It’s really hard to be around my mother right now. Not that she’s ever been the easiest person to get along with general. She’s stubborn, a tireless martyr and a right fighter. Oh and she always wins, because well, her voice is the loudest. When my dad died a little over six months ago, as he lay in a comatose state, and while we still held out hope yet knew he was nearing the end of his days, I vividly recall my mother saying, “None of us have enough time. There’s never enough time to be with those you love.” And at that moment I thought after years of his chronic health problems, she was making peace with the fact that we were going to lose my father, and acknowledging that whether he died at 68 or at 88– it would still feel like there was never enough time to spend with him. We’d always want more; one last kiss, one last chance to say we loved him, one last chance to see a twinkle in his eye, one last chance to see him hug his grand kids, one last time to see him curse out Alex Trebek for seeming so arrogant while telling players they got answers wrong- while he held cards with the answers– that was my dad. And losing him at 68 has changed the trajectory of all of our lives. I think death in a family does that– it just changes everything.
For me– it’s forced me to re-evaluate the limits I put on myself, and the relationships I hold dear. It’s brought my tolerance for other people’s bull-shit and bad energy to zero and so, if I don’t feel like being in a situation where I know I’ll be uncomfortable- where I would have sucked it up in the past now I just won’t do it. It’s made me realize how utterly short our time is here, and that once the switch on our life is turned off, that’s it, we’re done.
I want to say I believe in the afterlife– and I am forever looking for pennies, butterflies, some sign from my dad– but sadly I’ve gotten nothing- and I guess right now, at this moment in time- I believe this is it. The right here and now- it’s all we have and all we can truly enjoy. And oddly enough that was the attitude my dad had – one I never could quite grasp. He never seemed to truly allow any situation to get him mired in sadness, pity or doubt. He just moved along, whistling, (Hand to Gd he really did whistle) and being this incredibly optimistic force. I miss him like crazy cakes- I want to talk to him every day, I want to hear someone call me Mel, I want to hug his tiny, frail body, I want to see his toothless grin ( he’d scare us and take out his dentures and smile every so often ) I want to wrap my arms around him and tell him how grateful I am for all the times I never told him how much I appreciated him- like when I drove my car to Georgia, and it died on me- and I flew back on a plane and my daddy saved the day and drove down there and brought it back up. My daddy, my hero the first man I ever loved. I miss him but I can’t spend every day doing this. Crying, feeling spiteful, angry at the universe, angry that he was taken, angry that he’s not here to share in the joys of my kids. I can’t walk around in a haze of sorrow and self pity because, that would be antithetical to the way he lived his life.
My mother of course has buried herself in her sadness, she will not allow any of us to penetrate it, she says she doesn’t see how any of us can laugh or go on with our lives. Most of the time I’m going on and smiling and doing all the things you do on an ordinary day or when you’re in the company of others because honestly nobody wants to be around someone who is so wrapped up in sadness. None of us want to be reminded on a daily basis that this life is shorter than we can comprehend and that death will sooner than we’d like affect someone we love. We all want to walk around, obsess about the mundane focus on what we can see, feel and hear- and not feel the heavy weight of death coloring our every waking moment. I can’t live like that. I won’t live like that. My father just wouldn’t approve. Wherever he is, if he indeed is anywhere- if a soul does live on in some form or energy I want to believe he is soaring, like a starburst, just all light and love- and that is how I want to experience every day on this planet.
I don’t need to grieve, without my father, grief has become an integral part of who I am, I think in the wake of a loved one’s death it simply becomes a part of your new normal.