Friday, October 31, 2008

Difference: 1 year

December 27, 2004:
...crap. I just realized I never called my dad on Christmas day. He must feel like I'm slipping further and further away from him. I don't know how to relate to him much anymore. I see the relationship [my girlfriend] has with her dad, and for the first time in a long time, I'm envious. My dad is a loving and caring man, but he's rigid in his religion. And even though he doesn't say much in the way of how he believes I've "chosen" to live my life, I can see it in the way that he looks at he's losing the older he gets and the closer he gets to dying, the closer he gets to the last time he'll ever see me because I didn't live my life "good enough" to get to his afterlife. And it makes me sad that he thinks this way.

December 27, 2005:
My dad's so tired lately. Can't get up for even short periods of time without becoming out of breath quickly. Has to rest between getting dressed and putting his shoes on and walking out the door to the car when I take him anywhere. Sometimes he still talks about recovering and being able to work, but I think he's fighting a losing battle with himself. I think the part of him that hopes he'll recover is slowly fading away. The part of him that knew he was going to recover has already died. And the part that's taking over is the part with the cancer. The part that tells him his life is over and he better just sit back and relax, wait to die.
I'm sad. I’m mad. I'm frustrated. I have this aching in my soul to just be normal again. To just find normal and stick with it for a while. To stop finding these places in my life that are so uncomfortable and painful. I don't care how much I’m going to learn from this whole experience; I just want it to be over. I don't want to learn anymore, I just want my dad to be well again. I wish I could believe that God will come and save him from this pain, take away this cancer and let him live 50 more years. But I can't. I don't. I won't.
Researching a memoir isn't like researching a novel or any other random article. I'm not reading about someone else, I'm reading about me. What's odd about that is that sometimes I feel like I'm reading about someone else. Both of these spaces feel so so far away from me now. Sure, it's 4 and 5 years ago (could it be? no....), and while I can vaguely recollect feeling those things, the fact that life is so different now makes it feel like I'm reading from someone else's journals.

Makes me think about how much things change in a year, how much people change, and how much I've changed. One year to the next it's hard to see, but only if we don't look.

Remember to Breathe

As I continue to go through my journals of yesteryear in writing 7 Days, I come across entries that remind me of growth. I read these entries and don't remember that I felt that fucked up. But the words are there, spilling the thoughts, the streams, the echoes of what must have been going through my head at the time I wrote them. 

This is one such entry:

june 29, 2005

i have moments of untrust. even with myself. especially with myself. trying to find things about myself that i like again. not just things in my life, but about myself, my being, my whole. i'm like my mom. sometimes that's good, sometimes it's bad. good when i'm funny and intuitive, bad when i'm paranoid and judgmental. balance, balance i keep telling myself. i'm more good than all the bad i've picked up along the way. more good than bad, i am. it's not even about that though. what is it, what is it? this self evaluation is killing me. the 30 the debt the love the work the life the relationship the mom. yoga. can it really be the answer? part of it maybe. take better care of yourself, dian. why must i keep reminding myself? more music. more baseball. more tennis. more yoga. more breathing. stop holding your breath, dian. nothing bad is going to happen. i will protect you. you can breathe you can breathe. no really you can breathe. back to good will hunting. i know it's not my fault. some things are though. not my mom. not steven. not grandpa. not tricia. not mike. not being gay. being in debt though. that's my fault. buying that stupid car i never really wanted anyway. that's my fault. get over blaming yourself, it's no good. can you change it? then do it and quit crying about it. just fucking do something about it if you can. and if you can't then shut the fuck up about it already. don't be so hard on yourself. don't yell at yourself. don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to vickie. to jenifer. that you wouldn't want them to say to you. be kind. share yourself. remember to breathe. look into that yoga thing. that's what you should spend your money on before therapy. help yourself. grow yourself. try it on your own. if you need guidance it's ok, just try it on your own. be kind, be kind. trust yourself, your intuition. you've never been wrong when you listen to yourself. and the battle wages on inside my mind. toy soldiers. i hate that song. will i ever be able to end the war? happy thoughts. find your happy place. find a happy place even if it isn't yours. eat breakfast. stretch. love yourself. listen to more music. go to the bowl. take someone. enjoy their company. take care of your cats. life is good. hard but good. why me? why do i have to deal with all of this? because the strong ones are the only ones who can get through this crap. i am one of the strong ones. accept that. struggle struggle why must everything be a struggle? right now. just right now it's a struggle. don't generalize everything. ha. everything. be real. where are you? what makes you? what breaks you? separate. divide and conquer. know what your battle is before fighting it. breathe. why is it so hard to remember to breathe?

Three weeks after that entry I had a nervous breakdown:

july 18, 2005

…bad breakfast. after driving around for 30 minutes trying to find a place that was open. driving around after our hard-to-find bad breakfast and terrible waitress. trying to find a quiet place to be leisurely while waiting for the dealership to call back saying her car was ready. already feeling angsty, ready for a fight. palms clammy, heart pounding, mind racing, looking for something to grab onto, something to lash out at. slowly turning around a corner to a side street, contemplating whether or not this was the right place. slowly, a look to the right. an impatient SUV behind me honking and speeding around me. me speeding up trying to not let him pass and screaming out the window: "
FUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOOUUUUU!!" [______] looked at me. astonished. scared. calmly, quietly she reached for the wheel and said "baby, pull over." i did. without turning the car off, head in my hands, sobbing. tears streaming down my face, unable to control themselves. audible sobbing. first time in over a year allowing myself to cry like this. first time in almost 10 years allowing myself to be this way in plain view of a civilian. it's been like a military operation, this crying business. i sat and sobbed for what seemed like an eternity…

I had just learned that my father's liver was giving him some problems. His skin was jaundiced and he was lethargic from morning to night. He spent two weeks in the hospital, and still the doctors had no answers. My grandfather fell while vacationing in Florida and landed himself in the hospital. He waited 9 days to call and tell anyone what happened. His body was finally giving out from a 30-year battle with Scleroderma. When he returned home I was expected to take care of him. In the house my grandmother died in. The house I found my grandmother dead in. I was working 60-hour weeks at my job and volunteering 20-hour weeks to Outfest. My relationship was falling apart and I wanted to be blind to it. This outburst, this breakdown made tunnel vision impossible. 

Sometimes listening to your gut—your self—is harder than it sounds. I've not since had a similar episode. I could tell you it's because I've worked hard at being more balanced and more in tune with myself. I just don't know if that's true. If I ever figure out what I'm doing/have done right about this, I'll let you know. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Excerpt: Away From It All

From 7 Days: 
Journal Entry: December 28, 2005 
Phone therapy session with [Dana] this morning. I can't even remember what we talked about. Dad. Hospice. [Edward]. Don't even think [Edward] knows my father's terminal. So now I have to tell him. I don't even know if I should. Not really my place. Guess if I can sign DNR forms and decide when to pull the plug, I can't tell [Edward] why my father won't be paying rent anymore. DNR. Is this for real? Consent forms signed. Power of Attorney. Hospice intake. Something about a nurse coming daily to wash him. Didn't look too thrilled about that. Is it wrong that I want him to die? It's not for me, it's for him. And still, it's for me. I don't know how much longer I can take this. I don't know how much longer I can see him like this. In this defeat, in this constant state of weakness, of not being able to tie his own shoe without getting short of breath. I just don't think I'm cut out for all this pain. Again. And God, I know it's not about me, I know, I know. But still. That's my argument. Make it stop, God, for both of us. I just can't take it anymore.
Shortly after this therapy session and journal entry, [Reese] and I went for a walk in the woods behind her parents' house. Out the back door, we walked past the swimming pool and up the rolling hill that [Reese] had grown up playing on. Past the garden on the left, we walked towards the top of the hill on the right, where a small trail began. The path led in several directions: up this hill, down that one, around another. It was wide enough for a horse and buggy in some places, and narrowed down to just enough space for a small child to squeeze either through or under the brush and branches. Downpours during the week prior left most of the trees waterlogged and damaged, and in some areas the branches drooped so low they bent and were broken beyond repair.

There were wet fall leaves in the trees—brown and orange and yellow, even some purple (although [Reese] swears I was just seeing things that day). Green bushes, dense and full of plump red berries, lined our paths most of the way. Squirrels, lizards, and the likes, hidden in the bushes scampered away from our footsteps as we passed, while birds above flew from this tree to that, seeming to enjoy the crisp afternoon air and the fact that it wasn’t raining. (Why do I assume animals experience our emotions?)

[Reese] and I didn’t talk much. I kept my head down and hardly said a word. Thoughts of my session with [Dana] earlier in the morning, along with my father sitting at home waiting for his new hospice care nurse, swirled in my head and led me down roads of “What If” that I didn’t care to venture down.

What if I can't handle this? What if I need [Dana] and she doesn’t get my message? What if there’s another storm and I can’t get out of here? What if I can’t get home for weeks? What if my father has fallen? What if he dies and I’m not with him? What if I never see him alive again? What if he doesn’t know I love him?

I heard [Reese] talking at least twice, and even though I wanted to respond, I found neither the words nor the will to speak. I pretended not to hear her, and fell behind—far enough that I couldn’t hear her speak, but close enough that she wouldn’t slow down for me. I knew the trees, the bushes, the dirt, the entirety of the nature that surrounded us was her home. I would not allow myself to disturb her home with my depression.

It's still strange to go back to that day and know it was real; it seemed so surreal at the time. I was hundreds of miles north of my ailing father, and feared I was trying to escape the inevitable. What I found was the strength I would need to get through my father's immanent death. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Less Than A Week

I keep thinking about Prop 8. And everything it stands for. And everyone it lets down. It's impossible to me that there are people who still believe in the idea that one type, one kind, one way of thinking, of life is right. And yet, the fact that the Proposition even exists is proof of that. 

A friend of mine has been working on a beautiful love story almost since I've known her. And this love story allows her and her business partner to show us (the choir and all others), one more reason Prop 8 is out of line. The documentary is not yet complete, but you can go to to see what it's all about.

As much as I believe we should all be able to be ourselves, to love whomever we choose (which, contrary to popular deluded belief, will not lead to underage children, multiple partners, or goats), and to have the right to marry that person, this is not a matter of simply being who we are, it's a matter of the right to be who we are. The God-given right, if you will. Or more appropriately, the civil liberty. 

Remember that line in the declaration of independence? ...all men are created equal... (I'm sure they meant women, too, right?) Did they mean just white men? Did they mean just Republican men? Just conservative men? Just straight men? If you're looking for translation to "all men", it means ALL men (and since the 1920's, women). All of us. The white ones, the black ones, the mixed ones, the pure bred ones, the women ones, the rich ones, the poor ones, the Independent ones, the Libertarian ones, the Christian ones, the Jewish ones, the Buddhist ones, the smart ones, the handicap ones, the illiterate ones, the graduated ones, the gay ones, the straight ones, the blind ones, the deaf ones, the autistic ones, the patriotic ones, the politically savvy ones, the native ones, the transplant ones, the short ones, the really, really short ones, the overweight ones, the alcoholic ones, the drug addict ones, the hard working blue collar ones, the corporate America ones, the honest ones, the loyal ones, the ones who love pets, the ones who want kids but can't have them, the ones with high school diplomas, the ones who go to work every day and do jobs others don't want to, the left handed ones, the little league playing ones, the hockey playing ones, the football playing ones, the baseball playing ones, the tax paying ones, the melting pot know...the American ones. 

We're all people. And we all deserve the same rights. The same civil rights. This is not question of morality, it's a question of equality. I'm no Martin Luther King, but I have dreams of my own. That one day I will not be judged by the person I love, but by the content of my character. I'm not suggesting that the brutality against blacks through the '60's (and still to this day, in some places) is the same, but there are certainly parallels. Parallels of inequality (Prop 8), of oppression (Prop 8), of segregation (gay schools are a nice idea...), of hate crimes; these all lead to the truth that the LGBT community is not treated the same as those outside that group. Isn't that discrimination?

Personally, I'm not ready to get married. It doesn't mean that I don't want to, or that I won't. It doesn't mean that I want others who are ready to lose the right. I don't want ANY of us to lose the right on November 4th. It's just civil, equal rights.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I found some notes from conversation I had with a friend a while back:





In short, forgiveness becomes a tool with which we expunge baggage of toxic anger. 

Here's my experience:

The anger I held on to for years kept me captive in my sixteen-year old body where bad things happened. Every day that I woke up angry was a day that I woke up reliving my mother’s death. The anger was a toxin that kept me in a state of non-growth. It’s not that anger is bad, that we shouldn’t feel anger. It’s that the anger needs to pass. Emotions are to humans what oil is to engines. We need emotion to run properly. And we need to process that emotion, like we process and change our oil. If we leave the angry oil in our system it flows through our veins and taints everything we touch: every relationship, friendship, acquaintance, job, stranger, animal we come into contact with.

When I hold on to the negative energy of toxic anger, it becomes a part of who I am because I don’t have room to replace it with forgiveness, with understanding, with love. And without love, I cannot exist. It’s what I'm made of; it's what we are made of. And what we’re made for. 

To hear me tell the story of my mother’s death when I was sixteen was to hear a biased daughter whose mother was "murdered" tell her story. When I was sixteen, Steven meant to kill my mother. He planned it and he carried it out and he was evil for having done so. He was the only one to blame. And this was how I lived.

When I was twenty-two, Steven may not have set out to kill my mother. There was a struggle, he was involved, and my mother was dead as a result. Sure, my mom might have pulled the gun on him, but I knew in my heart that my mother would never pull a gun unless herself or her family was in danger. I had begun to settle and see that my oil might need changing.

At twenty-seven I had yet another story to tell. I could acknowledge that there was gun powder on both of their hands. There’s no way to tell what really happened. It’s true my mother was protective of both Michael and I, and that she said on more that one occasion that she would lay down and die for me. But my mother was also a manipulative woman. I honestly don’t know what happened in that room, aside from the fact that there were four shots fired and two of them hit my mother. And those two shots killed her. As for Steven’s part in it, there was gun powder on his hands. But that doesn’t mean he took aim and shot my mother in cold blood. It just means that he was there and that the gun was in close proximity to his hands when the shots were fired. There is no blame, this is just all I know. New oils, new filters were on the shelves in front of me.

At thirty-three, my story is that my mom was killed when I was sixteen. End of story. That old, angry, toxic oil is being recycled and put to good use.

When my father was in the hospital during his last days, I went to lunch with his best friend and her husband. Jon asked me why I used the word killed rather than murdered when I talked about my mother's death. There was a struggle and who knows what happened. I wasn’t there. Murder is a strong word. Murder implies deliberate. Murder, when not prefaced with 2nd or 3rd degree, implies first degree. Implies intent. Implies cold blood. Implies planned and executed. I may not know (may never know) the details of the night my mother was killed, but I do know that it was not murder.

Seeing it this way helped me let go of the anger. Helped me forgive Steven. The forgiveness helped me move on. The forgiveness freed me from my sixteen-year-old angry self. The forgiveness allowed me to live in a world where I do not carry seventeen years of toxic, angry baggage, and to live in a world where I am simply thirty-three and my mother died seventeen years ago.

Forgiveness wasn't just seeing it as death versus murder, but that I was seeing reality versus what happened in my dreams and nightmares in the days, the months, the years after her death. Forgiveness was also seeing that my mother's death was beyond my control. That the anger stirring in my soul was no longer productive, but blind. Blind emotion, in any form, is irresponsible and can be destructive. In order to see the world in reality, I had to let go. I had to stop feeling angry and resentful about something I had no control over. I had to forgive. Had my mother's death actually been murder, I might have needed a different route to forgiveness. But I would've needed a route to forgiveness, just the same. I am not here to judge (or be judged by) anyone for anything. I am here to love. 

The difficulty in forgiving, for me, was in the idea that it meant saying, “It’s okay, [whatever you did to me].” Forgive, defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Current English means to: “stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offence or mistake; no longer feel angry about or wish to punish an offence or mistake.”

I always thought that to forgive someone, it meant that I had to tell them that it’s okay: “What you did to me doesn’t matter. And it’s okay that you did it to me. And I forgive you.”

Somehow we have to get to a place where we understand the difference between forgiveness and saying “it’s okay”. “It’s okay,” means that…well, you need to define what that means for you. For me, it means no big deal, whatever happened is in the past and it’s not going to cross my mind beyond this moment. “I forgive you,” means I’m going to process what just happened. I'm going to learn from it. And then I'm going to let go of it, regardless of the intentions of and/or response from the party I'm forgiving. 

It means: what [you] did, intentional or not, affected me in such a way that I will think about it beyond this moment. And that [your] actions caused emotion in me. And those emotions have brought me to a place where I am ready to let go of [your] action(s). And I am ready to acknowledge what happened and move forward, taking with me a learning experience. 

And it means that I have created more space for love and peace in my life by doing so.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I keep listening to the sounds of my day. They keep passing me by like they're not here, like I’m not here. And then all of a sudden it's yesterday and you're here and I can't find you but I know you're there. I can smell you. Taste you. Feel you. And yet you elude me still. And here I am back in today where you're not here. No smell. No touch. No taste. Nothing. Your pain lingers in my soul. Bits of your past seep into my every day and stay there, sneak out for air, for fuel and creep back just as I notice they're gone. 

The pain you bring is real, is tangible, cuts into my spirit more than my flesh, bleeds from my soul more than my veins. 

I see your name, I hear your voice. I hear your voice, I see your face. I see your face, I feel your touch. I feel your touch, I die inside. And all at once I’m left with nothing. The nothing you give me, again and again.

~From some time in 2004. I might have titled it "You Can't Hurt Me Anymore". I don't recall what or who I was writing about, specifically, but when I reread it this morning, it took me back through all of those emotions. I am in constant awe of the power of words and their effects on our emotions, even out of context, even years removed. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Excerpt: Watching Him Go

From 7 Days:

The hardest thing about my father's death wasn't getting up every day. It wasn't going to work, it wasn't eating, it wasn't holding myself together.

The hardest thing about my father's death was watching it happen. Knowing there was nothing I could do. Seeing him lie in his hospital bed, praying for it to either be over or to be healed, and hoping God made a decision quickly.

Since my childhood home, I’ve not lived in one place for more than three years. And at some point it became no longer appropriate to ask friends to help me move in exchange for pizza and beer. I've reached the point where moving time requires hiring movers. But the days when movers were not necessary and it was easy to find a few friends to help with the heavy stuff, it was also easy to find my father helping with the heavy stuff.

My father was one of the strongest men I’d known in real life. He wasn't a body builder. He didn't lift weights. He wasn't bulky with giant pecks or bulging biceps. But he was strong. I remember seeing my father could carry a solid oak door from his truck on the street to the front of a house like it was a tin can on his shoulder. Day in and day out he carried Skilsaws and grinders and sanders and paint cans and tool belts and 2x4's and 4x4's and miter saws and table saws and toolboxes full of nails and screwdrivers and screws and wrenches and hammers.

These are things that, done once or twice or even for a week at a time, seem like not a big deal. My father did this every day, save some Sundays along the way. For thirty years.

And then his body started to give out. His knees went first. If knee surgery didn't take weeks to recover from, he might have had it. But he didn't. He just waited to feel good enough to start working again and went back about his business. His back got tight. His joints became the antithesis of free swaying. And still, my father went on with his days, knowing that these were just the signs of growing older.

I could handle the graying hair, the weakened knees, the fact that he could no longer pick up solid oak doors and haul them around like tin cans. All that seemed to happen gradually. But seeing him lie in his hospital bed, unable to get up without pushing the button that raised his head for him was all too abrupt.

My father went from aging like a 55-year-old to aging like an 87-year-old in the span of two months. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

8 Against 8 Campaign

I should have posted this yesterday, as yesterday was the first day...and in lieu of yesterday, there is today. 8 lesbian bloggers created this campaign: 

This is not only an important issue to the LBGT community, but to the entire population. There were similar arguments (to Prop 8) against women, with regard to voting, and non-white races, with regard to marriage/relationships and simply living life. We cannot afford to slip back into the days of separate but equal--separate but equal is not a state any human deserves to live in. 

There are 8 bloggers, and the one posted above is not done so as a bias, but as they all say relatively the same thing. If you're interested in seeing what each of them have to say about the issue, see the links below:

Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend
Dorothy Snarker of Dorothy Surrenders
Lori Hahn of Hahn At Home
Kelly Leszczynski of The Lesbian Lifestyle
Sinclair of Sugarbutch Chronicles
Renee Gannon of Lesbiatopia.

If you want to read more about the cause, go here. If you want to skip it all and just donate, go here

I urge you please, on behalf of Californians, Gays, Lesbians, and Humans alike...NO on Prop 8. Shouldn't we all keep the right to marry for love?

Friday, October 17, 2008

7 Days

You might have noticed I've been posting some excerpts from the book I'm working on, 7 Days. The purpose of these posts is to get them out in the real world and see what the reaction is. These are portions of the book that I'm working on, trying to see if they fit they way I want them to, to tell the story I mean to tell.

My story is not my father's story, but the story of living through death. 7 Days is the story of the last 7 days of my father's life. And the things I learned in those days. About him. About me. The growth in our lives and who we'd become. The things we learned only as a result of his death. 

The time I got to spend with my father during the last 7 days of his life was amazing, and held a great deal of unexpected growth. The laughter seemed out of place, but it was needed; it was healthy. The crying seemed cliché, but it was real; it was unabashed. The experience seemed surreal, and was anything but; it was life, in all its parts. And somehow we survived the parts we needed to, in order to let go of the parts we could take with us. Somehow, we grew. 

The experience of writing has been beautiful, cathartic, and momentous. I feel driven to write this book because in living those 7 days and the months prior, I needed someone to relate to and felt terribly alone. Losing a parent is never the same experience for any two people. But the emotions we feel along the way are vastly similar. The way in which we experience these emotions, the thoughts in our heads as the feelings flow through our bodies, give us the bond of being human, regardless of our differences. I want to offer this to people--someone, anyone--like me, or not. 

I look forward to your comments and feedback along the way. 

Excerpt: Layers

From 7 Days:
In order to get back to a place of such odd relief, such distant grief, such disconnected emotion, I have to reread what I wrote back then.

Sitting in a mortuary waiting for a consultation with a funeral director, I pulled out my journal to clear my head:
I can't believe I’m sitting here. I knew it would come, but how is it already here? And how expensive is this all going to be? Don't know why it matters. We'll pay whatever it costs. Who knows if he'll even make it through the transfer. I don't even know if they'll transfer him. God, I hope not. What a difference between private care and the VA. He doesn't seem to mind, but this comes from a man who lived in a room of self created chaos for years. Anything might've been better. I hope he dies before they transfer him. Just want him to have some peace. God, I must be horrible. I’m his daughter and I want him to die. The seizures have been getting worse. Probably having strokes. I don't know what to do. There’s nothing to do. Nothing I can do. I feel so helpless. Even more helpless than he is. He’s not even coherent any--
My entry was cut short by a phone call. My uncle. Rick. At the hospital. Things didn't look good. My father's doctor gave him 12-24 hours to live. Told Rick to contact the family to come say any final good byes. 
My next entry:
So surreal. Can't believe this is happening. In hospital waiting room. Need a minute to myself. Just a minute. Feel so selfish. So conflicted. Don't want this to happen. Need it to happen. Can't live inside this hospital any more. Cannot wait any longer. Just go, just be gone, and just leave already. Just take him; he doesn't want to be here anymore. He doesn't need to be here anymore. And I just can't take it anymore. Maybe not knowing is better. Maybe sudden death is a blessing. No warning, no overnight stays in hospitals, no mortuaries before death, no heart being ripped out for days, weeks, months at a time. I need to go back in there. Somehow being with him will heal me.
The last two days with my father were the most difficult. And the most rewarding. There were times of intense grief and uproarious laughter (and solace in such grievous laughter). I talked with people that had known my father for longer than I’d been alive. My father's best friend from junior high school: a forty-year friendship. Members of a car club from high school: two years shy of a forty-year friendship. My father's best friend in adulthood and her husband: a thirty-five-year friendship. I knew these people; some of these people, but never knew my father through their eyes. It never occurred to me that my father was someone other than who I knew.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Excerpt: Leader of the Band

An excerpt from 7 Days:

My father’s thin, stubbled face sheepishly grinned through his intubation. His kind, strong hand held mine tight, and for the first time since we found out about his cancer, I looked my father in the eye and did not turn away until our moment was finished. This was the first morning I saw him in the ICU. Just seven days before I would hold his hand for the last time. 

His eyes were soft and clear: “I’m sorry.”  

My father was sorry. Sorry he didn't take better care of himself. Sorry he didn't have anything but debt to leave me. Sorry he had to leave so soon. Sorry he was making me an orphan. Sorry I didn't see Jesus the way he did. Sorry he wasted so much of his life putting things off that he'd never be able to do now. Sorry he didn't spend more time with me. Sorry I had to watch him die.

And somewhere in all of that, my father was also grateful. Grateful that I took care of him. Grateful for the softball games he got to watch me play. Grateful for the birthdays he got to spend with me. Grateful for the Christmases and Thanksgivings we got to share together. Grateful for the talks we'd had over the past month. Grateful that I loved him after all the angst of my childhood. Grateful that I was with him at the end to help him let go. Grateful that I was strong enough to tell him it was okay to let go. 

If pictures are worth a thousand words, the moment I realized my father's gratitude for me was worth Encyclopedia Britannica. The moments we shared at the end of his life are a gift I will never be able to repay. 

I used to think so much about missing my mother that I forgot about my father. I don't mean that I didn't realize he was there. It just took years for it to occur to me that not only did I learn from my father, but also that the lessons I learned from him were far healthier than much of what I learned from my mother. I realized that the point in this realization is not that Jerry was a better father than Jayme a mother, but that being aware of what both had to offer, of what both had actually given me—of the fact that both had actually contributed to all that I am—allowed me to make educated decisions on what worked and what didn't in my life. The awareness that there were things I picked up from each of them was the paradigm shift I needed to grow past their deaths.

This was one of my mother's favorite songs, but it sums up a great deal of the relationship between my father and I, as it turns out:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Little Things

I've been reading through 300+ blogs and news articles this morning, catching up with what's going on since I left town Saturday morning, and nothing seems to be new. The presidential race is just the same, although it appears McCain is slowly falling in the polls. The dodgers are still behind in the series, although they did win with force last night at home. My cats sleep all morning, eat a snack, and then sleep all afternoon--although they have been awake longer this morning than I’ve seen in the past month. 

I like the subtle differences. Sometimes it's just a little, but just that little bit helps you look back and notice how much is different over a longer period. If you can notice that your hair now fits into a ponytail where it didn't just a week ago, you can look back and see that your hair has grown three inches in the last six months (and maybe it's time for a haircut). 

And if you can look at the little things in life that are just a little different than they were just a week ago, a month ago, a year ago...then maybe it's possible to spot growth you wouldn't have otherwise noticed. Maybe it's that your kid is in the 6th grade. Which means he/she has worked hard and grown enough to move on from the 5th grade. Maybe you finished a semester of school. Which means you've gained 18 more credits toward that degree you're working on. Maybe you've written seven blogs this month. Which surpasses your previous month by two blogs. Which means you've accomplished the first part of your monthly goal of blogging at least twice a week.

Every little change, every little accomplishment is a grain of sand. And the grains end up being our days, our shores, our lives. Every piece contributes to who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going. It’s not that we need to notice every little detail, it’s that we need not forget about them. They tell us where we’re going, who we are, where we’ve been. If we don’t like something we can always change it, but not if we don’t notice it.

That’s when we end up with hair that’s wild and unruly; don’t sign up for next semester’s classes; stop writing blogs; stop living the way we set out to when we got ourselves “realigned” after therapy, or that marathon, or vacation…whatever it was that got us “back” on track has slowly slipped out of our peripheral vision. We just need to look left, look right, and see what our shores, our lives really look like. Without that, we end up looking around ourselves, at an unrecognizable mess...singing Talking Heads lyrics to ourselves. And don't we all need to know how we got here?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Excerpt: The Glove

This is something I posted a while back, and have slightly reworked it. Some version of this, be it partial or in whole, will find its way into the final draft of 7 Days

I sometimes go weeks at a time without missing my father. I missed my father today for the first time in a while. Seems silly, the reason: a glove. I bought a new softball glove because my current glove is nearing the end of its career. And as much as any glove advertises that it's pre-broken-in, it's nowhere close. I've taken to conditioning the glove with oil and a shaping ball, wrapping it overnight with rubber bands around the ball in the pocket, and attempting to play catch with myself to loosen it up. I didn't have that problem when I got my last glove.

I was 15 when my father was tired of seeing me play with a rickety glove, and he got me a pre-season gift. He spent more on the glove than he'd have spent on anything he bought for himself. But he didn't stop at getting me the glove. He oiled it. He shaped it. The caught with it. He thoroughly broke it in for weeks. When he handed me the glove to begin my season of play, it felt like a part of my hand. It was the greatest glove ever. 

I knew he'd broken it in for me, but all these years I didn't understand the work he put into it. It's not like you have to stay up with the glove all night and make sure it eats rightI do understand that it's just a glove. But to my father, it was a reason for his daughter to stop ditching school; for her to find something she loved and could be good at to focus on; for her to find friends whose interests involved getting to the ballpark, not stealing cars from the parking lot of them. To my father, it was more than just a glove, and so it became to me.

Missing him started out because I didn't want to break my new glove in. I wasn't sure if I was doing it right (meaning: I wasn't sure if I was doing it the way he would have done it). I had questions about how the rubber bands should go over the glove; where do I put the ball in the pocket to shape it right; how long do I leave it banded up; and how long do I have to catch with it before it feels like part of my hand?

And just as quick as it begun, I stopped missing him because I didn't know what to do. I’m a resourceful girl. The bands go on like this, the ball goes there in the pocket, band it up over night for a week and catch with it until it feels like a part of my hand. I got it.

And now I miss him because I can't thank him for all of that. I’m sure I thanked him for the glove when I was a kid. And I’m sure I thanked him again later in life when he came to my games and someone brought a new glove and I boasted about how my father broke mine in for me all those years ago. But as I’m breaking in this new glove, I realize that breaking in the glove isn’t what I need to thank him for. I never thanked him for giving me softball. 

It's not that I’ve done anything great with softball in my life; I’m an average player with a few great highlights. It's more that I love the game. I love playing it. I love being a part of a team. I love winning and giving everything I have to play my best. And even when we lose the game, I love that the end of the game is just that: the end. I always have the choice to enjoy myself on the field either way, win or lose. This is something I try to take into the rest of my life.
I wish I could thank my father for giving me that glove again; and even before that, for giving me a game that would become so much a part of my life. So much that I’d learn everything I need to know in life by learning how to play it. My father always doubted himself as being a "good father" to me. But there are no doubts in my mind. Without even tryingby just being himselfhe showed me, taught me, loved me. Through the last day of his life.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Excerpt: The Vortex

From 7 Days:

I recently read The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. An amazing read, on so many levels. With just about every passage I related my experience in the death of my father to her experience in the death of her husband. The parallels were not always the same, yet even in the differences, there was comfort in familiarity. One of the parallels this happened with was something she called "the vortex effect."

The vortex of thoughts that drift us from memory to memory, linking the present to the past, to the further past, ultimately separating us from the reality of the present we're sitting in. I guess it happens that way in a trauma but that’s not exactly how it was for me.

After my mother died I had dreams of it all being a joke—I could forgive the bad joke, the inappropriateness of faking her death, if only she would come back and say that’s what it was. But with my father it was never like that.

Where Joan Didion's vortexes were post-trauma, mine were pre- and mid-trauma. I think about my father sometimes, but I don’t get caught up in thinking he’s still here. I don’t get caught up in wondering when he’s coming back. My mother’s death taught me that they don’t come back. They never come back.

While my father was dying, I prayed for his healing. I prayed for him to get better. I prayed for him to be well. I prayed for his pain to be gone. And even in all that, I never prayed for him to live longer. There was an innate sense that he would not live longer; that he would die soon, sooner than he expected, and all I wanted was for him to be in peace. In order to bring that peace about, I prayed for my father to die. 

The vortex I ended up in was the guilt of praying for his death before it came. I did not want his pain to go on. I did not want to take care of him. I did not want to see the look in his eye of shame in not being able to take care of himself. I did not want to know what he was once capable of and pity him for the state he was in. 

These are not the thoughts a daughter should have about her father. 

I sat for hours at a time, lost in an inner battle of what I should and shouldn't think about my father's death. I wanted to believe everything would be fine. I wanted to believe that his prayers to God for a miracle healing would be answered. I wanted to believe that I was living in a third dimension and would soon find the tunnel back to the world where my father would not be buried at age fifty-five.

I have not yet found that tunnel.

These hours, minutes, seconds spent in the vortex were snapped only by reality, often by a simple peripheral notation of a car passing by, a knock at my office door, the ring of my cell phone. And there I was, in the reality of life moving on while I quietly mourned a life with my father on this side of the tunnel.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Excerpt: The Hand You're Dealt

From 7 Days:

I grew up in my home. Just like everyone else. With parents that worked. While I went to school. And everything was normal. My parents that worked were divorced. My mom that worked was an alcoholic. My dad that worked picked me up every other Friday night and brought me home the following Sunday afternoon. 

I didn’t know that other people had families with both mom and dad that lived together. I didn’t know to miss it. I didn’t know that other people had parents who were home when they got home from school. It didn’t occur to me to resent being a latchkey kid. I didn’t know that other people had mothers who didn’t get drunk most nights and pass out sometimes before making them dinner. I just learned how to make my own dinner.

I spent a lot of time confused when I was a kid, but I never felt sorry for myself. That’s just the way life was for me. And when I got older I realized that other people had these different upbringings, these ways of living that people said were “better” than mine; my life was not better or worse, it was just my experience.

This was not a conscious decision. This was just what happened. I did not decide to not be bitter. I just wasn't. I did not decide to let things go. I just did. I did not decide anything. I just lived.

I look at my life and see that I am a healthy person. Which sometimes still baffles me when I look back without rose-colored glasses and see my childhood as it was, versus how I lived it.

Maybe it’s that I’m from California and my environment (outside my immediate family) played a role in shaping me to be a laid back California girl. Maybe I’m genetically disposed to go with the flow. Maybe a little bit of both.

When I look at this life, my life, I wonder how I ever got through certain parts of it. My mother’s death when I was 16, for instance. The night I found out she was dead I was living in a placement home less than three miles from my grandparents home. I was not allowed to leave the placement home. I wasn’t allowed to leave because they thought I might try to hurt my self. They thought I might try to use drugs, to run away, to kill myself. They did not know me. To be fair, I didn’t know me, either.

I thought it absurd at the time, but what could I do? These were the rules. The eight months I’d spent in placement had done for me what could not be done for many. I saw these girls who had been a part of “The System” for years; some, for their entire lives. These girls did not have families. These girls bounced around from foster home to placement home to jail and back again. These girls had no concept of what it was to be a part of a family; they had never experienced it. But I had.

After seeing these girls and the lives they felt they were forced to live, I understood that I wanted, needed, deserved a life that was not caged by any authority other than my own conscience. The conscience that had been developed by a family that was just as dysfunctional as the next American family—a family that meant well and simply didn’t have the know how of practicing what they preached. Somehow the values of honesty and love and integrity had actually sunk in. And Placement taught me how to apply those values in real life situations.

In my mind there was no option of using drugs. No option of escaping, of running away. No option of killing myself. No option of putting myself in motion to be like “those girls”. The only option was to get up, put one foot in front of the other and see what happens. The only option was to do that every day until I figured something else out; until one day it didn’t hurt anymore. Lather, rinse, repeat. That was my only option.

I wonder if some people think that they just are not capable. I wonder if some people don’t understand the value of putting one foot in front of the other just to see what happens. And I wonder what makes one person get it and others spend a lifetime not even trying to figure it out. I understand it’s easier said than done, having done it myself.

We live in a world where people can grow up in the ghetto and live a millionaire lifestyle with hard work, and maybe a little luck. We also live in a world where people can grow up in a millionaire lifestyle and end up homeless in the ghetto because it was just too hard. I wonder if it is sheer force of will. I wonder if it is genetic disposition. I wonder if it is happenstance.

I’ve worked hard to get where I am in my life. I am in a place of peace with the deaths and disfigurations of my family life and childhood. I am in a place of relative honesty in the way I live my life. I am in a place of love and gratitude for everything I have and the people in my life. I am in a place of continuous growth. I am in a place of positive thinking. I am in a place of putting one foot in front of the other…not just to see what happens, but because I know that good things will always be put in front of me, regardless of anything else that comes into my life.

And still I wonder why I worked so hard to get here. I wonder why I didn’t step in front of a bus or swerve into a semi truck or drink myself into oblivion just to mask and get rid of the pain. I wonder why I didn’t beg for money when I had none. I wonder why I tell the cashier when he gives me too much change. I wonder why don’t smoke pot as a means of staying calm.

Is this the genetic disposition I was born with that makes me this way? Is this the environment I grew up with? Is this because I’ve been here before and learned little bits and pieces with every return?

Maybe it’s all of these things. It was not sheer will, it was not a conscious decision, it was not just dumb luck. There is something inside me that drives me to be healthy. There’s something inside me that drives me to just put one foot in front of the other, even when I don’t believe it’s going to do any good.


And what is it for you? What is it for you that makes you play the hand you're dealt?

Friday, October 3, 2008

ah, yes...the debate

like a good american, i watched the debate last night. dear god. i'm a registered democrat, but that doesn't mean they get my vote without working for it. i've been known to vote outside my party when i was displeased with the candidate within. this election, however...not so much.

a friend of mine told me that she was "grateful that Gov. Palin 'tolerates'" her, after watching this:

yeah...i think i'm grateful, too. but more so that i "chose" this a human being. isn't it great that civil rights are the same for whites and blacks and mexicans and chinese and russians and lebanese in america? just not for any of those people who share a bed and a life and love with a member of the same sex. i love the open-mindedness of a good american politician. oh no wait...

and i digress, for the good of the people:

much has been posted on the debate, so i'll just take a couple of my faves and share them with you:

Sarah, by all indications, a bonafide hooplehead -- so dangerously out of her depth and so delusional -- perhaps blinded by ambition -- that she is in total denial about the real-world ramifications of her ineptitude.

9:32 - Nico Pitney:A strange moment in the debate, where Sarah Palin refuses to answer if her ticket would have to pull back on some campaign promises in light of the financial crisis.
Ifill: "As Vice President, there's nothing you've promised as a candidate that you would take off the table because of this financial issue?" Palin: "There is not, and how long have I been at this? Like five weeks?"
10:14 - Jason Linkins: Palin follows the needle-scratch-on-the-record riposte "Say it ain't so, Joe, there ya go again" (TWO CLICHES for the price of ONE!) with a promise that Biden's wife will be rewarded in Heaven for being a teacher. This made me ALL KINDS OF UNCOMFORTABLE
10:17 - Jason Linkins: Palin seems to think that the Constitution allows the Vice President to "flex" between the Executive and the Legislative Branch! GAFFE.

9:06 - Palin compares the economic meltdown to a kids’ soccer game. I have no words.
9:20 - Biden calls John McCain’s health care plan the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.” Oh… snap!
9:47 - Palin says “nu-ku-lar.” Do Republicans purposely mispronounce “nuclear” to identify themselves to each other?
9:53 - Biden is alternately cross-eyed and wall-eyed. Palin shamelessly humps Israel’s leg. Then Joe Biden humps Israel’s other leg. Israel needs to get some baby wipes and wipe its legs.
10:22 - Palin says that McCain is a “maverick.” Again, and again, and again! Because if you say the word “maverick” enough, it will get him votes! Biden says the word “maverick” repeatedly as well, saying that John McCain is not a maverick. If anyone out there is playing a drinking game based on the amount of times the candidates say the word “maverick” you better call 911. With a quickness.

Oh, the "pitbull" is back. And she and John McCain are still wrong for the country.

Palin's answers in this debate vacillated between disappointing and incoherent. On the most pressing issue facing Americans this week -- the economy -- she had surprisingly little to offer. She repeated the McCain tax cut plan and health care plan.

On Iraq, she was just incoherent. She said something about the surge and Obama and fighting. But it didn't answer the question, which was: What is the right plan for Iraq?

truly, truly a great debate. i have to admit that i and my party were one of the many culprits of debate drinking games. had we started from the beginning and had strict rules, we surely would have needed ambulance assistance. three beers were drunk during my short participation of "drink every time she says a palinism": maverick, alaska, ya (vs. you), words that should end in "ing", foreign policy, references to hockey or moms (or as it turned out, soccer in comparing the economic crisis), etc. and that was only the last half hour. 

ah, yes. good times, indeed.