Losing Dad

The Magic Hat

When my dad dies, there is one thing I want. It is not a trust fund or a car. It is not his computer or his cell phone. It is not the expensive Turkish rugs or antique furniture or house. No, when my dad dies, I want the old wool dress hat in the closet. You see, for a long time, I called it “the cancer hat.” I was four and five the last time he had cancer. He lost all his hair and he wore this hat. As a child, I believed that it was magic somehow. I believed he survived because he wore this hat.

I cannot tell you how many times I have taken that hat out of the closet and smelled it. The smell has remained the same for the last 30 years. It NEVER changed. It is, by far, the best thing I ever smelled. I believe it is the smell of magic. I believe it is the smell of hope.

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Losing Dad

A Man Who Loves a Woman

In the song, When a Man Loves a Woman, the lyrics say, “When a man loves a woman, spend his very last dime tryin’ to hold on to what he needs He’d give up all his comforts, sleep out in the rain If she said that’s the way it ought to be.” I used to hear this song and think, this is what it means when a man loves a woman. Anyone can say, “I love you, ” but to show it is way beyond words.
This morning, my dad fell. He fell hard. It was hard for him to tell me he fell. He showed me his bruises and cuts. He told me that he woke up and tried to get out of bed, but stepped on a pair of pants he laid on the floor. He slipped on the pants and ended up on the floor. He is very thin and weak, so this wasn’t a surprise to me. He told me that he laid out the pants because he didn’t want to wake my mom when he was ready to get up for the day. There is nothing shameful about the fact that he fell. His fall was amazing. It was the result of real love. He thought ahead about the fact that my mom might want to sleep in and he didn’t want to disturb her sleep.

Sometimes my dad buys flowers for my mom for no reason whatsoever. He defends her. he kisses her everyday and every night. There love is beyond what you see in the movies. They sacrifice and give to one another. I have never seen a better example of love.

Today I realized that love exists. Love in the purest and best form can happen. My parents are an example of that love. I am looking for that love. I will not settle for less. I deserve the best and so does everyone else. No one should settle for less and no one should give any less.

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Losing Dad

In Waves

When you are about to lose someone you love, the crying goes in waves. Last week and the week before I cried in the bathroom at work, in the car, in the shower, as I fell asleep at night….pretty much all the time. I hoped for a busy night at work each night so I could occupy my mind with something. The crying comes from knowing I will soon have to face a world without my dad, how I sometimes feel unsupported through all of this, and from the fear of what happens next in the family, in my job, and in my relationship. In addition to the crying, there is a loss of appetite or an over aggressive appetite.

There is a complete lack of desire to get out of bed in the morning and there are nights when sleep just won’t happen. I spent one whole night holding my phone and crying because in the 10 minutes I had fallen asleep that night, I had a dream that they called to tell me that my dad passed. It was so real and scary that I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. I went to a wedding that night and was feeling guilty for going. I thought I had been so selfish to go when I could have stayed with my dad. The next morning, I went to work pumped up on Red Bull and made it through. When I got in my car 8 hours later, I started crying and continued to cry for about three hours.

This week is a good week. Dad seems stronger somehow. He seems almost normal like nothing is wrong. Also, I ran three days in a row this week. I paid for my tickets to take a trip to Florida and run a half-marathon this week. For the second time, I went over my dad’s wishes for his funeral with him. The first time, I ended up sobbing and crying and telling my dad I just wasn’t ready. This time, I made it through. It’s been a good week and seemed more well-rounded.

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Losing Dad

Sunrise, Sunset

I used to love sunsets. I have a family in Montana that I have stayed with a few times and one of the boys actually saw a sunset and said it was “Rebekah’s sunset.” The sunsets in Montana, like Alaska, are fantastic! The other day, I was driving to work and was stopped at a light. I looked out my window and saw a woman on her porch swinging on a porch swing, reading a book. The breeze was perfect, the sun was going down and only slightly touching her. There was a tranquility water fountain beside her. I wanted to get out of my car and join her.

sunset

A few years ago, I remember my life was happy. My job was amazing, my relationship was new and exciting and seemed like it was going somewhere, I had just started my Masters program, and I had a new, beautiful house. I was also training for my first half marathon. My dad had just been diagnosed with cancer, but we were all hopeful and thought he might even be able to beat this damn thing. I remember looking at a friend of mine and saying my life was perfect and wonderful and I couldn’t remember being so happy. I took the time to enjoy sunsets.

Now, it seems like all of that has fallen apart. My hope has dwindled. I was laid off from the job I thought I was going to do for the rest of my life. My relationship is a question mark. My future is a question mark. My heart needs medication to work properly. My house feels more like a temporary dorm then a house. I don’t know what life will be like without my dad.  I can’t remember the last sunset I saw. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and just took the time to swing and read and breathe.

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Losing Dad

Purple Sneakers

When I was in second or third grade, my dad bought me a pair of purple sneakers. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas. It was just a regular day and he saw a pair of purple sneakers and thought I would love them. He knew I loved purple and assumed that I would love these sneakers. It was one of the coolest things he ever gave me. It was from the heart, random, and told me that he was thinking of me when I wasn’t even around.purple sneakers

Unfortunately, I was a stupid kid who was too embarrassed to wear the sneakers because in that time and place, unless your sneaks were white or black, you were weird. I was so concerned with what kids would say about the shoes that I cried after he gave them to me because I didn’t want to wear them. In my heart, I wanted to rock those shoes, but I always cared too much about what other people thought about me. I think, in all, I wore the shoes about 3 or four times in situations where I thought I was “safe.”

I’ve been thinking about those sneakers a lot lately. I loved them, but I think I hurt my dad’s feelings when I didn’t wear them that much. As an adult, I get that now. I am pretty good at giving gifts, but every once in a while, someone looks at you and looks at your gift and forces a “thank you.” I just don’t want to be that person anymore. I want to be more thankful and I want to wear purple sneakers proudly no matter what anyone else thinks about them.

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Losing Dad

Weddings

Tonight a man walked into the restaurant where I worked and handed me a card. His Daughter was coming in later for dinner to celebrate her anniversary and he wanted me to give her a card from him. Also, despite the fact that he already gave her a gift certificate for $100, he gave me a credit card and asked that I put the first $50 of their bill on his card. This is something my dad will never be able to do for me. It was such a cool loving moment, but it made me a little sad. So, I have to say it. I have to say what I have been thinking.

No matter who you are, if you are a girl, you look forward to your wedding day. You can be like me and swear up and down that you are different then other girls and that you don’t care about that stuff, but you are only lying to yourself. Even though I am unconventional and in no rush to get married, I still have an image of what I want my wedding to be like and I still hope for that day. The problem is that that day was supposed to include my dad. He has been there for me at every step and marriage is the big step when a dad is supposed to be there to hold your hand down the aisle and let you know that this guy you are about to spend the rest of your life with is ok. Then, your dad is supposed to celebrate with you when you’ve survived each year and go running into a restaurant and ask the server to take care of the bill. That is just what dads do.

The fact that my dad won’t be there, won’t meet the “other man” in my life, hurts.

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Losing Dad

I Think You Know That Author

Three weeks ago, my dad’s doctor told us that he only has “weeks” left. A good friend who lost her mother to cancer told me to write. She said she had a hard time verbalizing how she felt and what she was going through, but she found writing to be helpful. So, here I am.

As my dad has been fighting the cancer that is taking over his body, he is bound and determined to organize his home office and fix little things around the house. Since dad has very little strength, my brother is going through the list of loose railings and squeaky doors fixing all the nooks and crannies of my parents’ new house.  Meanwhile, I am helping with the office by organizing Bible Studies in the correct Biblical order and separating books into categories like counseling, prayer, Methodism, famous authors, and history. With each book, I read the title and dad tells me the author and gives me a review of the book. In the process, I have already acquired a box full of books on healing, creativity, leadership, and C.S. Lewis. I often think my family has no idea who I am and what I am interested in, but, through this process, I recognize that my dad sees me for who I am and knows what books would interest me.

Among his piles of papers, I found print outs of blogs I wrote years ago. My dad looked at me and said, “I think you know that author.” Then he told me that, every once in a while, he logs onto my old blog to see if I’ve written anything else. I’ve always liked writing and he knows that. I thought it could be interesting to record these “weeks” of his life in a good light and a reflective light. Somehow, I have a feeling that most of us will only remember the sadness of it all. However, I see a joy in all of this. I see an opportunity to meet my dad for the first time and to get to know him i a different way.

So, as I move books from shelf to shelf and sort through papers, I will listen and take note of what he is trying to share. I don’t know why organizing his office or water sealing the deck is so important to him right now, but I respect his wishes and am willing to help him with whatever he needs.To be honest, if the doctor gave me “weeks” to live, I would try to get a nice place on a warm beach and drink wine and eat fondue until I was ready to walk towards the light.

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