11 Years

The last picture I have of my Dad and I was taken in May of 2002. I was a senior in high school and was wearing all black and stage make up to perform in my high school musical. I had the leading role and would be going to college on a voice scholarship in the fall.

My Dad wore a red t-shirt tucked into his blue jeans and a belt; his signature style. 

We have our arms around each other and big smiles. 

Then, at 7:20 in the morning on October 5th, 2002, he would pass away.

I kept that picture in a small frame with pink metal flowers for a long time. With me in my college dorm room after I dropped out and returned, changing my major. With me in my first apartment and the first home my husband and I had together.

And somewhere along the way, with moves and with time, the little frame with the metal flowers and the picture of my Dad and I got packed in a box. Packed away as more of a memory than an item to be unpacked and displayed.

A lot changes in eleven years. Graduations, marriages, jobs, babies, moves.

Eleven years feels like a long time. It is a long time. Its an amount of time that allows a lot of things to change.

And people say that time heals all wounds.

I thought eleven years would be a long time.

But today, on the eleventh anniversary of my Dad passing away, I found myself in tears. Sobbing, hysterical tears. Not able to get out of the bed tears. Or talk to my son without crying tears.

I didn’t think eleven years would have felt like that. So I decided to have a regular day. I had 8 hours worth of rehearsal today. And I went to them, just like I was supposed to. And I made a spectical of myself and cried the ugly cry and had to explain that even eleven years later, the passing of my Dad felt as if it had just happened.

How even eleven years later, the wound was fresh and I could remember the details of the entire day. Like the hole in my heart had just been created.

The first few anniversaries of his death I gave myself permission not to do anything. I would skip class and spend the day crying in bed. Perhaps not functional, but it was my own version of therapy and it allowed me to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of public crying.

The anniversary in 2006 was the first one that I actually went about as a normal day. I was teaching in England, and I got up and taught. And the day was actually good.

There have been other anniversaries like that. Where it wasn’t so heart wrenching; it just WAS. I dreaded last year’s the most; the tenth anniversary seemed like such a milestone and a significant time period. My mom, brother, sister and I wanted to commemorate that occasion so we went on a weekend get away, just the four of us. It was a lovely weekend and the perfect way to celebrate and remember.

This year didn’t feel so significant. Eleven isn’t even a significant number. I had rehearsals and regular life on the calendar.

And yet, as it tends to happen with grief, this anniversary took me by surprise and left me inconsolable well into the afternoon.

The people who came to tell me it would be ok at the church rehearsal were older ladies who would say, “I lost my Dad a couple of years ago. I know what you’re going through.”

And I appreciate it. I do.

I can’t imagine that losing a partner would be easy at any point in life.

But we all know that this happens. We know that we grow older and pass away. We know that as we age our parents age, too. We must expect that at some point, in their old age, our parents will pass.

I feel like it’s entirely different losing a parent when you are young. They didn’t get to live their entire lives. They didn’t get to do everything in their careers, or travel everywhere they wanted, or become a grandparent. They didn’t get to be there for all of the things in yours. They missed your graduations, your wedding, and your baby.

I don’t think you know what that’s like unless you’ve experienced it. To have your heart entirely broken and then pieced back together again, every so slowly, and then every once in a while it loses one of the pieces all over again and you feel that you are starting over.

Starting back at the beginning of the most vulnerable time when you lost a part of yourself.

The truth is, I hate this day.

I hate the way that it always makes me remember losing him. I remember the good parts and the bad parts and our family and who he was as a father and a husband. But I remember those parts everyday. Those are the parts I can tell to my son when something makes me think of my Dad, or when I look into my son’s eyes, because I am lucky enough to have a child with my Dad’s eyes.

I hate that it makes me ponder all of the things that could have been different; SHOULD have been different if he were still here.

I hate that this day makes me remember the details of the day we lost him. The sting of that realization, the exact moment when you are told that your whole life is forever changed.

And I hate that I will never know, for the rest of my life, what days it will strike like this. What days the grief will become so overwhelming that you just can’t plaster on your usual smile and get through your day. That being comforted by someone who says “It’s ok” and “I know what you’re going through” seem meaningless because you are absolutely certain that no one knows exactly the extent of your pain or your loss.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It lessens them, perhaps. I’m not grief stricken every day. It’s not as intense as it was at first, or as paralyzingly hard as the very first anniversary.

But when the grief comes washing over you, it unavoidably takes you back to that first place. The first time that you felt yourself break.

And sometimes there’s nothing you can do but to live there until it passes.

I can’t believe it’s been eleven years. I miss you every day, Dad. I love you.

My Dad 2002

My Dad 2002

 

 

 

The Trouble With Five

The trouble with five is that it’s significant.

When I was growing up, November 5th was significant because it was my Dad’s birthday.

After I met my husband, September 5th became significant because that is his birthday.

Then, October 5th became significant, because in 2002, that’s the day my father passed away. Exactly one month before his 53rd birthday.

I was put on bed rest on June 5th, 2009, which I stayed on for three months (the remainder of my pregnancy.)

It’s strange, right? The significance of five.

I am already (irrationally) scared of my son’s fifth birthday. Five is such a milestone, and it’s such a significant number…what will it mean when he turns five? And oh my goodness think of the party planning. The yellow birthday party will have to be blown out of the water.

(See, you guys, I am ridiculous.)

But today, I reflect on the significance of five, because today would’ve been my Dad’s birthday, and for a long time, both October 5th and November 5th were emotionally debilitating for me.

Today I am ok. Today I am doing better. Today I remember the wonderful celebration of my Dad I shared with my family just one month ago.

And I reflect on the significance of five.

 

*This is also the last day to sign up for NaBloPoMo, (National Blog Posting Month) a blogging exercise where you are challenged to write EVERY DAY for the entire month. I am going for it!

*See how significant 5 is? I am starting a writing challenge…on the 5th!

*Is that enough talk about 5 for you? Come back any day this month where hopefully the writing will be better and the date will be less significant.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

October 5th

I remember the day vividly. Of course I do.

Over time, its events have transpired into a movie in my mind, playing on a continuous reel that occasionally makes its way to the forefront. In it, I am watching myself as though I wasn’t a part of it, as though it wasn’t me living those moments.

I see myself as I get the news, as I cry, as I process.

I remember all the details; even the blurry ones.

So on the morning of October 5th this year, I was transported back to that day ten years prior, the day my Dad passed away.

There was my mind made movie, playing all morning as I recalled those things that I already know so well; the events of the day that changed everything.

This October 5th, I woke up in sobs and let the tears stain my pillow as the toddler slept peacefully beside me.

The anniversary of this loss is hard every year, but ten years seems so significant. Ten years. A decade. A milestone.

I miss him everyday. I grieve all of the momentous things he has missed in my life. College graduation. My wedding. Meeting my son.

But there is so much I have missed seeing of him. The way he would have loved seeing the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. The way he would have loved the historical election where Obama became President. All of the Christmas presents I missed getting to see him open and Father’s Days we never got to celebrate. Getting to see him be a granddad.

He is forever a part of me. I see it every time I look in the mirror as his eyes stare back at me. I hear him every time the Beatles song “Imagine” is played, even all of the bad cover bands. I feel him every time I say my son’s full name, because we gave our son my Dad’s name, Richard, as a middle name. I smile every time I pass a chess set, or watch my son play soccer, or stare into my son’s eyes, because, luckily, he has those same big eyes, too.

Yes, I remember that day. But I remember so much more of him as my father and I missed so much more of him in these ten years since he has been gone.

So on October 5th, rather than transporting myself back to that day, I let my mind movie play and I let my tears fall. Then I got my little boy dressed and we had a play date at the Botanical Gardens, surrounding ourselves with butterflies and flowers.

And then I think my family gave each other the greatest gift; we gave each other a weekend of each other.

Leaving the husband and toddler at home, my mom, sister, brother and I went away for a weekend to Charlottesville, VA. We immersed ourselves in laughter and conversation, scenery and adventure, and no shortage of extravagant food.

Nothing will change the significance of the loss, the way his presence is missed daily, the way my heart grieves eternally for the man that I was lucky enough to have as my father.

But this year, on this tenth year of the day we lost my father, we celebrated my Dad with love and laughter, just the four of us.

I know for certain that there were still five of us there.

“Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

Spending time with my family, remembering and celebrating my Dad who helped create it.

My Dad

Reflection and an Anniversary

Today, I am thrilled to link up with two fabulous bloggers, Alison of Mama Wants This and Ado from The Momalog as they both celebrate their one year blogging anniversaries. Not only is this an important milestone for them, but they are also celebrating by giving fabulous prizes away to…you! I had no idea that blog anniversaries were such fancy occasions, but I am so excited to be a part of it!

Anyone can participate; the idea is to link up your favorite post. It’s a great way to meet other bloggers, read eloquent writing, and maybe win some fantastic prizes.

The post I am including can be found in its original form here.

(I also copy and pasted below, if you want to skip the click-through step.)

This post is not the most uplifting or lyrical that I have ever written, but it is one of my favorites. I wrote it late at night on a memo on my phone, when the words came pouring out of me and had to escape somewhere. It was the first time I was brave enough to write about my intimate thoughts after having my baby. It was the first time that I realized my words had power. And it was this memo, that sat in my phone for months, that nagged at me to start a blog in the first place.

I had words to say, and intimate thoughts that needed to be shared. This piece of writing allowed me to start to use my voice to once again find pieces of myself I thought I lost after having the baby. It is written from a dark place in my life, when I felt overwhelmed by motherhood and baby and not at all at peace with the dramatic changes pregnancy and breastfeeding had imposed upon my body. But these words made me feel for the first time in a long time, that my story had significance.

So in honor of these wonderful blog anniversaries, please enjoy a glimpse into one of my most intimate moments of discovering myself in my reflection.

Reflection 

My bathroom mirror was a thick fog of steam created by the shower I like to run almost scalding, so that it nearly burns as I stand under the flowing current that strips my skin of the days’ events. As I pulled back my shower curtain to reach for my white towel, a reflection of someone caught my eye in the mirror. It was someone I recognized mostly, but things had changed without my noticing. As I stared now, I watched water droplets drip from my breasts, which sit much lower than they used to. My nipples have darkened and there are stretch marks dirtying the cool white porcelain of skin that covers what used to be one of my favorite body features. Now they have become nothing more than a food source for the baby. While I pride myself on breastfeeding, I also grieve my breasts that I now no longer admire unless they are kept in an expensive bra that gives them the illusion of elasticity.

My eyes traveled down to my stomach, which used to be flat and jeweled with a belly button piercing, but is now like a map of squiggly lines leading to nowhere and a scar of a decoration of youth. I lifted my “baby pouch” with both hands and tried to remember my pre-baby body. Maybe I’ll get a tummy tuck one day, I thought. But a quick glance at my c-section scar reminds me of all the pain, and I winced at the thought of undergoing surgery ever again, for any reason.

As the steam lifted, I noticed circles under my eyes that I’m quite sure weren’t there a few years ago, and some stray eyebrow hairs. I’ve given up pedicures and waxes, and now resort to plucking when I get the time, but I’m surprised at how out of control my brows look. I guess I need to check the mirror more often, I think as I lift the tweezers for the first time in weeks.

At least I’m saving money this way. Not looking in mirrors allows you to forget that you have run out of concealer for the dark circles or chapstick for the chapped lips. It allows you the freedom to not care what you look like and not spend money on make up.

But I can not help but to feel trapped into a surprise when I can’t stop this mirror from reflecting.