Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Reflections on Grief

It's been almost 13 years since my dad died. I've been thinking a lot about grief lately.

I'm not sure why my dad has been so heavy on my mind lately. Maybe it's the ongoing stream of bad news we've been getting about the kids. Or the constant feeling like I need to cry, but being unable to. Or the butterflies that I keep seeing that have what he always called "screaming yellow" on their
wings. It was his least favorite color, and I have zero doubt that if he were sending messages from the great beyond, screaming yellow butterflies would definitely fit his sense of irony.

I've needed my dad more in the last three years than I did in the previous ten combined. I feel like when your child is given a diagnosis of a chronic illness that will probably kill them eventually, you have this miasma of emotions. There's an underlying current of unending rage, somedays so palpable you could stab it with a knife. There's fear, and angst, and the ever-growing anxiety. Anxiety about doctors, about prescriptions, about the never-ending need for money to pay for the co-pays and the gas to and from occupational therapy and specialists visits and what are we going to have for dinner tonight and OHMYGOD did I finish that piece of work that was due?

The last few months have been some of the roughest, for some reason. A's chemotherapy dosage was raised, and she's often tired. This morning she told me that she had a hard time waking up, so she should stop playing outside after school because that makes her too tired. What kind of bullshit is that for an eleven year old to say? No, my love. You should do all of the playing with your friends outside. Nap, if you must. Go straight to bed after dinner. But in that precious time between when you come home and time for dinner? Please, for the love of all that is holy, go outside AND BE A KID. God knows you are busy with needle sticks and bone marrow biopsies and debilitating headaches. You deserve every second you get to be outside, playing with your friends and being a kid.

I also feel pretty alone, many days. I have a husband and I have a best friend and they are there, listening to me, walking with me, holding me up some days. But in the middle of the night, when my inner voice tells me to go check on the kids or that things are getting worse again or that it's just all going to shit, it would be nice to have my dad around. Somehow, he always knew what to say. He always knew how to make me laugh. He pushed me to broaden my comfort zone and take risks and to get back up when I fell.

And I fall a lot these days.

It's not that getting up is any harder to do than it was when I was younger. It's that some days there are so many goddamn things knocking me down, and I know that if my dad were here he would help me slay some of those demons.

What I have instead are screaming yellow butterflies. A backbone patiently installed, grown, and strengthened by a man who somehow knew that I would always need to be the strong one. The memory of man who loved me when I was terribly unloveable, which gave me the knowledge to know that I am worth every thing I think I am.

Some days, that's enough.

Some days, I just need my dad.


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