This Memorial Day I didn’t think would be a big deal. I thought it would be like all the of the past ones that I’ve experienced. But while I was power washing the cement around my pool (and yes that was an amazing experience and firmly cemented the fact that I’m an adult because I love power-washing) and painting the fence I missed my Dad.
I keep promising myself and I keep trying to sit down and write blog posts about something other than my Dad but I always come back to him. It’s been just under eight weeks since his death and I did not think that Memorial Day of all weekends would be hard. But it was.
He loved the power-washer. He loved to paint. He would have laughed so hard at Jackson running and peeing directly in the walkway to the pool. He would have helped me power-wash and we would have squabbled over pretty much everything that day because we both would have wanted to be doing the power-washing not the fence.
I also remembered every single Memorial Day parade I marched in with him and all the parades I saw him march in.
I walked into work this morning and the woman who is in the office down the hall from mine said “Hi,” and I burst into tears. She didn’t quite know what to do because we don’t generally have that type of relationship but she gave me a hug and we talked about my Dad.
I was with my Mom and sister and our kids and spouses all weekend also which was good. But it was such a keen absence. I thought Father’s Day would be hard or his birthday and Christmas. Never did I envision falling to pieces over Memorial Day.
This is the stuff our society doesn’t talk about. The grief that is ever present and unpredictable. I had been doing well. But little by little this weekend wore me down. Worst of all I couldn’t make it to hot yoga until today. Where I cried during the end meditation quietly.
It clears my head though and I landed this sweet arm balance recently and one of my instructors loves this particular arm balance and I knew she would be stoked about it and she was. She put it in about four times tonight. I know yoga’s not about the arm balances. But for me it’s about the journey I’ve taken to get into that arm balance.
Eighteen months of building my core and my triceps got me into that arm balance.
Last week one of my teenage clients who is hard to engage sometimes; well I showed them the arm balance. In dressy jeans, my Dad’s pink button down, and heels. It broke the ice. We talked about transformations and moving into something slowly and learning that in the hardest poses the greatest transformations happen.
I admit I am shameless and will do literally anything to get a teenager to talk to me in therapy.
It was in these arm balances tonight I thought about my Dad and Memorial Day and power-washing. I realized I needed to write another blog post about it. I tried very hard to write one about farts and hot yoga, but it just kept falling flat even though I know there is a hilarious post in there somewhere about farts and hot yoga. I mean how could there not be?
But it will have to wait. Wait for the grief to lift and for me to exhaust myself with thoughts about my Dad.
** Picture for the article is my wife and Declan. Just a candid shot I got of them this weekend when Declan needed a hug. Be still my heart!
My wife worked 7AM-7PM today. So I was on boy duty all day. They are three and a half.
Sometimes my wife says things like, “I wish I had Mondays off every week,” like it’s a freaking vacation. I work four days a week, five days (Saturday Mornings) every other week in order to have Monday’s “off”. I stay home with the boys, do administrative work for my practice, often call about ten to fifteen clients back per day, and bring the boys to whatever appointments they are due for.
Today was like every other Monday filled with drama and emergencies I could just not foresee.
Declan woke up cranky and wanting to cuddle. He then laid on the couch and fell asleep, which has actually never happened before ever. So I knew he was sick. Waited for the puke to come (but also texted with a nurse friend because I thought he might have some acute illness that only happens to kids I saw in the emergency department but haunt me as a Mom so she reassured me he didn’t have a weird random illness that would kill him. Just the stomach bug that hadn’t hit fully yet).
Meanwhile his brother Jackson was not sick and was not understanding that his brother was sick. They constantly talk to each. I mean constantly. I didn’t realize how constantly until Declan was asleep and not responding.
I was returning phone calls and cleaning up the kitchen and could hear him, “chatter chatter chatter…DECLAN…chatter chatter chatter DECLAN…..” and each time Jackson would pause then remember Declan was sleeping, then walk toward him to shake him and wake him up, at which point I would either yell or hand gesture wildly and silently while I was on the phone with a client or prospective client booking appointments.
Jackson is an evil genius. He knew when I was on the phone I would not yell at him to leave his brother alone. So he waited until I was on the phone to do his worst to try and get Declan to wake up, which would result in me vaulting myself across the couch blocking him from Declan making my most stern facial expression and waving my arms while talking calmly, “Sure, yes, I specialize in seeing transgender individuals…yes I know your therapist she’s wonderful, so glad she referred you to me…” etc.
Then the guys came to open the pool. I was shocked. First; because they were on time, second; because the owner was with them and he actually knew what the hell he was doing. We needed some repairs done and the last two pool companies I dealt with were awful in many ways.
So Jackson is now diverted by the pool opening and yelling at the guys opening the pool to look at his watch through the screen door. Declan is still sleeping. Jackson continues to yell to him to come see the pool.
I go outside with pool guy in order to assess the filter with him and as he explains the damages Jackson walks outside. Then a sleepy eyed half dressed Declan follows. Leaving the screen door wide open at which point one of my cats runs outside. I’m yelling at the boys to go inside, which they don’t, I’m scooping up my cat who is addicted to grass so she’s furiously eating blades of grass before I grab her, I toss her inside, shut the screen door, come back down to pool guy where the boys are. Declan starts heaving.
Finally. The puke came. I grabbed him, carried him three feet away from the pool filter and the fence so no one would walk through the ensuing puke. Then he puked. The pool guy was not phased, and said he has a two year old at home, and then proceeded to explain the filter issues with me while I’m holding Declan who was still puking and Jackson stood watching.
I walked Declan back inside carrying him deadweight in my arms. He’s forty pounds.
We walk inside and the power goes out.
Pool guy had been flipping some switches so we checked the breaker and such and it was out. I checked online and there was an outage in our area. Estimated time to fix it two hours.
No storm. No wind. Just an outage directly after my toddler puked specifically because we have a well pump, a dirty pool, and no way to wash the puke off his shirt.
So I stripped him. He screamed. He wanted the damn bear shirt he was wearing.
I set up the kindle which had 18% battery and left him watching The Fox and the Hound while I went outside to finish the filter discussion.
At some point the damn cat got out again.
It was 80 degrees here today.
I was hot. I was sweaty. I couldn’t access my freezer or ice or water for two hours. I still took calls from clients and scheduled two more intakes. Thank God for Hot Spots. On phones. Not actual literal hot spots. Because I was miserably hot.
Remember I have an employee now? In the midst of Declan puking, the pool guy, the power going out, she was texting me with technical and clinical questions about her clients today including but not limited to issues with wifi, our credit card processing machine, and clients.
As I was looking at the dwindling batteries on the kindle, my work phone, my iPhone, and my laptop the power magically came back on.
Declan was now drinking water and the next few hours went okay. Well except the screaming match when I laid him down for naps because he still wanted the damn bear shirt. He just can’t let things go. It always escalates with him because there’s no steering him away from it and he doesn’t let it go until I lose my shit.
He also insisted on sleeping in my bed because he was “sick”. Which I agree he was.
So they napped. I spent an hour on the phone with therapists collaborating about patients.
After naps we played outside in this awesome sprinkler pad. It was an hour of fun.
Then it started. They wanted to swim in the pool. They didn’t understand it was still green, still clearing, not ready. They both freaked out when we had to come inside and that led to another twenty minute show down between us all. Which culminated with Jackson taking one of these stakes we have for a game of giant croquet, and staring me in the face as he slowly pushed the pointy end through the screen door and made a hole. In our screen door. Kind of a big hole.
Perfect. I may have lost my mind a little.
After timeout for Jackson for making a hole in the door we made muffins with them in their underwear. Because epic showdown three of the day was Declan wanting his unicorn pajamas and they were not dry yet. The two hour power outage slowed down my laundry progress.
Crisis call from a client in the midst of the unicorn pajama showdown.
“Yes I can definitely meet with you this week,”
Mute the phone. “For the fifth time YOUR PONIES ARE IN THE DRYER! THEY ARE NOT READY YET!”
“Yes and bring your family, yes totally fine if we do a family session,”
Mute the phone “I WANT MY PONIES MAMA! I WANT MY PINK PONIES MAMA!”
…and so on and so forth. At some point I waxed a spot on my upper thighs that was bothering me. And yes I’m not supposed to open the wax anymore. But I did. And I didn’t grab a strip. So I was running through the house for the strip with the hot wax already on a large area of my upper thigh and the boys saw me run by and said, “Mama what happened?!” Then they witnessed me waxing the large area on my upper thigh because the strips were in the kitchen and I said, “Mothefudgenuggetfudgersfucking fuck I swore,” as I tried not to swear in front of them.
They basically ignored me and went back to watching the dinosaur show I had on for them.
Fast forward to bed time. The whining and the meltdowns were escalating after the muffins and I put them into bed early. Epic meltdowns. Why? Declan wanted his pink goggles. God knows where he put them. I looked. I truly looked. I could not find them anywhere. Jackson didn’t want to go to bed just in general and kept counting to 3 to mock me. “1…2….3!”
I found the stupid goggles thirty minutes later and brought them into Declan. They were in the bottom of a full laundry basket of clean laundry?!
Every night before bed I say a yoga thing with them, and for roughly ten seconds they pulled it together for that, “Sky above, earth below, peace within. Namaste.” Then I bow my head with my thumb knuckles at my third eye (Center of forehead).
Then Declan whined and said, “No want MamasDay Mama!”
At the end of these days I don’t know how to feel. I feel raw, edgy, irritable, then angry that I feel that way. I try to remember the positives about today. The sprinkler was fun. The pool opening happened and went really well, I mean minus Declan vomiting during the opening…the power went out, but it came back on. Thank God. And I got to spend the day with my boys. For better or worse.
Moral of the story. Definitely not a vacation or a “day off”. More like a day at home in hell with occasional moments of happiness and peace interspersed with hours of hell. But for some reason our human brain remembers more of the happiness and less of the hell. Survival tactic I think.
p.s. the saga continued with Declan pooping after bedtime, my wife helping him, he peed on the unicorn pj’s and had another meltdown because she made him change into new bottoms. “But Mama said yes!” I could hear screamed down the hallway as I hid cowering in my bedroom.
I have struggled with writing recently because I feel so heavy with grief. Sounds cliche or weird but it’s true.
I could write about the law in Georgia but I literally can’t wrap my head around the fact that it is now reality and there are a population of women in Georgia who are having their rights to their own bodies stripped from them.
I could write about the two hours I spent at the AT&T store today to fix the mistakes made in a 45 minute phone call last week. Much of the time today was more pleasant discussing last nights episode of Game of Thrones with the sales guy. He predicts Danaerus will kill Jon Snow. I predict Arya will kill Danaerus and Sansa will end up queen with Jon Snow ruling the North. Tyrryon? Death. I’m just not sure how.
But it all falls flat because most of my thoughts have revolved around my Dad dying. Because before my Dad died my best friend’s Dad died in January. Then two weeks after my Dad died my business partner (and friend)’s Dad died suddenly. Everything bad happens in threes. I just didn’t know it would be three dead Fathers.
The last time I saw my best friend’s Dad was on Christmas Eve. The last time I saw my business partner’s Dad was at my Dad’s funeral. And the last time I saw my best friend’s mom was at her husbands funeral. Too many Dads. Too much death.
It makes me contemplate my own mortality; and that of every one elses. So you see why I haven’t written. My mind is in a dark place.
I asked my mom about the urn at some point, as my dad was cremated, and she told me that they wouldn’t have an urn. It would be a “biodegradable container” that would be buried on church grounds in their memorial garden. My sister and I sorta looked at each other, and didn’t say anything, well I think I repeated the “Biodegradable container” part because it sounded like we were talking about coffee grounds or something.
We had dinner with my cousin the night before and she was raised Catholic, and I preemptively told her about the container. She also took it in stride. Sorta. She in her Jersey way said, “A what? What?! Wait what?!” then asked why we weren’t scattering him somewhere and I had asked that very question, my Mom said they decided they didn’t want to do that because “We don’t want to blow all over each other if it’s windy.”
I mean it’s a fair point.
The day of the funeral it was raining. We walked outside with umbrellas with the pastor carrying a rather large nice looking biodegradable container. Without much preamble and with very little circumstance he tromped through some leaves and plopped it into the ground in a hole while we all stood watching and standing in the mud and rain.
My Dad could have asked us to do any number of things with his ashes. He chose to be buried anonymously as the grave is not marked, it is just a large memorial garden with a plaque when you first enter with the names of those who are buried there listed.
He picked this so I couldn’t say anything about it, though I did have many thoughts about it. The plopping of the container into the hole was a bit much for me, as I had only been to funerals when one was lowered slowly into the ground or at memorial services where we did not see the actual burial. But it was as my Dad wanted it to be.
He liked his pastor, and he wanted his family there, and as soon as he was in the ground by the church he loved; it stopped raining. My business partner, and my friend, told me much later that during the funeral her dad sang each song and each verse without ever looking at the hymnal, he knew them all.
She clung to him crying and she remembered thinking, “What you wouldn’t give to be able to hug your dad right now.” And she was right, but she also didn’t know until two weeks later how incredibly prophetic that thought was.
I didn’t truly break down until I saw my best friend’s Mom. I’ve known her since I was 14 and like I mentioned, the last time I saw her was at her husband’s funeral in January. It was all incredible heart breaking and like fate had dropped us all together all those years ago so we would all have each other during this horrific year of loss.
I don’t remember a lot of my dad’s funeral. I cried a lot and people spoke to me and I spoke to each person who came in uniform and thanked them for coming for my Dad. They were all extremely nice and so open about their memories of my Dad. I know I wore high heels that I love and a dress that will forever be my Dad’s funeral dress.
My Dad took many secrets to his grave and I thought when I was younger that I wanted to know them all. That I knew he had a past and that I knew he even had a past family. I wanted to know everything. But when he died I felt like everything that needed to be said had been. That I knew all I needed to know. That for 34 years he was obsessed with being my Dad and I will be forever grateful.
I realized the things I didn’t know I didn’t need to know because they weren’t important to our relationship. I always say actions speak. He gave me 34 years of actions that spoke of his love and dedication to me and my Mom and my sister and that’s all I needed.
Grief makes you think about everything past and present and future. I hope for a future without the weight of this grief. But I long for my past with my Dad.
In my time as a psychiatric nurse practitioner I’ve had people react to me in many different ways. I often say people either love me or hate me. There’s not much of an in between. But that’s wrong; I am learning the in between exists.
There’s a gray area where some people live where they just don’t understand me and are scared to hope that I might be real.
It’s taken me some time to recognize this particular response to me as it presents as hate some times. Often times. I’ve had clients scream at me, “BUT WHY ARE YOU BEING SO NICE?! I FUCKED UP!” I’ve had clients say, “BUT WHY DO YOU CARE?! YOU AREN’T MY RELATIVE SO WHY DO YOU FUCKING CARE?”
It surprised me the first couple times. Why would I not care? Why would I be in the profession I’m in if I didn’t give a shit?
I’ve reflected a lot about this particular reaction to me.
Clients that stick with me; who have been with me through divorces, marriages, bearing children, gender changes, sexual orientation changes, sobriety and relapses, and any other major life event you can think of…these clients know that I’ve got their back. They may hate me sometimes. When I’m not doing what they want me to do and I may push them in ways they don’t want to be pushed. But I’m there for them through it all.
I tell clients I don’t get mad at them, I just try and understand where they are struggling and why and work through it with them. And it’s really true. It takes too much energy and would require taking things very personally if I was to get upset with clients and sort of counterproductive to my role.
A client who recently questioned why I cared about them with skepticism said it must be because I have to care because it’s my job because I have to care about everyone who walks through the door. I immediately shook my head no. I do not keep every one who walks through my door. I do not take on everyone who calls. And certainly not everyone keeps me.
It has to be a good fit on both sides. We don’t necessarily have to like each other but we have to have respect for one another and we have to feel safe with one another. I’ve discharged people who threatened me or who were too acute for a private practice. And people have discharged themselves when they don’t get what they want or need from me.
But my peeps, my clients and my patients, yes I care about them. I don’t know any other way to be. I don’t know how to sit with some one and hear their story and try and partner with them to move forward and not feel something toward them. Empathy. Compassion. Because it is from those clients who I learn the most. The clients who take steps forward when the world pushes them back; they are the people who inspire me. They are the stars to see, to feel, to experience, and to be witness to that brings me joy like nothing else.
I saw a client recently and we got in really deep about something and they teared up, and we had this moment, and I’m like you just got therapized. But it’s not just them it’s me who learns from them. Me who learns that it took almost two years to get a tear from them to watch them progress toward feeling the hard mushy feelings.
I care about people because I couldn’t sit in the chair I sit in and not care.
I trained with an APRN who was amazing. She taught me tremendous amounts about everything but mostly she taught me how to see patients as people. She said she did half hour follow-ups instead of the standard fifteen minutes a psychiatrist does because, “Ya know. I like to talk to my people.” I agree with her. I like talking to my people. I like to know them, and although caring about each and every one makes me vulnerable it’s also what makes me good.
It makes people trust me because they know I am prescribing to them in a way that I would prescribe and treat my own family member.
To wonder why some one would care hurts me. Because it means that person has been wounded. Deeply.
Why the fuck do you care?
My answer is because I can. Because I do. Because I see you and you are worthy of being cared about. My question back would be why are you scared of being cared about?
In the aftermath of my Dad’s death my wife had contact with her estranged parents.
Estranged sounds rather polite. They kicked her out because she’s gay. She was homeless.
I often tell my wife our life should be a reality tv show as we just can’t make up the shit that happens to us. For those of you who know my wife’s story just continue reading. For those who don’t you may refresh yourself here and here.
I won’t say specifically what happened but I will say things publicly that need to be said and since the bible seems to be the only language they speak. Here goes.
1- To not tell some one you meet one of your children is married with her own children when they ask “How are your daughters?” or specifically, “Are they married?” is lying. Lying is a sin. Colossians 3:9 “Do not lie to one another,” Proverbs 12:19 “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”. Whether you agree or not this God forsaken country passed gay marriage. Your daughter is married and happy. To not tell people is your shame not ours.
2- To set the expectation that the only way you will re-engage in a relationship with your daughter is if she “puts this all behind her” and by “this all” you refer to her wife and partner of 11 years and her two children who have known her since the moment of their conception and birth…I can call that a lot of things. None of them without swearing (also a sin).
At the core though you are insisting she break up a loving family because of your beliefs. To tear apart a family is a sin.Proverbs 11:29 “He who troubles his household will inherit the wind,” Matthew 19:6 “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder,” and whether you agree or not we are all family. We are married and joined.
3- To kick your daughter out with nothing goes against the Bible. Timothy 5:8 “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Your actions make you worse than an unbeliever. That you have no regrets and no apologies over that is something I will never understand. My definition of Christian is much different apparently than yours.
4- Comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia actually causes a visceral response in my gut of disgust toward you. That you can judge our love and our family without ever knowing us without ever trying to understand. That is also Un-Godly. Never say that in my presence. It won’t end well. Your judgement toward your own daughter is a sin.James 4:12 “There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?” Romans 14:13 “Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide to never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother,”
5- You pick and choose what parts of the bible you follow and which you don’t. There are passages regarding slavery and treating slaves well and polygamy taking multiple wives. Those verses you decide not to incorporate into your belief system? There are also passages about love. Unyielding and unconditional and eternal love. Do you also choose not to incorporate those?
We have never asked you to “check your Christianity at the door.” We have asked you to incorporate love into your hearts, acknowledge that we are a family, acknowledge that we are your family, and never bring intolerance and judgement into our home or family.
If you find the above inconceivable as a “Christian” then yes. We have nothing left to discuss. And I will say it again. I pity you. You have missed out on twelve years of your daughter’s life, and three and half years of your two grandsons lives.
Their names are Jackson John and Declan George. Declan likes unicorns and Cinderella and Jackson likes Spiderman and remote control cars. That you will never know their snuggles, their scents as they hug you, or hear them call your daughter Mommy or see the way their eyes light up when she walks into a room. Well that is your loss and I am deeply sorry for it.
We can trade bible verses all day every day and still disagree. At the core is a stubbornness and discriminatory belief system toward our family. Hide behind bible verses. We will not. We love each other. We have sacrificed more than you can imagine to be a family and we will not be torn asunder. Ever.
Not for nothing, but your daughter found an excellent wife, and that also is in the bible…Proverbs 31:10-25 “A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels…Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
I close with a reminder for myself that out of the pain and judgement that left your daughter homeless came a family of myself, my wife, and our two sons. That without your discrimination we would not be. So I thank you and in time I may forgive and forget you. For I am a sinner too and I know my faults and sins. I am cynical and yes I judge the decisions you make regarding your daughter. As a parent I find it difficult not to.
1 Corinthians 13:4/13 “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim.”
I also read the bible. I am aware of its content. Don’t come at me with bible verses. Strip down the facade and let’s call it what it is. Intolerance. Discrimination. Darkness. There is no room for darkness and discrimination in our life. May the light find you and illuminate your lives.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible Third Edition and the Holy Bible Revised Standard edition were used for quotes. Yes I actually own two bibles.
There are moments that make a marriage. There are moments that make relationships and trust and love.
My wife and I have been together over eleven years now. I can think of different moments that have made up our relationship. Most recently, we went to a garden center and bought pots and herbs and tomato plants. I spent a morning with the boys planting them and moving potting soil bags etc.
Then it rained. For days. I realized on day four of the rain the pots had no holes in the bottom as I saw my precious little plants drowning in water in the pots. I could see them from my bedroom window when I woke up.
I went downstairs and my wife is a much better morning person than I am. I told her my pot/plant drowning dilemma and looked at her. She knew that look. She sighed, and took a screwdriver and went outside to poke holes in the pots. It was before 8 A.M. as the boys wake up at 7 A.M.
I heard some banging and yelling because I slid open the door to the deck as it was finally sunny and nice. I asked a couple times if she was okay, and I wouldn’t say she swore at me verbally but she definitely was in her head.
I joined her outside with a big sharp knife. I found my precious pots disrupted and potting soil all over the ground around them. I don’t really know what happened before I got out there. But I just sliced some slits in the side of the pots and we laughed, well I laughed, she sorta sputtered about my stupid plants and pots and why didn’t I notice there weren’t holes in the bottom of them when I was planting them.
It was a moment of fun after a month of loss and grief, and reminder of what makes us fit one another.
There was this one time she got some sort of adhesive stuck on her hands. I was quietly reading my book on the chair and I heard her freaking out in the other room, this was years ago pre-boys, and I ignored her as I liked my book.
At some point she freaked out more loudly and I looked up from my book to see her glaring at me and I may have laughed because she still looked distressed at her sticky hands and I said, “What?!” she said/yelled, “You didn’t do anything!” I said, “What did you want me to do???” she said, “Well you could have googled it or something!” and then I cracked up even more. Then she eventually started laughing.
Now whenever one of us is in severe distress about something we always say the other one should have googled it after.
There was one time I woke up in the middle of the night (pre-boys) and heard my cats fighting in the basement. Or I thought I did. And I screamed and stumbled out of bed and started running toward the basement. Naked. Yes I sleep naked.
My wife woke up and also screamed and actually screamed (not a little scream, I mean like a big we are dying scream) the entire way following me into the basement with no idea why she was screaming or where we were going or why.
We got to the basement and my cats weren’t fighting.
It was a cat fight outside.
My wife was now fully awake and aware that we both ran through the house screaming and I was naked and we were now in our basement. And our cats were fine.
I am laughing with tears in my eyes as I write this because these are the moments that make us. These memories are not big events but they are small parts of our journey together. The laughter and the crazy are what holds us together during the sadness and the grief.
Marriage has brought me to my knees. Marriage has lifted me up. My marriage has shaped me whether I wanted it to or not. And the small, hysterical, crazy, moments are what makes my marriage survive and thrive.
*****This can be generalized to heterosexual marriages also….as gay marriages are shockingly similar to heterosexual marriages.