Wednesday, November 7, 2012

To Dad

This Sunday, the 11th, would have been my Dad's 67th birthday.

I'm writing this on the 7th because to tell you the truth, I'm not so sure if I sat down on Sunday and tried to get through it I would be able to, and I want to put something out in the ether about this man that you unfortunately will never get to meet.

He passed away from cancer on my Mothers birthday, May 4th, in 2003.  It's been nine years and counting - and my brain still can't seem to wrap around the fact that that number is only going to get bigger.

His birthday falls on Veteran's Day here in the U.S.  For some strange reasons, I happen to have eaten my lunch about a dozen times in my life next to the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. to people watch.  Most of the time people are just walking by it, sometimes they stop to take pictures, sometimes they stop and look at it for a moment before moving on to chasing pigeons.  More than once, however, I've seen a grown man walk up to the wall like he were approaching a casket at a funeral, clutch it to steady himself and burst into tears.

That's how I feel about my Dad's death.  Most people don't know anything about it, a chosen few were aware of it and moved on to the point where it's just occupying a dark shelf in the back of their minds.  For me, I've seen too much and I remember it all.  If I think about it too hard the Earth becomes unsteady, and as long as I live he'll never be another name or a statistic that I can easily pass by.

Watching cancer is to watch a monster.  It's like your loved one has turned to sand by the ocean, and as sure as you can measure the ticking of a clock you watch the ocean rise up and slowly take little bits of them away, one wave at a time.  In the moment you don't even care where 'away' is, because all you know is that it's not with you.  You're overwhelmed with the sense that they're communing with something you can't see, something you've forgotten and they're remembering.

Losing a parent is something I know some of you know plenty about.  And I'm sure I can speak for all of us who are a part of that particular horrid club, it's not one you imagine being a member of quite so young (I joined at 21).  It's both a comforting and horrible fact to know that eventually, everyone will be a member.  They'll all feel differently about it when it happens, but everyone will eventually understand.

My Dad was the strongest person I've ever, or will ever know - physically, emotionally, you name it.  I know those just seem like words that people say - but believe me, he's the strongest person a lot of people have ever known.  The only ever time I genuinely saw him break down was when he was sick and apologizing to me for ever putting me in the position to experience losing him. (And while I genuinely hate having lost him, I am nothing but grateful for every moment I had him - 21 years with him was a thousand times greater a gift than a lot of people have in a lifetime with a father).

For me, joining the loss club meant realizing that the center does not hold, that anything and everything can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye.  Everything, everywhere, ends.  And as anyone in our infertility club will tell - the hardest part of loss isn't necessarily forcing yourself to go on with your life, but it's in re-entering the normal world and realizing that people just kept on living theirs after everything was taken away from you.  The world did not stop nor is it going to be any gentler with you because yours did.

My husband missed meeting my Dad by 8 months.  When people ask how I knew that Bub was 'meant' for me, part of my response is always that he had lost his Dad at the exact same age as me (to the month) and that he was the first person who told me it was going to be okay who I could believe. He's also a man in every sense of the word, much as my Father was. Had they met, they would have loved each other.

Of course I want to talk about my Dad's life and what a good person he is - but as any of you who have had a miscarriage will understand, even when you try to focus on the beginning or the middle of a story, when it's a sad one the end always has a way of finding you.

My Dad was kind of hysterical.

He wasn't like me in the outgoing kind of way.  He was thoughtful, and chose his audience but when he had one, he was hysterical.

He would persistently suggest whenever a boy came over to my house that he was going to put on his neon shorts from the 80s, his Stetson hat and cowboy boots.  Occasionally he would come find me in the house wearing that outfit and do a little jig.

If we were driving (and it's a known fact that he was the worst driver) and I wasn't paying attention, he would scream out of nowhere "Jenny!  Jenny!  LOOK! LOOK! OH MY G-D!".  I would yell "WHAT?!" in a panic, and then he would casually point out the window and say "a tree".

Whenever I would leave the house he would say, word for word, "look both ways before crossing the street and watch out for people running red lights".

Once, in a blizzard, he walked a mile just to get me tampons.

Apropos of nothing, he would make a point of every few days hugging me, kissing me on my cheek and saying "you make it all worth while".

He never talked down to me about anything - politics, sex, my ridiculous teenage problems or whatever random Jenny thought I had.  Not once, in my entire life, did he ever make me feel like anything other than charming, capable, smart and loved.

He taught me that defensive driving is the way to drive.

He taught me that there are people on this planet who can eat beets raw (disgusting but true).

He taught me that I'm capable of outfoxing any man at anything.

He taught me that the people who run around screaming "you should be afraid of me!" are never the ones you should actually be afraid of, but the ones to be pitied.

He taught me that there are moments in this life that require absolute seriousness, and so when there's a moment that doesn't, you shouldn't take it so seriously.

He taught me that I am a force to be reckoned with - to this day when things get hard I think "Jenny, Dad would've had the utmost confidence that you can handle this".

He taught me so many things that if I spent my time thinking about why I have made any choice in my life, Dad would always be somewhere in there.

One thing he could never quite convince me of in life is country music.  He was more of a CCR, Rolling Stones kind of guy, but he did have a tendency to sing "On the Road Again", and tried many times to convince me of the validity of Mr.'s Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.  I remained unmoved.

After he died I had a hard time letting myself get truly emotional about it - it's just not my way. I think both of my parents would prefer it if I didn't try to be strong all the time and just let things out, but that was especially true of my Dad. A little bit after he died, someone showed me this Johnny Cash video.  I burst into genuine tears, felt every bit of it all at once and thought "damnit, you win".  (Watch, it's beautiful).

So for you, Daddy.

And I would trade every last bit of my empire of dirt for just one more day with you.


  1. Sometimes a post is so moving and beautiful and sad that it leaves me speechless. This is that kind of post.

  2. That was such a beautiful post. I joined the same club at 21 and my hubs missed meeting him by 11 months. If I could have one wish it would be to introduce my husband to my dad just once.

  3. love you...that is all...

  4. Oh Jenny. My heart goes out to you. This is such a beautiful post. Your dad sounds like an awesome guy!

  5. What a beautiful tribute to your dad. Wishing you peace as you remember him on his birthday, and every day before and after.

  6. Wow, Jenny. I cannot relate to this kind of loss, and I dread the day I ever have to. This was so touching to read. I'm so sorry that you had to lose your dad like that, and so young. I'm going to watch this video now and cry a few tears for you. I love this song. Big big big hugs.

  7. This was so beautiful. What a beautiful picture you painted, hugs to you.

  8. Ah, friend. In solidarity.

  9. Oh Miss Jenny...this was an incredibly moving entry, and I'm honored you would share that with us. He sounds like such a special guy. Hubs lost his father 3 years ago to cancer, and had to watch the "ocean turn him to sand", as you so perfectly put it. It has left a permanent mark on the way he views life--the words you wrote sound so similar to things he has tried to articulate to me. Wishing you much peace.

  10. You are so lucky. I wish I had a father as amazing as yours is. He sounds wonderful. I will be thinking about you this week. Cancer just sucks.

  11. Wow, Jenny. Just wow. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face and yet I feel as if they are tears of genuine happiness. Obviously not because I am happy that you lost your Dad, but because the love you shared with him emanates from each and every word on this page. I even read this aloud to my husband who lost his father 7 years ago. He said he had never heard anything that spoke to deeply as to the true sense of what losing a parent is like.

    It makes my heart swell to know that you have a place where you can share your words that are always so succinct, thought provoking, and elegantly stated. Thank you for sharing this. xoxo

  12. So sweet, I really enjoyed hearing about your dad, who sounds truly amazing. I hope Sunday is a good day for you.

  13. I joined the club at 22 after my mom died of breast cancer. She was all I had. I'm barely know the rest of my family. K missed meeting her by a lot longer than a few months but there are many times I wished he had at least met her once.

    Such a beautiful post. Your dad sounds amazing.

  14. Beautiful! You were right - I cried..... It seems like just yesterday.

  15. Oh Jenny...what heartwrenching love, loss and beauty there is in your words. I started reading this and had to stop as it made me cry, I just wanted to reach across the pond and hug you. Your dad sounds like the most awesome dad possible and I'm so sorry you had to lose him.
    Hugs xx

  16. This is a beautiful, wonderful tribute. Your father sounds amazing and I'm so glad you had the honor to share 21 years with him. I'm thinking of you and your family over the coming days.

  17. This is a beautiful, beautiful piece my dear. Your father shines out of it and even though we never knew him, I feel like you gave us a glimpse of the amazing man he must have been.

    As the daughter of a wonderful man myself my heart bleeds for you that you lost him so young. My father is my rock and I cannot imagine loosing him yet (or ever). My father taught me what it is to be a real man and I could never have settled for a lesser man as my husband (this could be why I took so long to find one).

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, I am honored to have been let into this part of your life.

    That photo of you gorgeous father just radiates with strength and humor. I bet he gave the best hugs, am I right?

  18. Also speechless... your dad sounds so amazing (and look at that photo - what a powerhouse!). This is a beautiful tribute to him. My hubby also lost his mom at a young age, 19, and also to cancer; having to endure that horribly drawn-out process has definitely left an indelible mark on him, he still has nightmares almost 15 years later. It's something you'll never forget, but you're doing the right thing by focusing on everything he's taught you and honoring his memory.

  19. I had to stop reading halfway through, it brought me to tears. It came through how very much he loved you, and how much you loved him. Just from reading this and not knowing your father I can say he is so proud of you my dear. You are so lucky to have such a wonderful father. Your father reminds me of my dad when it comes to humor, I love it!! You my friend are going to be one heck of a mother!!!

  20. I love how you remember him with happy moments.

  21. What a beautiful post. I'm so sorry that you lost your dad so early on in your life, but I think that it is fantastic that you have so many happy memories with him.

  22. I am glad you have so many happy memories of him. My dad died from cancer when I was 7 and my memories are so few. Hold onto those memories. They are so very precious! Love and Hugs!

  23. That is such a beautiful post! I'm seriously sobbing right now. It's so important to pay tribute to those you have loved and lost. I'm so sorry for the loss of your father. I'll be thinking of you hun! Hugs xoxo

  24. "Watching cancer is to watch a monster." I lost my mom to cancer this past June. I've tried to explain it to people, but really how can you? I can't even imagine going through that at 21. Big hugs to you.

  25. Your words, this post, your tenderness was almost too much to get through, but it was also impossible for me not to read 3 times through. Yet how minuscule is that compared to what you went through? Keeping your dad alive by writing like this is something that only you can do. I'm honored to be someone that you shared it with. Hugs & love to you.

  26. I loved reading about your dad... he sounds awesome. My dad died from cancer when I was 16 and he was 62. I can't believe it's been 20 year since he died! He'd be 84 this Christmas Eve- holy shit!

    The worst thing about my dad dying at 16 (for me at least- for him it was the dying part) was that I was 16 and for sure, self-centered and 'too busy' and probably at least 50% asshole (though I know that I was at least an asshole only in the -I've got important things to do way- and not in the -I'm off having wild sex, getting drunk, and dropping out of school way- which meant a lot to him. He was all about education- he was an over-educated fool (as I am now) and I wish he hadn't died before I found out that I got into college and then grad school... I don't believe in heaven or god, but he did. and so for him, I hope he's in heaven where he planned to go, and can see that I did go on to college like he had hoped!

  27. So beautiful I feel the sameway about my dad and I too lost my dad at 21. Belonging to the club at such a young age.

  28. Stunning post. I am so sorry for the loss of your dad and I feel your immense pain through your words. I wish you did not have to carry this pain with you.

  29. I'm late in commenting, but I read this shortly after you posted it, and it's stayed with me since (and will continue to). You conveyed so beautifully how incredible your dad was, and how wonderful your relationship with him was. I'm so sorry you can no longer create such memories with him, but so glad that you have such special ones to carry you through.

  30. Thinking of you today. I lost my mom 2.5 years ago, and while I'm so happy to have had the time with her I did, it still makes me sad to think of the future of my family without her.

  31. Such a moving tribute. Hugs to you!

  32. Aw fuck, I was right. I knew going in I'd be moved, but had no idea how much.

    God, I related to everything you wrote!! And it was such a beautiful tribute to your Father. He sounds so loving, strong and really centred- like he knew what mattered. That is so rare.

    I lost my mother at 23 and my Dad at 33. It's just like you said: the world does not stop moving just because you did. It's weird when you have that moment when you decide it's time to re-enter the world and pick up where you left off after grieving. One the one hand, everyone seems to be moving really fast and it's confusing. On the other hand it's sobering that they have moved on with out you, that in a sense, you died for a little while when you took time out to grieve and the world didn't stop then, either.

    Thanks for sharing this.