|My daddy loved me|
None of us knew it was the last time until my mom woke up and called me in a panic. I was at the office, and I started to cry. I knew it would be very, very bad.
I had a miniscule spark of hope that once again we would find him and he wouldn't be dead, although he'd barely survived his attempt the month prior. He was frail, and he was joyless. He moved stiffly, and his smile, when he forced it, was a baring of teeth, nothing more.
That morning five years ago he took a bottle of pills and he took a rope and we never saw him again. Even at the morgue, they showed Nick and my mom a picture of his face, so as to minimize the trauma.
Apparently they'd had some very bad experiences with family members getting hysterical.
Many times I'd lived through days and nights of terror, of holding my dad's hand in the emergency room or ICU and making bargains with God. But there had always been that shred of hope to hold onto.
And suddenly, there was no more hope, and also no more fearing the worst. The worst had happened.
Some friends asked me afterwards if I felt some sense of relief - a release from the constant fear. I didn't. I think it was a gradual process, getting used to a life without fear of losing him. It took a while not to flinch when I heard an ambulance.
For quite a while I was hung up on whether he died on the 15th or the 16th. And I could know but I've decided I don't want to. It's now OK either way. He was ready to go and he went.
In the five years since he left us, I've gone through anger, despair, sadness, rage. I've cried until my entire body was raw, inside and out. I've laughed at completely inappropriate moments. (I still cannot say cremains with a straight face.) I've questioned years and years of my growing up.
And I've learned a tremendous amount about life and humanity. And myself.
Because, you know, a completed suicide is all about the people left behind. We are the survivors. We are the wreckage.
The dead, one hopes, are at peace.
And so these years - like all the years, I suppose, it just took me a long time to realize it - have been about me. I make them about my dad, and there are so many things I'd still like to know. But life is about us, we who are alive.
I still have abandonment dreams pretty regularly. It's never my dad, however, who is leaving me. That would be too straightforward, right? It's always an old boyfriend who stays just out of reach, no matter how hard I try, or Nick, who flat-out tells me this just isn't going to work.
In these dreams, I am traumatized; I am alone forever. Never, in my dreams, am I able to remind myself that actually, we're married and have kids, which is not the case in the dreams.
(And in reality, what I wouldn't give to be alone for a stretch of time!)
But I get it, I get the abandonment. When I think about my dad's suicide, when I think about his death, I don't think "He died." so much as "He left us."
While he was alive, our lives all revolved around him, to the extent we allowed it. He was like a magnet, like the sun, like a black hole pulling.
When we were younger, that was just how our household functioned. It wasn't explicit, but I can look back and that's just how it always was. As an adult my brother cut him - and then ultimately all of us - out. But my mom was always all about my dad. And I was very much so as well.
Sometimes now I still grieve, and of course I still wish he were here with us. I hate that he never got to meet my kids, that they never experienced the joy he could bring. He had a terrific laugh, and when he was fun, oh, he was fun.
But I think there's enough distance for me to be honest with myself about him as well, and I realize that I don't have to feel disloyal when I think about some of the negatives of life with my dad. Life with crazy - and that's what it always was - is hard.
It can be charming and exciting and fun and exhilarating. But the crazy is always in charge, not you. You are on that bus and you don't know if it's going to barrel forward or slide over the edge.
I miss my dad so much, the dad I like to remember. I miss who he could be for my kids. But I believe he needed to go, and he'd almost entirely killed his spark before he took his own life.
I don't know what I think happens when people die, but I recently read this quote by Mandy Patinkin - who I will always associate with my dad, because he was Che in Evita, to which my dad brought three pillows for me to be able to see. It is from this page of his quotes, touted to change your life, which may or may not, and it resonates with me:
My sense of religion is Einstein's sense of relativity. I don't believe in God. I believe that energy never dies. So the possibility exists that you might be breathing in some other form of Moses or Buddha or Muhammad or Bobby Kennedy or Roosevelt or Martin Luther King or Jesus.At Lou's memorial service, our friend Ania said that after my wedding, Lou had told her that my dad wasn't doing well, and she knew that he felt so good that I was with Nick. He knew I had found someone who would treasure and care for me. So he could stop worrying about me.
As a parent, he was looking forward into a future for me that wouldn't necessarily include him. But he knew that I was loved. And isn't that what we want most for our children?
Moving forward, at this five-year point, I'd like to be able to focus on celebrating who my dad was, and on the good things in our lives together. Because there were lots of them.