Never let go…

Dad let go of her hand but she never let go of dad's hand.

Dad let go of her hand but she never let go of dad’s hand.

 

Humans of New York (http://www.humansofnewyork.com) posted this photo with the caption “Dad let go of her hand, but she never let go of Dad’s hand.”

My earliest and perhaps most innocently poignant memory is of having to let go of my dad’s hand. I guess myself at around three. My mother and father were viciously arguing. My sister and I were hiding on the stairway. My heart was racing; scared of the fighting and petrified I’d get caught for sitting on those steps listening to all the loud yelling I didn’t understand and be punished for my curiosity. Two policemen showed up. They appeared larger than life and what frightened me most was the billy club each had dangling from their belt. Menacing, baseball bat looking clubs as big as my leg, which I knew were there to be used. In my confusion for sitting on the stairway…or maybe it was the automatic assumption I’d carry with me for the rest of my life that as usual, I’D done something wrong …whatever it was, somehow I knew instantly that billy club was to beat me with. The minute I saw it, I ran as fast as my legs could fumble themselves up those stairs in my panic, too scared now to even worry about being quiet!

I ran straight to the top of the stairs and turned into the first door on the left, my parent’s bedroom. My bedroom was straight ahead and the same distance to run, but somehow I felt sure that billyclub would come looking for me in MY room. So, I thought I was quite clever to hide in my parent’s room where they at least wouldn’t come first looking for me, maybe buying myself a few precious seconds before the beating.

The yelling downstairs had ceased. I could still hear talking; the policemen and my parents’ voices, but no more yelling. I wanted so much to hear what they were saying…to know what I had done this time…and get a clue as to how bad the billyclub beating might be….ohhhhh, how I wanted to know! Sheer terror kept me hiding behind the leather rocking chair in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, though. I didn’t DARE peek out and be nosy with the billyclub man there, no matter how overwhelming my curiosity was!

My sister had gone under their bed. I stayed behind the chair for what felt like my last eternal moments before my inevitable death, making myself as small as I could to hide completely and occasionally putting my head sideways against the floor to peek under it and see my sister under the bed.

That lasted forever and I must be missing some time in there because the next thing I recall is my mother standing in front of my dad by the big wooden front door downstairs. My mother facing my dad directly, his face looked sad and hurt, not angry and mean like my mother’s and I knew something was horribly awfully wrong. My dad smiled and laughed perpetually. I’d never seen this look on his face ever.   Not once on my entire three years! My mother held mine and my sister’s hands on either side of her, facing him and saying to us, who do you want to go with? This was a hard question. I didn’t want to hurt either of my parents’ feelings and I didn’t know what the right answer was. I love my mommy so much and I love my daddy too! And forever without one of them seemed an impossible choice. At that moment, I really believed this was the most final and permanent decision I’d ever have to make in my lifetime. My sister immediately piped up with, I’m going with you, Mommy.  She either knew the right answer because she was an older, wiser five years old or it simply wasn’t the dilemma for her that it was for me? I didn’t know. I was looking at my dad’s face right that moment, still that sad look that was hauntingly unknown to me and I knew I couldn’t leave my daddy alone no matter what. My sister had already picked mother. I couldn’t leave my daddy alone with that expression on his face and I could feel the hot anger seething off my mother, while my dad felt quietly just hurt and defeated maybe…somehow seeming much safer than the alternative. I stepped over to my obviously wounded gigantic daddy and said, I’ll stay with you, Daddy.

It was decided. My sister left with our raging, seething mother and I stayed with our wounded, broken hearted Daddy, just knowing I could love on him enough with hugs and kisses to chase that sad look away and bring back his usual jolly smile. Strange that the few seconds it took me to make that choice feeling afraid because I believed it would be forever and I’d answer wrong, was immediately replaced with as much confidence as any three-year-old could have after answering such a question. I knew I belonged with my daddy. I loved and adored my mommy like crazy as any child does, but I knew the minute I took those few steps over to stand by my daddy’s side, that that was exactly where I belonged in this world, even if it DID mean I’d never see my beloved mother’s face again. I felt sad, but I was no longer afraid that I’d answered the question wrong. Yes, I belonged with Daddy; my happy, laughing, loving daddy with the smile that lifted my heart high in the air full of joy every day.

I didn’t understand this was only for the night…or a few days…or whatever it ended up being. I can’t recall. The last thing I remember is feeling that odd confidence that I’d made the right choice and knowing I would be safe forever right next to my daddy, holding tight to his great big warm hand.

But it wasn’t forever. Not too long after this painful choice…a night…two or three days…my mother returned and took me with her and my sister. And, my daddy had to let go of my hand. I never let go of his though. Over the next 14 years, I held onto my daddy’s hand once in a while in person when I was allowed to see him, but every day and night I held onto his hand in my prayers, in my dreams, in my thoughts when I was scared, and in my heart when I felt unloved and unwanted or confused and beaten. And I continued to hold it the 27 years following that as I trudged my way through life, love, rape, abuse, and many scary choices.

Forty-one years later from the day I made that first great big life choice to hold my dad’s hand, I’m still holding that big warm hand in my mind and my heart. My daddy is gone. He let go of my hand again to go to heaven but I haven’t let go of Daddy’s hand.

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Bittersweet

bittersweet

Forcing myself to write…even if it’s not good writing. My hope is that by forcing myself to do it without ant concern or worry of the quality, the tone, the content, or the value, then I might slowly regain my voice again. I need my voice. I need my voice even if no one ever reads my words. I need my voice even if no one believes me. I hope to someday think and feel eloquently again and write that, but until then, forced it is.

Living in my daddy’s big old house is an experience that fully defines the adjective, bittersweet. I head into the kitchen where my dad spent the majority of his time in the 24 years he lived in this house… I head in there to make something for lunch. It is, like me, a contradiction and maybe that’s precisely why I’m so comfortable within that very discomfort? However, this goes far beyond a mere contradiction straight to bittersweet…all contradictions at one time – a simultaneous infusion of emotions, memories, thoughts, words, expressions, situations, and people…pushing right up against each other, smacking each other around the edges of what defines them.

I head into his kitchen… and standing in there as I think of what I might want to whip up for lunch, the urge to be given one more chance to cook for him stings. It stings like 5,000 wasps have landed on my heart and my gut…and they’re angry. They sting all at once and so viciously that my eyes water, screaming for that moment of relief tears would bring. I usually fight them though, almost as though I don’t deserve to cry; as though I don’t deserve that millisecond of relief when the tears finally roll. And I want so badly to just call out through the house into the living room where my daddy is watching golf, some old western movie, or maybe a country music video, Hey Daddy? Can I make you some lunch?  I want to so badly because I think of the million times I could have hollered that out…and didn’t. And from there, I think of the 200 zillion delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that man made me over my lifetime. I think of my favorites. I think of him asking me what I would like to eat as though I were in a restaurant and anything could be whipped up at my desire. I think of later years as an adult how every single visit to daddy’s house was greeted with, Hey baaaaaby (that BIG SMILE lighting up his whole face)! There’s some beef stew/spaghetti/steak/biscuits and gravy/ Hamburger Helper/tuna salad/prime rib/barbecue ribs/potato salad (enter any number of delicious Southern dishes in here). Are you hungry?

I need to DO something FOR HIM….do something without asking anything first or in return or anytime within the next week or month or best yet, year, from him. I’m hit with the undeniable, painfully fervent need to do for him…take care of him…serve him… you see, this was who he was. He did this all my life for me and then when I had two children, he simply added two more people to serve up his kindness and generosity, his time and undivided attention, his compassion, his wisdom…all things that he could serve us laced with his love. And my daddy had a great big love for us. In fact, great big doesn’t really even begin to describe it. This man – this old-fashioned, hardworking, traditional values, classic southern man would serve us like a slave maid. And always did so with a BIG smile and happy heart, with never a single complaint or a whine or a tiny hint of much-deserved martyrdom guilting techniques or sighs. No. He served us like princesses and was unbelievably joyful to be doing it. Nothing was too much for him to do for us. Absolutely nothing.

 

(Side note: a great irony to this massive, unlimited, willingness to give and serve we three girls he loved so great big are the hundreds of stories my mother told me growing up about my dad. There were countless ugly stories where he was some kind of chauvinist pig demanding maid, cook, and personal service while selfishly not contributing whatsoever. Actually, worse even than simply not contributing, the stories were more along the lines of, “Your dad didn’t care one bit if we had food in the house or if we all starved to death. There were so many times I didn’t know how I would feed you two kids. Your dad would go on binges for weeks at a time when I didn’t know where he was or when he was coming back or when we would eat again.”)

So, as I step in that kitchen where the majority of 24 years’ worth of memories were made, I desperately want to serve him even just for one split second…serve him as unselfishly, joyously, and eagerly as he did me and my two children. I want to show him how happy I would be to do for him even if it’s just bringing him a cup of coffee.   I’m learning so much about my flaws, my weaknesses, my shortcomings throughout the nightmare of the past two years. In my daddy’s kitchen, I realize the bottomless depth of my fears…and I grasp the fullness of my excuses. I may not be one for blame so much, but I’m certainly the queen of excuses: legitimate excuses, ridiculous excuses, emotional excuses, any number of those pesky little stupid explanations for why.

Why… is always such a painful question.  Ouch!
You see, I realize so much now that although I am by nature as giving and loving as my daddy (thank you for that characteristic by the way, Daddy!), I’m the laziest perfectionist you could ever know. Therefore, in spite of my eagerness to do for others – and particularly my beloved daddy – I would rather do nothing than do something in return that could never come close to measuring up to the gift I’ve received. And it always seemed anything I could have done for my daddy would be akin to putting a drop of water back in the ocean after taking enough out to fill 500 Olympic sized swimming pools. If I can’t return a favor equally or better yet, in spades more than I have been given, then I typically don’t do anything at all. Pretty flawed logic, huh? And the bottom line truth of me is that I never had any remote degree of physical, mental, emotional, or financial abundance to ever come even close to matching what my daddy gave and did for me and my children all my life. So, I typically did very little in return other than chronically express my hopes and prayers that “someday” I would be able to do something great big and wonderful in return. I mean, I expressed gratitude and gratefulness, love and appreciation daily, I honored birthdays and Fathers’ days in every way I was able albeit usually smaller ways than I’d have liked and constantly professed my love for him, and I did most everything he ever asked of me which was very rare and usually minor. And meanwhile, out of my desire to match up to his giving magnitude, I did practically nothing of those little daily graceful kindnesses in return. Never realizing how much those little drops in the ocean could have been accumulating over the years…before time ran out.
Standing in my daddy’s kitchen deciding what to make for lunch, the sheer volume of his grace and blessings on me over my 44 years wash over me like a fresh splash of a gigantic salty ocean wave. I am humbled to my knees by it. And as it washes over me, it stings a million tiny cuts in my skin of all the lost opportunities I didn’t get to do for him and burns with the dreaded realization that death makes those little and big opportunities gone forever.

Gone two years

I miss you, Daddy.

I miss you, Daddy.

Dad’s Poem
You never said “I’m leaving”
You never said “goodbye”
You were gone before I knew it,
And only God knew why.

There are no words to tell you
Just what I feel inside
The shock, the hurt, the anger
Might gradually subside

A million times I’ll need you
A million times I’ll cry
If Love alone could have saved you
You never would have died

In Life I loved you dearly
In death I love you still
In my heart you hold a place
That no one could ever fill

It broke my heart to lose you
But you didn’t go alone
For part of me went with you
The day God took you home

Things will never be the same
And although it hurts so bad
I will smile whenever I hear your name
And be proud you were my Dad

No words…a quietly violent death

when_there_is_no_words_to_say_any_more_by_delawer_omar-d6069cr

I want my voice back! I want…no, NEED…to write of these things. The breathless pain, the torturous injustice, the made-for-tv-movie drama filled bullshit, the nightmare I can’t wake from.
I need to tell my story and share my truth. I need to whine incessantly, bitch and moan annoyingly,…I am so desperate to write it…spew it all over the pages like filthy projectile vomit…throw it out there like a slab of disgusting rancid wretched meat into the cesspool of anonymous oblivion.
Why can I not? Why can’t I get it OUT?
It’s as though I was sucker punched in the gut taking all wind from my body and before I could breathe again to get that out on paper, I was sucker punched again in the head this time so I couldn’t breathe OR think to tell about it…and as I tried to catch my breath and regain my senses this time, the blows just started pummeling me non-stop, chronic sucker punches from all directions…turning my already delicate world upside town like my earth became a blender and I the sole lonely contents…viciously being grinded, smacked, punched, kicked, ripped, shredded into a puddle where there once was at least the shell of a human being with a soul, a heart, and internal organs floating aimlessly inside. Now a puddle of nothing… what would I even be a puddle of now? Tears, blood, scar tissue, liquefied brain mass, and picked scabs? ….all inside this skin of a shell holding the random, chaotic leftovers of the human blender. Deceptively with no signs of the inner sheer pandemonium from the outside.
But where is my voice? The dust has settled a bit. The desperate reaches of my mind make daily attempts to reassemble in some sort of working order… They’ve not succeeded yet, but with some coaxing and reminding, I can take breaths here…and there….when my brain remembers to remind my body to breathe…. Breathe…. Take a breath. There you go. Deeper….release…repeat. but my voice is still feeble and my brain mass still too confused to write.
And dear Lord in heaven, I so desperately need to write of this! I’m suffocating and paralyzed with jumbled emotions, tragedies, and a chronic sense of sheer and dark doom. It’s choking me moment by moment…all right there…but so disorganized and outraged, bleeding and messy…that it shuts up my voice. My god damned voice. The only fucking thing I’ve ever ALWAYS had. My voice which when couldn’t speak, would write…and write…and write…til the wee hours of dawn or midnight candles burned into non-existence. When my mother choked me with fear and hatred, read my journals, and punished me for them, I wrote at school and saved them in my trusty old orange locker, tossing them in the garbage on the last day of school. Or, I wrote poetry, cleverly disguising truth with whimsically mysterious words that only I knew the meaning, rhyme, and reason… Pretending it was just a magical DisneyWorld of words
But I fucking spoke. I spoke with pen and paper, my passion for words and an inner fearless light that no one could shut me up from there. Not that place. Not my place; my only place in the universe where somehow the quiet horrors or indescribable pain came to life and existed. They existed like the thoughts running through your mind exist and skip and frolic fearlessly. And no one could deny them there or punish them or twist them into something they never were.
I had a fucking voice.
Now, I am wordless, voiceless, a scattered being tossing about on the wind like my daddy’s loving ashes…and yet I’m not emotionless.
I do not exist…and yet in the cruelest irony of them all, somehow I do still exist within that very blender of pummeled non-existence.
Without a voice, I don’t know how…or why… I’m forced to exist at all.

Sunlight Returns

Daddy's home....

Daddy’s home….

Dear Daddy,

I always feel your general presence around me and I’m thankful for that. However, as this long winter has dragged on and on and on without one single sound of your voice and not once watching you come in the door in your big red coat, brisk from the winter air, I realized something today.

As the sun finally shone into the windows of your big old house, I could REALLY feel you today and sense you everywhere. I stopped for a minute looking at that sunlight streaking across the floor and felt your presence more than I have in months. (I’ve really missed you, by the way!)

You are always here, with me each moment… You were the only constant light I knew in my life. The passing lights like jobs, accomplishments, friends, boyfriends, husbands, and even children…were all just temporary flashes of brightness passing in my life, like car headlights lights on a highway. You…you were always shining. Always. And I was fortunate that you chose to shine your light on me every day and in every way possible for the duration of your entire existence here on this Earth. Big smiles, bigger laughs, kind words, hugs, gifts, help, love, wisdom, prayers, listening, friendship, or advice…you were always shining your light on me somehow in any way you possibly could think of. And just like one can’t possibly fully understand good without knowing bad or right without knowing wrong, I’m not sure one notices how very dark their world truly is, until a bright light which could always be seen somewhere scattering its bright particles over every darkness, has been fully extinguished. Your light always shined on me; from a distance growing up, it perpetually shined inside my heart through understanding and trusting in your unconditional love and up close, it beamed on me directly with warm, smiling rays of your brightness, kindness, inner joy, and love.

So, today when the first sunny day finally came through after this horribly long and bleak winter, as I looked at it and took a moment to be grateful for it, you came immediately to mind. And it felt like you walking through that door. For one split second even, I almost expected you, yourself, to come walking in the door from that light as though you had carried it into the house personally to shine on me in your death even as you did in your lifetime.

I love you Daddy. I miss you. I talk to you every day and I pray you can hear me now even just half as well as you did when you were here.

The Death of Muchness

It's all empty.

It’s all empty.

It is a cruel irony that after 43 years of begging for love, begging to be deemed “worthy” of love, life, existence, the right to have feelings and thoughts, to count as a human being in this world I never requested to be brought into….
That I give up because I don’t. I don’t deserve those things. I can’t even give birth to anyone who will believe the nonsense hope I’ve been holding onto since my earliest memory… That I, too, am worthwhile.
I don’t know why God or whoever, put me here…a punching bag of regret and ridiculous dreams I guess…a cautionary tale in why not to love or hope or believe we all matter, each and every one. I make the easiest target. Hell, it’s not even sport!
He came to me last night… out of the very same deep blue abyss from where I starting losing my muchness. Imagine that?
I think it’s been since October that I saw him last… No communication whatsoever between then and now. …until last night. Until last night…gosh, that could be THE defining description of the past eight years of him! Until last night… Until last night… Until last night…
And I can’t possibly know why. I know how – via cab. I know what – nothing but a moment. I know where – right here. I will never know why though. Why last night? Why after all this time again? Why…? Why me? Why not she? Or that one? Or this one here? Why?
And that defining moment of which I’ve now had 1,462,892 and chosen the same definition again and again. Ugh…fuck that moment dammit AND my stuck-like-a-skipping-record repeated choice.
And driving him to his truck this morning, I ask myself the question, why? Do I even feel anything anymore? Once upon a time, I was simply trying to hold desperately to my muchness. My muchness is long gone now, so why?
The physical element isn’t totally gone…so is that my why? Without my muchness, even that physical aspect is altered from before. It is good, but not the phenomenon it was with my love, hope, faith, and muchness. Now, it is simply what it is, which is nothing. Nothing whatsoever.
The good part is, I can take it or leave it finally…so “taking it” actually feels like a choice, an option. And, it is good to feel it won’t kill me either way. Can’t kill that which is already dead.
Yes, I am dead. At this point, it is all just borrowed moments. Tiny flashing moments borrowed from a collection of my muchness memorabilia. So… why?
Why not? What matters is gone and the rest…well, it just doesn’t matter either way.

Velvet Validity

It felt like his innocence was gone. I saw that in him in glimpses before of his cruel apathy, but this time was different. And not just an age thing either, it was a sexual thing… I think any time you go back to someone you had before, it’s never the same. And it’s certainly never exactly the way you have formed the memories in your mind over the absent time. For me, it’s always a bit of a disappointment; it’s somehow just less than it was before…or maybe than it had been in your rose colored hindsight.

And yet, not exactly; not with him. No, my every moment with him, comical, serious, sexual, friendly is all blanketed with the velvet validity of everything I remember. All my time with him is though. He is my exception. My exception to every rule. I said to him, “I do want to be friends…and I get sad when I think we can’t be. I mean, I love you…I love you either way, you know?” He responded, “I know you do.” Yes, he does know.

I’m playing Rose Colored Glasses – the song that in my mind always defined my dad’s unconditional and enduring love for my mother. How strange that even as a child with no comprehension of my parents’ marriage or romantic love at all really, I always felt that song was my daddy’s song for my mother. Maybe it’s the conversation we had one day while riding in his red Bonneville with the pin striped velour seats I thought were so soft and pretty. I was maybe 10 or 11 and this song came on the radio and he turned it up and said in his deep joyously loud voice, “Oh baby, your daddy sure burned this one up!” I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked him what he meant by that and he laughed and said, “I used to play that one on the jukebox over and over and over again until people would tell me to knock it off!” Wise beyond my years even then about lost or unrequited love, Daddy didn’t even have to actually say the words, I knew he meant this happened during the worst of his heartbreak era after my mother left him.

I am undoubtedly my father’s daughter. My mother never suffered from silly nostalgic memories or wasted time wallowing in a broken heart from lost love. My sister surely doesn’t suffer that affliction either. Neither of them would ever be such ridiculously silly romantics. Just me. Just me…and my daddy. So maybe it’s my family legacy that I uphold with this unconditional and enduring love I have for D? Maybe this kind of everlasting depth of devotion just runs in my veins?

Perhaps the only love that could have forever kept me from accepting my love for D again is my daughter’s… Her beautiful heart was the only thing which gave me the strength to at least minimize the depth of emotion I have for this man and place it on that tiny back burner. …And as life’s cruel steel-fisted irony would have it, I now no longer have hers.

For the love of Pete, will my life ever cease to fully represent the sappiest of country songs? Having been born into a situation of unrequited maternal love, chronic loss, regular betrayal, a thick aura of unrequited love surrounds me as I live my silly old Lifetime Movie life. And I don’t fool myself anymore into believing my happy ending might come. I think this is just what my life was meant to be for some reason: a cautionary tale about love and loss – the kind where you cry at the end because your heart aches, not tears of joy that it all turned around and the heroine overcame at the end. Hell, maybe I’m not even the heroine? Maybe I’m just the sideline story going on in the background, as the good guy gets the girl and rides into the sunset hand in hand with the love of his life? Maybe my daddy was the star of the show and it ended bittersweet…or maybe it’s one of my daughters’ show? And the happy ending will come for her life?

Oh well, I just love him. And just as I feel some sense of resentment at that blasted stubborn truth I can’t seem to change no matter what I do(ugh!), I hear another song which perfectly identifies my daddy as well, Here For a Good Time.
Daddy enjoyed life to its fullest all the way to his very last second. He may have felt the acute sting of lost love just like I do, but he never let it stop him from laughing, loving, and living to the fullest for very long. He had hiccups from it and he kept right on going. Unlike him, I have full-on break downs.

So, in his honor, I’m not going to beat myself up today for loving this man the way I do. I’m just not. It isn’t going to change anything, so I may as well just embrace it. After all, the unconditional love of my daddy is gone now and my daughters don’t care either way anymore. And even brief moments with D give me the bittersweet glimpses of joy my daddy miraculously maintained with his rose-colored love for my mother till the very end of his life. Bittersweet was good enough for my daddy till his dying day, so it’s surely good enough for me to appreciate and not resent or fight.

After all, it really just is exactly what it is.