You know how once you haven’t spoken to a friend in a long time, it’s exhausting to think about making that call. How you will have to go through everything that has happened during the period when you were out of touch, how you will have to try and remember where you left off, what you should remember about what is going on in their lives? That’s a lot what this blog feels like. Please bear with me, I’m a little rusty.
The last seven months have been, for sure, the hardest in my entire life (don’t ever say “it can’t get worse”, people). Obviously, the pinnacle of all of the grief was the passing of my mother, who I miss every single day with a longing that is not able to be expressed in words. I use the last bottle of Clorox Wipes that I bought when I was with her and that can trigger a crying fit, and of course a song (Anne Murray’s “You and Me Against the World” and anything Billy Joel in particular) can cause me to be useless for the rest of the day. I look around my house, that I worked so hard to make my dream home, and I think “How can this be? How can it be that my mother will never see this?” Nothing makes sense, the natural order of things for me has been turned upside down.
Most of my readers are already aware of the death of my mother. Not everyone is aware that my birth father passed away as well, last January. We had a very complicated relationship, the details of which I won’t get into except to say that there was abuse, adultery, cruelty and abandonment. Although I tried for years to find some way to make it work, it could just not be so. I felt sad at his passing but, not because I knew I’d miss him but, because I knew that the possibility of there ever being a relationship worth having was gone. Sure, there are certain things that will bring back memories that will make me feel nostalgic (Leo Sayer’s “When I Need You” – isn’t it funny how songs are such a huge part of our lives?), orange Tic Tacs and Frog City (Some swamp land in Brookville where he would take us when we were little). Oh, yeah, and the red Volkswagen with a sunroof he would let us hang out of. But, that’s all there are. A few random memories from a whole lifetime. The rest of the memories are hazy – the kind you are not sure are memories at all or just stories, videos and pictures you have seen throughout the years that you are bringing up.
It’s ironic that my father passed so soon after my mother. It almost feels right. Granted, my mother didn’t get to dance on his grave in a red dress (anyone who knew Mom would appreciate that one) but he also didn’t get to enjoy much more life after she was taken too soon. Most of the pain and sadness that my mother suffered through was directly caused by my father. Unfortunately for him, I was old enough to remember many of the incidents that occurred. The denials and lies didn’t work on me. Maybe that is why my mother and I were so very close. As a woman, as a cancer survivor, and as an overall warrior. There was virtually no stopping my mother and there will be no stopping me, either.
My father visited a few years ago (one of the times that I was trying to “fix it ”) and when he left, I ran out the door to have dinner with one of my best friends, Joanie. We were catching up after not seeing each other for a while and it was right after 9/11 so, we talked about that, too. We talked for maybe five minutes about the fact that my father had come by. We talked about my mother and my “real” father, Bob, and my sisters and the kids. That’s who Joanie knew and cared about. We didn’t talk about my father because he no longer had any relevance in my life. When I got home my husband couldn’t believe that I felt “nothing”. He kept asking, “you feel nothing at all?” But, that’s what I felt. Nothing. We talked for a couple of minutes about how I had my father’s hands and things like that but, then, we talked about my dinner with Joanie. You see, that was my real life. The friends and family who were in my daily life, going through the little trials and tribulations with me. The joys and the sorrow.
I hope that everyone understands that when I write about grief, and death, and the loss of health and friends, I don’t do it to be morbid or a “Debbie downer”. I am always trying to learn something and, if I can pass any of that knowledge or life experience along, that’s a great thing.
I don’t hate my father. I didn’t hate him when he died. I just didn’t necessarily love him, either. Loving someone takes much more than a few phone calls and seeing each other once every few years. During the time I had my twenty surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, I received one or two cards from my father and about as many phone calls. No visits. No flowers. No long notes of apology that might have brought me some comfort. When my mother died, he left me a voicemail on my cellphone and sent a card about a month later. It was your standard Hallmark card and he wrote a couple of lines of his own. That was it. He made me with my mother and that’s what I got. A voicemail and a card.
Another loss I suffered recently was the loss of the beloved Chief Martin Brody, my loving and wonderful boxer. Now, he was brought into our home when I was on surgery five or six. He was my constant companion, he licked me when I was sad, was gentle with me when I was hurting, laid with me for hours and hours when I couldn’t get up and get around. He would hold it in sometimes all day because he knew I couldn’t get up to let him out. He was a source of joy for my entire family. When I couldn’t run around outside with the kids, Brody could, and did. When I cried for my mother this past August, he licked every one of my tears. I am crying as I write this.
I wasn’t crying when I wrote about my father. I understand that this is so sad to so many people but, you would really have to live it in order to understand it.
There are lessons to be learned, though. My father could have fixed it, He just cared more about being right than about being happy (in the words of the wise Dr. Phil). He cared more about his own needs than the needs of his own children (for example: not being there at all for his daughter’s cancer ordeal, not coming up from Virginia Beach to see Chrissy when she was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in the nineties, and on and on).
Not only was my mother there for those huge events, she was also there for us when we were little and got bloody noses, sat up with us all night nursing our fevers, had countless friends of ours over and always treated them like her house was their own, hugged and assured us when we were going through our heartbreaks, disciplined us, taught us and loved us to the moon and back. She made us feel like whatever, whenever, she had our backs.
So, here is my advice; it is never too late. If there is someone in your life who you have wronged, either once or continually, try and make it right. Once one of you are gone, it is too late. It is over. Done.
Here is my second bit of advice, you grieve for the people (or animals) in direct proportion to the way they loved you. And that’s perfectly ok.
As Lennon-McCartney said, “The love you take is equal to the love you make”.
You better believe it.Image