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I went to Washington DC last week. I met a girl who does a show called “Good Grief.” She started recording her podcast after he died and she found out he had a second family with two additional children of which she was one. Woa. I also got to meet Darwyn Dave who does the show Dealing With My Grief. Darwyn's Dad was murdered. Damn. Like straight up murdered. So I listened to these shows on the way home. This lead to some strange thinking, and emotions bubbling through.
I focus on the weirdest things lately. My brother got pretty sick a little while ago and he had a weird situation where he was sweating under a bunch of blankets because he was freezing. He had lost a lot of color, and looked bad. It was spooky even though I knew he would pull through. The bottom line is we are out of Grandparents, we have a few Aunts to play, one Uncle who is 94, and then we become the next generation in line. You know and I know that it's going to get here sooner or later. There is nothing we can do about that.
Maybe it's because my brother and I were estranged for years, and now we're not, that the thought of us being apart can cause my eyes to leak.
And when I start to grieve, I feel like I have a buy one get one free. That I have leftovers that have been sitting in the pantry waiting to be consumed.
My Mom died in 1989. That's a while ago. My finals at college were the next week and yet I still had to take them. I cried. I wept. Then it was back to school. I was now running a house as my Dad was still a long distance truck driver, and my sister….. while she has never been diagnosed I think she has assburgers. She doesn't like any change in her routine. I remember trying to get her to write things on a shopping list. She would say, “but that's not how Mom did it.” I would have to answer, “I know, but Mom's not here.” It was a strange relationship because I was the little brother taking care of my older sister. When my Dad got home on the weekends, I would fill him in on the bills, house, and get to my homework.
I remember my last semester. I took more credit hours than I have ever taken because if I didn't graduate I was going to lose my mind. It was graduate or die trying. My GPA took a hit, but I got the piece of paper and moved on.
Being That Guy
My Mom died when I was 24. Looking back, I was a baby. I thought I was an adult, but I was pretty young. It deeply affected me. I became a workaholic. I still am. I've never wanted that to be my calling card. Hello, I'm Dave Jackson and my Mom died when I was 24. Yet, it is part of my history. It left a scar. It shaped me. I just don't want it to be my definition.
I Asked God For a Kid and He Said No
I spent myself into bankruptcy trying to have a kid. It didn't happen and instead, my wife became an alcoholic and cheated on me. Pity party for one, again…
The last episode of Good Grief, Sam has her Dad (the man who raised her ) explain what it means to be a Dad. He explained how it changes you. It transforms you. It makes you complete. It was like a bad horror flick where the person rips out your hear and holds it in front of you.
Again, I don't want to be that guy. When I got to meet my friend's nine-month-old son it was awesome. He is the sweetest kid. This doesn't bother me. I don't ache to have my own, but I do have a major fear of missing out. If having children makes you complete, then I'm not. Am I broken? I dunno. I like me. I think I'm ok… confused..
Playing Ball With My Dad
My Dad was not a bad Dad. He just wasn't around. He was on the road four to five days a week and would come home and sleep and then repeat. My brother bought me my first baseball glove. My brother was pushing the bike that I learned to ride. My Dad did take me fishing once. But it was that ball thing. Aren't you supposed to go in the backyard and toss the ball, any ball around? It never happened. Now here is the stupid part. We played ping pong on a regular basis. It was fun. We laughed, and battle hard. I'm not sure why this doesn't count for me. I guess cause you don't see it on TV or in the movies…
I was at the park walking through the woods. The woods opened into an opening with a baseball field. There it was. A boy about age seven or eight pitching the ball to his Dad playing catcher. My heart just jumped out of my chest. It was like looking into a store window of something you will never be able to buy. I wanted to run out on the field and go, “DUDE, do you know how LUCKY you are?!” Then I got mad. Like any child who doesn't get what they want. Why did everyone get to play catch but me? Pity party for one.
When I was young, some of my oldest memories are sitting on my Granpa's living room floor. My Dad would argue with him Mom about something stupid, and eventually, my Grandpa and my Dad would go outside. I'm assuming they talked. They had a father and son moment, some sort of discussion. I'm assuming this is why we came over. My Dad wanted to hang with his Dad. This again pisses me off. My father and I had chit chat. We talked about my weather. For most of my life, my father was confused about what I did for a living. I was a corporate trainer teaching people software and he still thought I was fixing copiers. Actually, he thought I was fixing printers. He'd open a Best Buy advertisement and go, “David here's your stuff.” I got tired of correcting him.
I remember after my first divorce, I thought I would try to play catch up with my Dad. We weren't close, and the only way to fix that was to spend some time together. I asked my Dad if he wanted to go to an Indians game. I was going to buy some tickets, and he could get to see the new stadium the team had built. He turned me down. He said you can see things better on TV. To this, I can't argue. It's true. But it wasn't about the game, it was about spending time with your son. I would go over to his house and watch a game with him, and we would exchange chit-chat. This can often open the door of anger. Like why did you not want that? I had more “Mentoring talks” with my oldest stepson about women, school, life in the eight years I was in his life than my Dad and I had in the 50 years I knew him.
When he died I mourned what I lost, but I mainly mourned those things that never were and never would be. I mourned a blown opportunity. It was classic cats and the cradle. He was busy, then I was busy. Then his mind left before I could pick his brain.
Closing the Hallway Doors
As I go through life, I feel I'm OK. My life could be so much worse. I have a job I love, a cool apartment and the freedom to do pretty much whatever I want whenever I want. But there are times when I'm left alone with my thoughts, or I'm listening to a podcast about grief that I hear the drips of grief. I hear a door stressing against the pressure of what is behind it. I turn the knob and a river of tears covers me. I'm not surprised but still shocked. What is up with this? I struggle, I push hard, and finally, the door closes. I take a few more steps and sometimes the weirdest thing will set off another door. It glows orange from the anger behind it. When I crack the door, the heat blows back my hair like opening an oven preheated to 400 degrees. I feel it engulfing my body, but I don't want it. I push and push with all I have and eventually, it closes.
What Happened to Time Heals All Wounds?
It's been decades. What is up with this? I read about Grief, and I hear how some people can't move on. I've moved on. I work, I eat, I laugh. I accept that this is the new normal. This is as good as it is probably going to get. My Dad burned two things into my brain:
- The world doesn't revolve around David Jackson
- The world is not fair (which is somewhat of a rerun).
So when I didn't want to do something, I did it anyway. When I wanted something, and couldn't have it. I had to suck it up. I remember on the few occasions when my Dad had to spank me it was always the most conflicting of actions. He put me on his legs, smacked my butt and then I would cry. This would last for about 10 seconds, and my Dad would then tell me to go get a warm washcloth and bring it to him. Not wanting to get spanked again, I would do that. He would then take the cloth, put on the back of my neck, shoosh me and tell me it was going to be OK. It worked, and I calmed down, and in many cases that's all my parents needed me to do.
But When Is This Grieving Thing Over?
I thought time heals all wounds. Well, I guess if you count that I can function a win, I guess it's true. When you read about the seven steps it always sounded like when you got done with the last step you would be back to normal.
As I don't want to be “That Guy” I looked into this and found an article that seemed to make sense. Here is a paragraph
The misguided notion that grief is a process that allows a final working through of a loss is likely the fault of my own profession–mental health professionals who have promoted this notion in their work with grieving individuals. Clinical data makes it clear that any significant loss, later and repeatedly, brings up longing and sadness. Is it because these people have not achieved closure by traversing prescribed stages of mourning or because they have not “worked through the loss” as some therapists boldly claim? No. It's because you never get over loss. As time passes, the intensity of feelings about the loss will lessen, you might also find ways to sooth or distract yourself, or you can partially bury grief-related feelings by creating new memories. But you're not going to get over it because that's impossible: you cannot erase emotional memory. Besides, it's not about achieving closure. Instead, you have to figure out what you are going to do when your emotional memories are later triggered. (Full Article)
This is good and bad. It's good that I no longer feel like I'm broken because I still miss my parents. It's bad because grief is like a website design. It's never done. You always need to tweak it. It might be fine for years, but something will come along and you will need to tear it all down and rebuild it. A website is never really done, and apparently, you cannot erase the emotional memory.