Friday, November 3, 2017

It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To

Two years ago today, I was looking forward to my birthday.

I was born seven days after Halloween. It's kind of disappointing to me. Come on, Mom; you couldn't have done some jumping jacks or had some sex so I could at least be a Halloween baby? That would have been so cool!

No. I'm a November baby, destined to have that ugly topaz as my birthstone.

Thanks a lot, Mom.

But I digress...

You know how you get on the far side of something bad, and think, "Wow, I'm a different person today"?

I was talking to my BFF Lisa the other night. She's doing some writing about her life, and was asking me about some of the events in my life, so she could check her own timeline.

She mentioned that my dad died just five months after her mom died. She hadn't realized the depth of how much she hadn't been there for me when he died.

But honestly, I'm not sure it would have mattered.

It's weird how memories work. Every year, I have a hard time remembering the date. It's like I block it out in my mind. But I remember every minute of the twenty or so minutes before I was told about his death. We were eating dinner. Larry's phone rang, he talked for a few minutes, and went back to eating. I'm pretty sure that I finished eating, and picked up R. so that I could nurse him. When I was done, Larry motioned for me to come with him.

I remember walking into the bedroom.

I don't remember the words he said, but they all added up to "Your dad has died."

I remember feeling like I couldn't breathe. Like there was no air left in the universe.

Like my heart was literally broken.

It was weird, you know. I had experienced the physical pain of childbirth four times. My boys were huge. I've broken all of my toes, several of my fingers, and a foot. I fell off an airborne bicycle. I've skidded through intersections on my shins on obviously not airborne bicycles. But this? The physical pain was worse than anything I had ever known.

Some time later (minutes? hours? maybe even days?) when I could think straight, I realized that my mom had called him, then he had finished eating dinner, and then told me.

Y'all, I was mad.

I mean straight up ready to shank a bitch mad. He waited. He took his own comfort first. She couldn't even talk to me. She knew what the depth of my anguish could be and she chose to bail like a butterfly escaping a Mason jar.

I was pissed. Those raw wounds, so freshly gouged, hurt just a little bit more because I felt betrayed by the two people who should have been the ones to be there to support me, to love on me, to hold me when I was fighting to catch my breath because the sobs just would not stop.

And I swallowed it.

At first, I swallowed my rage for the reason all parents, at some point in their parenting lives, have to swallow their feelings. I had to tell my kids that their grandpa was dead.

And I did it. A first, because she was closest to him. I knew she would need some special attention. I knew the depth of her despair. Then N and S together, because they didn't have as much of a bond with him. They cried, and were sad, but not to the furious level of A's emotion.

Then I cried some more.

Those days are all blurry. I know we had to borrow money to go to the funeral, but I don't remember the trip home. I remember sitting in the recliner at my mom's house nursing Roan. I remember being asked to speak at his funeral, and being beyond the point of forming words. I remember holding my brother's hand as I walked him to his seat, because he, too, was desolate. I remember looking back at the crowd and realizing that my dad had brought a standing-room-only crowd to mourn his loss.

I do know that I was mad at everyone and everything. So I'm not sure that Lisa would have been much help even if she hadn't have been mired in her own deep despair. I remember talking to my aunt, my grandfather, and another close friend, but I don't remember any of the words they said. I remember being taken by the beauty of Natalie's son, whom I hadn't yet met. They may have imparted some deep wisdom on those days, but I couldn't tell you what a bit of it was. I was so lost, I wasn't able, or ready, to be found. And I don't know that even Lisa could have helped with that.

My dad was quick at everything. Quick to laugh, or to make you laugh, quick to hate, and quick to love. He loved me through the roughest times in my life, and taught me how to be the bigger person
even when a tiny demon spawn blames you for everything that has ever gone wrong in her life. And let me tell you, those first years that he was in my life? I was hell on wheels to him. I blamed him for everything from my parents' divorce to my stubbed toe. But he loved me anyway. He loved quietly and he loved with gas money and air in my tires. He loved with laughter and Taco Bell runs because his cooking was atrocious. He loved furiously and sometimes got angry that way too. But he forgave me every sin I ever committed. He held me to a higher standard and pushed me out of the nest I had been tied to by my mother. He drew the line and broke the rules and showed me the how and why of both.

And even now, twelve years later, I'm crying as I write.

Larry's forgiveness came on a long cold night, when I was up late writing, several years after my dad died. I just suddenly realized that he hadn't waited to tell me because he was a coward. He finished eating because he knew that once he had told me, I would be unable to do anything for the rest of the night. If he was to be able to take care of our four-week old infant and get the other kids to bed and help comfort bruised and broken hearts, he needed to be able to finish dinner because he wouldn't get another chance. In taking his own comfort, he was thinking only of mine. Of my need to grieve the man who may not have given me his DNA, but had been my father in every way that mattered, in my way.

In talking to Lisa the other night, I think I finally realized why I was so completely pissed off when my mom died.

It wasn't that she gave up, even though she did.

It was because I never got to tell her how utterly pissed off I was that she had told Larry instead of me. That she couldn't accept the burden of my grief. That she knew it would be bright, shining, as intense as the rays of the sun after a week of cloudy days, and that she chose instead to not deal with it.

Forgiveness was not something that I had been able to grant my mother. I may not ever.

My dad has been around a lot this week.

The other night, a song he loved was on a show we were watching.

S asked about him.

The conversation with my BFF.

A snarky comment I made while watching Ice Road Truckers that came straight out of dad's mouth.

I'm not quite sure what he's trying to tell me, but I'm listening.

But also crying. My birthday also brings that anniversary of my dad's death, just a few days later.

It's my party. But I might be crying.

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