She kicked off her worn-in flip flops and shifted her skirt straight, walked until the shoreline was in view then turned up the dial on her headphones. Zeppelin, its rhythm guiding her steps, she hummed to Stairway to Heaven on a perfectly breezy, warm evening on the river.
I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like classic rock and roll. What we know as the greats of yesterday whose influence and genius still inspire the imitators of today. Theirs a weapon of art, masterfully crafted with precision, poignant lyrics, and powerful guitar riffs. Theirs, rightfully so, unduplicated by anything modern music attempts; I grew up with it in my veins and practiced beats upon my steering wheel and I know not its equal.
Walking beside the water, Johanna keeps her eyes on the horizon in the distance as the song changes to Tiny Dancer, she smiles with each word from her lips, singing along with Sir Elton John. The crowds have already begun to part with the setting sun, urged on by the cooling wind upon sunburnt shoulders. Soon, she will sit alone at the bank of the Columbia River, bidding goodnight to the sun.
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters. Southern Cross and Helplessly Hoping. Ramona. Sympathy for the Devil. These Eyes. Long Cool Woman. Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is? A Little Help from my Friends and Night Moves. American Pie. Free Bird. Brown Eyed Girl. Fill your playlist with songs like these and, tell me friend, won’t it make you smile? What do you feel as you listen? Feel the soul. The meaning. The purpose in the music.
The sand became colder between her toes and her phone beeped. Low battery. The sun had been on the other side of the world for about an hour and her arms were chilly. Rock’n Me began to play as the phone sounded again. Silence. She pulled the headphones from her ears and began the walk back to her car, still singing the words in her mind and tapping a finger against her phone for the drum beats. She knew it by heart.
Perhaps we are merely a product of what we were listening to when we grew up. As true as this may be for some, or most of us, I knew I fall into a strange category wherein we were exposed to all kind of music from conservative Christian like Carmen, Brian Duncan, and Amy Grant to Garth Brooks twang and soulful stylings of Roberta Flack. My parents played Classic Rock but also danced to Earth, Wind, and Fire and Steely Dan (or Donald Fagan), one right after the other. So, for me, personally, it wasn’t that my exposure was limited. In fact, I’d argue adamantly that we were exposed to more musical genres than most of the people I know – but, suppose I just paid more attention?
The ignition turned and the car rumbled to life. Her phone switched on full brightness with the charge of the battery from the outlet formerly known as a cigarette lighter, she pushed play on Spotify and let the sounds fill the speakers at full volume. “Keep on rocken me, baby…” Loudly she belted out every word, flipped on the lights and put the car in reverse. Into the night she drove, back to her father’s house. Back to the quiet of another evening back home for just a few more days.
This music is home to me. It’s traveled with me from Washington to California, from California to Texas, and from every home I’ve made along the way. Of all the ways I’ve strayed from my roots, this music has always had my undying loyalty and affection, and I honestly think I could make anyone love Ten Years Gone if merely just the way I soulfully defend the melody, the lyrics, and the heart of it so well, like a child would be able to explain to you all the reasons why she loves ice cream so much – you’d listen and want to eat it. That’s how I feel about music, and how excited I get to share it when it’s something I love.
Music today just mostly makes me sad. I’m a child of the days when it was magical and the stars aligned for a rare group of men and women, and they shaped a culture and pushed their cause on a platform of rock and roll. It inspires me, and if you allowed it its due, I am sure it could inspire you, too.
The rhetoric familiar. A story told many sleepless nights upon deaf ears, poured onto blank pages and from my eyes; my very identity entangled in a mere twist of fate that has since absolutely altered my life completely. It is the reason I do not easily trust, but more than this, it is the potter’s hand shaping every relationship and emotional connection since.
I cannot remember her before. No, I mean bits and pieces are there, yes, – as if the overarching theme of my life was filled with the woman, “Mother”. But her – as an autonomous person, no. I have forgotten? No. I have pushed it so far down that recalling her face takes great effort, and most every attempt to do so forms a burning lump in my throat thus I would almost rather not try. It is an uncomfortable task. Because I feel shamed into believing I must be able to see past it, beyond it, before it… Alas, I rarely do. I criticize the immaterial while grasping the longing with clenched fists; I want to remember her, but more than devastating, I cannot.
Intellectually I recall that she was once a mother. A doting, boisterous, and enigmatic woman whom raised her five children with devotion akin to any holding such a title. She must have loved us for she cared for us from infancy to adolescence. She provided meals, tended housework, and tucked children in for slumber. She wore makeup and dressed with a carefree creativity, adorning her body and her home with sensible yet stylish furnishings unique to only Roberta.
Roberta. I cannot recall the last time I wrote that name with it expressly belonging to my mother… I sat here and stared at it for a few minutes. Trying. To remember. Deeper than intellectually, but emotionally.
What did it feel like to have her as my mother? When a child. When I needed her love, approval, and care more than any other person on this planet. I. Cannot. Remember. Bits and pieces is all I get anymore, and I cannot tell how frustrating and disheartening this is as typically I am one whom remembers details TOO well!
It takes everything I have within me to conjure her face. Beyond that day, before it.
The agonizing truth of the matter is I remember THAT day all too well. I remember her face, that day. I remember the looming darkness in that hospital room. The unspoken remorse, the idle apology, and the shared agony between those present to be anywhere but there. I remember hating what she had become.
It is truly not a day I’d like to define me. Most honestly, it is in fact a day I wish and have prayed to God to be able to forget. The burden, however, is clearly mine. The thorn in my side – the times I’ve cried out to the Lord to remove it from me were apparently in vain. . . I remember.
I would love the ability to see before it and truly know my mother again. To look upon my history, of these 21 years I had with her before and see the woman whom gave me my life, loving and protecting me.
That is the thing, though, really. I know, intellectually, why this one day stuck the way that it did. It was the loss of protection and love, for me, and perhaps for her (though I’ll never know so long as I live). It removed me from child and her from mother and put us against one another as women, both broken and lost in an instant – but one blindly at fault, and one blindsided.
Experiencing the loss of my mother in this way is an evil peril I would wish not on another soul. Give me at my feet my greatest enemy and I would spare them this pain. Truly. Because a mother should never have to fall the way she did. And a daughter should never have to endure such a confusing and bitter blow.
Before she died, I lost my mother. And to that end, I lost the ability to peek beyond that day, and this is very sad for me. It isn’t dramatic for the sake of writing or pitiful appreciation from those whom may read this, but merely and painfully my reality. One I have sought help coping with for ten years, but sadly, one that has defeated my heart more times than I can count.
Because I would give anything to go back. To safe arms and familiar skin in the arms of my mother. To a time when I was just her daughter and she was just my mom. She was flawed and impatient and selfish, but these things I am as well and who could fault a woman raising children doing the best she can. She was that, before, and I would give anything to have only known that person. That woman. That mother.
I struggle writing this as I do not want to appear a forsaken and weeping woman. . .
Truth is, I do well most days. I raise my children the best I can, and though I am flawed, impatient, and selfish like my mother, I do fine – most of the time.
It is the quiet longing that still defines my life, no matter how much I have tried to outrun it. It is in the quiet when I see a movie that she would have loved, or hear her voice in a song, or have to answer a question from my children about her…
Those moments I would give anything to know a before and only a before. The after kills me when I realize I cannot see past it. I know her face well, in that hospital bed. I know her face well, on a cold steel table, lifeless and cold.
I yearn for the BEFORE. The woman. The mother.
I lost her before she died, and I would give anything to have her back before it changed my life completely. I would give anything to have her back so I could change her life, completely.
You see, the worst comes in when I ponder whether forgiving her would have saved her life. Had I said those words, but more than that, felt them – had I not condemned her before God took her. Had I not turned my back in rightful agony and scorned the person she became. Maybe, just maybe, I could have changed it for her…
Then we would never have to know the vanishing of before. We would not, for many years perhaps, have had to know an after. I would be able to call her when I still get that urge, like a sudden desire to call her – I would pick up and dial and she would be there. She would know my children by name and be there for their births. She would have been redeemed in this life and not just the next. There maybe would not have been an after.
I live with these. These… Afters. And I would give anything to go back to before.
Speaking aloud the things in my mind is oftentimes difficult. Especially when I know that the subject matter is one I’ve guarded dearly, and it is perhaps the most significant part of my life story – at least, when it comes to personal tragedy.
I believe we all have something that is a thorn for us. A difficult time that helped shape the trajectory of life and alter it forever. Maybe words you should not have said and cannot take back. Perhaps words left unsaid and now there is no way to get them out – the person whom you’ve wished to hear them is gone. Or, it runs deeper. You hurt someone irreparably; someone hurt you…
Everyone faces it, it is just that we all cope with this challenge differently.
I need to speak it. That is how I deal. Whether that comes out audibly or with written words; when I have to deal with the burdens I carry, especially of my past, I cannot breathe when it weighs heavily on my heart and will not breathe easily until it comes out – thus, I write, or I speak.
… I have dealt with some intense anxiety over the past several weeks. I know where it originated, but I could not be honest about this. So I’ve suffered with an elephant crushing my chest every single day. It causes me to lose the air from my lungs and when I try and inhale to get it back, it feels like I cannot take in enough and I begin to panic, as if slowly suffocating. My heart races. My face flushes. And I am in full panic mode.
Because I have not said what needs to come out. It’s been burning inside of me. But I felt that, if I said these things – or if I wrote them – it would just fall short and not help, but maybe too even worsen my anxiety because, once I say these things, once I write them, they become real and unavoidable to me. It is here that I face it with a vulnerability that is hard to come by at times. Hard to face because the truth of these thoughts – the reality of this burden – is very much at the heart of the worst time of my life. If I expose that, if I make it known aloud or on paper, it is then not just my own… That is a scary sentiment. But one I have faced several times and make public through my writing – at least, at the very least, I face it.
That is where I am now.
So, here goes:
The house that we made a home. The house where I fell in love and experienced it fully, without fear and entirely vulnerable to love’s fickle nature; the house that, for ten long years since, has been the place I looked back to in my dreams as the last place I knew my mother – a truth in itself that is hard enough, but too it is the last place I found myself completely open to love, unhindered by what was to come, and since those days on Falk Road I have been forever changed… Because I learned there that love would not be strong enough to give us the life we spent years building.
I came downstairs in our beautiful two-story home and found John as soon as I discovered that the home I once knew was gone. He recognized the look on my face and asked me what was wrong, but it took a few minutes for me to say it aloud. I began to cry before the words formed, and I buried my head in my hands in utter shame at the feelings it brought about in my heart. I realized, sitting there in his office, that I would be facing because of this an entirely new avenue of pain that I couldn’t have known would present itself; not after ten years, I thought, so why did this hurt so much?
He held me in his arms as I cried and reassured me that, yes, I am allowed to feel hurt because of feeling this loss. Yes, it was okay – it did not hurt him, could not hurt him, and please explore these things I was feeling and allow myself to cope with it however I would need to.
Having that freedom is a tremendous gift. To say he is the only person whom has allowed me this gift is not an understatement. Most people look at me sideways when I am honest about the pain those days, ten years ago, caused – and the fact that I still deal with that hurt today, well, it makes people uncomfortable.
We are taught to just man up, pull on our smile no matter how much it hurts, and get on with life. But what about the fact that pushing one another to just get over our shit does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING towards achieving that goal?! John knows this, through and through – nobody in the history of stress ever calmed down by being told to calm down! So, he embraced me, and let me deal with it. This, for me, meant crying and it meant talking through it.
Only, this time, I had few words. I could not exactly name why it bothered me so much that Tim sold the house.
So, I pushed it aside. I have life to live. Ain’t got no time to dwell – I’m a Mama, I’m a wife. I’ve got a house to maintain, children to nurture, and a handsome, loving man to adore. Who has time to rehash to past? Especially one I have not belonged to in over ten years…
Fast forward to today. Anxiety. Why? Because I did not name it. I did not talk it out. It’s been living inside me since the day I saw that little house on the long and winding road that is now yellow. The picket fence we built together was replaced by something sturdy and wood-grained instead of white paint. The walls inside the house had long been dressed in a different color since the days my hands painted it green. The floors were different. . .
The bedroom where my nightmare began had been turned into a child’s room with a scene of Pooh bear painted on the walls.
It occurred to me as I had a rare glimpse into the life that wasn’t mine that his life moved forward, too. He made that house a home with someone else. He made a family there. And it was no longer mine. Had not been for many, many years.
Try and tell my heart that. This is where it gets tricky, and honestly I don’t expect even those that know me very well to understand it fully. Hell, some days even I don’t, but I have to try because after all it is my journey. It is my healing.
Taking stock over the years since leaving Washington, I know that over the course of time since I left, any time I needed to remember what my life was like before the end of innocence, I looked to that house. I looked to who I was there. Who I thought I would become. And what it felt like to love without fear. It was very far from perfect, but I had love – who needs more than this? When you are young and in love, he is all that matters. That house was my home and we together worked very hard to make it ours.
I would look back and find comfort in that place. In those memories. Because it was the proof I needed that, yes, I could love deeply. I could be vulnerable and happy, despite everything else. When things weren’t going well wherever I was in Texas, I would go back to Falk Road and see the version of myself I knew best. The version of myself that was free and smiled without worry. A person that had faded to grey, and finding her in this life, at times, was hard to do.
Him selling it was bound to happen. Honestly I thought nobody would tell me. I thought I’d never have to know. I thought, anyway, that I wouldn’t care.
The thing is, I did care. A lot.
But then I’ve spent the past few weeks telling myself I am an idiot for caring. I am stupid, I must be, right? Because who would care? People break up all the time. Hell. I’ve been divorced twice. I’ve lost homes with my ex-husbands – I know what it is like to have to pick up and move on (again and again). So what the fuck is the big deal about THIS house?
It took me a long time to figure that out. And doing it only inside my own head has caused me great anxiety. Mostly, I think, because I chastised myself repeatedly, and with so much judgment. I thought, if I explore this aloud – if I make it real how this hurts me – what will people think? I will surely be judged by the weight of other’s opinions that – to hell with the past, get over it already – why would I subject myself to that? Keep quiet, woman. Deal with it. Man up. Nobody gives a shit. He doesn’t even give a shit – why should you? I told myself this, for weeks.
The things is, it doesn’t matter. This is my story. My life. And I need to get this out.
I finally broke through my self-criticism and talked to John about it. He’s been diligently helping me work through my anxiety for weeks now, patiently asking probing questions to get to the bottom of these heavy thoughts that are so deep they’re literally restricting my breathing. I would sit there and explore it with him and feel myself want to blurt out that it was Tim, somehow, and that house, but then I’d basically give myself a big “fuck you, Christina, get over that – that isn’t it” in my mind and shrug my shoulders as if I didn’t really know what was bothering me.
I had to accept it before I could help him understand it.
When I finally told him, he was the most patient, understanding husband, and I am a million times grateful for that. Not once did he shame me. Not once did he get hurt or shame me for harboring feelings that have nothing to do with him, but instead, a man I loved when I was younger.
He is the best husband, and how dare I think anything other than that I am safe with him. But sometimes I forget, and I am guarded – this helps neither of us.
Talking to him about it helped me a lot. But now here I am. Still feeling anxiety… and I know that is because it’s still inside me.
So, I have to confess that it hurt me. I have to confess that it felt like I lost my safe place. The memory of that house was my comfort for ten years – as absurd a truth as this may seem. That house was where I knew life a certain way, and since the moment I left it, life would forever be something different than what it was when I called it home.
A piece of me still found itself inside those walls. After all, it was where I helped my mother when she needed a place to stay, free of judgment. It was where I saw my dad beat on the drums while Tim ripped on guitar – their music filling my ears for countless jam sessions in the room behind the garage. It was where I planted roots and felt entirely sure about the way my life would go.
And it was the scene of the greatest hurt of my life. The last place I laid my heart out in the soil and buried it, never to retrieve it again – or so I thought. It was where love as a child to her mother was irreparably altered, and where I saw her smile her life’s last smiles to her daughter. Where she told me she loved me and held my hand, as I told her she could fight harder – try harder – and become something different than the shell of the person she once was. It was where she put the nail in the wood that sealed her fate, finally, when she made the single biggest mistake of her life that ultimately cost me my first great love, and cost me the trust and love I had in the woman whom gave me my life.
Tim selling that house was symbolic of all of this for me, ending. The chapter closing, for good. I can never go back there to place flowers on the grave of all that died on those porch steps. I can never go back… That’s what I realized recently.
I’ve known it intellectually for years. I am not an idiot, really. I’ve known in my mind that it has not been my home for all this time. It belonged to him and his wife and their son. Her hands painted the walls. Her hands helped him build a new fence. Her hands touched his face at night and her lips kissed him goodnight. She was not me, and would never know what that house was before she stepped foot in it, and never know – not really – all the reasons why selling it would mean more than simply moving somewhere else. It would mean the finality of memories that danced before he knew her name, and belonged to a woman somewhere in Texas whom he moved on from and successfully forgotten over the years.
Thing was, I did not accept it. Not until now.
It’s a hard pill to swallow. And not that it makes ANY difference to my life now. I am present here with my children, and my husband. I love them in a way I cannot really express. Especially my husband. John is incredible. And he is extraordinary. He allows me to feel these things, even when I cry aloud for a life long ago, and yet still knows and trusts in my love for him. We’ve had our own struggles and some dark times in our relationship where I lost my way, but he remained and loved me through them all, and he knows I will give him the same amazing gift should he ever need it. I AM present, and I am grateful for my life now.
The feelings I have for my past are of no danger to my present life. I am, to be certain, happy here.
I just have a lot in my heart. My greatest struggle still comes out from time to time. Sometimes, it causes me anxiety, and I don’t believe this makes me odd or means that I am not strong. It does not mean I am being unfaithful to my husband by dealing with my past. It does not mean I am pining for Tim when I think about the fact that he sold “our” house and the reality of that hurt me.
I would encourage anyone whom faces their difficult past to address it honestly. To step out of the judgments from yourself and see that it does not mean you are weak if you wrestle with yesterday. It does not make you a fool.
In fact, for me, it is the only way I find happiness. To be honest about the past and how it still grips me today. If anything, it means it was something worth a damn to me, and that is better than not having loved at all, right?
Great loss hurts. Great pain stays with you. You can fight that truth, beat past it, but you will never fully let it go unless you attack it head-on. Open up and be honest with the vulnerable truth that yesterday was real, and it follows you, and you must make amends with it – and challenge it directly when it comes back up inside of you – or lie to yourself and face anxiety for weeks, years.
For me, that’s no way to live. I need to be able to breathe.
So I am facing it. I am challenging it. And I am figuring out that I can survive without that house to go back to – if even just in my mind. I can smile for Tim because he’s free from that house and all the memories that hurt him and I. I think, if it would have been me, I would have probably sold it years ago, because living there – facing those yesterdays every day when you walk through the door, I imagine at times that was tough. So at least he’s let that go.
I wonder if he thought of me the last time he turned the lock and walked down those porch steps. I wonder if he turned around and sighed heavily. If he did, I hope he remembered me only with happiness, and then, as he drove away, released the burdens that dwelled there. Forgiven himself, and forgiven me for leaving him there to deal with that hurt alone.
It is gone for us both now. Symbolically and literally.
That is in a way a gift for me, personally. It didn’t feel like it at first. It felt painful at first. Like walking through the smoldering ashes of my dad’s house when it burnt down when I was in High School. A cold, ash-ridden reminder of everything we lost that we’d never have again.
But I am tired of carrying it with me. It is time to work on letting it go. One labored breath at a time. One honest word at a time. One written sentiment after another. . .
Life goes forward. We like to imagine ourselves strong enough only to be present with today and positive that tomorrow will be better, and as we do this, we are told to leave yesterday alone. The thing is, yesterday is all we know, next to today, and so I’ve made it my work for the past 31, almost 32 years, to be really familiar with the past. I know it intimately. It shaped me, grew me, taught me, hurt me, and made me who I am today. Some of that past hurts. It hurts a lot. And I cannot live in a world that tells me I should be quiet about that pain. That I should be over that by now. Sorry, folks, but lying about the reality of your history – to yourself and to others – does nothing to help resolve it.
For me, it is only with honesty and an open heart that I find peace with yesterday. Through the pain of anxiety and the torment of keeping it to myself, I finally opened my mouth. I finally put my fingers to this keyboard and I admit that yesterday still hurts me. So, now, I am stronger because I’ve acknowledged that, and it has a little less power now.
Funny how breaking the silence does that. Funny how pushing through my own self-doubt and self-critical tendencies and opening my mouth to speak it aloud breaks the pain apart a bit more. I am grateful that I’ve been brave enough to speak it. Brave enough to be vulnerable with this. Because I cannot let it keep me down. I cannot let it steal my breathe any longer.
Thank you, husband, for being here for me as I work through the parts of myself that hurt me. Thank you for being present, and patient, and loving. I could not be strong like this if you did not encourage me to speak even when it hurts.
To those that suffer anxiety. Speak it out. Don’t push it down. Don’t be ashamed of the fact that the past hurts you. You are not unique in that struggle, trust me. Own it. Face it. Be honest. You are not weak if you acknowledge the reality of your mind and the pain in your heart. You are human. We are all flawed, and we all face something. Every single person whether they appear to have all their shit together and speak all the right philosophies. You may look into their eyes and envy their present peace… But even those who’ve cultivated a spiritually sound life have darkness in their mind and in their heart – from yesterday, from today, and perhaps even as they look into tomorrow. None of us are immune to this.
Anxiety is a bitch. A liar. It will make you believe this pain is too deep, too heavy, too much. But it is not. Let it out – not to be confused with “let it go”…
If I can do it, so can you.
My dad is currently experiencing something I went through ten years ago. He’s dealing with the death of a parent. This brings up many feelings for me, but mostly that I am saddened for my dad because I know what it feels like.
It brings up the finality of death for me. I was surprised that I felt rather choked up when I heard him say it. We were never close, my grandfather and me, but it isn’t because I didn’t want us to be. I made the effort as an adult. Probably to my dad’s insistence goes the credit, but when I went home over the past few years, I went and visited with the man who’s half responsible for my dad’s life. I went and introduced him to two of his great-grandchildren. I went and I hugged him, and enjoyed visiting. It was always small talk, because I didn’t know how much he knew of me and my life, but I yearned for the connection. Since I was a child – that’s one thing that comes to mind now…
I wanted him to want me. More than this, I wanted him to want my dad.
I cannot imagine my life without my father. He was not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. My dad was young and immature and hot-headed, but he was… THERE. He was THERE when I needed him. He was THERE when I messed up, and though I feared his wrath as my father, I knew no matter what I did or what I was going through, he would STILL be THERE for me.
He was there for me when I got divorced from Layla’s father. Though the divorce was mostly my fault because of some irreparable choices I made, he was THERE. He was there when AJ left Jemma, Layla, and me – though he never approved of the marriage from the start and saw the end before it began – he was THERE. And he was there when I married the man I would argue is my favorite. The man that “took in” my children and me, against the better advice that this life would be difficult – my dad was there to give me away, finally… It was the first marriage he was there for, and the first time I knew – beyond any doubt because he told me he was proud, that I was making the right decision.
My dad didn’t have the same father. His dad wasn’t “there”. For that, I have spent my entire life mad. On his behalf. Because a father is crucial.
My dad wasn’t perfect, I’ve mentioned this already, but he was and still is my favorite man on this earth. My husband is a close second, and a first in a lot of ways – obviously, but still… When I think of what it means to stick around and to put in the work, my dad comes to mind – first and always.
The finality of this, for him, must be hard. That’s what I keep thinking about, and I only got the news a few minutes ago. . .
I wish for my dad, then, a peace that comes from believing his father is some place better than here. Where redemption heals a broken and worn-out soul. Where we no longer question what is good and what is right, but where good and right are the just norm. I want this for my dad, the peace… Because the finality is difficult.
He will never again hear his dad’s voice. Never see his face. Never pick up the phone to call him and tell him that his son has once again done something to, hopefully, make his father proud. He’s lost that to this earthly realm, and that makes me sad.
Life is swift. It is swift and it is challenging. But we all have a day. A day wherein we find ourselves breathing our last breath.
I hope when that moment comes for my dad I am by his side. I hate to think of it. Really. It makes me sick inside. Not only because he’s my only parent left, but because I cannot envision a world where he isn’t there to talk to. To make me laugh and share our funny stories. To tell me when I’ve fucked up and to put me right again… I cannot imagine it. And although I should be able to, it doesn’t compute. Because that’s how much I need him. He’s a thousand miles away, but I still need my father. I wonder if he is feeling anything similar now, and if he is, I pray to the God we both believe in that his heart can find peace in this sad time. I pray that he knows, when it is his time, that he won’t leave us wanting more, but leave us knowing how much he loved his children, and how good he was to us.
I told John a story just recently of my dad building sparkler bombs. We did this a lot when we were kids. We’d get packs of sparklers, strap them tightly together with electrical tape, and blow up toilets in our back yard. These moments, undoubtedly, were some of the best of my childhood. Our dad was cool. He was young and “with it”, and he found ways to make our childhood memorable though we didn’t have much money and it was a hectic, tumultuous childhood. At least, at the VERY least, he was THERE. Doing the things that I remember now as some of the best times of my life.
I looked back on that, as I told John, and felt laughter well up from my gut. What kind of father blows up porcelain toilets in a residential neighborhood during the day with a freaking sparkler bomb?! I think, if John were to do that to entertain our children, I’d probably kill him and be really mad for a long time. . .
But that was my childhood. That was my dad.
I would not change a single moment. Not for all the money and glory this world has to offer. Those days were beautifully ours, and they were solely because my dad was there. Thinking constantly of ways to make his children happy.
As I think about my grandpa, I am upset that he didn’t give my dad the same gift. It’s private and I won’t go into more detail, but the point is, as he goes through this painful process of letting his dad go, he will look back on their time together and miss the things that never were. For that, I am angry, and I wish I had time to make my grandpa see that the important things were not his bank account or a golf game, or even the woman he chose to leave his family for – the important things were watching his son play baseball, or helping him through a surgery when he was just a boy. It was the reprimanding and the discipline, the teaching moments and the heart-to-hearts. He sold out and vanished, and left my dad without those crucial memories and now, all these years later, my dad is the one that has to reconcile these truths.
It speaks to character. It speaks to integrity and honesty and gumption. All the traits my dad has, and he got them on his own. Without his dad. For that, my dad is a better man than most, because he found those traits of character on his own, and he did it while being a very young man, raising five children of his own.
I got choked up, yes, but it was more for my dad than the grandfather I barely knew. He missed out on knowing us, and I guess I’ll never know why he chose that life – time and again – because I showed up, I drove to his house, I introduced him to children that bore his blood, but it wasn’t enough.
It just makes me more appreciative and grateful for my dad. For his dedication and loyalty. For his sense of humor that he gave me. For his honor to stick with my mom when she went off the rails… He was there, and he never intended, no matter how difficult life became, to have it any other way. There is no better trait in a man than this. Dedication.
Death is funny. It’s an inescapable truth for every single living person. We shall all meet death and her final hand swiftly grasps us – we have no say in the matter. When she comes knocking, we cannot refuse to answer the door. My grandpa met her today. I shall miss him in the sense that I miss the opportunity to win him over. To make him fall in love with his premature granddaughter and, as it happened, her children – his great-grandchildren. We tried, and at least I can rest with that knowledge. We tried. Why he didn’t – our whole life, and most of my dad’s life, we shall never know. I pray as my dad tries to reconcile this, he finds peace in his heart that HE tried, and what he didn’t get in return is not the measure of his worthiness as a son and a father. His measure, his worth, is that he never gave up trying. I got that from him.
My dad is one of my favorite people on this planet. It’s taken me nearly 32 years to fully appreciate the life he built for his children. To see the sacrifices he made to give us as much of a chance as he knew we could take. He didn’t have an example. He didn’t have someone to call and get help from. . . But he managed to raise five incredibly smart, happy children, and we all – from the deepest part of our heart – can say that he was one of the biggest reasons why we have good lives now.
I wish I could hug my dad right now. Just sit with him and let him talk. Hear all the things he has to say, feel the feelings pouring from his eyes… Just comfort him. The way he comforted us when my mom died. I wish I could tell him how much he truly means to me, and that I thank him for every single time he sacrificed his own dreams to work hard so we could have food on the table. For each moment he was frustrated with raising five kids as a young man, wondering where his life and dreams went, but instead of chase those things, he kept at it so that we had a roof over our heads.
Rest in peace, Grandpa Geddes. May you know now, in your heavenly vision, that your son did well even when you didn’t show him how. Know that HE is the father his children adore, and HE was there… Know that he forgives you for not teaching him these things, he learned them on his own, but he loved you through those mistakes. He has character, integrity, and devotion to his family. In the face of every mistake you made, he turned out better than fine. He turned out amazing. As we say goodbye to you in spirit, we will celebrate the child you left behind. He is my dad. He is your son. He gave us a great life, and he probably worked so hard at this because of the fact that you weren’t there. He was there. For that, I guess I can only be grateful to you… Your mistakes gave me a great father. The best dad. As I remember what I knew of you, and the loss of this to my dad, I will be grateful that he was everything you were not. The best dad a child could ask for.