Carrying That Knowledge of…




In making this decision to end the slow march of cancer, I’ve had to separate so many factors that it required talking with various people.  Carrying the kind of guilt I have for so long has to be a factor removed from the discussion at all costs.  While this is going to be a selfish act, I am trying to make it a selfless act as well.

I’m not sure how to make that part work.  The lawyer has said a few things, but he has also admitted that having known each other since we were teenagers colors his opinions on this topic.  The therapist has had her chance to chime in as well.  That has been about the absolute weight of my emotions that curl my shoulders and strain my legs most days.

It’s easy to plan for what becomes of your things.  Who gets what and who gets told they get nothing.  [sorry I have an aunt who would clean my house out before the body was cold.]  But the emotions that go into that are tough.  Some items mean a great deal to me and finding them a new home with someone who might also grow to understand that can be draining.

Strangely I have a teddy bear that will go up in smoke with the rest of me because that has been the pattern for the others who have the matching 5 other bears.  Odd since they are all handmade and I still know where each of the others are.

There’s a drawer full of letters.  All sealed and signed across the back so no person opens another’s without their consent.  It has taken time to write them.  Not a single one out of spite or anger.  I’ve done my best to only talk about funny or meaningful stories.  No reason to add weight to their journey.

I have even written a draft on this blog that eventually will get posted.  I won’t be the person pushing any buttons that day, but I’m a planner and a few people here need to hear how much I have enjoyed their writing.

My nightmares come from dealing with a few of the ladies in my life.  My mother, other mother Kathy, my niece and the two she has brought into my life to help get me through the days.  I saw what happened to the first three when we had to say goodbye to my daughter.  Family grieves differently than those reading my words.  I’ve spent a lifetime protecting them and I would give everything to protect them from what comes next.

It’s not like my father or brother aren’t going to be bothered, that’s not my point.  But they handle things so quietly I couldn’t tell you what they are going to do.

Like a few posts, I’m not sure of what the point has been.  My emotions are at times very difficult to get a handle on.  I’m confused about how to handle a few people and experiences.  That female who keeps knocking on the door asking what she can do has asked to be there.  For all of it, damn the laws.  But really who goes after someone who sat in a chair while another person drank a very medicated milkshake?

Maybe tomorrow we can talk about the road trip to get ice cream?  That sounds like more fun.  Especially since we ‘re letting a 15 year old drive part of the backroads!


730 Days of Clouds

Sudden Shifts

When I sat down behind the wheel of my car the sun was bright.  The sky was clear for miles and the warmth on my face felt good.  I’d gone for a run outside at lunch because it was just one of those days you don’t pass up a few minutes outside, even when you should be in your office!

There was no sense of foreboding.  No sirens or alerts to warn anyone.  The only warning I had was the phone call that came while I was listening to some music anticipating a different conversation.

The skies hadn’t changed colors, but as I pushed the pedal further into the floor I couldn’t see through the water clouding my vision.  While everyone around me was enjoying the same sun that only moments before had felt so great, the day felt like a hurricane bearing down on me.  I was dodging things that weren’t there and as my heart raced the world was crumbling behind me.  The road surface disappearing in my mirror.

Sitting in the backseat of my father’s SUV racing towards John’s Hopkins Campus, curled up on the tile floor still not able to see anything, trying to eat a bowl of soup my mother later made while I sat not having any words; all just images that appear when I blink.  Nothing makes sense, everything about the rest of that evening is lost to me.  And I am trapped between feeling grateful my brain is trying to protect itself and angry for the same reason.

730 days have passed since the clouds took over and I haven’t seen the sun the same way.  The prism of color that used to exist is now just shades of grey, the world feels like I’m beneath the water’s surface and spinning while trying to find air.  A chance to breath without this dullness in my chest that grief and confusion has applied for permanent residence status.

It’s selfish and I make no excuses for my feelings, February 11th, 2014 changed everything in ways that I’m still recovering from.  Some times I know I never will and other times I’m afraid that I might.

I’m just a dad who doesn’t know how to stop acting like one…

This deserves a better title

The tablecloths were spread out over several tables.  White linen pulled tightly to each edge, the crisp folds still easily visible to anyone looking.  A table covered in blueish-silver bags for people to take home with them as they eventually would trickle back out the door hours later.  The screen was sitting where hopefully everyone could see  and know the only thing to do was wait.

We’d spend Friday night going through the paces, joking about how things should go but expected that they were going to possibly make us scramble for a minute or two.  After finally figuring out how to work the sound system, we nodded in agreement that things were the best they could be.  So homeward bound to reflect on what to wear or who we might see probably occupied everyone’s thoughts.

I made sure to lay out my clothes a little early Sunday morning as I went about trying to get a few things around the house.  My shoes polished a little brighter than normal.  It wasn’t for the people who were there, but for the possibility of who might.

As I got out of my car and walked towards the door, you could hear the laughter of people as they were telling the band where they needed to set up.  The locations of power and hopefully enough space had been set aside.  The classic drums, guitar, bass and keyboard to accompany the 5 women singing.

Hugs are exchanged, little children as running around hopefully wearing themselves out a tiny bit before they are going to be sitting.  The echoes of their laughter filling a hall where their very presence is going to be appreciated by most and celebrated by all.

I couldn’t help sneaking down the hallway to check out the food that was laid out throughout the room.  Cakes and cookies, sandwiches and platters of various fruit and cheese.  A veritable bounty that was more than enough to feed everyone.

Sounds like a pretty good party?  The kind being thrown elsewhere that day in hundreds of locations around the globe.  Only this was a different kind of celebration, one where the kids were going to be memories and pictures flashed with dates on that screen.  For a few moments those laughing children are going to be a a painful reminder of why we gathered that day.  Later a grateful feeling that those signs of life are still present around us.

As the band hit that last chord and everyone filed out of the church, taking one of those bags that contained a bulb for a flower, it was quiet.  Some of the faces were still able to smile and a few others needed to avert their eyes because they didn’t know how to deal with the emotions at that moment.

For some it might have been the only time someone heard their child’s name.  Saw a picture of that same child frozen in time from before.

When it was my turn to stand in front of the crowd and say even a few words about my daughter, I froze.  Just being there was sometimes difficult as I helped people towards the front of the sanctuary so that they could speak for the silent.  That part was easy, it made it worth everything else.

I could have spoken.  I was being encouraged to speak, but my normal ability to be strong falters at these moments.  The same weakness shared by every single person present.

Of those people, there are any number that would have stood next to me for as long as it took for me to utter a name, Abigail.  Light that candle and grab my arm.  I can think of one or two who would have been just as happy to say her name for me if I suddenly fell mute.

It’s easy to help people at times like that.  It can also be painful to watch as you know the grief they are experiencing.

I’ve come a great distance to get to where I am today.  I just know I’ll need to ask for a little more help finding my voice next time.
<a href="">Sorry, I’m Busy</a>

Lines in the Sand

<a href=””>The Guilt that Haunts Me</a>

Sometimes you just freeze in place, your body just stops responding and a wave of panic so severe takes hold that you don’t really know what emotion you are feeling.  When I was told that I was to blame for my daughter’s death, it did all of those things and more.  Someone told me the normal thing would have been to start yelling about how could they say that to me, but instead I grabbed my tail and stumbled to my car.

I went home and sat on the couch to watch some television.  I didn’t cry, get angry, or do anything other than just sit there and listen to dialog.  What if she was right?  What if I had done something differently, would the outcome have been changed?  Those would have been great thoughts, but all I did was push it away and watch the screen blink back at me.

The excuses I allowed for her behavior never addressed my growing and very unhealthy emotional breakdown.  While I kept ignoring how it was affecting me, I concentrated on my physical needs.  Two weeks after hearing those words I was in the hospital having a portion of my kidney removed.  My time needed to be spent dealing with that, not the angry words of someone who didn’t know the lengths I had gone.

My guilt just kept getting worse at times I didn’t expect.  Sitting in the office, not saying something while I was in a therapy session, I withdrew from everyone around me.  I confused anger for grief and let myself slip deeper into a depression that made my world so much darker.

If your going to hit someone, always make sure you go for their biggest weakness with your first punch.  It knocks them off everything right away and rarely allows them to recover.  The only time that advice is valid is if you find yourself in an actual fist fight.  Lashing out at someone like that requires a lack of human compassion that few people ever exhibit.  [And my former mother-in-law showed a stunning lack of compassion even for her own grandchildren]

But my guilt kept growing and it got so bad that in order for me to be able to address my own medical needs I left my house, left my family, left people I would have died for behind.  I went someplace safe where I could get help that I knew I desperately needed.

“What if’s” are horrible things.  They place you in times and events you can’t change.  There are rarely days where I don’t wonder if I had just been there would my daughter be alive.  It compounds the problem of having not been in the room when she did die.

I’ve calculated the time over and over that the drive from my office to the hospital would have taken.  20 minutes with my lead foot pushing the pedal through the floorboard of my Volvo!  20 Miles that on that day felt like I was on Mars.

How have I dealt with the guilt?  I have a button that I sometimes wear as a joke that resembles a Construction Zone sign you might find along the highway.  There are few people who understand and that’s a good thing.  I can walk someone through the steps they should take, which are the polar opposite of my stumbling, unhealthy path.

Every day I remind myself that I loved that little girl more than anything, her mother as well.  But it doesn’t do much to help me.  Odd that I continue to protect that other person [m-i-l] when it would have been easy to expose her issues.

Guilt has a pretty good stranglehold on my emotions plenty of days.  Forgiving myself for something I couldn’t stop is much harder than anything I have ever attempted.


It’s Her Birthday, Let’s All Celebrate!

I thought I wanted the day to be stormy, weather so blustery that any person would think twice about getting out of bed. Mother Nature somehow making how I felt as I went to sleep the night before captured for the rest of the world to see. The pain, heartache, the rawness of my eyes as I shut them tightly to hold back any more tears exposed to the masses drenching them like they had my shirt. My hands soaked through, I couldn’t breathe.

The sound of my phone going off woke me from another night of dreamless sleep. The message light blinking random green flashes. I looked at the screen and a video was waiting, balloons being let go in the air. A dozen purple and blue perfectly shaped balloons floating into the sky. The text was simple, “She’s waiting to catch these, jumping through the clouds”. My heart just broke into a million pieces because I started to realize I didn’t want today to be dark and grey, I needed it to be full of color, full of life.

I had always pictured celebrating today with cake and flowers. A clown that comes around doing silly animals that stretch the imagination of every child or wanna be child. My father pushing people out of the way with his camera so he can add to his already obnoxious collection of images. The grandmothers jockeying for who made the best cake, since there just had to be one vanilla and the other chocolate. Aunts and Uncles speculating on what silliness this brought out in me. (maybe payback for me having been the human pinata at one party!) The sounds of children running around, laughing the best part of it all.  Brightly colored boxes, wrapped in ribbons and bows resting on the table waiting for anxious hands to hold their wonders.

Today is my daughter’s birthday and I want to celebrate it. Even if she can’t, even if I’m not sure how to go about it, this day needs to be about life. There will be 364 other days in which I can allow the other stuff to creep into my mind, my emotions; but it can’t be today!

How am I going to do it? The only idea I have is getting some Orange Hostess Cupcakes and putting a candle in the middle of one. Why those? My mother’s birthday is 3 days after mine and she was still in the hospital so my father brought those in for her to enjoy. They don’t taste like orange, and they don’t resemble those former “pastries”. But it is my way of remembering something in a manner that includes some family history in a positive way. It doesn’t need to be $8 a piece cupcakes, some lemon verbena blueberry creation; just love.

There are those who aren’t sure how to respond to this need, their emotions confused on what to say. That’s okay, I don’t expect anything from them anymore.  I’m worried the ex just keeps her head down and tries to push it from her mind, but that concern needs to be another day.  My mother asked what I was thinking and I couldn’t capture it, words completely failed me.  Later I’ll force myself to post something on Facebook, my announcement to the world that today they should smile.  Even though none of them speak a word of Japanese!

Hoppibasude no bagu! Otosan wa anata o misu!

“Happy Birthday Bug! Daddy misses you!”

Now it’s time to go figure out who carries those cupcakes!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Those Dishes Won’t Do Themselves.”

My Personal Bastille Day!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Forgive and Forget?.”

It was my last year in college (1993) and we were trying to figure out what the nest step was going to be.  Those couple of years had been interesting from many different perspectives, but where to take out relationship was the topic at hand.  Our best friends had gotten married at the beginning of the semester and we figured that would be the next logical step.  So out to buy the ring I went, took the aforementioned recently married groom and shelled out more than a college kid should have.  The nice dinner, flowers and there we were, engaged.

But then I finished college a semester early and went out into the workplace.  Hours where I was not around and felt guilty because we no longer had those dinners most nights, or even a random lunch if time allowed.  So being dumb, oh so dumb, I asked my best friend to pick up the slack.  Hey I know you’re not seeing anyone and you get along really well.  I’ll even pay for food.  Could you just make the time where I can’t?  [yes, engagement ends.  Friendship ends.  Lots of hurt feelings.]

It was an ugly breakup for our friends.  They didn’t know who to invite to something and who stayed home.  I was working, so I didn’t care all that much.  Told them not to choose, the thought really was all that matter.  But damn was I angry with the guy.  He never spoke to me again.  I wasn’t mad with the former fiancee, I knew in time that we just got engaged for the wrong reasons.  I loved her, but that semester apart showed that we were never going to work.  Different plans, different needs started popping up.  She hung around for a little while, we talked to the parents ab out what was happening, at least the broad strokes.  It took me years to understand what a gift that truly was.  [especially compared to someone who just sends a text message and walks!]

But what to do about the guy?  Years passed, literally 20 years have passed and only one thing got me to make even the slightest effort.  Grief Counselling, and learning how to deal with my anger.  It wasn’t that I even thought about it much, I would joke about the anniversary of our ending the relationship as my personal Bastille Day [July 14th in my case].  It was gallows humor about something painful, but long in the past.  But I needed to write a letter saying, Hey I was wrong in the way I handled talking to and about my former best friend.  I should have taken the high ground and just let you guys be.

It was hard to explain why I was writing it.  They wouldn’t have known about my daughter’s death, it not like when you send out birth announcements.  But I wrote about how I needed to be a better person for my daughter.  Even if she wasn’t around anymore, that promise needed to be kept.  I never wanted my daughter to hear some story abut her father from years long since passed and be ashamed of how I handled things.  I always knew she would resent me for something at some point in her life, but this wasn’t going to be it!  That meant opening myself up more pain, hoping it would help heal me.

I sent the letter back in March and haven’t heard anything, which is okay.  I wouldn’t expect to.  There’s really nothing left to be said, no reason for us to start talking again.  In the 20 years, they married each other and had several children of their own.  I’m happy for them.  But a little part of me wished they had acknowledged in some small way my letter.  It’s silly, but writing that letter took some effort.

I forgave them years ago, but I needed to acknowledge that in my own way.  It’s the reason why, even though I have a litany of reasons for being upset with my former mother-in-law, I never have said a nasty thing about her to anyone.  She definitely crossed a line she shouldn’t have.  But I still loved her because she was family.  [great, now I’m hoping she is doing well.  I guess I still love her, too.  Damnit!]

Brought to You by the Letter “F”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fearful Symmetry.”

Fear holding me in it’s cold embrace.

Finally wiping that smile from my face.

Fists left open, resting against my hips.

Fidgeting, quivering the moves of my lips.

Faceless demons come visit at night.

Forcing them down takes all of my might.

Fate for my future sometimes out of my hands.

Facing a life whose time is measured by sand.

Faith in a Deity long gone from my mind.

Fruitless whispers, Why won’t you be kind?

Forgotten by some as if I’ve already left.

Feeling dead already, “don’t worry” the words of my very last breath.

I dislike writing poetry, but today’s challenge was going to center around a theme.  Originally I was going to go with the infamous “F-bomb” to start every line, no matter what style I had chosen.  It felt empty since I wasn’t able to conjure the emotion to go with it.  Later on I need to post the Writing 101 prompt about fear, which is probably what helped trigger this little piece of word play.  Maybe that will get it out in the open for me to deal with.