On Wednesdays, I get up at 7am to take Luke to school at 8am. He had fixed himself a hearty portion of corned beef hash with a scrambled egg mixed in. It was tight getting out of the house in the nearly sub-zero temperatures. I dropped him off, fiddled around a little catching up online and went back to sleep for a couple of hours.
Last night, Luke and I were on our own for dinner, so I took him to IHOP after his final makeup basketball game against St. Andrews Park Ridge. (They lost, barely.) On the drive home, Luke asked me if my father would've liked him, thinking because my dad was a cop when he died that he'd be mean, when nothing could be farther from the truth. I told Luke he was a big softie and a pussycat, that the prisoners scared him more than he scared them when he worked in the Skokie courthouse carting prisoners around from jail to court, where he would confiscate all types of contraband from the prisoners, many of which the loon would bring home to myself and my brother. (I still carry the kubaton weapon in my pocket when I'm riding the L. It could kill someone in an instant and I know how to use it, FYI.) I regaled the story again (which I'm sure I've told him before) about the boy who was chasing me around during a basketball game when I was in 5th or 6th grade, whom my dad, in full uniform, handcuffed to the Pre-K classroom doorknob, leaving him until he pleaded for his life and promised not to chase me around anymore.) About the only criticism I could give Luke regarding his grandpa was that he would've told Luke to cut his hair; otherwise, he'd have been crazy about him and vice-versa.
When you lose a parent who never met your children, you kind of wish for what I call "just one afternoon." Nothing grandiose like fishing or kite-flying, just sitting in a diner, having some coffee, or sitting in the living room of your house. Just enough hours for your mom or dad to cross-look at you, look at your kid, cross-look at you again, think about himself and silently whisper a "Damn!" ("That kid needs a hair cut!")
(I think that's what I like most about visiting my Uncle Jerry, my dad's big brother. His anecdotes (which are always preceded by a "when we lived on XYZ Avenue and the paint store was at Damen and Armitage...") paint a portrait whose espirit de goofy is the undertone of both my brother and myself, and slightly more loosely, my own son.)
While I was sleeping this morning, I had a vivid dream of encountering my father again--in the incarnation in which I last remember him--early 40's.....driving me to Adler on his giant fire truck (remember, he was a fireman before he was a sheriff). I was supposed to meet with someone regarding my (failing, though not by my own doing) community internship, and my father kept telling me not to worry about it. As is prevalent in my dreams about him, I asked him where he had been, and he didn't answer. We met up with an African-American woman who represented one of the women in charge of my service project at school, and my dad said, "She's here. That's all you need." The woman said to him, "You've been sober for what, 5 years?" And Dad said, "More or less." It was a non-issue. He dropped me off, nary a hug or kiss goodbye, and the fire truck was gone. I don't know where he'd been or where he was going. That's the general theme of my recurring dreams about my father. He just shows up. I don't know where he's been or where he's going, but he can never stay.
Ironically, when I regaled this story (begrudgingly, I know she doesn't like to talk about Dad) to my mom this afternoon, she ironically had a dream that her own late father picked her up to take her somewhere in the white Mustang my grandparents had (it was grandma's car, they were WAY hip). She wasn't sure about his presence in the dream either, but I found it interesting that we both had dreams of our late fathers the same night.
Guy's daughter was baking an angel food cake recently and couldn't remember the ratio of butter required for the recipe, and her first inclination was to call Madame Guy and ask her. Yet she couldn't. And that stark realization is one of the first stages of grief. And all of us who have lost parents or grandparents go through it. I'm sure Kate has had thousands of things she'd like to call her mom up in Massachusetts and excitedly tell her, but she can't. Death is funny that way. So much is left unsaid, unknown, unfinished, unbeknownst. A stick of butter in the frosting for Guy's daughter's angel food cake? Start flipping through her recipe book, as my mom has hundreds of times making my grandma's recipes. Did my grandpa drive Gram's Mustang at ANY point? Most likely not. (He left the hot car to the wife!) Does Kate have news about her blood tests being good or other anecdotes she'd like to share with her mom? Of course. She still has things she wishes she could share with her father, as I do.
When I wrote about the 30th anniversary of my father's death, and a friend told me he thought my dad's been watching over me all this time, I truly believe that. His appearances in my dreams are usually a pleasant visitation of a "holy cow, it's you!" revelation. Yet it's always temporary. With Madame Guy gone so few months ago, I wonder if Guy is dreaming about her yet. I assured him that if he isn't yet, he will. We all do. Our parents and grandparents are such fixtures in our lives and in our psyches that their reassuring appearances in our dreams are reassuring, rebooting, and realigning. They assure our spirits that their souls aren't as far away as we, as earthly beings, imagine them to be. "You're gone, your body's gone, but your presence is right beside me."
It's comforting, it's reassuring, and it's saddening. It's part of why we should appreciate those whom we love in the present time all the more. It's why an extra hug or a hand-hold makes so much sense. "I want to feel you now so that when you're gone, and you infiltrate my mind, I have every sensory recollection of what you felt like when you were present with me."
That's not to say we don't do that in the present as well. One might gaze into an eye, and memorize the hue of the brown or the green and gold flecks. Or the turn of a cheek. Or a shiver in the cold. Snapshots. Personal, real-life Instagrams we compose with our brains; after all, that's what our brains are wired to do, without electronic augmentation. But over time, we change. We age. We reform, both in body and mind. We either stagnate or become more compelling. Much is in what we are willing to invest within ourselves and the support and encouragement of those around us.
My personal artistic community is growing. I'm reconnecting with writers, with linguists, with painters, with photographers, with disc jockeys, with intellectuals, with humorists, the wise, and that satisfies me. I feel that the more I can envelop myself surrounded by thinkers I love, the more of the spirit people like my father would be happy with whom I am friends and colleagues. They may not have been his bread/butter, but my heart knows he had higher hopes for me as an individual.
That's why he dropped me off at Adler in the fire truck. Right?
There was this blizzardy thingy weather-wise last Monday night that threw a wrench into my dinner plans with Guy, whom I haven't seen since his mother's wake in October. I still have his Christmas presents to give him, and it's almost March. He worked from home, so the commute to come and get me in and near Chicago would've taken him hours. It has nothing to do with me being worth the effort or anything--rather, we both had shoveling and snow-blowing to do, and him sitting on the tollway for 3 hours just to wine and dine me didn't seem worth it. I firmly asked for a reschedule, which I was granted for this coming Monday night. At the restaurant I originally chose. A reasonable time. Point being, I wasn't a baby about it. I understood, which is a rarity for me. I was grown up about it because I guess I'm more grown up than I give myself credit for. I have been known to stomp my feet and pout when our plans don't work out in the past, but really, I think I'm beyond that.
Do I miss Guy? Oh my, yes. Terribly. I write to friends about him and the echo of his giggle is in the back of my head. I can close my eyes and see his dimples. I open my phone, and the picture he sent me of his temporary tattoos from a trip last year give me pause and make me smile. These smiles and laughs are tempered with an ache. I don't text him as incessantly as I used to, leaving him his peace as he weaves through his days, which are undoubtedly jammed. I promised myself I'd let him lead, though I've thrown hints about getting together for quite some time. I just really think I'm done being childish about the pursuit of his affections and have come to accept what he can give when he can give it.
Because I love him.
(Ignore the spelling/punctuation errors in the above!)
Ours isn't a strictly physical love story....we've had tepid moments, but eros hasn't guided our decisions or actions (though he's very attractive). He's not counting every pound I've gained, with a measuring tape around my arms. I'm not counting the gray hairs in his mustache, unless it's to admire how much more adorable he's become and how much wisdom each hair he has earned. We never put any pressure on one another to maintain a certain physique or fit into a certain pair of pants. We don't judge or criticize the other. Why not? Because we're grown ups with grown up kind of love for one another--we're buddies. More importantly, I think in the last 6 months, since his mother's passing, our love has patiently matured, albeit distantly. Don't get me wrong--I'd still leap onto the guy if given the chance, 'cause he's hot, but that's not, nor has ever been, the central focus of our friendship. Which, to me, is very telling.
Things are quieting down with the estate of Madame Guy, I think, though I will have to wait until I see him Monday to hear the full scoop. Mostly, though, I want to know how HE'S doing. How HE'S coping. I don't want the evening to be all about me and the anecdotes of my interesting friends. If we have a few laughs and he goes through a couple of bottles of wine, so be it. I will remind him of the pictures I saw at the wake of what a cute little boy he was, and what a handsome young man he became, and how dashing he's aged. I can't say the same for myself growing older, but I just remember he loves me, flaws and all. I want to know he's got support, that he's being taken care of, and that he's coping okay. Never mind me and all my stupid life problems, which is largely why I haven't blogged a lot lately, I have a lot of friends and a son and school to take care of.
I have a friend who has a boyfriend who seems to never be 100% happy with her. Or at least that's her perception of him. He seems persnickety about her weight and she is obsessed with it. If she gains a few ounces, that's 2 more hours exercising. He'll thumb the skin under her upper arms and tell her she needs to tone more. And she takes this to heart! On the whole, he's stumbling to please her, when he's not criticizing her fitness, and she's stumbling to feel worthy of those gestures and compliments. All superficial nonsense, mind you. They're a different breed than Guy and I are, so what's important to them isn't important to Guy and I.
You can't begin to love until you learn to accept love given to you, in whatever form that is. Dare I say, her level of self-loathing surpasses even mine, which is pretty fucking bad. I'm trying to teach her good harm reduction strategies to the self-wounds she's inflicting, and I think she's doing better with that, and don't think I don't get it for a second. One has to be in a pretty bad place with oneself to self-harm. Believe me. (Yes, she's in therapy. No, her therapist doesn't know what she's doing.)
The situation is complicated and I can't say much more than that, other than to say how thrilled I am that I'll see Guy on Monday and feel his warm arms around my new pudge. But methinks, deep down, that won't matter to him and he won't say a word about it. We have plans to go to a tony Italian restaurant in the area for dinner and merriment. Maybe a tear or two. But I wrote him a card with his gifts that said this:
Some people are just meant to be friends. That's Guy and me. That thread has tangled and stretched plenty in 5 years, but no, it will never break. That's the kind of friend I am.
It was 6 years ago today that I went stumbling into rehab and into the psych ward for the first and last time. I have no further use for 12-stepping programs, and have essentially quit counting months or days since my last drink or narcotic...because they're still part of me and my makeup. I said something snarky on Facebook that I didn't need to go to a 12-step meeting, collect a Chuck E. Cheese coin, gain a round of applause and high fives for something I don't believe in anymore. I said to put it in the "win" column and call it a day. So that's what I did.
Ironically, I have to attend one AA, one NA and one SMART meeting for my addictions class. SMART I'm not familiar with, but I have the advantage of being an addict to get me into those "closed meetings," where you have to have a substance problem and aren't just a guest. Lucky me.
More after Monday's dinner date, within the limits of British decency. Trying to respect his desire for more privacy. So shhhh. Table for 2, please.
"Love don't make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We're not perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us. We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit." Johnny Cammareri (Nicholas Cage) in "Moonstruck"
That mallet-wielding smash to the all of the house's mirrors you wish you could take, if not for all the broken glass shards you don't want lodged in your feet.
That ostracizing from your mother whenever you buy new clothes (with your own money)--because they're clothes in a bigger size, just weeks after you bought clothes in a bigger size. The lingering insult of "How much bigger do you plan to get? Do you plan on losing weight?"
The constant impression that when you're out with friends, you're everyone's funny but fat friend. You can be counted upon for your wisdom and a hearty laugh, but you're not the one anyone's eyeing up at the restaurant or bar, wherever you are. Your intellect is sharp as a tack. You're still the same person they loved before you gained weight.
The notion that the guys you like now shun you because psychotropic drugs caused you to gain weight, which was totally not your fault.
The off-handed comments from the rest of your family (your portly, brutish son aside--the only one who hasn't commented on the subject) hurt.
The disbelief of well-meaning, supportive but surely judging friends who say "You are gorgeous!" when your face is all broken out and you look like you're carrying triplets. While friends try and lift you up, there's nary a word they can say that doesn't bring you crashing, plummeting down further into the abyss of your frame. Mind you, said friends are tiny people. The truly gorgeous ones. It's all so superficial, yet it is so self-demeaning that it's disgusting--demeaning--deflating. Kate firmly believes that men who are worth their salt see beyond the Barbie doll image of a woman and accept and adore her for who she is on the inside AND the outside...that truly the man who will appreciate you for who you are will see you beyond your weight and find your level of intellect and wit far more attractive. I'm having a hard time believing that, at present.
For a psychiatric patient, you can't hide the obvious, inside or out. Just last May, when my psychiatrist began upping the doses of my psych meds (antipsychotics and mood stabilizers), I still looked HAWT. I was at a healthy weight for my height, and I'm relatively tall at 5'8". The lowest I got to was 113 lbs when I was "situationally anorexic;" meaning, stressors would cause me to self-starve. (Hello, job at medical practice and PTSD from Chris!) But hell, I looked fantastic when I turned 40 and was tiny as a mouse. I could wear whatever I wanted, and I still have a closet(s) full of cute clothes for tiny people, having purged 13 bags of heavy people clothes from my house last year, vowing to yourself that you'd never get *that * heavy again (a size 8/10).
Now, at almost 42, having gained a ton of weight from my psychiatrist tripling my doses to keep me sane, I'm embarrassed to even look at myself, let alone let any other person on earth see me who might know I used to be a stone fox. The addition of the Risperdal a few months ago caused me to gain 20+ pounds in ONE MONTH before Guy had to put me on a water pill to get rid of fluid retention and edema, and my shrink and I decided MAYBE that's not the right medicine for me.
Consequently, I, myself, without my psychiatrist's knowledge, have cut those doses by 2/3. Gee, I wonder why I keep rapid cycling and tailspinning. To me, it's a trade off. Color me vain, which I am, but I'd rather be skinny and insane than fat and happy. Anyone who's over 40 knows after 40, it's close to impossible to lose gained weight, especially when I'm not the house chef (Ma is). I've said before, if I had my own place and did my own "cooking," Luke and I would be raw vegans. To lose the weight, I'd have to starve myself again or work out like a banshee.
Really, the only trouble with that whole super-skinny bag was that I kept getting sick in the gallbladder and pancreas, for idiopathic reasons unknown, though behind my back, I was being drug and alcohol tested every day of every time I was in the hospital (4 or 5 hospitalizations, unbeknownst to me, without my consent or knowledge until after the fact..I came out clean and sober every time). I threw up or had the trots numerous times every day, especially at work. I could keep down 2 or 3 jars of baby food a day. And I HATE throwing up. My gallbladder stopped working, so it came out. My pancreatic duct was blocked, so a stent was put in for a while to open up the floodgates, and I haven't had it again, though I lived through some terrible pain. I'd make a horrible bulimic. I couldn't perform at work. My glucose was WAY out of whack, and would drop so low that I literally couldn't even FUNCTION at work and would fall asleep on a whim (not unlike I do at school if I have too many carbs in the morning).
Once I recovered and started grad school, when we were issued ID's, I was youthful and fresh-faced, thin-faced. Today, not only is my spirit broken regarding the school and their treating me like I AM one of the 25-year olds who attend (do I REALLY need practicing for a job interview?), but my frame is no longer lusted after by the young courtisans...it's no longer recognizable to professors who had me in class a year ago. The school keeps issuing us ID's and public transport cards with that original ID picture on it...no one would believe me if I said, "No, this is really me."
The vanity train doesn't halt there.
On the days when I'm not going downtown or out somewhere, I don't spike up my hair. Why waste the glue when I'm wearing a hat most of the day and/or hanging out at home? The hair glue makes my hair look darker than it actually is. Oh my Dad, you should see me scrutinize when I look in the bathroom mirror and run my fingers through my towel-dried hair. It's still a medium brown altogether, but the chunks of gray are impossible to narrow down in order to pluck to myself feel more youthful. Still, I refuse to color my hair (which may change by the time I'm 50). I guess I take after my dad who was almost totally gray by 35. My brother and mom have nary a gray hair in sight. Another superficiality, but remember, I go to school with people in their mid 20's and have very close friends who dye their hair I wonder if they'd be gray if they went au nautral. I've talked it over my stylist. who said my natural color would be very hard to replicate, because it's brown and red and gray. Figures.
I keep promising I'll do the Yin Yoga by Paul Greely DVD which changed Steven's life, and God knows, would probably would help out wit my snow-shoveling back pain. Joining the gym again is a realistic possibility in a few days when the stipend should come in tomorrow or Saturday. And I still think I could bring Luke as a workout buddy. A girl in my band hired a personal trainer from Zip Fitness to help her along (we're about the same size, but I'm taller). She didn't think it was that expensive.
Monday night is Bar Louie night again for tots and merriment again with Meg, and Guy's been informed that if should choose to stop by, I'll have his damn Christmas gifts with me, though I'm not sure I want him to see me in this condition. I can't help but feel I'm being judged by everyone, everywhere I go, every day. I'm fearful that Guy's distance from me is because I'm no longer slim arm candy to accompany his arm, though Meg assures me Guy's not that superficial. And I know I am not supposed to speak of Guy in my blog anymore, but it's glaring my eyesight.
Maybe, through some miracle, or some intense, 6 days a week, hour and a half a day workouts again (though they totally don't fit into my school schedule and I have scant motivation), I'll fit back into my tiny person clothes by the time Luke graduates...in 4 months...almost gonna happen. At the very least, hopefully I'll at least have better hair than any of the other 8th grade moms...
My Fat Elvis period. I mean no disrespect to the BBW's out there....but I'm a tiny girl frame that happened to gain weight in all the wrong places because of psychotropic drugs. I'm pretty much disgusted and no amount of "you are beautiful!" is going to cement it into my head that I am beautiful. I know I'm beautiful.....when I'm thin as a rail.
"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 life...school, 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."