Thursday, May 1, 2014

insert clever title here

(DISCLAIMER:  I've been told before that people like reading my blogs because they make them laugh, and I've always enjoyed making people laugh, but I have some bad news -  For those of you who read or ever have read my blog for the sake of a good laugh and actually enjoyed it, that's probably all going to come to an end.  At least for a little while.  I should have had a lot to say with the birth of my kid and all, and normally,  I think I would have been all over this thing,  bragging and making you all sick with pictures and stupid, obnoxious stories about feedings and rolling over and poop textures or whatever moms talk about on their blogs, but just a couple of months after he was born (literally a week after my last post),  life took a kind of horrible turn, and my head has been somewhere else.  Of course, all of those fun baby things have happened, but my energy to do anything beyond posting a picture to Facebook has been pretty much diminished.  I'm emotionally drained,  and I'm working through a lot of shit in the wake of losing my dad and my grandfather.  So what I'm saying is, if you read this, and you usually do it to laugh, I'm sorry.  For a while, anything I write here will probably be pretty sad, but it's therapeutic for me, and I've found that when I try to write things by hand in an actual journal,  my brain outthinks the speed of my pen, and I end up frustrated and with a crampy hand.  I do eventually hope to go back to my normal self, but this is what's happening in my head right now.....So anyway, that's my disclaimer......)

  Months ago, when my father was still alive, but not really living, it occurred to me that grief and love are mutually exclusive. I stood at the side of his bed, while he was half asleep and pretty incoherent, pouring his medications into his feeding tube, and trying my best not to cry in front of him. (I found it funny then, and still find it funny now that I was so reluctant to cry in front of him in the last few weeks of his life.  Maybe I didn’t want him to know that I was scared. Maybe I didn’t want him to feel guilty or sad or worse than he already did….maybe I just didn’t want to disturb him) I was silently wondering to myself how this could be happening to him (and to us).  I thought how unfair it was for someone to suffer the way he was, and how I wasn’t prepared for a fatherless life.   I thought about grief, and how differently it affects everyone, and it dawned on me that love and grief come as a pair. If you are fortunate enough to love someone, at some point you will become separated somehow, be it from a breakup, or because of time or distance, or because of death, and because you loved them (and loving someone is a lucky thing), you will, in some form or fashion, grieve them.  It’s the unfortunate side effect of happiness that it should always be followed with pain and sadness. one can’t exist without the other, but, no matter how much it hurts, or how deeply it cuts you, it’s not worth giving up love to avoid the inevitable grief.  At least it’s not for me.

  I was standing in the laundry room of my parents’ house with my mom just a week or so after dad had been brought home by ambulance for in home hospice care.  She said something like “….but your father and I knew this was coming, so we have been preparing for it….” and it took me by surprise. “what do you mean, you KNEW?” I asked, and she told me that when the doctors had discovered that dad’s cancer was back, they told them that he may only have a matter of months to live, even with treatment.

  I was shocked, because this “limited time” - this “expiration date” - well, it was complete news to me.  Of course, by that point, I knew that he was nearing the end of his life, but I’d had no idea that this was something that was known to be imminent.  For months before he ended up in the hospital, I had still thought there was hope for him to be “cured” - silly, naive little me and my optimism. I instantly felt angry (for being kept in the dark..of course, in the way parents do, they were just trying to protect me by not telling me. They were attempting to keep me from living in a constant state of anxiety, or from packing up my things, leaving my life here on hold, and coming home to hover over him....and I couldn't really be angry about that. It's what parents do. They protect us.), and simultaneously guilty.  I’d been so wrapped up in my own life - my pregnancy, Callum’s birth, being a new mother, Gene’s deployment - that I’d neglected to notice or pick up on the fact that my dad had just been given a death sentence.  I felt like the worst daughter in the world, for calling home to only talk about the baby and barely getting in a “how are you feeling?” before I’d have to quickly hang up to do a feeding or change a diaper, or for the times when I was too busy or too tired to answer the phone.  What kind of daughter was I that I didn’t feel some powerful nagging in my soul that something just wasn’t “right”?

... A terrible one. I was a terrible daughter. At least I felt like one.

  Even when I got the call that set into motion the trip home that would change my world forever, I remained naively optimistic.  On the flight, I just kept telling myself that by the time I landed, he would be awake, talking, and thoroughly annoyed that such a big fuss was made. “he’s going to demand I get right back on a plane back to England” I thought.  I really wish I’d been right.

  The moment everything changed for me - the moment that my naive optimism kind of shattered - was when I walked into the ICU shortly after he woke up, and looked into his eyes.  There were tears, and at the time I thought they were because he was happy to see me, but now, looking back, I think it’s because he knew that anytime he saw me from then on could be the last time.  I didn’t say much to him. I just held his hand, and told him about the trip and how much he had scared me, and how well his grandson behaved on the plane.  We could only be back there in shifts because Callum wasn’t allowed in the ICU, so someone had to stay with him in the waiting room, and I knew mom wanted to be around when the doctors came, so I kept it short and sweet and after about 15 minutes, headed out.  “Dad,” I said, “is there anything you need?” and he lifted his hand a tiny bit, as much as he could, really, because his hands had been restrained to keep him from tugging at the dozens of wires and tubes coming out of him,  and just pointed his finger at me.  I laughed, said “I love you,” and he gave me a tiny nod that I knew meant "I love you, too," and closed his eyes.

  For some reason, in that moment, my heart knew that this was the beginning of the end. I walked back to the waiting room holding back tears, and I feel like I’ve been holding them back ever since. I began mourning my dad right then and there.  Weeks before he passed away.  But the grief….the grief still hasn’t set in.

  My dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but we were always on each others team, so to speak.  I felt sometimes like we were more alike than I’d ever like to admit, and he often told me I was “more Crowley than anything,” and he was very proud of that fact.  When I was a teenager, he bugged me, embarrassed me, and tried way too hard to protect me sometimes (which obviously meant he was just doing his job as a dad), but as an adult, he became one of my closest confidants, my advisor, and one of my best friends.  After his first diagnosis, shortly after I moved to the UK, I felt overwhelming guilt for not being closer to home, but I cherished every call, text message, tacky forwarded email, visit home, and hug that I got during those visits. Every six months or so, when I’d go home for a visit, I spent more time sitting in the living room with him, watching tv and talking about random crap than I ever had in my life. Those were some of my favorite times during my visits (only second to shopping days with Mom). When I would feel down or homesick or sad, or if I was having a problem with someone or something, he would always say “Just remember who YOU are,” and any time in my life that I was about to step out of line, or maybe make a bad decision, I’d hear those words in my head, and pull myself back.  He was the first man I ever loved, and he’s been a tough act to follow for everyone I’ve ever loved since.  When he died, he took a giant piece of my heart with him to the grave, and it will remain with him always.  I loved him immensely, so much that I can feel a physical aching in my heart where he lives, not because there is a hole there now, but because it’s so full of love, that the grief resulting from it is almost unbearable. I’ve spent the last few months mourning him, but not grieving.  I’ve somehow kept the grief at bay, but just barely.  I’ve fought it because I have to.  I have Callum to raise and love and take care of, and up until a few days ago, I’ve been at my mother’s house, and the last thing she needs right now is to worry that her daughter is in the throws of some insane nervous breakdown.  Someday, I’ll let myself finally unleash the grief. Right now, I’m not ready, and honestly, I think that’s okay. Sometime soon, I WILL be ready. Until then, I’ll have my little moments - my little tiny emotional earthquakes when I’m alone - and I’ll just try to remind myself how lucky I was to have been his daughter.

all this grief because of all this love….it’s a painful trade, but one worth making.