I’ve spent nine years and something leading up to this post, and still have no idea how to make this one post centered around loss different than any other I’ve done. I decided not to read the other posts, so that when I wrote this one, it had the potential to merely be an update on where I’m at dealing with the death of my father.
And then I thought I should forget about this post because it was too much of a milestone, too much pressure, but I do need to write my way through this, and so I will, because the best thing that’s ever come out of my loss is realizing I can help people who are not able to be as vocal as I am.
So. Here we go.
In the past ten years, I’ve deliberately taken of Dead Father Day, a holiday not everyone gets to celebrate, yay me, and my “celebrating” includes no amount of decorations, friends, finger foods or alcohol that I’m willing to share for a group. In many Dead Days past, I thought sitting on my back porch was extremely healing, if healing includes drinking straight through two bottles of wine, a stray beer here or there, and a large amount of tobacco to prove that I’m driving the south forward on their tobacco production.
Today, Wednesday, 2 August, 2017, marks an approximate 3650 days of death dealings. I’d say 3655, just because of leap years but honestly, I’m not a fucking calendar and I don’t know how many leap years there have been, nor do I care to look it up.
This year it hit me harder than last, proven in my journal entries by day this week. I wrote a normal entry for 31 JULY and then the next day, as I sat in a gazebo out of view of my office, I sat and smoked and drank too much coffee and decided to write. And the minute I wrote 1 AUG, the sinking feeling I felt paralyzed me. How could I know that July has a last day and not remember that August, the worst month of the year, has a first day? August, you humid, sneaky cunt, I still hate you with everything I have in my blood and bones and hobbit sized body.
I wrote privately about how hard it hit me, how shocked and oddly so, and how I should not have been. I wrote about how truly I hate vulnerability, and how I hope this entire month would drink poison and disappear again forever. I wrote about wanting to say something profound for those that I know look to my experiences to make theirs better or less painful. I wanted to write to make sense of what ten years of loss truly feels like. I wanted to write to tell my father all of the things that he has missed but I’m sure he’s either at the bottom of the ocean we dropped him in, or he’s found a way to raise hell elsewhere, and thankfully just not in my life right now.
The truth of the matter is that three thousand something days could go by, and I am still able to put myself exactly where I was when I found out, when i drove home, when i told my sister, when i stayed home, when I cried and when didn’t know how to cry, when i was angry and didn’t know if I’d survive, the days I felt like lying on the cold linoleum floor of a transitional apartment complex made sense, and still makes sense to me now, because when I got very sad the other night, I moved myself with a pillow to the floor, because I feel like I feel my best pain apparently lying with my face against the floor.
I’ve previously written about what each year means when you lose someone to suicide, but after ten years, I’m probably past that. So instead, I’ll give a ten year overview, and this may get a bit messy. Ten years, one still dead father, two sad and regretful daughters, a sad and capable wife with cancer who could really fucking use her husband right now, a million questions never answered, and time that never fucking stops to help us deal with all of this bullshit or at the very least, make sense of it.
I’ll start with what’s most bothersome to me, and lucky public, you’ll get insight into our failures and issues that our father thought he’d highlight on his way out to the woods to end his life.
There was once a time that we were told we were not mentioned in my father’s lengthy suicide note, the note that told my stepmother where he could be found, who to call, why, and what to do. That letter that detailed selling snow blowers and cars and paying bills and making life easier in his absence, that letter that apparently didn’t include a portion for me.
At that time, I demanded to see the document, once searched the house for it when I could find spare moments, I needed to see it, it consumed me. I called the police station drunk one night to beg them for a copy, to beg to talk to the man who found my father, to ask him if he could tell me anything more, to hear the voice of the one person who saw my father last as he dragged him out of the woods.
I needed that letter. I needed to know he left something for me, but we were never given it, and we were told he never said anything. I think we let it go for a few years and then I started in with the demands again. I’m sorry but my father shot himself twice in the chest like some magician in the woods which we all considered was a place of solace and I spent 27 years loving him and hating him and loving him harder and I was to believe that he left no words for me?
If you know my family, you’d have to be out of your goddamned mind to believe that. Smiths are never short on words–cutting, encouraging, blabber, and the like. I did not ever believe he would end his life and never mention me. It wasn’t until years later that I was told that there were two things, and then it was obvious why were weren’t told, because what he chose to say was sad and an unfair goodbye.
Katie: I hope she completes her nursing school and sticks with something, which is kind of a slight considering she was actually TRYING to complete her dreams vice giving up on life.
And then me, the one with all the similarities and problems. My wish for Heather is that she doesn’t turn out like me and gets control of her anger and drinking.
And that was that. That was the effort put forth in a letter that expressed more words in ink on how to operate a snow blower or how to sell the cars or who to deal with and how to pay off the credit cards he wracked up when manic.
I hated him for choosing to leave that guidance for me. I hated him because it was true and I hated him because I needed to hear him say he loved me. I know I’m just like him. I know what my vices are. I know how I respond to stress and life and boredom and family. I wish he had never said anything. But I really wish he had just left this for me instead.
Heather, You are more like me than you will ever be able to admit. We’ve shared these talks over the years and I beg you find the peace you need to conquer all the things that cause you to self destruct. I know the fact that I lied to you and promised that this would never happen again after the first time or two is now complete bullshit in retrospect but I hope you understand what I am trying to do for my family by leaving. You are a strong woman. You will beat this. I need you to run the family. I need you to know I will always love you. You are the worst of me in the best way and I will always watch over you. Take care of your sister and Judy, and when you need me, ask, and I will be there.
That is the fucking letter I needed. That is the letter I didn’t get.
I got, I hope Heather doesn’t turn out like me. Too late. I’m just fucking like you.
I wish after ten years, I could make some sense of this. He owed me so much more than that. I FUCKING DESERVED MORE THAN THAT. I BECAME MORE THAN YOU. I HAVE A SON NOW WHO IS INSANELY LIKE YOU. I can’t go one day without looking at Sully and not see my father and if that’s not fucked up payback, I don’t know what is.
Let’s talk about despair and loss and guilt and pathetic behavior.
I’ve mastered all of those things as well. Despair? I’ve passed out on the floor during the holidays with his urn open and lying next to me, so I could be close to him. Loss? Every day is loss when it comes to my father. Loss of his loud voice, his captivating stories, his smell of Irish Springs soap, his hugs, strong and sturdy, realizing the twinkle in his eyes disappeared the moment I was told he was gone.
I’ve spent too much time lying on floors, face under a vat of wine, or beer, or vodka, taking in anything that would make me feel better for one goddamned day in my life. This never works, by the way. I always wake up more sad, more angry, and so fuzzy in the head that all I wanted to do is throw up my sadness.
I’ve thrown up a lot since he died. Half of the time, likely attributed to drinking too fast, too strong, in an attempt to make it all go away. The other half, I’d wake out of a dream where he was there, I could feel him and see him and touch him, and I’d wake and have to throw up because I was so convinced I was just with him and then realized I couldn’t get back there and I felt like someone was keeping him from me and I’d go to my yard and throw up until my eyes would almost fall out of my head, on my knees, pleading that I could go back in that dream where he was, where I needed to be, but he was already gone. Don’t ask why I go outside to have these fits of emotion and breakdowns. There’s something I like about the yard.
I’ve felt him a few times, in passing, mostly when I was dealing with a very hard time, and it was like a wind swept in and something sat with me, said nothing, and just sat there. That has happened maybe 6 times. At the end of these times, though, the wind always moved on. I never did.
I’ve had really hard decisions in life to make where I didn’t know what to do and I felt him sweep in and just surround me in a glow and I felt my entire disposition change, I felt ok, I felt I was taken care of, he was there, and I trusted in what I did. Those times, I begged him to never leave. He always left anyway. I hate him for that.
But, for the most part, he’s always gone. I don’t know how long they let you out of hell for good behavior, and I don’t know how to ask. Maybe in my eleventh year, I’ll find out. I don’t know.
What I do know is the following, and this is just going to spew out:
I loved my father since the day I met him until the day he ruined my life. Not one day in 3650 plus has gone by that I haven’t needed him or loved him or hated him or been filled with an instance that if I could see him again for 5 minutes, I’d want to fight him for hurting me, but I’d hold him with every last ounce of love that I have for him, and I’d look him hard in the eye one last time, kiss him, and tell him I will always, always love him.
I needed him to help me not be like him, because I’ve failed. I needed him to tell me he was proud of my motherhood, something he never thought was possible. I needed him to tell me how to get Sully to stop saying WHAT THE HECK, which isn’t even from me bc if it was, it’d be WHAT THE FUCK. I need him to come to Germany and hunt down his terribly recorded family heritage. I need him to come tell me one more time that I’m a Smith and we are strong and we have moxie and to never let anyone tell me any different.
I just need to ask him why.
why. why after 27 years of my life, many trying times together with your mental illness and our family issues, why, why couldn’t you stay for me? Why was I not good enough? What could I have done, because you PROMISED ME YOU WOULD NEVER DO THIS AGAIN.
But you did. On Thursday, 2 August, 2007, while I was at a work happy hour, you were already hours gone. You didn’t give me a chance to talk you out of it this time, you just gave me the chance to come home and realize our new family reality.
And honestly, still, fuck you. Fuck you for leaving me. Fuck you for leaving Katie. Fuck you for leaving Judy and fuck you for giving up on us. I do understand mental illness, but it is so fucking hard to understand it when it changes your entire world.
I can’t do more tonight. I need to sleep. I need to remember that my real life picks up tomorrow. And I need to hope that for the millionth time, it’s really a thing that this type of tragedy makes you a better person, even though I’m not even sure I’m capable of being a better person.