Unanswerable Loss

DoubleTwo months. That’s how long it has been since I’ve sat before this computer and shared my thoughts, my life. One month. That’s how long it has been since I lost my Dad. I’ve been busy. We closed on our home the 7th of April, and made two trips to Chicago to see my Dad. Well, one to see him, and one to bury him. The truth is that I’ve been avoiding myself, avoiding this blog, because I wasn’t ready. Grief is a funny thing. It’s never the same for two people. I’ve written a lot about why people are who they are, and how experiences shape them. Grief has a way of pointing out the differences. Some take action and busy themselves to the tasks at hand, while others let grief surround them like a blanket held tight, waiting for comfort, but finding none. There are those who begin the desperate search to find answers, to question God, to layer the guilty “should haves”, “would haves”, and tear themselves apart. For me there is no anger. In our Dad’s final days we were all praying that he be released from his pain, and that he might be able to rejoin our Mother. Her loss was one he had never recovered from. Once those prayers were answered we were all left feeling the pain and emptiness that only death can deliver. For me there was additional sadness. Despite making two trips to Chicago in the weeks prior to his death, I had planned to go and be there for his final days. I had a flight scheduled for a Monday, he died the Friday before. The harsh reality of not living near family is that there are times when the distance causes one to feel like they aren’t quite part of things. Birthdays, graduations, the gradual growth of a child, are all things you witness from afar, and when someone you love falls ill it brings tremendous feelings of helplessness. With my Dad it was complicated further by our move. I wasn’t free to spend as much time with him as I would have liked. When our Mother died (forgive me if I have written of this before), Dad told me he couldn’t go to sleep. For more than fifty years the love of his life had been at his side, and now the bed was empty, there was no one to say goodnight to. My heart broke for him. He had always said that loneliness was the worst disease. I began to call him every night. I spoke about it at his funeral. In almost eight years I missed only a handful of nights, and when I knew in advance that I wouldn’t be able to make that call I asked someone else, usually my daughter, to make the call for me. Eventually those calls increased to every morning, and several throughout the day. I took every call he made. I wanted him to feel secure in knowing that someone would always be there. I would check the television schedule every day looking for his other great love, soccer. I would call with movies, history programs, anything to fill his empty days. There were times when we had great conversation. We would talk politics, religion, family history, and in particular movies. There were also difficult conversations. There were times when I sat here strangling the phone in frustration. Calls when he was angry at his loss, at his loneliness, and his bewilderment at God for taking “his Mary” first, and leaving him lost. Now I am the one feeling a little lost. For nearly eight years the first thing I did every morning was pick up the phone, and again every night, a call so he could hear the voice of someone he loved before he went to sleep. He isn’t lonely anymore, but I am. There is an emptiness in both the beginning and end of my day. I couldn’t call him in the final weeks before his death. I relied on my sisters to put the phone to his ear. On the morning that he died I told him I loved him and that it was time to let go. I told him it was time to go to Mommy and to his Big Mommy (his grandmother whom he adored). I had no way to know that would be our last call. He died about two hours later. Yesterday I called one of my sisters. I was the one feeling lost and lonely; I was the one who needed to hear the voice of someone I love. On the morning that my Dad passed away I was driving to the local mall. I’m sure everyone knows of the horrible drought here in Southern California, but that morning it was raining, raining hard. As I was driving my thoughts were on my Dad. I had only two hours before been telling him to let go. I thought to myself that the way it was raining reminded me of Ireland, and of course that reminded me of my Dad. I pulled into a parking space and said aloud, “These aren’t tears of sorrow; they are tears of joy, a good one is coming home.” I stepped out of my truck and my phone rang. It was my sister calling me to tell me that our father just died. Maybe in some way I knew. Maybe all of those phone calls gave us a connection that transcends this world. Dad if there was a direct line to Heaven I’d call you right now, but I know you are with Mom right where you need to be. I love you both, and I miss the sound of your voice.

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The Power Of Perspective

If you’ve read my blog you know that perspective is my nemesis, but that is artistic perspective.  There is the other perspective, the kind I try to use in my daily life, the kind I use when I want to stop myself from being judgmental, when I try to put myself in the shoes of someone else.

Today was a tough one. I posted last week about my Dad having an accident, and although he is out of the hospital things are not well. When you are weeks away from your eighty-first birthday and sustain a concussion it really takes its toll on your brain. Dad has been with my sister for a few days and while he has moments where he seems his old self, more often than not he is confused. I am still hopeful that he will regain some of his memory and cognizance. What worries me as well is the rest of my family. I have three sisters, each with our own families and health issues. The stress and burden of caring for an aging loved one can take its toll. It isn’t about not loving someone, there is a great deal of that, but just how much it can break down communication between siblings, between couples, destroy families. I talked to my sister earlier this evening and told her how I felt. We all need to be respectful of each others lives and needs. Two of the girls are carrying the weight of what is happening to our Dad. I live hundreds of miles away. Yes, I can sympathize, I can and do make phone calls for them, but the reality is that it is their lives that are affected. I have said often in the last few days that it is easy for me to suggest something because I am here, and they are there. I told both women today that I don’t want this to come between us, most of our family is in Ireland so there is just us. If we want to truly honor what our father and our mother would want, then we need to stick together. Everyone needs to recognize that what is important to one isn’t important to another. Perspective is a powerful thing. When we as the individual suffer we see it only through the prism of our own lives. When we feel pain, it is no more or no less than what someone else might feel, but it is our pain, and for that it should be respected. In situations such as the one we find ourselves in now it is easy to look at someone else and think that something is trivial, or less important that our “stuff”. It’s not. I want to make sure that throughout this process that no one of us feels alone, singled out, or less valued. Relationships can be damaged beyond repair with a single sentence. I love my Dad, but I love my sisters as well. I would like to get beyond this and be able to look back, say we did our best, but that more importantly, we remain as sisters, as friends. Tomorrow my Dad is back in the hospital for a test that could lead to a pacemaker. Wishes for good karma, and prayers are appreciated.

I don’t have the finished “up-cycled” cabinet door to post as of yet. I am putting multiple coats of the Martha Stewart chalk paint on it. I had done two yesterday, but upon closer inspection earlier today I sanded the corners down and redid the paint. It is a project that I am hoping to sell and want it to be perfect.

What I did accomplish today is a watercolor. We spent part of our afternoon in the Temecula Valley Cheese Shop, one of my favorite places. The owner is a friend, and was kind enough to spend time with us as we consider opening a place of our own. We had some wine, and a plate of cheese. It was a little respite from my worried and troubled mind. Inspired by our afternoon, I did a painting of a cheese plate that I put together. Too bad I can’t share.8 14