Well today is the second anniversary of my dad’s death and of the worst day of my entire life. Approaching the anniversary this year has been very different. It’s not been nearly as bad as last year but it’s sort of snuck up on me and jumped out and got me at very random times. Like earlier this week I was watching a random show on TLC (Long Island Medium – HAHA) and all of the sudden a wave of emotion crashed over me and about drowned me.
My mom’s done remarkably well over the last year. She’s really learned to stand on her own two feet and she’s started finding her way forward. She still has good days and bad but way more good days now. Though it still weighs heavily on me that now I’m a “caretaker” for my mom where before my dad’s death, I still saw it the other way around. What a weird paradigm shift.
Tonight we are getting together at my mom’s request at her house for dinner. I really hate to go to her house. I have ever since he died there. I don’t honestly know how she can stand to live there though I understand the whole “take back the place and make it her own” stance in it. It just feels dark there, like there’s some sort of bad energy, even though she’s totally redone the place inside and out and it’s really quite cute. I know my sister and her daughter feel the same way too.
Duckie’s not coming to dinner (he actually didn’t last year either) and he told me he hoped my mom understood. I assured him that she would but I wonder if she really gets it. To him, this day is not just about my dad’s death, but it’s also about the end of our marriage. And it is that for me in a lot of ways too. So while Duckie’s cool with being part of the family on other days day, this worst day of his life, he doesn’t want to be. And I totally understand that and get it.
It’s funny, when I think about the day my dad killed himself I can still remember with crystal clear clarity the moment I felt a break from Duckie. I wasn’t even fully aware of what it signified but it really was so apparent at what I’d been hiding from myself for years.
It was right after my mom got to the house. Police were everywhere. I was sitting on the ground sobbing with these old ladies holding on to me. My mom was falling apart and begging the police to let her go see my dad because they hadn’t brought him around from the back of the house and put him in the ambulance yet. They obviously wouldn’t let her and encouraged us all to go inside a neighbor’s house. They didn’t want us to see what my dad looked like. I got up and my brother in law and I walked with our arms around my mom up to the neighbor’s. About that time, Duckie pulled up and he came in too. We hugged briefly and I filled him in that it was over. We hadn’t made it in time. My brother in law had heard the gun shot and that the police wouldn’t let us see my dad.
My mom was sitting in a chair in this old lady’s kitchen looking so lost and broken and confused. She was sobbing and begging us to make the police let her go see my dad. Screaming that this was a mistake and he’d been fine just a couple hours earlier when she talked to him on the phone. She said she knew if she could just get to him he’d fight and live. I knelt down on the floor and put my head in my mom’s lap and wrapped my arms around her waist and just held on. I felt like if I didn’t hold on to her, she would slip away too. I sat that way for God knows how long until my legs were entirely numb and my feet were cramping.
My brother came in and essentially picked up my mom and held her like a rag doll. I walked outside and Duckie followed me. I sat on the sidewalk, the cold cement hard through my work clothes and lowered my head in disbelief. Duckie tried to comfort me by rubbing my back and all I could think was who the hell was he and that I wanted him to get away from me. That I wanted my best girlfriends there rubbing my back, hugging me, telling me it was going to be ok. That I wanted them so badly at that point I wanted to tear my hair out and rip my clothes and drag my nails down my face to just feel anything other than the pain and disbelief circling around in my mind.
The rest of that night on the way to the hospital, in the family grieving room, at my sister’s house, and back at my own, all I could think about was how I wanted those girls there. Duckie really couldn’t comfort me. Of course I spent much of that night and the following week falling apart and he did the best he could but I think he felt it too – the way I was shut off to him – that we were that far apart already. I even made the mistake of trying to talk to my mom and sister about it a few weeks later and they were too horrified by my dad’s death still to comprehend what I was trying to prep them for down the road.
In the following weeks, I remember Duckie getting mad when I’d see one of those girls and I’d finally light up and find a smile or that I shake him off whenever he tried to take care of me. When I stopped hugging him back and when I’d only offer a cheek when he wanted to kiss me. When I’d get in bed and roll away from him so he spent the night looking at my back and hearing me cry in my sleep. There was so much immediate distance between us in a time that would have normally brought people closer together than ever before. It’s weird to look back on it and see how fast and swift the realization came to me and how it immediately changed my behavior even in the throes of trauma and grief.
That realization that he wasn’t my support system, that he wasn’t even close to being part of it, is what pushed me hard and fast into leaving my marriage. It’s like I couldn’t bear one more second pretending and acting like it was ok.
I often ask myself what my dad thought of me getting divorced. I imagine he was mad at first and that the madness stemmed from him blaming himself and causing me to “break” and end my marriage. I still think there are a lot of people (family and friends) who think I “broke” in some way. But I know if my dad would have been here, he would have hugged me every day and told me he loved me and that he’d support me. And I hope he’s watched over me, laughed at my silliness, turned a blind eye to some of my exploits, and been proud of the woman I’ve become since then.
Let’s just hope God doesn’t allow the reading of blogs up in heaven ;)