I’ve been thinking about this letter for some time now. And, honestly, even as I type these first few words, I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to say.
I mean, what are the perfect words to ‘celebrate’ someone’s anniversary? Because, Dad, as if you don’t know, today is the 10th anniversary of your death.
So much has been going on, Dad. I’ve really struggled during the past few months. More than that, actually. And, well, I’m finally at a point where I feel like I’m making progress — and then this day happens. And this is where I’m torn. The old me says this is a sad day and it should be sad and that’s just the way it is.
Dad, the new me — well, the new me says I should be celebrating all of the good and all of the happy that is between us as a way to honor you on this day.
Can’t I do both? Can’t I be sad and remember happy things at the same time? That, to me, seems like the only solution right now, Dad.
First of all, there’s just something about 10. It’s like a big number just hanging out there to remind me vividly that, yes, you, in fact, have been dead for a while. I don’t particularly like any aspect of that — let alone having some number become an authority on something. And, really, that’s what 10 is right now.
It really doesn’t matter if I hate 10. I should, actually, hate all the numbers, Dad. Because any number associated with you means you’re gone. And, well, that’s the part I’m still not a big fan of. You know. The part where you are gone. To some extent, I have finally accepted it and dealt with it. But, in another sense, not so much. Or, well, maybe the not so much is other stuff in our relationship. That I’ve learned to be OK with the dying part, but it’s the other stuff that I’m not so excited about.
In terms of that dying part, the biggest thing that still irks me is that I wasn’t there, Dad. You’ve heard me talk about this before. I’m sure you’re sick of it. Heck, in a way I am. I know now what I would have said to you. First, I would have been mad at you — mad for leaving me, for leaving us. But, I also would have thanked you, Dad. For all that you did for me. And for us. For teaching me — only in your way. So subtle, yet so obvious. For trusting me. For giving me freedom to learn — and to fail.
I would have told you that I will never forget certain things about you, and about us. Countless hours at the little league field — so many memories there. Helping you out at the pool. Picking out a Christmas tree. Setting up the manger. Playing games on the TV room floor. Watching the Celtics. Getting a pizza at Famous. Making fun of your sport coats. Sharing laughs. Lengthy ‘discussions.’ Super cookies. Card tricks.
See, Dad, I would have told you those things because they, for the most part, are my holdover. It’s what I remember about you — about us. Simple stuff that nobody else will probably understand. And, well, honestly, I like it better that way. Nobody has to understand. Nobody except us.
I still think about the letter you were going to write. The nurse said you had plans to write each of us a letter. I think about what you’d say all the time — hoping that you share some of the same memories I do. That those little things stick with you like they stick with me.
And then I hope, Dad, that you would have said you were proud of me. It’s such a simple thing. And, you know, even though we aren’t a big affectionate family — in either words or actions — it almost wouldn’t matter for you to say that you loved me. I know you do. I can feel it to this day.
But, honestly, I don’t recall you ever saying you were proud. Maybe you did and it didn’t mean that much to me then. But, for some reason, this is the big one. I’m pretty sure I know the answer. But I don’t want to know it that way. I want you to give me some sort of sign that I know you are proud.
I won’t bore you with all the other details, Dad. I know you’re watching. I know you see Aidan and Erin and how much they’ve grown and discovered. I know you watched over Lynn last week with her surgery. I know you are there. You and Tim, both. Always there, always connected. The tricky part is just figuring out how. I haven’t been very good at that. But I will get better.
So, Dad, today, I expect my thoughts to be all over the map. I expect to be sad. I expect to smile in a way that nobody else will understand. I expect to laugh at some point. And, honestly, well, I expect to cry.
I’m sorry, Dad, that this letter has been all over the place. It’s a great representation of my relatively recent thought process. I know I’ve written more eloquently in the past about certain things. And that’s fine. That’s what was important to me then. This is what’s important to me now.
And the other thing that’s important to me now — is for you, Dad, to know that I love you. But, again, you know that. We don’t talk about it. We don’t show it. We just know it.
The other part? Is that I’m proud of you, Dad. Couldn’t be prouder. Not for just the way you taught me. For the way you helped others. For everything about you.
Please know, too, that I’m trying. I truly am. But it still sucks. You’re not here. And I miss you.
I want to start writing more. Need to do that. And will do that.
But, honestly, right now, I’m not having great luck coming up with some topics. I’ve got one lined up for later this week, but you’ll see that in due time.
And, thanks to the beauty of Facebook, more people have seen this blog lately.
To those viewers, as well as any other newcomers, is there anything you’re dying to read about from me?
Anything that I’ve said here intrigue you that you want to know more about?
This is your chance to control the content a bit. If you so desire.
Help me get things going again.
(And, I know I’ve said this before, but I’m not going to write the Rachel Ray story until my friend Christine and I can do it together. We’ll get there!)
Ok, the floor is yours.
It’s not always about what you write. Sometimes it’s about what you don’t write.
And, for me, the fact that I didn’t write something two days ago is a pretty big thing.
And just so you know, me writing THIS is not me finding a different way to write about THAT.
Because while I will address THAT in THIS, it’s not really about THAT. Honestly.
What’s THAT? Well, it’s the fact that Tim’s birthday was two days ago. And, more importantly, that I didn’t write about it. In the past, I would have.
In the past, I would have written about how much it sucks (oh, it still does). I would have written how hard it is to celebrate Tom’s birthday knowing his twin isn’t here (that’s still true).
What is THIS? THIS is me writing about why I didn’t write THAT. It really is. I’m not going to write about how THAT brought me down. Because, well, it didn’t. Or at least not as much as usual.
Why? Good question.
The answer lies within. As does everything else.
The answer is me trying not to focus on things that will hurt. Trying not to focus on things that will bring up bad/hurtful memories. Trying not to focus on ways to, quite honestly, sadden myself. And therefore make it somewhat of a challenge for those around me — something I’ve become much more aware of lately.
Now, let me just say this, in a couple of weeks I’ll be here writing about my Dad. Why? Because at the end of the month is the 10th anniversary of his passing. I can’t leave that. I’m not ready for that. So that’ll be here. As will something, most likely, in June on Tim’s anniversary.
But, by taking away posts on birthdays (besides perhaps a quick note on facebook), I’m trying to take away some elements that can affect me. I have to do this. It doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about THAT. Believe me, I am. And I always will be.
It’s more of how I think about THAT. Birthdays are good days. So rather than be morbid, a goal is going to be to try and be happier. Think that’s easy? Think again.
But, it’s a step. It may seem like a small one to you. But, um, yeah, to me, it’s like huge.
So this weekend, we had great family time. Gathered at Tom’s house Saturday. Simple. Pizza. Cake. And just hanging out. Even goofy stuff like Tom playing his guitar while Lynn and I played “Name that Tune.” For a moment, it was just Tom, Lynn and me in Tom’s basement. Honestly, can’t tell you when the last time the three of us were together like that. And it was good, stupid fun.
It was a little weird not having Tim’s family there (they were at a wedding), but it was a good day.
Then, Sunday, we gathered at my mom and sister’s for dinner. My sister-in-law was there, so that was good to have Tim’s connection there. Great meal. Even greater stories — including ones about Tim. It was family stuff. Stuff most of you would never understand — much like me not being able to understand some of your close family stories.
But, you know what? It was just right.
And that is all part of THIS.
All part of me trying to, quite frankly, deal with my feelings. Again. Do you know me? Because if you do, you realize that’s not an easy thing for me. But, it’s a necessary thing for me. Especially now.
So, yes, the end of this month is going to suck. It’s been 10 years for Dad. And, well, as a good friend said to me the other night that we deal with something like this every day, there’s something about the number 10.
And then in June, on Tim’s anniversary, that’ll be my time to deal with THAT.
Then, on July 9th, which is Dad’s birthday, I’m not going to be here moping. In fact, I probably won’t be here at all. But if I am, it’ll be to tell you about the things I did that day, or plan to do that day, in order to find ways to remember the good about Dad and not focus on the negative.
Because, really, I’ve had enough of THAT. I need more of THIS.
So there was a parade in our house tonight — one complete with two drummers making circles through the living room, dining room and hallway.
One of the drummers was simply wearing her drum — and nothing else (well, except shoes).
The other drummer pondered this for a minute and said:
“Erin, if you were in a real parade and you were naked nobody would smile at you.”
Oh, he’ll learn.
Accept those things you can’t change, and move on.
That what a dear friend said to me today after I sent an email that I wouldn’t be at work for most of the day due to the latest sickness to have found its way into the house. I was frustrated in my email. Heck, I was frustrated in general. Missed work. My daughter sick again. Me still sick.
So much for starting the year off on the right foot.
Yet, the above is so appropriate for me — on so many levels. Not just dealing with the issue of the day.
Let’s just say that when I look back on 2009, I hope it becomes something I learned a lot from — and not suffered a lot from. This head of mine, while still spinning today, was spinning almost out of control in parts of 2009. Things that had been buried for a long time surfaced and are still being dealt with. And, I suppose, they always will be dealt with.
I just want to make sure now that I’m better equipped to deal with feelings, fears and emotions than I have in the past. I’m not out of it by any means, but I’m trying. I really am.
The stress I put on myself has impacted the way I interact with others — family, friends, colleagues. It was a shortly after Thanksgiving when a colleague of mine said to me, “Wow, Mike, you’re in a good mood lately.”
That sort of hit pretty hard. It’s one thing when those very close to you notice something and say something, but at times I put that on the back burner. How could they really know? How could they really see? Well, turns out they did know and they could see. Because when someone who I’m not as close to mentioned my mood, then I was like, Hmmm. Maybe there is an issue here.
I’ve taken some steps I never expected to take in my life. And that’s what I have to focus on now — steps. The journey, not the finish line.
I’ll be candid. With the amount of loss in my life, which as you know has been one of the hardest things for me to understand and deal with — there have been moments where I have focused more on my own death than my own life.
It’s even hard to write that sentence — let alone try to explain it or deal with it. But, if you are close to me, you’ve probably heard me say the following:
“Well, my dad was 65, my brother was 45. That makes the average life span in my family for men to be 55. I just turned 40. If that holds true, I won’t walk my daughter down the aisle.”
Are you kidding? Seriously.
Well, for a while, I wasn’t. Still aren’t.
I won’t lie to you, it scares me. But I need to get off that crutch. I’ve leaned on that too much. Way too much. And I need to stop that.
Not an excuse, but this month is hard — Tim’s birthday and Dad’s 10th anniversary. And I’m trying to find the tools I need to handle some of these feelings better than I have in the past.
More importantly, I need to focus more on the journey to the end — not the end itself.
There are still things to be worked on. Still things to be figured out. And they aren’t minor things.
But, the point is, I need to find my way back to being the person people expect me to be.
No, that’s not right either.
I need to find my way back to being the person I expect myself to be.
And that’s what I’m going to try and do. It won’t be easy, but it’s so beyond necessary. I can’t let it eat at me the way it did in 2009. I can deal with it now, but I cannot be consumed by it.
As I’ve been thinking about this, I was also in the middle of a project. You know that I turned 40 last November — another issue that caused a great deal of stress. One of the ways for me to celebrate? I’m throwing myself a party. It just happens to be next month. Almost four months later? So what.
Point is, it’s going to be a fun party and it’s going to be the party I want — with the people I want. And that’s a good feeling.
Another good feeling about the party? My friend Mike is putting together a power point that is going to kill me. Why? Well, he’s got basically every picture of me known to man — from when I was a year old to just two weeks ago. And, let me just say, I haven’t always been this handsome or fashionable. And, well, if you are on the party invite list, you’ll laugh your ass off at a lot of the pictures. I know I will.
I also know that I will smile at a lot of them and recall happy times associated with each picture.
And that’s the point — collecting these pictures has been a very appropriate exercise for me. It’s given me the chance to do just that — to re-visit the journey I’ve taken along the way. To focus on what’s happened — not what might or might not happen.
To remember things like going with my family to pick out the perfect Christmas tree — something I still cherish to this day. To all of the good times I had in the backyard pool. To school pictures — yup, even including the velour shirt I wore in sixth grade with a dickey underneath. To the many places Renee and I have travelled. To the union of friends along the way. To celebrate the arrival and birthdays of new family and friends — and always remembering the departure of the same. To see myself standing next to people that are so much more than friends.
I suppose now you want to see some of these pictures? Well, it’s the least I can do. Here’s a tease. And if you’re coming to the party, there’s a lot more where these came from. (Invites to the party, by the way, out soon.)
Afterall, I wouldn’t be who I was or where I am today without having taken all of those steps along the way. Each one being so much more than a step — each one being part of who I am.
And that’s what I’m trying to do — to reclaim who I am. Not just for you (though I know you’ll appreciate that), but, more importantly, for me.
And, you know, like my friend said, to accept those things you can’t change and move on.
If I can do that — all of that — then 2010 will be so much more than 2009 ever was.
Is it a resolution? No, it’s not. Because it’s not something for this year.
It’s something for life.