There’s been a trend in my life lately. One where I sit back and try to figure out what exactly is causing me to feel out of sorts. I started thinking about it this past week because I feel out of sorts and the only thing I can come up with – is school starting back up. And that seems a little lame. Before that it was prepping the house for sale, and then moving into the new house, and then buying the new house. I realized I can trace back my own excuses for feeling out of sorts…up until Dad got sick.
It was the day I was going to Chicago for the opening event of a new freelance writing gig. I felt out of sorts even before I got the voicemail on the plane from my Dad’s doctor saying it was urgent he speak to him and he couldn’t get a hold of him anywhere. I was feeling out of sorts because I hadn’t really talked to my Dad yet about the trip or the writing gig. I had been trying to, but (as I know now) he was in so much pain in the midst of kidney failure and severe bone lesions/pain – that he and I hadn’t really had a good talk since Christmas.
In other words, I think I’ve been waiting almost two years for that good talk. That’s why I’ve been out of sorts.
Everyone tells you when someone dies that the pain fades. And it does. But I’m realizing now, that the role that person played in your life – that role never gets filled. It just leaves a hole. Or maybe, in my case, it’s like removing and inch of the leg of a table. The table gets wobbly and unstable and no amount of time will fix it.
Talking to my friend Beth this weekend about her own loss of her own father recently, is when it really hit me. I’ve been out of sorts for a year and a half. Sometimes this means I’m quick to anger and yelling. Sometimes this means I’m quick to tears. Most days I struggle finding peaceful sleep and am in a constant battle with my own anxiety. It’s a revelation to me, to realize it’s not the Big Event or Big Cause I’ve been switching blame to for almost 2 years. It’s the SAME event. The SAME cause. Not moving. Not painting. Not buying a home or getting laid off. Not spring musicals or soccer season. I’ve been blaming my instability on so many things and it finally occurred to me: I just miss my Dad.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this over the weekend. My brother went to Chicago and sent me a picture from in front of The Bean. That day I went to Chicago, the day my Dad was hospitalized, I was very much looking forward to going to Millennium Park and photographing The Bean. But the free time I had that day, which was minimal, was spent waiting in my hotel room for updates and phone calls from family members and doctors. And Dad. I talked to him that day. He told me, “I’m fine. I’m not dying. Stay in Chicago. Your brother is on his way here even though I told him not to come.” We learned later Dad was very aware he was dying, even though no one had told him yet.
I’ve been really out of sorts since that day.
My Dad filled such a pivotal role in my life, as a friend, a counselor, a confidant, and an adviser – that my table is still very wobbly in his absence. His role would be impossible for anyone else to fill, as the words that came from his lips to my ears were the words of my father. The same words uttered by anyone else, wouldn’t mean the same. But not only was he my father – he was one of the few people in the world who I ever felt truly understood me. He knew what to say, what counsel to give. Hell – he knew what to say even when I wasn’t needing counsel. The funny thing was – we were very different – and a lot of those differences were mysteries to him. Yet somehow, even when he was simplified mystified about something that I was doing, or that was bothering me, simply talking to him always helped.
Whenever Dad would come visit me, he would always make a comment either about (a) my weird desire to constantly pick up the clutter on my counter or (b) my cooking. He thought both were very odd tendencies since in his household? Those were always considered a waste of time. Why bother? Why put so much energy into fixing a meal that gets eaten in 4.2 seconds? He thought that long before I even really learned how to cook, since that’s been a transformation in his absence. But when he made this observations, it was always the type of comment that made me feel good. I knew he liked how I cared for my home and my family. Somehow, his simple words of commendation or awed praise, those words always helped get me through the mundane domestic struggles of caring for a family.
Another example: Me training for the marathon. I called him every weekend after my long run to tell him how far I had run. I knew Dad could really appreciate the road it took to get me to that point because he remembered my struggle to run a mile in my youth. I would call and say, “I ran 10 miles today!” He would always be in awe, SINCERE awe, and make some comment about not understanding why my brother and I take on these challenges. I always thought it was a compliment he grouped me in the same sentence as my brother since he’s a real athlete.
It’s really hard to put into words, the specific role my Dad played, but I realize now that my life has been unstable ever since I lost him in it. Some days I cry when no one is looking. Other days I yell at my kids for the most minor of infractions. My table is not shaking because of any of the reasons I’ve been blaming it for months. It’s because I have yet to figure out how to live any sort of stable existence without my Dad.
Not a weekend goes by that I don’t drive somewhere and thinking about calling him. That was my ritual. On one of my weekend errands, I would call Dad. It would give me the closure I needed on the events of the past week, telling him in review. And it would prep me for the upcoming week, letting him know what was on tap for our family. Without those talks, without him here in my life for almost 2 years, I’m missing that closure, that prep.
I’m out of sorts.
And like with any Big Life Revelations – I sit here and say, “Okay. So this is the cause of my emotional distress over the last 18+ months. NOW what do I do?” Besides the obvious, I guess, learn how to stabilize the table without my Dad. Nothing I can do will ever make the table perfect again, I guess. But I need to do my best to figure out how to stabilize it a bit.
I think I’ve just been waiting for time to pass to heal all of the wounds over the loss of my Dad. Naively assuming it would take only that: Time. And time does help, don’t get me wrong. But there are some wounds that won’t ever be healed, some pain that won’t ever leave, and I guess I’ve just been ignoring that. Blaming it on any of the number of stresses in my life – but never truly recognizing it for what it was. My difficulty coping with my new life without my Dad.
So, now what? I don’t know. But as always – I throw this stuff out there in an effort to process it for myself, and to hear a kind voice across the way remind me that eventually – it will be okay. Someday.
This is a picture of Dad took when we were all together for his brother’s funeral. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the actual picture he’s taking here.