Stories

At the End of This Chapter

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Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

This morning I sat in my home office and rolled my shoulders back before clicking ‘join’ on yet another Zoom call. My posture seems to be suffering, as does my spirit.

As the conversation with a new colleague unfolded, we both smiled knowingly when I said, “Five months really isn’t that long in the great scheme of things.”

March. April. May. June. July.

This creeping passing of time feels long enough.

I hope this season is but a chapter in our lives.

In my experience, there are some chapters that shape us more than others.

I keep thinking of all the people dying, and all the people grieving, and wonder how this chapter is forever redirecting their trajectories.

I wonder what my small family of two will remember. I wonder how long we’ll be apart from my mom and grandmother and brother. I’m jumping ahead to December and begin drafts of our Christmas letter not yet formed. Wondering what anecdotes we will have to share as most of our time has been spent in our separate home offices.

I wonder about small business owners not sure of what’s next. Of servers and waiters and delivery drivers who are trying to stay afloat. Of the tired doctors and nurses and physicians working long hours all over the world.

Of the thousands of stories and chapters being written right now.

On Tuesday, I found out a relative’s father passed away from Covid. Waves of my own grief washed over me and a deep ache came right to my heart pocket, as I now know another young woman my age has joined the Dead Dads Club. Just because this is not affecting you personally, does not mean it’s not impacting others profoundly.

Soon after, I kept scrolling and see glimpses of families at gatherings, on road trips, and outdoor excursions I’m not sure enough to take myself.

Grief and frustration and envy mix into a mingling cloud of letters spelling, as if in sky writing in front of the mist I keep walking through, “I don’t think that’s a great idea.”

Some stories are of fear right now.

Others of realistic truth. Of science. Of bravery. Of just doing the best we can.

Please don’t let your story be of carelessness, of insensitivity, of ‘Oh, I wish I hadn’t.’

This chapter is heavy in my hands and combatting the doom takes extra care – and it’s up to all of us to help shorten it’s length.

This pandemic is nowhere near over.

As always, I’m holding the truth in both hands. The world is dark and heavy. And beautiful and light. We get a say in how we want to interact with what we’re given.

I sigh again and adjust my shoulders once more, relying on a tired neck to lift my eyes up from the what-ifs and re-focus on what is.

Across the street, the neighbor boys set up an obstacle course through the sprinklers. Dylan was outside in the driveway and waved hello.

“Want to join?”the young mother asked him. “You get a popsicle when you reach the end.”

Always something to hope for at the end.

What a beautiful thing.

 

 

My Apple Cart / Soap Box Rant

I’m bending down and dragging out the medium-sized apple cart. The old wood scratches on the cement, screeching along as I place the little pedestal in front of me.

Clomp. Clomp.

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Photo by dimas aditya on Unsplash

My feet stand confidently on this wooden box, supporting me as I take a deep breath.

Here it is folks.

My apple cart / soap box rant.

It’s Father’s Day. My third one with out him. The first year this loss was fresh, fresh, fresh. Teeth had sunk in and crunched away a giant part of me. I texted my friend who had lost her dad three years prior and I asked, “Um. What the hell am I supposed to do on this day?”

She responded, ” My first year I stayed off social media, got in bed and waited for it to pass.”

She granted me permission to do just that.

Last year we spent the day putting new mulch in our front yard. Ate pizza with my father-in-law and I’m sure I cried privately. I still stayed off social media.

This year, I’ve been working very hard on finding a community of people who understand and can relate to these swimming feelings of loss. I’ve whispered prayers for friends who can walk through this with me.

To my surprise, I found a lot of support on the internet.

I signed up for a Father’s Day gift exchange through Modern Loss. I write on the private group boards and think of the ol’ AOL chat room days. I ponder how these strangers behind their computer screens bravely share their pain and frustration and joy.

I submitted my answers to Father’s Day questions posed by The Dinner Party – a grief group specific for 20-30 somethings who have lost important people in their lives. They were going to pick 24 stories to highlight – one each hour today – and were overwhelmed when over 150 people responded to their prompts. I received the email with this round-up of powerful pieces at work. I scrolled through this list and tears filled my eyes while a sense community filled my heart. They included every single submission.

Unfortunately …. beautifully … I am not alone.

 

 

I get it now. I’m in the Dead Dads Club. A lifetime membership to the suckiest group.

New members join every day.

I think of the line they start every Al-Anon Meeting with – We’re sorry for what brought you here, but we’re glad you’ve found your way. 

This year, I believe in the power of my story and I’m using my voice. I’m scrolling on Facebook and won’t be staying in bed. I’m putting up pictures and writing poems and high-fiving with those who get it.

If you need to stay in bed and sip white wine that’s fine too.

Because there are SO many people who get it.

These people not be my intimate friends, but they, my fellow members, have brought me support and nodded “uh-huh” and wiped away tears from across the country. All on the internet.

 

I see Dad today – in the places he’s missing – but also in the places where we are living.

Cheers to the dads throwing ball, changing diapers, grilling steaks today. The ones who throw their kids in the air, teach tots to ride trikes, those working to pay the bills and put bread on the table. Cheers to the dads who are hurting. Those struggling with depression, or unemployment, or grief of their own. Cheers to the men who have no blood relation. Those who care deeply about the development of others. The ones who are bosses. The ones who are putting others before themselves. Cheers to the dads who are expecting. Those watching their wives bellies grow. The dads who are dreaming.

Cheers to the dads who are living.

Cheers to the dads who have died.

I wrote this poem for my dad and Hello Humans was gracious to publish it.

Happy Father’s Day.

Clomp. Clomp.

Stepping down.

Dragging my apple cart back into the garage.

My phone did a bad thing.

My phone did a bad thing.

The past few days my Apple device has been acting up when I text. The little micro machine always telling me my storage is full, and I don’t have the space capacity needed for the new iOS update. As a result, I can’t log into my bank app and my camera shuts down frequently.

First world problems. Yes.

I take too many pictures on my micro machine. This micro machine is also a time machine. On it lives very important memories.

Treasured ones. His voice. His pictures. His words. Dad’s.

I carry pieces of who he was in my phone which means he’s always in my purse, on my desk, on my bedside table.

This morning, to remedy the odd text message problem, I pressed the center button and the other one – you know the small one on the right. The combination of my pressing prompted a computer reset.

I needed my micro machine working properly – ready to respond to my every communication demand.

I used my fingerprint touch id (the future is now) to log back in after the reset and I promptly received three texts in the correct order. I scanned my family’s messages and set my phone down. Fixed.

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Wait, something’s not right.

All of my previous message conversations ……… gone. The ones from when we got engaged, group celebrations, and family archives. Missing in the line up.

Also missing are two text threads I had with Dad. One, a joking joint conversation with my brother – the three of us discussing mac and cheese options for brother’s birthday dinner. The other, a long standing thread of individual texts with Dad.

Our conversations. Stopped abruptly by his stupid early departure from this planet.

And today, when I reset my phone, the conversation went missing.

“Shit, shit, shit,” I said to myself as I started to panic at my desk. Around me, my co-workers reviewed reports and I was supposed to be doing data entry.  My eyes started watering.

I muttered some other choice words and quickly texted Dylan asking what I could do to back up my phone.

“Google it, ” he said.

Everyone’s damn answer is Google it. 

I don’t think I backed up my phone and I’ll have to log on to explore iCloud and text recovery and all these IT language things I’m not sure I understand.

What I do get, however, is that sometimes life rudely takes things away from you before you were ready. 

Another thing Dylan suggested was to try to send a text to the number and see if it would bring up the thread. That number has been out of service for over a year and a half. Is it more painful to text a number he certainly won’t answer, or to risk never seeing that thread again?

Although memorized, Dad’s personal contact with office, home and cell numbers still lives in my phone. I couldn’t delete it because our jokes and check-ins still sat in my messages. Sometime, I said, I’d write them all down. I was waiting for when I was ready.

I bravely deleted Dad from my favorites in my phone about nine months ago. I made a choice to take that step. We already let go of his ashes, some of his clothes, his crap in the garage and in the storage room we affectionately called his “study”. I could let go of him being a favorite caller in my phone.

I wasn’t ready to let go of those texts. Shit.

This morning, before the dreaded reset, I logged on to Facebook and saw that a friend from high school just lost her friend to brain cancer. Age 30. This woman was taken too soon. Cancer took her before my friend was ready. Before any of her family, or friends, or co-workers were ready. I don’t know this woman, and I rarely talk to this high school acquaintance but I got goosebumps this morning – for that family, that beautiful woman, the husband now widowed at my age. Tears for what was taken abruptly from them.

Everywhere we look things are getting taken from us.

But.

But.

Every single day things are given to us too.

 This weekend I threw a baby shower for a friend I’ve known for fifteen years. It’s miraculous to watch your friends prepare for parenthood. To bless them with onesies and diapers and things that suck snot out of their children’s noses. Yup, that’s a thing.

Investing in dear friends as they go big through transitions is a beautiful gift.

Tulips are popping up through the cold ground without direction – loved into being by instinct and sunshine that God provides.

The weather is warming and trees are blooming. The promise of spring lingers.

More texts do come in on my phone, though none from him.

So, tonight, I’ll try to find those texts and trust God that maybe He knew I don’t need to be carrying that weight around in my purse, on my desk, or my bedside table.

Open some storage space. Ouch.

Let new, beautiful things – photos, voices, and words – flood in.

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Art by Gracelaced

 

 

Update – later this evening, thanks to that same, frustrating IT, I was able to locate the conversations I was looking for. All praise to the Cloud. The Jesus one and Apple too.

Favorite Things – August

August is a big month at my house. My husband and my father-in-law celebrate their birthdays one day apart (well one day and 30 years apart) and the whole month turns into a celebration of Huey men. I’m excited to approach these milestones with them!

As I mix celebration with continued healing, I share this list of my favorite things.

Here are a few things that are worth a mention, a glance, or an impulse buy this month.

  1. The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss by Sandra Marinella

I was given this beautiful book to review and I loved the way Sandra encourages writers of all experience levels to get their stories out and on a page. She walks you through various writing exercises, shares her personal story with cancer, and encourages readers that healing can be found by writing your truth. All sentiments I can get behind. I strongly recommend this book!

2. Essie nail polish

My days as Receptionist at the Natural Nail Care Clinic forever left an impression on me and my medicine cabinet. I am still loyal to Essie products developed for your natural nail. I am loving this new color that was part of the Spring 2017 season. Come on, make your fingers feel pretty!

3. Ansel Adams Artwork

We finally painted our room! Our new, fresh, green walls anxiously await some art work. I’m planning on hanging some work by Ansel Adams like the piece below. My dad loved this artist’s ability to capture nature and peace. Photography and memory – beautiful things.

4. Be Brave T Shirt

Living life authentically takes bravery, compassion, and self-love. I like this t-shirt because it reminds me to embrace all of these things. Wear your mantras. Why not? I promise the women’s styles are more flattering.

5. Sprinkles

Everything worth celebrating is worth celebrating with sprinkles. Let the month of birthdays begin!

PS. I tried searching for manly sprinkles – Amazon tells me this doesn’t exist.