: Status report
In 13 months, I attended 1 birth, 4 weddings, and 4 funerals. I'll be surprised if there's not a 5th funeral before 18 months have gone (but that's not mine to decide, of course). There'll be 2 more births in my immediate family before 24 months have gone, but I probably won't attend either.
I dreamt that I went home to visit my folks. Halfway through the dream I remembered that my dad had died. My mind had him lie on the living room floor with his eyes closed (tiptoe around him!) for the rest of the dream.
My friend Sarah's dad died some time before mine did. She passed on words from a friend of hers: give yourself a year. My workplace gave me 3 days paid time.
I heard a long piece on NPR by a woman taking care of her father, dying of cancer. By the time he died, I was sobbing so hard I couldn't see. Driving blind up 91, on faith, glad for the roadwork that kept us down to 35mph.
A funeral is an ordeal, even when it's not your dad's. Worse, a funeral turns the celebrations that follow it - Travis' wedding, my sister's wedding, my family's Thanksgiving - into ordeals too. Why isn't he here?
I'm not sad all the time. Not constantly sad. I'm sad a lot, and thoughtful even more. I still get things done. But I'm tired all the time. Every small hitch, when the kids don't want to wash the dishes, when arguments break out online, when work is irritating, every small dumb hitch, it's a burden. I turn inward and husband my strength. I have nothing in reserve.
Friends? I miss you, and I'm okay, and I'll come back. Give me a year.
1. On 2006-12-12, Judd wrote:
Take as long as you need, Vincent. I'll certainly wait.
Particularly the year after my grandfather died, my mom would cry during certain Hallmark commercials and pretty much whenever Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton came on, as it was on the radio constantly at around the time he passed away.
Anyway, if you need anything or just a place to crash in a get-away mode, I'm here and you know how to get in touch with me.
My dad died on May 6, 1997, shortly before two in the afternoon, literally in my arms, with me on one side and my mom on the other. He'd been failing for a decade -- he was born in 1914, for crying out loud -- and had been increasingly weak and sick and miserable for a year. Moving back home for that year was one of the best things I've ever done, especially because in many ways, I got to "take a year" before he died instead of after.
It's been nine years now, and I'm married to a woman he never met, and we have a daughter he never met, and in the last few months, for the first time, I'm starting to have dreams about seeing him again. In most of them, my dream-self knows he's dead. In most of them, for what it's worth, he's happy.
It takes a year, and ten years, and the rest of your life, in different ways and at different levels of intensity. And it should take that long, because this is our fathers we're talking about (our mothers soon enough), and they are the source of us, and part of us, always.
P.S. You want to know what still makes me cry, after a year? There's a girl I knew, not really well, from my church -- still know her parents and sister -- you can read more, if you really feel up to it, at http://www2.caringbridge.org/md/clareschmidt/index.htm. She was seven. Goddammit.
My daughter is two and three-quarters years old. She is alive. She is, as far as everyone can tell, healthy. I am grateful and terrified at the same time.
I am going to post this and go tiptoe into her room to check her blankets, now, and put my hand on her small body, and feel her chest rise and fall. That's as close as I come to a cure for sorrow.
You barely know me and we have only spoken a handful of times at GenCon. But that is not a limiter on the human ability to empathize with another's sorrow. The honest glimpses into your life that you allow those of us who frequent your site have touched me. Whether you ascribe any power or meaning to it or not, you are in my prayers as you work through your grief. Those are not just idle words either. Through your words you've touched someone you hardly know way down south in Tennessee enough that he remembers you at least several times a week in pray.
The year my mom died, I attended 9 funerals and 2 weddings; 4 of those funerals were for close relatives of Raven or myself. One of those weddings was mine.
That year was extremely painful, but it passed, and in the long run, I'm a much more caring person for having survived it, and one of the things my experiences produced was Death's Door.
It been nearly a decade now, and it still kicks me in the ass some days. But the vast majority of my memories are good ones, and the moments of pain are outweighed by far. But it totally takes time to get far enough away before that sinks in.
If you need to borrow some strength, I've been building for a while, and don't need it all.
My dad is still in my dreams, more than eight years after he died of lung cancer & metastasized brain tumors. In them I sometimes realize that he's dead, and sometimes I don't. In them, he never speaks. Instead he just moves with us as though he were with us, and although the people in my dreams don't talk to him, they treat him as if he were living.
His illness claimed him quickly. Almost four months to the day after he was diagnosed he died in front of my eyes. He was an exceedingly proud man who never admitted that he was dying. It's not that he fought it tooth and nail and didn't admit that he would lose the battle, it's that he never admitted that the cancer was going to end him, even as it did.
The first year was brutal. I remember it mostly as a fog, and I threw myself into my work to get beyond it. It's like magic, that year... all of a sudden one day the fog lifts and there's life again that's too much like it was before. There are still things that rock you to the roots after that year, and though the comer fewer and farer between they're no less shaking.
When I got married to Brand, who never had the privilege of knowing my dad, it shook me terribly. When I got promoted and sent abroad (the first time) to represent the very company he had worked for, I wondered if he would have been proud of me. Since my sister and her partner have adopted their little girl, I can't help but look at her and think about what he would have thought. And this year, the biggest challenge yet... when my mother started dating.
Whatever strength I gathered along the way in the last eight years. Can I lend it to you?
Hey Vincent--it's curious that the same day you post this, I had a dream about my grandmother, who died two weeks ago, and my mom (in my dream) said, "Well, she died, you know," and she sort of did the fade-dissolve in the dream, the way you see in films. She, at least, had a pretty good life all in all.
My girlfriend's dad attempted suicide on New Year's Day, 2006, and we've been running around like crazy the whole year trying to keep him safe, sane, and resolve the mounting financial crisis that drove him to attempt it. In February I had to hunt for a job, be a full-time student, and move house. I thought I was going to lose it for a little while.
It really fucking gets you down, day after day, with no break and no relief--and even when you do catch a little bit of time off, it's never remotely enough and you go back to maximum stress the instant you return. I totally know what you mean about being tired. It's the Year of the Meat Grinder.
Best wishes, Bakers, and I hope that 2007 treats everybody a lot better.
We checked Madeleine's breathing every night for the first, I dunno, nine months she was alive. And nobody we knew had died all that recently. Newly born is just barely alive: They seem scarily fragile. It's mostly "seem," though. In reality they can survive a lot, even us new parents who've never done this having a baby thing before.
So I guess my message is "have faith." The really disorienting thing about great grief and loss is that the world endures.