Tag Archives: grief

How to swallow a live goldfish and other stories I tell my Son about his Grandfather

My Son is almost two years old. My Father never met him and that’s a goddamn shame. My Father loved babies and kids and they were drawn to him, his warmth and willingness (uncontrollable desire) to be goofy. Despite his constant back pain and substantial 6’4″ frame he would get down on the ground, rolling around, playing along with whatever silly reality existed in that moment.

suicide grief father daughter

A few weeks after his death I was having dinner with a few friends of his who had two small girls. After dessert the 4 year old and I went into my Father’s office to look at photos and she asked me, “are you sad because your Daddy is dead?” It was the most appropriate sentiment anyone had said to me since he had died. Most people gave uncomfortable, almost inaudible grunts of apology and whatnot accompanied by little eye contact and zero honesty. Hers was a simple question devoid of bullshit or uncomfortability and it meant so much to me. I told her, “yes, I am sad because my Daddy is dead.” She then told me, “I’m sad too because Mr. Jerry is dead. I miss him.” She was 4 years old and had summed it all up; he was dead and we missed him. She taught me a very important lesson in mourning, keep it simple. This is especially true when it comes to suicide which can make grief so much more complicated with feelings of anger, confusion, betrayal, abandonment and resentment. Small children haven’t even begun to view the world or their own emotions in these complex terms. Which is exactly why I tell my Son all about his Grandfather, I want his to be a familiar name, face and legend of sorts.

My Father’s presence will be especially missed when my Son gets a little older as his Grandfather could dad father clown prankster goofyhave taught him all sorts of awesomely icky boy tricks like blowing snot rockets, flossing ones nasal cavities with spaghetti, balancing brooms or any other random object on your nose, making lit cigarettes disappear into the palm of your hand and swallowing live goldfish. I grew up thinking it was normal to have a Dad who had a potato gun which we shot off at night just to scare the neighbors, a sport coat with sewn in magic tricks to embarrass me in front of friends, a taser which he once challenged himself to use upon his own arm (there being no one else present to accept such a challenge), a vast collection of knives, swords and other assorted weaponry both decorative and functional as well as a baby octopus in a jar of formaldehyde. Between his weirdness and my Mother’s obsession with The Rolling Stones (her collection so impressive it has won awards at county fairs, and you know that means something) it was kind of like growing up in a twisted amusement park complete with the geek, the freak and the cannibalistic vermin (my very own contribution; hamsters which ate their young).

Our home is much more tame, quite boring actually; no whoopie cushions, no animals in jars and a complete and total lack of Mick Jagger’s skinny ass. We will not be swallowing live fish or putting pasta up our noses but I will tell him all about his eccentrically endearing Grandfather and his wacky antics. Inevitably one day my Son will ask how he died and I will answer him honestly and wherever this conversation takes us I will remind him that a persons death must never define their life.

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Filed under I am a Mother, Memories of Dad

The dread and the light

Sunday again. This day must take on a new meaning for me, a new feeling. I can’t keep waking up with the same sense of dread and melancholy as I have for years, for forever, since before I even knew what Sunday was. I think My Son feels it as well or maybe he just feels my discontentment. We are so ridiculously attached, his mouth an almost permanent fixture upon my breast, his eyes search my face in wonderment without a bit of judgement, my arms wrapped around his warm body, my hair tangled around his tiny fingers. He deserves Sundays free of this stigma of mine. He deserves his own story.

I could write so much more, I am dying to write and write but my Son demands my attention and goddamn he is a powerful commander. I am…..

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Filed under Feels like Sunday, I am a Mother

The two quilts

Shortly after my Father died, my Mother in law asked if she could have some of his shirts for a quilt. I was busy feeling about a million different emotions and my brain was seriously fried from dealing with all the finances, the funeral plans and my giant burden of a Mother. So, I didn’t give the statement much thought, I simply led her into his closet and said, “take whatever you want.”

About a year later she presented me with a beautiful quilt made from my Father’s clothing. It was not only an amazing work of art but a touching tribute to his memory and a perfect portrayal of his spirit. It included many of the Hawaiian prints he often wore, as many large men do, as well as many of his drab work shirts and at home t-shirts. Every side of him was represented.

At first I couldn’t look at the quilt out in the open and I simply folded it up and put in the closet. It sat there quietly while I dealt with my grief. It waited there patiently while I figured out what I was going to do with all these emotions I was left with. Was I going to ignore them forever, drink them away, vomit them into the toilet, cut them out with a knife and discard of them or was I going to feel them as deeply as possible and know that as much as it hurts I can stand it and learn to live with it in a tolerable fashion.

One night as I swam in the oblivion of drunken exhaustion I stumbled into the hallway, opened the closet and pulled out the quilt. I crawled back to the couch, the quilt dragging along behind me and curled up with my bottle of wine. Contentment followed comfort and then deep dreamless sleep. I still snuggle with the quilt every night only now I cradle a cup of tea instead of a bottle of wine.

This morning I awoke to my dogs barking hysterically and the sound of a car pulling out of my driveway. On the front porch I found a huge blue and yellow gift bag, an early baby shower gift apparently from either an early rising shy family member or a kindhearted stalker. The card attached informed me that the gift was from a distant Aunt, a shy early rising Aunt.

I pulled the contents from the bag and found an adorable handmade quilt, blue and white with Hawaiian flowers. I couldn’t quite comprehend what I was looking at. There were shirts, little Hawaiian print shirts sewn into the squares. They had tiny collars and buttons, it was really quite realistically detailed.

It was just too crazy a coincidence. I now had two quilts that had been hand-made specifically for me, one was made from my late Fathers Hawaiian shirts and one was made to look like miniature Hawaiian shirts. One a tribute and one a welcoming gift. One filled with memories both good and bad and one brand new, open to the opportunities of life.

Maybe I am putting too much thought into the whole thing. Maybe my Aunt had this pattern for a while and was simply waiting to put it to use or maybe she had even begun working on it long before I was even pregnant. But I would like to think that my Dad had a little to do with this. After all, he told me to look out for things, to keep my eyes open for coincidences just like this because he would never be too far away.

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Filed under I am Pregnant, I remember, Memories of Dad, Something that happened

He just couldn’t hold on anymore

There were signs.

I didn’t really need any, I had always known.

I was just waiting. Waiting for the phone call.

One day he was wearing a cheap gold chain, like super thick and cheap, from some sort of quarter toy machine for adults going through a later mid life crisis, baby boomer bling. Then he gave me his Bose Ipod dock, he loved it but his Ipod had just been stolen and he apparently had no intentions of replacing it. I carried it home like a dead cat with a diamond collar, I wanted it but I knew it would always stink. He came by on Christmas morning, rushed, he told me he almost left my gift on the porch when I didn’t answer the door quickly enough. He hugged me like it was the last hug he would ever give me and told me he loved me. And he was gone.

I had been waiting for this moment for years, since before I was ever born. My life up until the phone call was merely a series of events leading up to the moment that my heart would be shattered irreparably.

“Your Father, your Father…….”

“My Father what!”

“……………”

“Fucking say it!”

“Your Father committed suicide”

A scream came from me that was like no other sound I had ever heard, guttural moans emanated like fire from my throat and into the depths of a pillow I smashed my face into. I didn’t know what else to do but to continually scream “fuck” for minutes, until my throat was hoarse and I could yell no more. I was breaking, completely, my brain, my heart and my soul, it was all crumbling to pieces, a jumbled mess of undefinable pain.

As I calmed, exhausted of tears, of screams, I attempted to breathe, hiccuping gasps of still night air. And then I felt it, a tiny bit of relief, the waiting was over. I hated myself so much for that, I still do.

I understand suicide. I have come very close but no cigar. I don’t believe in suicide “attempts”, if I want attention I will dye my hair orange. My Father and I discussed suicide often, comparing methods. I always preferred a clean, private approach; a bubble bath and a bottle of pills taken slowly over a 3 hour period. He however came up with some real fucked up scenarios; a rope tied from the Coronado bridge to your neck so that when you jump and the rope tightens your head will pop off and hopefully boaters would be nearby to witness the body and head falling into the ocean separately. In his animated description of the scenario his darkness was camouflaged by humor and charisma.

Camouflaged by humor and charisma…the perfect hiding place for depression. It had been there his whole life, I saw it in his eyes. Most people were too distracted by his charms to notice. Anyone can smile for a camera, he smiled for everyone and spread that shit like a comedic plague. It was damn hard to be in a bad mood around him, his own pain so deeply embedded in him that it acted like a vacuum, sucking in any surrounding sadness or grief. All of this pain turned into a sort of fuel that kept him going, how much more can I handle?

He held on for as long as he could. Until one day he just couldn’t hold on anymore.

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Filed under Feels like Sunday, Memories of Dad, Something that happened

Peaches

He wanders down the aisle of canned goods, fingers lighting on yellow cling peaches, on sale 69 cents. I remember these in the summertime, in a blue bowl with whipped cream. She made it fresh, light and creamy. His hand falls to his side, fingers searching not for a can but for something real, something alive and warm. A heavy set woman reaches in front of him, rudely grabbing a can from the shelf with a grunt that meant either “excuse me” or “get the fuck out of my way old man”. The encounter is but a flash of movement before him, it means little else. There isn’t much that grabs his attention today, certainly not the rude shoppers or baskets weaving around him in fits of impatient thrusting. He simply stares at the canned goods, unsure of how to proceed. She would know what to do, she would know what to do.

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Let’s go out for a smoke

I just finished watching Biutiful (the 2010 Inarritu film). This film could not possibly have any other name, it was heartbreakingly beautiful and horrifyingly honest. In the last scene Javier Bardem shares a cigarette with his dead Father. If I could have one more moment with my Dad that would be it, a smoke and a laugh. My Dad quit smoking a few years before he died but he always took a few drags off of mine when I smoked around him. I remember a couple of times he actually asked for a cigarette. I knew we were about to have a motherfucker of a conversation. Fuck, I miss those talks, even the bad ones.

I just want more than anything at this moment to be sharing a cigarette with my Dad.

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Filed under I remember, Memories of Dad

Feels like Sunday

Tuesdays suddenly feel like Sundays.

Time follows no rules, falls backwards and slips sideways.

Sundays, once full of dread and anxious hostility now remain a dark reminder, a stain.

Leaking past Monday and filling up Tuesday, the slow pain of Sunday is eating away at my week.

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Groundhog Day Funeral Home

I had nightmares all night long, at least it felt that way. I awoke in the middle of the night; out of breath, shivering, soaked in sweat and completely disoriented. The only thing I could manage to do was to stumble into the kitchen and devour three Fiber One 90 calorie brownies. My god I am regretting this decision now (about eight hours later). As I calmed myself with chocolatey cardboard goodness I attempted to remember just what had caused this reaction. My worst nightmares I can rarely remember but I was finally able to put some pieces together. I was at a funeral home making arrangements for my Father. It went down pretty much the same way it did in reality, the total cost was even the same. The reason this was such a horrific dream was because I usually dream about my Dad in a much different way. We hang out, talk, smoke cigarettes, just shoot the shit. It always feels so real that I wake up feeling as if I had actually spent some time with my Dad. So what the fuck was this? He was just dead and I was going through all those awful fucking motions again of notifying family and friends, paying for the cremation, planning the memorial service, even the writing of the obituary notice. This may have been the worst night of sleep/torture I have ever experienced.

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Filed under Feels like Sunday, I dreamed..., I remember, Memories of Dad