Wednesday, August 8, 2012

.there is freedom within, there is freedom without.

Every year, in March, I touch upon my mother's death in a blog entry or refer back to my longest and most detailed post to date on the subject. But when August rolls around, I shut down. Clam up. I go completely blank. Because, when it's August and the eighth of the month is near, when my father and the anniversary of his death comes up, I find there are not enough words. Or the right ones get lost somewhere between my brain and my tongue – or, as the case may be, my fingers. Perhaps it's harder because I watched my dad fade away in the hospital – an experience that, for a long time after, left me with nightmares and flashbacks accompanied by shortness of breath and sobbing jags. But then again, I saw my mom deteriorate for years before her heart attack at 54, compliments of her extremely poor health, I'm sure. So I am not sure that explanation makes complete sense.

More likely, it's not a simple, black and white reason. In part, though, I think that I am so short on words when it comes to my father because I have a hard time sharing myself – and who I am is so deeply connected to who my daddy was. “Gentle and true, as most will admit, with a fearless side that refuses to quit,” says the plaque I have hung in my bedroom since childhood – a plaque that was supposed to describe my dad's and my shared zodiac sign, Taurus. The bull, for the uninitiated. Mama would've said, “Bull-headed!” I don't exactly put much stock in astrology, but that damn plaque always seemed true. My father and I could both exhibit immense compassion and empathy – but were also quick to anger and likely to see red and charge.

Back when I could first read the rhyming words on the faux-wood wall art, I interpreted “fearless” as that state just before your insides burst into flames, metaphorically speaking, and we seethe, prone to destroying everything in our path. Like a tornado, in my own wake I'd leave broken glass (a window, a snow globe), a mottled birthday cake (my baby brother's) and dented walls, before the clouds rolled away and I was left with despairing sheepishness and guilty regret. I never knew what to do with the rage running through my veins in those moments, when I'd swallowed too much to hold more.

And in my father's wake, he left...me. And my mom, my sister, my brother – as we were, whatever that may be.

I know now what that “fearless side” is not. It is not actual fearlessness. It's anxiety that we couldn't – or can't – always control well. It's a desire not to seem too vulnerable: be independent, push fear and need out of your way, because if you need someone, they can hurt you. If you give your heart, it can be stomped on. That's what I feel at times. I think it's what my dad felt, too.

I'd like to be able to talk about what loss has taught me. I'd like to lend you some platitudes that seem destined for Hallmark in their simple insight, without my trademark traces of cynicism and sarcasm. But you, dear reader, know that I can't do that. I'd really would like to, but if I am honest, I don't know that it has taught me much. At least, not things that I put into practice on a regular basis. I know what I should do. I should be living in the moment as much as possible. I should be clinging to the time I have with dear loved ones. I should be expressing my innermost feelings whenever the chance arises. And I should make the chance arise often. But do I do it? It doesn't feel like I do.

But one thing I do know is that, every year, when these anniversaries come around, I am often drowning in unshared emotions. I have made a life of unresolved conflicted, paved a path of closure-less closed doors. And I want to shout and cry. I want to sit in solace with my pain and remember.

Remember the way my father's voice sounded when he sang hymns - “Sweet By & By” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” Remember how his rough, callused hands felt when he'd place them on my forehead to check for fever when I was a small child. I want to smell the earthy scent of him when he'd been in the garden or mowing the grass, or the oily, engine smell of him when he'd come in from a long day of working in the garage. I even want to call upon the image of his red-faced, brow-furrowed anger...or recall the sad way he greeted me when I visited him in the hospital that final month.

So I guess all that loss has taught me is what to remember and what to hold onto from all the suffering that life heaps onto our plates. But at least that's something.

3 comments:

  1. Louise -- being a writer eases half the pain. I remember the piece I wrote when my mother died. Just rereading it comforted me. As this should comfort you.

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  2. Hi Louise, thank you for writing this! I felt like you cracked your door open and it was a beautiful moment =)

    ~Jackie

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  3. You made me cry. I miss Mom and Dad so much...


    Love you,

    Sissy

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