song and kind of wanted to write it as a romantic relationship song, but Kenny said it came into focus for him because at that moment, his father was undergoing a health crisis and having a serious surgery. He said he wrote the song as an encouragement to his father. 

Are you gonna wait for a sign, your miracle? Stand up and fight.

I needed to hear those words, and I needed to hear them today. I feel like Dad put a bug in the ear of the YooToob algorithm fairies to put that video in my queue. Life is not perfect, and it never was, and never will be. It's true that the shine has gone off of many things since Dad is not here to share them, but I keep thinking that I want my beloved family members to make the most of their own lives, even if I check out early. It's nice to know we are loved, but I would never want misery or despair to cloud the days and haunt the nights of my dear ones. I am at peace with my father's destination, and I have blessed assurance that I'll join him there. The outcome is decided, but the middle bit is unknowable, so this will be interesting. He would want me to make the most of whatever time I have left to me.

I'm also remembering the poem Dylan Thomas wrote when his father, a vibrant man, gave up on life after receiving a bleak medical diagnosis. Dylan wanted his father to fight to hang on, to stay here and to not meekly accept that his death was soon, even if it is certain for all of us. 

Dad wanted all his loved ones to make the most of our lives, and he would not want any one of us to give up. I've been sitting on this fence for four years. It's time I hop down on one side or the other, and act more like every day matters. Yes, I'll keep running on rails with my overcommitted life, but I think I can cram a little more living into my days, and maybe jettison a bit of the sadness. I know that the point of life is not to just be comfortable and indulged and spoiled. I've dwelt on the sad truth of this situation for long enough, so what am I going to do now? 

I'm going to live.

Everything's all right.