Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Angels in the Ripples

January 30th, 2014

Dad's last Christmas, 1983.

"You're part of the tide," I imagine my father would say to me if given the chance. "You come in and go out every day. Not only do you wash away sand and forge in foreign objects, fish and beautiful shells; but also, you nourish the ground, then cause crashing waves. You feed the seagulls. You're an inimitable, predictive part of the earth as the sun rises and sets."

Except he was nowhere remotely that eloquent or poetic, looking at life. The romanticism of life's ups and downs escaped my dad, but just like me, he was a huge slapstick dreamer. If there was something you wanted, you just "got" it, logic be damned. Warnings unheeded. One of the traits passed down to both of his children, my brother and I, is "Don't worry about today. Don't worry about next week. Just don't worry. It'll all work itself out. (Yes, symptoms of bipolar disorder.) He was pretty much on the mark. More often than not, even with big bumps in the road, our family has not been deemed a cultural failure by any means. Our family's finances might have been a huge shambles, but there was always laughing, dancing and music to entertain and salve the gaping wounds that were relegated to "family meetings," over which Steve and I would be left with a babysitter, which ill-eased me.

Dad had a cushy job for several years at the Norwood Park Fire Department, as a firefighter/paramedic. If only he hadn't acted on his impetus to get rich quickly and buy an ill-fated business, my mom would be living off one hell of a pension right now, instead of cleaning up a huge legal and financial mess my dad, not good with numbers, left. I haven't helped any. But that wasn't the choice Dad made, and it can't be undone, so what's the point in reveling in that error? He tried to mend his ways on the Cook County Sheriff's Department for about the 2 years before he died, which he got on because he had good political connections.

I said on another site and to friends that, really, I felt like a schmuck for not remembering that yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the last time I felt my father's arms around me and sat on his lap. January 29th, 1984, crying. Likening it to the hustle-bustle of adult, work, kids, obligations, I'd forgotten to breathe a moment and pay homage to those last moments my father and I had together. My heart, however, tends to believe he would understand being placed on the back burner while I enjoyed the company of his extraordinary grandson, Luke, and his widowed wife. Oh my, would he have been nuts about Luke and my nephew, Jake.

I texted a few friends tonight that I, essentially felt like a jackass for forgetting-gasp-that yesterday, was the last time I saw my father alive. He held me on the recliner. He needed immediate treatment for his 20-year alcohol problem. Four days later, on February 2, 1984, 30 years ago, it was too late. He'd had a massive heart attack and died. It's kind of a milestone anniversary, and while I blab annually about my sentiments, my dad deserves a tribute instead of ridicule once in a while.

As I've probably mentioned in similarly timely blogs, my mom, brother and I had been staying at my grandparents' house for a few weeks while my father contemplated rehab and interventions were held (don't get me started on interventions as a psychologist, holy hell). We came home on February 1st, because Dad was in the hospital, being stupidly "detoxed' or removed from the alcoholic environment, the doctors not yet knowing the ramifications of abruptly stopping a 20-year daily drinker immediately. My mother recalls him saying over the phone that he was trembling so badly, he couldn't light a cigarette (remember, this is pre-health-conscious hospitals). His relentless phone calls to the house after school the day he died to talk to my brother and I were, in hindsight, eerily prophetic. Not only did he apologize to us and tell us how much he really, really loved us, but the last time my mom visited in his room, he apologized to her for all the pain he had caused. Her anger and disappointment in him (while perhaps justified at the time) found her brushing him off and walking out of his hospital room.

After seizing, a massive heart attack brought on via delirium tremens claimed his life at 42, the age I will turn this year. Unthinkable.

Approaching 42, it's incredibly hard to imagine that I will have outlived my dad, with all the accidental overdoses, drug and alcohol abuse, quasi-suicide attempts, cutting and other bodily destruction my frame has endured. My ex-husband and some friends tell me I need to "get over it," (my father's death) as if that's remotely possible. Others acknowledge where my heart is, its allegiance, and its recognition of my father's many life flaws an stumbles. I was told, "Something tells me he has been looking out for you for the past 30 years. Not gone and not forgotten." I can completely see my father tapping God on the shoulder, reminding the Holy Father that it's not my time for us to reunite, and "For crissakes, DO something about HER." So God has obliged. (Not without some serious prodding, in my opinion.)

I wouldn't say I necessarily believe in the modern Christian idea of "angels," but I do believe that souls swoop along perpetually and help control our human, proverbial backgammon board from totally tilting and spilling over. I agree with my friend who said my dad's still around. He must be; otherwise, I wouldn't feel his presence in as many situations and "Whew!" moments as I do. A lot of crazy shit could've happened to me that didn't, and I'm not sure why, but maybe my dad had a hand in it. Who's to say?

Expecting another 4-9" of snow over the weekend (PUHLEEZE!), it'd be silly to go and try to clean up his gravestone. To date, I've only seen a picture of the headstone. I've not been to visit him. Why? Because he's not there. What's left of his physical form--bones--are encased in a coffin and cement under grass, but my dad is everywhere. (Ok, my advertisement for cremation....)

If you want to call me a big baby for still grieving and missing my father after 30 years, and allowing it to creep up & upset me at the end of every January/early February, you obviously have no idea what it's like to lose a parent as a child. Maybe my journey through the stages of grief are different than yours would be. I'm at "acceptance," but that doesn't mean I WHOOP! stop grieving.

Tears flow, in between laughter. Some memories start to fade, both the good ones and the horrible ones. My dad was a good guy. Uniformly loved, funny and talented. He sang. He cut a few 45's. He danced well. He played drums. (Whoa--Elton John's "Daniel" just came on Pandora!) He permanently whacked out his liver with alcohol because I, at least, believe, he had no other nor sought other coping mechanisms in his adult life.

I don't care, frankly, what anyone thinks....I might be almost 42, but I still wish for one more day with my dad.

Maybe I'll end quoting Elton..."Lord, I miss Daniel. Oh, I miss him so much."

Genesis, Ripples, my tribute to my father:

Being the impulse shopper I am, I ran out at 5:00 last night to go get a new parakeet to replace Nitwit, who died yesterday. I picked out who've I've affectionately named, "Moonie," after Moon the Loon, Keith Moon of the Who. It was only fitting that I bought him am drum. Ladies and gentlemen....."Moonie."

and when I put him to bed, I read him a book:


MtnSk8tr said...

I have never met anyone of any age who wasn't profoundly affected by losing a parent in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. Bereavement affects everyone, but especially those who were young, significantly coloring their life many decades later. I'm so sorry you have to go through this, but glad you love your father so deeply. What a tribute to him!

Andrea Miklasz said...

When we lose our parents, to paraphrase Warren Zevon, they become "accidentally like a martyr." Our lost parents, regardless of our age, when they die, are appreciated for and loved for what, perhaps, we did not acknowledge growing up.

Losing my father at such a young, impressionable age was and still is sometimes more than with which I can cope,but he raised a strong girl. Or shall I should say, he planted the seeds to raise a strong daughter. In that way, I feel lucky.

My love for my father knows no bounds, sometimes to the chagrin of other members of my family, and that's too bad for them. He was severely flawed, but really a really, really great guy.

Thanks for the kind words.

Andrea Miklasz said...

What would adult me do in that picture of his last Christmas? Or the last day we were together? Taken the can of Old Style, thrown it across the living room, and made some demands. I had neither the balls nor the intellectual ability to do that age age 11. But I would've gotten angrier, I think. "Put the fucking can down and listen to me!" I would've said. You're driving us drunk to school. You're going to work drunk. You're paranoid of the prisoners you handle and are scared if you don't have alcohol in your system. You're driving us all INSANE.

At least that's what I'd say to adult ME in 2008 when I went to rehab for the same fucking problem.

"I don't understand any of you could choose THAT over US."

But that's the core lure of substance abuse. You don't care, after a certain point, who you fuck over, even if it's your little girl, or your teenage son, or your young wife.

Perhaps what eats me up so badly inside is precisely how I would handle the situation now, as opposed to just sitting in his lap crying on January 29th.

A few years ago, I thought I had reconciled all of this in my heart. But it crept up again. Just like addiction.

I don't hold him on a pedestal because he was perfect. I hold him tightly because of his incredibly profound affect, like the comment above indicates, on the rest of my life.

Other people in my family feel differently...they view him as the perpetual fuck up, which is largely how I'm viewed. That's an imbalance I wish THEY would get over. To be so closely identified to him is too much for me. For my mother to watch me walk and say, "You even swagger like your father" is both a compliment and an insult.

Daniel was Daniel. Annie is Annie. We may have been cut from the same cloth, and sown the same way, with the same habits, but in lot of ways I'm very, very different than my father.

This coming Monday, I was asked to meet with the Addiction Therapy professor. My refection paper got a 99.9%. Knocked off, I think, because I went 4 pages over what he asked. He wants to talk to me about my paper as well as my part of the narcotics presentation about benzos, on which I'm dependent. I think HE thinks my level of self-disclosure is unsettling to the class. But my thinking is the more these "kids" know about drugs and alcohol in the real world, the better off they'll be. In any event, I'm unsettled.

I need a shot in the arm of braveheart, Dad.