One Year Later

I started writing this on 10 November.  Tonight I did what I do just about every Thursday, which is watch a few episodes of The West Wing with my neighbor, Amanda.  One of the episodes tonight revolved around a main character’s father battling Alzheimer’s and the feeling of loss that accompanies such a devastating illness.  When these thoughts are finally posted to the world, it will have been one year since my father passed on.  Twelve months.  Goodness.  That’s hard to believe.  The reason I started writing tonight is because tonight I realized that media (be it books, movies, what have you) that deals with father issues has a greater impact on me emotionally.  I sit there and pretend it doesn’t affect me as much as it used to.  I still haven’t watched Big Fish again.  I know it will destroy me.  Field of Dreams is a no-go for a while too, while we’re at it.

Now it’s 2 December.  After hemming and hawing, I decided to buy a six foot Christmas tree.  I’ll be hosting a few gatherings here for the holidays, and a Christmas party without a tree would be sad.  We always had fake trees growing up; I didn’t have a real tree until Indi and I started dating.  When she learned I’d never had a real tree, she went nuts and insisted.  It was nice the once, but too much of a mess to do on a regular basis for my taste.  I set the tree up last night and decided today would be good to ornament it.  I thought I had Grandma Gail’s old ornaments, but it turns out I had Dad’s.  I filled with bittersweet memories as I looked through the box and the small packages of intense memory.  Decorating the tree was always a Rhys ‘n Tyler job at Christmas, and every piece of glass and grocery-related Season’s Greetings carried dense memory.  I really miss Dad today, even though he wasn’t a big fan of Christmas.  He wasn't a big holiday guy at all, in fact.  When I stayed with him during Grandma’s funeral, he sat at home watching old home movies of Christmas Past when us boys were young.  I got the impression that happened very frequently.

18 December.  Took a road trip yesterday with a friend.  There’s an abandoned mining town in northeastern Oklahoma and I wanted to take my new camera out for a spin.  We worked in a bit of a road trip and found ourselves near Pawhuska.  I decided to stop and see Dad’s marker for the first time in person.  Kneeling there on the hillside of the cemetery, I looked at his name etched into the stone laid in front of me.  There’s something so final about that.  Something that doesn’t really hit you with a picture.  I miss him so much.  That won’t ever get better, I think.  I just grow more used to his absence.  His contact is still in my cell phone.  I’m starting to entertain thoughts of removing it.  Every time I scroll past it, I want to stop.  A drop of water on my forehead.

27 December.  Put away the Christmas decorations today.  It was a good Christmas.  Spent a day with friends, a day with family.  Nobody mentioned Dad, but we all felt his absence.  The tree was decorated with sparse ornamentation; one of his old Campbell’s Soup ornaments crashed and shattered on the floor as I was putting it away.  I saw it go.  It slowly rolled out of my grip and descended to the wood slats below.  I was powerless.  I heard it shatter and my hand flew up to my mouth.  I just stared at it, hand still covering my mouth, for a good minute.  I held my breath.  It was done.  I apologized aloud to Dad as I went to the kitchen, got a broom, and cleaned it up.  It was a resigned feeling.  I know more things will go with time.  Nothing lasts forever.  Even my memories will fade and, eventually, break in some fashion.  That’s a hard reality to face.

16 January.  Two days.  They weren't sure when Dad actually passed away and said it could have been as early as Sunday.  I'm doing the same thing this year that I did last year on this day, which is march in the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade here in Tulsa.  I have some pictures from the event.  It was cold, but I enjoyed being a part of the festivities.  It's strange to look back and think that my world was about to completely change; HAD changed already, I just didn't know it.  I wish I could reach back and warn myself.  Hey, why hasn't Dad called you back?  Maybe you should have your aunt or uncle check on him.  He always returns your calls and it's been about a day since you tried calling him.  That nagging thought in your head should really be attended to; it's more important than you can ever imagine.  

17 January.  The calendar says tomorrow (as the 18th is one year) but I got the call the Tuesday after MLK Jr Day...so today feels more real.  Wherever you are, Tony, know that your son is proud to have you as a father.  As I've said before, I know how lucky I am that we were so close and we had a lot of good times together.  Still, I fight anger and bitterness that many people get twice as much time with their Dad as I did.  It's so damned unfair...but as you told me on multiple occasions there are only two kinds of fair:  state and county.  Every time I think of you, I try to smile and not dwell in sorrow.  Every time I see my brother, I try to encourage him and help give him guidance, for he had even less time with you than I did.  Every time I encounter a challenge at work, I ask myself how you would do it.  Every time I hug Mom, I hug her for both of us.  

I try to live up to the values that you instilled in me.  I work to make you proud.  I love you and miss you more than any word could express.



It's difficult for me to accept help.

When Dad died, I had an outpouring of sympathy and offers for assistance, but I don't recall taking anyone up on it.  I remember a few phone calls, people asking how I was doing.  Fine. I'm always fine.  In the quiet moments of the night, when I let that wall down, I was inconsolable.  The depths of my sorrow were so severe I didn't know how I would ever get past them.  But who do you call at 3:00 in the morning?  All I had was an empty house to hear me, so I figured writing this blog would be a good outlet; and it was.  As the one year anniversary approaches, I can feel my emotions seeking that same stone wall I built last year.  I don't want to be around anyone.  I just want to go home and not think about it.

I don't want anybody to see me hurting.

But it's also what I want most.

It's a strange, crazy dichotomy.  I feel like it's selfish to reach out when all that I want is a shoulder to cry on or someone to hear my sorrows.  Even now, as I'm not doing as fine as I have been, when people ask I don't tell them.  Because then they'll ask more, and then I'll have to TELL more, and the problem just gets worse.  So I put on a happy face.  The reclusive beast stays in the shadows.  After all, it's been a year.  I'm sure all of my friends have read my blogs or heard me talk about these emotions; why would they want to sit through them again?  That's when I turn into a pest, 'that guy' that brings everyone down.  At least, that's what the beast tells me.

I'm very much a talker.  I prefer conversation in a coffee house than a night out at a bar, dancing or what-have-you.  I like to communicate and share with others.  It's damned unfair that I had become recently single when everything fell apart; I wanted someone I did feel like I could share with, unselfishly, and just look to for support.  For some reason, I didn't look to my friends for that.  I just did without.  People still asked, and I still told them I was okay.  I even made a list of names of the friends that expressly asked me to reach out to them if/when I wanted to talk.  I never utilized that list.  My desire for connection was trumped by my desire to burrow and share through electronic means.

I don't feel like I am 'crying out for help' or that I desperately need someone to talk to.  I recognize I'm conflicted.  In ten days, I have a monumental anniversary to get through and I don't know if I want to be surrounded by friends or isolated.  I have strong feelings both ways.  I just don't know.



Like many kids, I grew up thinking my parents knew it all.  Any question I had could be answered.  Any problem I had could be solved.  No matter what was going on, I knew I could turn to them for support and assistance.  And like many kids, I remember the moment when that curtain fell.

I was living in Topeka, so this would've been in 2000.  It was wintertime, the roads covered in snow.  Dad had taken my brother to school in the Explorer and had run over something in the road that shredded his tired.  Mom got a call from my exasperated father, asking for help changing the tire.  So Mom and I got into my car and drove the few miles out to the Walgreen's parking lot Dad had pulled into.  There he was, in his long black winter coat, frustratingly fumbling about.  The truck had already been jacked up and the front right tired was almost off.  I helped take of the rest of the bolts and took the tire off the hub.

Something snapped.  Evidently, Dad had placed the ridiculously-small jack under a plastic piece of the side board instead of the proper setting and the brittle molding broke away.  The truck lurched downward on top of the tire, which was still standing next to the axle.  Unfortunately, my hand was on top of the tire when this happened and my right hand was now pinned between the shredded tire and the wheel well.  It was at that instant that my father morphed from the all-knowing strong man of the universe to a mortal being, a guy trying to do the best he could in a world he increasingly didn't understand.  Here he was, angry and upset that he was late to work because of car trouble, and suddenly his oldest son may have just lost his hand.  He panicked and tried to pull my hand free, but the truck had already settled.  I calmly told my parents to just find the jack (it shot out from underneath the truck), get it lifted somewhere stable, and free me so I could get to an urgent care facility.  After about five minutes, this was achieved and Mom drove me while Dad waited on a tow truck.  Thankfully, I had no nerve damage and I regained full use of my hand after a few months.

The real damage (if you can call it that) was that after that I saw my folks as regular people, just trying to make their way.  It's a natural thing, and my relationship with both of my parents grew stronger after that.  Even though my understanding changed, I still found myself reaching out to them when I had questions.  Sure, they didn't know everything, but they still had all the answers.  I always took that for granted.  So many of the figures I've looked up to in my life are tarnished or gone entirely.  It's part of growing up.  But no matter how human I see my parents to be, they are still Mom and Dad.  And they always understand.



I never quite understood the Auld Lang Syne traditional song.  May old acquaintances be forgot?  No.  I thrive on my interactions with people.  If I shed the people from my life I would be a miserable person.  I rather think it should be 'may old acquaintances be remembered' as people tend to forget others in busy times.  And that's a real shame.

I've found myself in a pretty standard routine as of late...and there's some comfort in that.  I get up in the mornings, have my coffee.  Check Facebook, the news, and a few other sites I keep up with.  Maybe put on some music.  It's a nice start to the day.  It's at my own pace.  At some point, I start getting ready for work.  At about 1:00, I head to work to prep for my day.  Work has also settled into a bit of a routine, for the most part. I am comfortable there and feel that, overall, I do a good job.  I'm thankful for those constants in my life.

I have successfully navigated my first holiday season AD.  The real test comes in a few weeks, when the one year anniversary of Dad's death hits.  It's really unbelievable that it's been that long.  Time is a funny thing, as I'm sure everyone knows.  I find myself drifting in thought, losing focus and meandering through memory.  I hope it doesn't get any worse as the day approaches, but I know it probably will.  I took the 18th off, just in case.  I don't want to show up at work and break down.  I wonder what it is about anniversaries that has such an impact.

I have my mother and brother.  I have my friends.  I have people in my life that are so tremendously special to me.  I know I have avenues should I feel like reaching out.  My problem, as it always has been, is the actual reaching.  I feel like folks don't really need me knocking on their door and dropping my repetitive problems at their feet.  As I've mentioned before, sometimes people just asking how I am changes the answer.  I look to those closest to me to check in and make sure I'm not siloing myself.  That would be bad.

Anyway, it's about that time.  Work time.  Busy time.  Good time.  I hope everyone had a fantastic New Year's and the coming 365 treat you better than the last 365.