Grandpa V.

You will never be a Grandpa

Even though you would have loved it.

They would laugh at every joke

That makes the rest of us roll our eyes.

Your bald head would seem natural

Because grandpas are supposed to be old.

They are supposed to have bad knees and poor eyesight.

No, you will never be a Grandpa

Even though your lap made the best airplane.

Your cracked hands the controllers.

They would embrace and admire

The same goofiness that embarrassed us as teenagers.

You would teach them how to play Pinochle, Euchre, Canasta

And in turn they would teach you how to use an iPhone.

No, you will never hold my children like footballs

Or tell them stories of when I was young.

You will never be a Grandpa

Even though

You would have loved it.

3 Words.

When applying to my first big girl job six months ago, I was asked in an interview to describe myself using three words. Of course I supplied a scripted answer of hard-working, organized, and punctual. While I believe all three of those accurately describe me, when I got home, the question was still stuck with me. I began to think about what three words would describe me with a more brutal honesty. After much pondering, I realized all three  chosen were gifted to me from my father.

First, I am loyal. I will do what needs to be done simply because it needs to be done and I am able to do it. But I can also be loyal to a fault. I will love you with my whole damn being and I will have no idea how to stop when you walk away. The worst part about being that loyal in the world that we live in is that the majority of the people you will love will not be loyal at all. I should tell you that I love that I am loyal. People can depend on me. People can trust me. But I also fucking hate that I am loyal. The truth is, I don’t love often, but when I do love it is 100%. Sadly, I have found that there are very few men who can handle being loved 100%. And my love, when you comes across those men (or women) – the ones who take your loyalty for granted, who take your affection to be mundane – run. Because they do not deserve even 1% of your love and they cannot handle the fire in your soul. You are better off shutting the door in their face, even if your hand gets caught in the process. The pain will go away as time goes on. And I know you’ve heard that a thousand times over, but I promise you it is true. Letting those people into your life is toxic. They will love you, but when they have sucked you dry, they will leave because you have changed. You may try everything to keep them around, stifling your heart and pretending that you do not love 100% when you both know it’s a lie. That is what will kill you. Your hand will heal, but your heart may not.

Secondly, I am service-oriented. I was raised to put others’ needs above my own, so that is what I do. Every job I’ve ever been successful in has involved taking care of someone else in one way or another. I adjust my actions based on the feelings of those around me. I will stop myself from doing what I truly want to do if I know someone else will get hurt in the process. More often than not, that comes back to bite me in the ass. While I am worrying, stressing about how they will respond in a negative way, they are pursuing what they truly want with no regard for other people’s feelings. I met a man who once told me that the perfect relationship is one in which you never have to advocate for yourself because you know your partner has your back. The perfect, symbiotic relationship is one of “let me take care of you, and I’ll let you take care of me as well.” I think this also goes back to being loyal. I will love you 100%, if you also do the same. 

But last, and most important indeed, I am a survivor. As much as I have wanted to crawl into a hole and die, as much as I have wanted to give up and disappear, it is not in my nature to do so. When you lose someone, it absolutely does feel like the end of the world. I remember laying in bed for days. I stayed home from school because the weight of the emptiness was so overwhelming, it took all of my energy to simply get dressed. My appetite vanished right along with any fucks about my appearance. None of that fucking mattered anymore. It felt like everyone and everything was spinning around me a million miles a second, but I was running in slow motion. I remember praying for a car crash, a plane crash, anything that would make the world stop along with me. I remember seeing flames and blades as welcoming friends, offering peace of mind, silence. I remember thinking really morbid, fucked up things, because at the time, all of it sounded better than living my life without him.

But eventually, getting out of bed didn’t seem so daunting. I followed the routine laid out before me and by making myself start each day, I was able to safely end it as well. No, surviving is not easy. But you have to learn to survive before you can truly be alive. 

Reflecting back on this now, I need to not only survive for my own well-being, but also to be a more loyal, service-oriented human being. I care so much about the people I love that I forget to be loyal to myself. I forget to serve myself. While these qualities are usually seen as praise-worthy, they can often be a curse. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of any one else.

You.

You.

And your

hands on my

hips.

Your lips

on my wrist.

You.

Are the breath

that I take

when my heart

forgets to beat.

I cannot breathe

any deeper.

You cannot get

any closer.

Palpitations

for you.

 

For your arms

holding tight.

For my smile

in your eyes.

For my legs

wrapped around.

The sound

of your exhale.

I can see.

This is right.

 

You.

Impossible.

It isn’t until you reach Impossible that caution finally crosses your mind.

Impossible meant untouchable, unattainable, unbreakable.

And what you hoped would be impossible,

incapable of occurring,

was what left you vulnerable, wide open, broken and alone.

Bones were shattered, heart exposed, you were left to pick up the pieces.

Each shard cut like glass as you tried to tape them back together.

Hands shaking, fingers bleeding, the job was done.

You were convinced you were whole again.

Healing all wrong, patches thrown over holes, malunion, denial.

We survived, my mess of bones and I.

Limping through life. Surviving, but guarded, bracing for the worst.

Bracing to break again. Caution: Fragile.

But that is no way to live your life – disjointed and stumbling.

So how do you really heal? How do you mend this mess that you’ve made?

 

You bite the bullet and reset the bone.

You open the wound and drain out the bullshit.

You let go of your crutch and remember how to walk on your own.

And it takes time.

And patience.

And honesty.

 

But trust me when I tell you that you will eventually find comfort in never needing caution.

Find comfort in knowing that when you’ve found the one,

his hand will always find the small of your back

in the middle of the crowd that makes you anxious.

He will react before you even realize you’re in danger.

He will whisper the I Love Yous

that you didn’t know you needed to hear.

His voice will bring you peace.

No, caution will not even cross your mind.

 

DCA to DTW.

I have spent too much of my life looking out windows, waiting.

Yet, I would give anything to stay up here in the clouds, nestled between the white and blue. My downward glance turned intentional. No longer staring at my feet, but at cities I have loved from afar. Truth is, I feel as distant in this window seat as I do on the bar stool next to you.

My favorite place in the world is in the transition home. The limbo between hello and goodbye. Where the movement is slow and patient and calm. Caught in suspension, you are weightless.

Car Talk.

Just because you take it for a test drive, doesn’t mean you have to buy the car… or take it in for a car wash.

But what if you want to buy the car the moment you see it? Not only is it sleek and shiny on the outside, but the interior is beautiful – soft and comfortable. It’s an older model than what I’m used to but it has more horsepower than any other car I’ve ever driven. Not that I’ve driven a lot of cars. You see, I tend to drive the same car for a long time, but eventually they end up breaking down. But when I see this car, I know it will take me to all of the places I want to go. And oh can it go fast! But it also knows how to go slow, especially around tight curves, or on uneven pavement. And it may not be a collector’s item, but it is dependable, low-maintenance, and easy-to-drive. It’s quiet and has wonderful safety ratings, making it very family-friendly. Honestly, this car is every check on my list. I know I need to take it on a few more test drives before I’m ready to officially sign the lease, but my heart is pretty much set on this one.

The Sanctuary.

I can’t help but scowl as I approach the building.

Same structure – subtle differences.

Those same three trees, all pine,

Sprouted between the rocks we used to climb as kids.

Waiting for our mothers to end their conversations.

But that was years ago; we’ve all grown old now.

 

Walking inside, I remember every corner.

My mental map folds itself away.

There is no comfort in this familiarity.

 

I am here for a reason:

A gathering of mourners to my left.

But instead, I turn right.

Walking past new paintings, the same scent of stale coffee fills the air.

 

I pause at the wall of windows.

Looking in, I know I will be alone.

 

As I pull the door open, an all-too-familiar rush of air

fills my lungs with an intimacy I cannot explain.

Yet the sound of its emptiness completely takes my breath away.

The vacant seats feel as hallow as my heart was the last time I was here.

 

This was where we said goodbye.

This is where I exhaled, released.

 

But now I am gasping.

I cannot make my legs walk down the aisle.

I stand with my back against the door.

This room always felt as though someone left a window open:

Airy and unfilled and eerily brisk.

 

I feel the panic rising.

My heart races with the lack of yours here.

I whisper your name.

I want to cry out but I don’t,

For fear of an echo I’m not quite sure I’m ready to hear.

 

I whisper your name with each breath that I catch.

Collecting pieces of myself that I dropped on this floor six years ago.

Gathered, I turn and leave.

 

The wounds will heal with time

but right now, they need to open up and breathe.

Even though it hurts like hell.

 

To Be Alone.

Quite honestly, I suck at being alone. Ironically, I also hate being around a lot of people. It is truly exhausting for me to be in social situations. My ideal group of people is no more than six. Because of this, I have a chronic history of long term relationships. I enjoy settling in with someone and staying with them for a long, long time. I enjoy the feeling of comfortable. I am not alone, but often, I am only with the other person. When one relationship ends, I always find myself itching to fill the space that is left behind. While some of my itchiness is due to scar tissue I’d rather not discuss, it’s mostly there simply because the idea of being alone completely terrifies me. It’s a sad fact, but I’m pretty sure the longest I have gone without a warm body next to me is only about 2 months. Granted, I have always cared about these warm bodies; I’ve even loved most of them, but what I valued the most was the comfort and safety they provided me.

You see, to be alone you have to be honest. To be honest, you cannot lie about what you want or what you need.

And all that I want is to have someone who I can come home and vent about my day to. I want someone who will hold me when I’m sad and take care of me when I’m sick. I want someone who will let me do the same. I want someone who will go on adventures with me, but also chill out and be completely okay with relaxing in silence together. But I need someone who is patient. I need someone who understands the balance of pushing me outside of my comfort zone in necessary moments but also retreating into my comfort zone with me as needed.

When I really take a step back to fully evaluate what it is I’m searching for, it feels impossible to separate out my desires to be a mother from my desires to fall in love. I have such a strong urge to start a family, but I still believe that a family starts with the base of a trusting, faithful partner. But how the hell do I make that happen in the age of Tinder?

I do not want a one night stand. I do not want a fuck buddy. I do not want a friends with benefits. I want a relationship that is meaningful. I want a relationship that is actually fucking going somewhere. But in this day and age, that is too much pressure to place on someone. That is too stressful for most twenty-somethings to consider at this point in time.

So I’ve decided to stop waiting for something to happen. I’ve decided to stop trying to fill the void with a warm body and instead replace the emptiness with the little things that bring me joy. As cliche as it sounds, I am fully committed to this new journey of self love. I am living my life for me and no one else. As this page is designed to benefit me, and not necessarily other people, I have made a list of the moments in my day when I often feel lonely or alone. From that list, I have provided myself with ways to fill those lulls instead of moping around in my loneliness.

  1. Driving home from work – Call one of my people across the country and focus on their day instead of my own.
  2. After gym&dinner, but before bed – (Netflix helps to an extent during this time because I mostly just want to relax, but I’m also trying not to indulge too often.) Instead – Read a book, write a letter, organize.
  3. Saturday Afternoons – (The gym also helps but that only takes up so much time.) Instead – Work on my upholstery project, work on clearing out the house, visit Treasure Mart, and hopefully once it gets warm, go on hikes!
  4. Falling Asleep – This is the hardest part of my day. In college, my school work and job were exhausting enough to never need aid in falling asleep. I have found that reading a damn good book (Like “The Girl on the Train”) helps a fuckton. But unfortunately, I became reliant on nightly phone calls or texts from a significant other to help calm me before falling asleep. You see, I have this complex where I need someone to know that I am going to sleep before I can sleep soundly. Even when I was living at my old apartment, I always said goodnight to my roommate.  I’m not sure if it will help, and in a way it makes me sound a little insane, but I am going to say goodnight to my dad. I used to talk to him a lot before I fell asleep, especially in high school.

So there is it. I am filling my time with productivity. I am spending my time at work, at the gym, or cooking new dishes. I am focusing on me. Although that feels unnatural, I know that it is exactly what I need to be doing at this point in my life.

My Gravity.

During my freshmen year at Eastern, a creative writing professor suggested that I write out every detail I could remember from the night, and even the week surrounding my father’s death. As I did, I remembered the fear, the confusion, the terrible sadness that comes with the realization that someone you love is gone. Not for a day, not for a week, but forever, for always. You love them and they are gone and nothing you can do can fix or change that. For years after my dad died and years after I took that class, the only way that I knew how to cope or calm myself down was to relive the days surrounding his death. When I felt myself spinning away, I would read the words over and over again until I finally accepted them to be true again. It was a purge of all of the grief that I push aside daily in order to go on with my life. It was my coping mechanism. It was source of reality. It was my gravity.

Sunday September 20, 2009.

I went to the powder puff game.

But the game was long over.

I stayed out later than I should have.

I shouldn’t have been out with him at all.

I’m never out this late.

My parents didn’t call me to come home.

I got worried.

Something wasn’t right.

Ben drove me home.

There’s an ambulance in the front yard.

I ran inside.

Monica pulls me aside.

Mom is in my parent’s room.

EMTs came in.

Dad is lying on the bed.

Monica’s arm is still around me.

We’ve never touched before.

They move him to a stretcher.

He has a breathing mask on.

It reminds me of his snoring mask.

The one that helps him sleep.

The one that helps him breathe.

He is not moving.

Mom is crying.

Monica keeps saying, “Oh My God.”

They take him away.

I go to my room.

Mom and Monica drive to the hospital.

I wait for my brother.

I try to text Ben:

“I think my dad had a stroke.”

I call Brian.

I can’t breathe.

I call John.

He is at work.

He does not answer.

I call Bob. I call Tom.

Tom and Lindsay go straight to the hospital.

Bob comes running through the door.

He hugs me.

My brother never hugs me.

He looks like he’s about to cry.

I realize it’s bad.

We wait.

I sit on the stairs.

Like I always did, waiting for daddy.

Finally John comes home.

Tom calls.

But I don’t want to go to the hospital.

He puts mom on the phone.

She says

“Maggie, it’s not good. You need to come.”

We get in the car.

I don’t remember the drive.

We walk to the ER.

John tells us not to cry.

“Mom will lose it.”

We ask the nurse.

She leads us to a room.

Where is daddy?

Surgery.

We enter the room.

A wall of sadness hits me.

Everyone is crying.

Tom is holding mom.

Uncle Jerry is a wreck.

Uncle Jerry never cries.

I rush to my mom.

She is safe.

Mom is always safe.

We sit. We wait.

The doctor comes in.

Where is daddy?

Intensive Care.

Coma.

Brain Dead.

“There is nothing we can do.”

We go upstairs.

We wait.

Brian comes. His mom too.

She takes a cab home.

He stays.

We go home.

Mom stays.

We sleep.  Brian too.

Brian never stays the night.

Back at the hospital.

It’s still dark.

Extended family is there.

Another family too.

They brought pulled pork

We brought donuts.

Daddy loves donuts.

Daddy loved donuts.

We wait. We try to eat.

We never ate.

The doctors let us visit him.

We walk down a hospital hallway.

There are open rooms.

Crying families.

He’s at the end of the hallway.

He’s at the end.

My mom is sitting in the room with him.

There’s a window behind her.

I realize it’s daytime.

And she’s been here the whole time.

I sit down with her.

I don’t remember what John said.

I don’t cry.

Daddy looks like he’s sleeping.

He’s just sleeping right?

His arm twitches.

His chest rises.

My mom leaves the room.

The doctor is talking outside.

Brain Aneurysm. Organ Donor.

“But he’s ALIVE”

I want to scream.

I hear him breathing.

I can see him move.

He has tears falling down his face.

He’s alive!

And I am silent.

But mom speaks.

“Yes, I’ll sign the papers.”

The room is empty.

Mom comes to me.

“Do you want a moment with daddy?”

I nod.

And we’re suddenly so formal.

We are never formal.

They close the door.

It is just me and you, daddy.

I climb up on your hospital bed.

I lay my head on your chest.

Like I always do when we sit in the Lazy Boy.

When we watch CSI.

When you watch baseball.

And I watch you.

I remember the first trip to the hospital.

It was just a heart valve.

Easily replaceable, they said.

Blood thinners to help your heart pump blood.

Everything will be just fine.

Blood thinners to thin your blood.

So when you bleed, it doesn’t stop.

So your heart doesn’t stop.

Blood thinners to kill your brain.

To thin your blood so when it bleeds, it doesn’t stop.

I curl into him.

I don’t know what to say.

I am not sad, I am not mad. But I am sorry.

“Daddy?”

The door is cracked, so I whisper.

“I love you daddy, I know you can hear me.

There’s still a chance right?

I could just be dreaming.”

He suddenly felt too warm.

I felt uneasy.

I left the room.

I left my father.

There was a cart sitting outside the door.

With pre-made sandwiches, coffee, creamer.

Everything is pale.

Everything is dull.

I am numb.

Abi had arrived.

My forever friend.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking.

Uncle Rich takes us to get food.

I am not hungry.

I sit. They eat. I do not feel.

Blank. Dull. Pale.

Someone made a Facebook event.

Memorial Service.

My friends are texting me.

Suddenly the world cares because it’s the thing to do.

It makes me sick.

We go back to his room.

Just us 6 now.

Me, Bob, Tom, John, Mom, and Dad.

We say goodbye.

Like we knew what it meant.

 

 

It’s Monday September 21, 2009.

And my mother is a widow.

I don’t remember.

Everything is jumbled.

I’ve been asleep for days.

It’s Friday now.

Memorial Service.

No one could call it a funeral.

The night before

We made poster boards

With pictures of him that we loved.

While looking through the boxes

We realized

Daddy always took the pictures.

He was never in them.

But we remember the memories.

And he’s in every single one.

The church is empty.

We are early.

Friends arrive.

Family lingers.

Suddenly its full.

Too full.

The choir arrives.

My whole school’s choir.

Here for me. My brothers. My parents.

No. My mom.

People talk. Pastors pray.

Memories are shared.

The entire time, my mom is silent.

My mom is never silent.

My brothers and I stand up.

Tom reads his memory.

I couldn’t call it a eulogy.

He was just telling a story.

About a broken dryer and the perfect amount of change.

About horses and Star Trek

And baseball.

Daddy loved baseball.

Detroit Tigers.

His home team, my tattoo.

I read my poem.

Watch me fly daddy.

I had written it years ago.

The choir sings.

The Irish Blessing.

“And until we meet again,

may God hold you

in the palm of his hand.”

Those words haunt me now.

And then I wake up.

Where is daddy?

Then I remember

And I miss him.

I will always miss him.

But that’s okay.

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