Tag Archives: Death

Voting Without Dad

1 Nov

The last good day I had with my dad was voting day 2012.

He loved voting. Loved politics. Loved talking big ideas.

I still have the Ford/Dole pin that he proudly wore to the polls that day.

“You can’t wear that inside, Sir.”

“Oh, yes I can. You see it’s a bit outdated.”

He wasn’t walking so well but I guess he had timed his medications that morning so that he would have maximum energy to get out of the house and to the local school. I remember buckling and unbuckling him in the car, pulling him out of it when we got there. I remember him putting both his hands on my shoulders, as he often did, and using me as a more size-appropriate walker.

I stopped to take a picture outside with the “Vote Aqui” sign.

Then we went inside. My dad, clearly the gentlest giant in the land, always attracted attention. Every little old lady in the gymnatorium wanted to help direct us.

“My daughter will take my ballot. To the booths!”

I filled out both of our ballots the same.

“Just straight down Democratic.”

And then I walked us to the machine that scans the paper ballot, collected our stickers and we went home.

He had a heart attack two weeks later.

I know I saw him in those two weeks. I must have, I was living with him. But I don’t have any memories of it. I was running off to work, sleeping over with friends, living my own life which he never seemed to begrudge me.

He died the day before Thanksgiving that year and my aunt and uncle came as soon as they heard.

“Well I guess dinner tomorrow is off.”

“Why on earth would we cancel Thanksgiving? That won’t help anything.”

It was a weird thanksgiving but aren’t all family holidays? I expected all following Thanksgivings to be hard but the next one snuck up on me. And the next, and the next. Much the same way that you’re always surprised at the answer you have to give when people ask how old your little siblings are now.

But voting for president, that’s something I never envisioned doing without talking to my dad about it.

So, Happy Quadrennial-iversary, Dad. I know that somewhere you’re really amused by all of this. Just write down all the jokes you’re coming up with, I’ll read them later.

 

The Power Of Your Tears

24 Aug

How to Look Like You Weren’t Just Crying in Less Than Five Minutes

At thanksgiving this year it’ll be 4 years since my dad died. A lot of things in my life have gone better and worse in that time. Even though I feel like everything I write here about him is sad I actually feel pretty good about where and when he left us.

This is the only way he would have ever seen any of the shows I’ve worked on and been proud of.

It isn’t great but there are silver linings.

And one of those silver linings is that in the last four years I’ve finally learned how to cry properly. Don’t get me wrong, I cried before he died, I’m sure, probably, I must have.

But now I’ve learned how to (‘enjoy’ is the wrong word) appreciate it, experience it in a transitory way, not get mired down in it, use it as a cathartic release.

Before he died I hated crying, I resented the mere fact of it and anyone who I caught being so weak as to do it. I resented any time that I would be subjected to it by my own self (or anyone else for that matter). I would scrunch up my face and hold my breath, I would immediately have a massive headache from my meager and herculean attempts to thwart the inevitable. I would need a nap or be forced to walk around the rest of the day feeling completely spent and useless, volatile, a power plant permanently stuck at the moment before the meltdown.

Now I just do it. In my living room, on the subway, in Times Square, wherever I happen to be reading a book. And then it’s done. I almost take pride in how a puppy food commercial can leave me with a pretty little pearl down my cheek.

I had to learn that crying doesn’t make you lesser because the tears made their way out. It isn’t a trick designed to leave you depleted. It’s a thing you can use to your advantage. You can use this thing to feel better, the way that doctors advise masturbation as an aide for menstrual cramps.

Lean into it.

Remember: You Are Not Your Emotion

7 Mar

I’ve led a pretty emotionally privileged life. I’ve never battled mental illness, anxiety disorders, the problems that a lot of my favorite humans have faced.

The only time I’ve ever had to use this kind of manual to my own emotions was in the year after I lost my dad. In the beginning every feeling I felt seemed so overwhelming. Guilt, sadness, anger. Whichever one was around took over my entire brain and body. I became the guilt, I was walking sadness, I was the embodiment of anger.

Recently a friend of mine lost her father and I called her to talk about it. She described her feelings of guilt and it was like having a phone call with my past self. I didn’t have it written down at the time but the way I finally learned to deal with my emotions was basically discovering this flow. Like it’s yoga.

Back bend, emotion in.

Forward fold, notice the emotion.

Half up, feel the emotion.

Forward fold, do you know why the emotion?

Plank, name the emotion.

Upward facing dog, accept the emotion.

Down dog, emotion out.

Like a wave. In and out.

Otherwise living in each emotion, letting them consume you, well; they’ll consume you.

 

What Happens After You Die

13 Dec

Today I told my shrink that in the last year since Dad died I’m quicker to anger. It really just feels like all the emotions are just more within reach. I can tap into them all so much easier. When I want to and when I really don’t want to.

And she said that when something big happens and you have a lot of emotions about it, it can throw off your emotional balance. It can make you quicker to anger and sadness and exuberance and love. Every emotion is just a little closer to the surface.

So if you were wondering. Just in case you were curious if everything would be easier if you just weren’t here anymore. The answer is no.

This is what happens after you die. Everyone who loved you changes, some a little and some a lot. Everyone has to learn how to navigate their emotions all over again. Everyone is angry at you and everyone loves you. Everyone is having a lot more feelings than they ever did before, and for the rest of their lives and it isn’t any easier. Not at all.

One Year

20 Nov

People are going to say stupid things and you just have to remember they’re doing it out of love and not knowing any better.

A friend of mine just ended his relationship, a relationship that he and his fiancé were expecting to last forever. A relationship that felt so real to an outsider like me that when I heard of it’s demise I literally did a double take.

And a mutual friend of ours who had been in that situation before said to him “People are going to say stupid things and you just have to remember they’re doing it out of love and not knowing any better.”

Truth.

One of the things I’ve learned so intensely in the last year is that you can’t control what anyone else does. You can’t anticipate what kind of reaction they’re going to have to surprising or upsetting news. You can’t anticipate how they’re going to try to comfort you or whether they’re going to need comforting themselves. You have to be ready to hear the exact right thing or the exact wrong thing at any moment.

And of course it’s always the wrong things that you remember. The people who I wanted to hug me but who instead just stared and let me keep rambling. The friend who told me that her boyfriend was an orphan and joked that she’ll never have to meet his parents.

And the thing I have to remember is that all of these wrong things are just failed attempts at right things made by people trying to show their love.

Even when the words cut like glass it’s this that I have to remember. People are flawed, their attempts are flawed, their words are flawed. But their love is like a diamond. If there are flaws in it they are there to be loved too because they come from a flawed world.

Today I put the Jewish anniversary of my dad’s death (called a yahrzeit) for the next 20 years into my calendar and I’ll tell you what is the most upsetting thing about him being gone, the thing I haven’t told anyone.

If I ever see him again, if I ever get to hear him crack a joke it’ll be literally a lifetime from now. My lifetime. It isn’t that I’ll never see him again, it’s imagining that if on some plane I do see him again it’ll be many, many decades from now. I’ll go the next 50, 80, 100 years before I get to see him smile again. That is the most upsetting thing. And everything else that is upsetting, a (very heavy) pine box being lowered into the earth, a yahrzeit candle, a condolence card, is only upsetting because it’s a reminder of that fact.

So now you know. Now you have a tiny slice of that experience to tuck into your heart and maybe the next time you have a friend going through something you’ve never experienced you can pull out that shard of glass and maybe it’ll help you say a right thing.

A Bad Day

18 Nov

Today I look at this incredibly beautiful set of photos

And I think,

Don’t love him. He’ll just die.

It must be November.

My Greatest Fear

16 Oct

Charlieissocoollike is afraid of death. Nothing against him, it’s not like he’s the only one.

But as I watch that video I keep asking myself why the idea that we are all going to die one day is so scary.

You’re a ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made from stardust, what do you have to be scared of?

– Porkbeard 

It’s just a fact. I’m gonna die, you’re gonna die, the earth is gonna die, the universe is gonna die. In some ways it’s really comforting. It’s something we all have in common. You and your greatest enemy are both gonna die. You, me, my landlord, and the homeless man who lived by my old elementary school are all gonna die.

Hosenose died.

In fact I’m more disturbed by the idea that Hosenose injured his tail during his lifetime than that he died.

In some ways the fact that billions of people have already done it makes it less scary to me.

So my greatest fear isn’t death. I’m not even scared about the thought that one day there will be no one alive who remembers me.

I’m way too busy being scared of how I’m going to injure myself trying to kill a moth.

If the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it.”
– John Green, The Fault in Our Stars, 2012