A few weeks ago, I was visiting my mom in Omaha and got to spend a lot of time with my nieces. My three-year-old niece, Whitney, and I started watching Pocahontas. (Some advice from me: Unless you want to have awkward conversations about race and greed and historical inaccuracies in Disney movies and controversy surrounding the settling of our nation, do not watch Pocahontas with an abundantly curious toddler.) One of our big topics of discussion was bravery. She kept asking me if Pocahontas was brave. She wanted to know if John Smith was brave and also if he was Prince Eric but with yellow hair. (I told her that Prince Eric was much, much more handsome than John Smith.) She told me how brave she is and that her sister Abigail is kind of brave but sometimes gets scared (Side note: Abigail is actually 100% fearless.). After going through a list of her very brave family members, the question I feared most came, “Yeah, but, Aunt Sally, are you brave?” My natural response: “Whaaaat?! Of COURSE I’m brave.”
When I think of my dad’s illness and, eventually, his death, I will say that I had some very brave moments. In fact, maybe too many than I would care for – especially before turning 30. There were a lot of times when he was sick that I had to step up and embrace being a caretaker to a man I consider a hero. There was a lot of courage in my own commitment to get healthy. And, even though during his sickness there were many times that I chose be angry, resentful, or just straight up indifferent out of fear for being sad, in the final days of his life I mustered up every ounce of courage possible to tell the man I love most in this world goodbye. In the week following my dad’s passing, I was brave while I tried to comfort people at his visitation who were also mourning the loss of someone who meant so much to them. And, even though I excused myself to the nursery way too often to “check on Whit’s diaper situation” and started having a mini panic attack when I felt like there were too many chairs in Fellowship Hall following the funeral (Thank you, Mindy M., for immediately fixing this. 🙂 ) I felt I did an adequate job of being gracious at the funeral and I am 300% positive Dad would have been proud.
However, in the year following his passing, I’m most certain that I have not been entirely brave. There are a lot of things that I originally pushed aside in the name of grieving, but seemed to have moved into the category of “Things I Choose Not to Think About, Because If I Move On To The Next Stage In My Life Then My Mourning Period Is Over And That Scares Me.”
For instance: I am terrified of dating. It’s something that I really have no experience in. In college, there wasn’t so much dating as there was “hanging out.” At least, I hear people “hung out”. I’d like to pretend that I had the kind of game that could lead to “hanging out”, but I watched too much SVU and Criminal Minds to think that was a good idea. Then, when my life became so centered on illness, I didn’t think it was a good idea to invite anyone into my life who didn’t already unconditionally love me. So now, I’m trying to do what most of my friends figured out years ago. And while that’s scary, it’s still just an issue that could be resolved in a very self-deprecating and amusing episode of The Mindy Project. What terrifies me most is that the man I’ll end up sharing my life with will most-likely have never met my dad. That might sound silly, but there is absolutely no way of simply explaining my dad to someone and coming even close to doing him justice. When I make inanimate objects sing or blurt out things like “Oh, Heavens, No!” or “Good grief!”, you can tell within 10 minutes of hanging out with my mom where that came from. But then there’s this very prevalent side of me that is dry and sarcastic and gets grumpy while waiting for people to make a decision or standing in line or being surrounded by crowds of people or busy stores (I guess I could’ve just gone with an all-encompassing “gets grumpy”) and always has to fight the urge to tell people that they could probably just walk when they say they’re just going to run to the bathroom real quick. That side of me that is usually easy going, but occasionally needs to write an angry but well-worded and entertaining letter, email, Facebook Message, and/or series of Post-It notes or just go on a really long drive? That part of me is pretty hard to explain and nearly impossible to forgive without the proof of it’s source.
I’m a little lost in all other areas of my life, too. I think the main issue is that I’m afraid to leave my little bubble of grief. I cut myself some slack in that first year without my dad to basically just survive. I worked two jobs and it was okay, because I didn’t really have a whole lot of time to think about anything. I promised myself I’d use that year to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, but now it’s been a year and three months and I have done very little of the self-reflection that I need to do in order to figure out that grown up stuff. I mean, I have talking points that I use for things like family get-togethers and unexpectedly running into old classmates or friends. And I definitely have leftover escapism fantasies from when my dad was sick that basically involve me opening up a bakery or moving into a house straight out of a Nancy Myers movie and writing romance novels under an awesome pseudonym. I just haven’t done enough practical thinking on the issue. I know it’s because I’m scared to leave this place of grieving. I know I’ll always grieve my dad. I am so much like him that not having him here is just incredibly lonely. However, I know that in order to become a well-adjusted, happy, and successful adult I need to make some more room in my head for something other than my dead dad. So, I guess this next year’s for that.
I’ve been wanting to write more, but most of my personal writing has been pretty – well – personal and a bit dark. Since, historically, this blog has been a pretty silly place to talk about what’s been going on in my life it felt a bit fake to post about, oh, I don’t know a Taylor Swift Running Mix, when the theme of my life has been “Holy Shit, I miss my dad.” But now that I have shared my burden a bit, we can get back to regular postings. Despite being a little bit afraid, I am really excited to see what this year brings and to share it with all of my devoted readers. (To my mom, my sister, my aunts, and the mothers of my friends: You’re welcome.) Also, I’m pretty sure this is at least the second time I’ve mentioned a Taylor Swift Running Mix in this blog. I promise you, I’ve never made one. It’s just always the most ridiculous thing I can think of. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, though. 😉
And since we could all use some very sincere cheesiness: