The Dark Days

I’ve kept an extremely low profile the past few days. For starters, I am still fighting off an infection. It’s draining me terribly. My brain understood I really needed to shovel snow yesterday, but my body sent me back to bed because I couldn’t keep my head up or my eyes open. I was battling a migraine, chronic pain, and a damn infection. My body can only handle so much right now. Second, today is the thirteenth anniversary of my father’s death, and it is fresh in my mind. I’ve needed the rest I’ve managed to get, but it doesn’t wash my mind clean.

I have often told people that when I speak from experience and from no need to, “please anyone”, it stems from being an adult orphan. You are never fully prepared to lose your parents, no matter your age, or theirs. I only have to make myself proud, because no one else is as invested in me as my parents and grandparents were. It is sad that even in 2020, people still make it clear that they don’t appreciate me in any way. There’s nothing I plan on doing about the issues of others. It isn’t my responsibility, and it likely has nothing to do with me, personally. In 2021, I’d like to take things a lot less personally

I’ve always been clear that my father and I were not close or on the best of terms during the course of my life. I come from an abusive home and background, and I am trying hard to make sure the next generation is not affected by this. It was maybe in the final years of his life that he was able to appreciate me. As a person, as a daughter, as the responsible member of the family.

Each year, as I revisit the losses I’ve endured in my life, I also try to keep the good memories alive in my heart. And yet, these are still dark days for me. It’s hard to, “celebrate” a life half-lived. Any time someone dies and they are older than my parents were at the times of their deaths, I don’t have much to offer. It’s a sympathy card, a fruit basket, something I know anyone in mourning can appreciate, but sometimes I want to say, “He was 95. He lived his life.” I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, but in a, “It was an inevitability.” type of statement, yet I tend to keep that to myself 99.9% of the time.

It’s taken me a while to realize I am choosing to lack empathy and compassion at times. It’s something I’m consciously doing on nearly every dark day. I am not trying to take anyone’s private pain away from them, as much as I am choosing to embrace a fact in my life to keep me from going off the deep end.

I was not shown a whole lot of compassion or empathy after losing my father, and then my mother. I received such things in tiny doses. And I’m not going to lie; it’s important to grieve until you can feel yourself slowly start to heal. Until you no longer feel completely shattered. It does not happen overnight.

My dark day is now a dark night, and I am trying to keep myself calm as I approach the anniversary of the funeral and everything that occurred after the fact. It’s not “dwelling on the past”, as much as it is hoping for a better future.

Sometimes It’s The Retelling That Sucks

Saturday afternoon someone asked me what I was doing for Father’s Day. I had actually forgotten that Father’s Day was coming up, so this conversation was yet another reminder for me regarding the fact that my father has been gone for ten and a half years. Somehow, my brain just wasn’t absorbing this holiday. Even today, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about it if someone in the grocery store hadn’t been discussing lobsters for her husband’s “Father’s Day cookout”. It legitimately went in one ear and out the other. I didn’t fully grasp it until late in the day.

Having to reply to the question, “What are you doing tomorrow for Father’s Day?” meant rehashing a wound. I blinked and said “Nothing. My father’s been dead ten and a half years.” The person automatically apologized, but the question didn’t bother me. It was the thoughts the question conjured up; those bothered me.

My father was not good at accepting gifts. One year we gave him a watch. He desperately needed a new one and it was given with a full heart, but he tried it on and flat-out told us to return it. I remember thinking “Wow. He can’t appreciate anything we do for him.” Because for years, my father would reject whatever we did for him. One year I got him a movie he asked for. I had actually pre-ordered it so he’d be able to enjoy it immediately on release day. About a week or so later I asked “Did you like it? Was it good?” A few days later, it arrived in the mail. I was not pleased. When I questioned him about this he said “I’ve seen it once. I won’t watch it again. Enjoy.” I was utterly dumbfounded. It didn’t matter what the gift was; there was always some sort of rejection attached to it. For me, someone who LOVES to give gifts, it was a slap in the face. I reached a point where I would only agree to cook a nice meal for him if he was choosing to visit.

A few years before he passed away, I got him tickets to a New York Yankees game in Philly as a Father’s Day gift, even though the game would be roughly two months later, if memory serves me correctly (I still have the ticket stubs somewhere.). I scored excellent seats, mainly because no one was attending Phillies games at the time, but being in close proximity to New York, there was a lovely mixed crowd of sports fans. Surprisingly enough, my Dad made the trip out to spend the weekend and we went to the game together. I had additional tickets, but my brother didn’t want to go.

When we got there, batting practice was still going on, so we got to enjoy it. Jimmy Rollins, I want you to know that my father’s first comment during that game was “The shortstop for the Phillies is an absolute STAR. He’s an incredible infielder.” He was so impressed. It was the truth. My father called it; Jimmy would go on to win a World Series with the Phillies in 2008 and was traded in 2014. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw that Gabe Kapler is the Phillies current manager, but I digress…

It was a blisteringly hot day, and my “perfect” seats were in direct sun the entire afternoon. Halfway through the game my father said “Now I know why I like my baseball at home.”, which I understood. He had gone to games as a kid, but he wasn’t well, and he thought he was masking this from everyone, but he was the worst liar.

We left the game early, worn out and badly sunburned. For me to get burned is a testament to how intense the sun was that day. I was completely covered in sunscreen and had a hat on. My father, in the midst of battling cancer, only wore sunscreen to pacify me and purchased a Phillies hat once he saw how necessary it was. My father, who never donned a single article of non-New York sports attire. It’s pretty funny when I think about it now. It was even funnier because he brought a hat back for my brother from the game. He threw it back at him and declared “I can’t be SEEN IN THAT!” My brother now works in and around Philly and cheers for Philly teams. I pretend not to know him when he does this. I currently live in Massachusetts, but you won’t ever catch me cheering for the Red Sox. Some things are sacrilegious.

A few years later, my father would be gone, less than two years after his brother passed away, also due to cancer. That day at the ballpark is one of the most prominent memories I carry because it wasn’t a negative experience. For maybe the second time in my entire life, that day, he was just a father with his daughter. I’m sorry my brother chose to pass on the experience, but maybe there was some cosmic reasoning involved.

Father’s Day opens up wounds for me. This year, I choose to put what I can behind me and move forward. Believe me, the last thing I need is another reminder.    

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