No Regrets, Kid.

Today would have been my Dad’s 54th birthday.

Sometimes I think birthdays are the hardest days. This day is supposed to be all about him.

In my house, we never celebrated birthdays, as they were ‘just another day,’ and ‘overly marketed by corporations to sell things you don’t really need.’

Since he died, all I want to do is celebrate his birthday.

Go back in time, and give him some great birthday parties to remember.

Go buy him a really awesome laser scope or rain meter or something weird that only he could enjoy. Something to make him feel like he was remembered and special and show him how much he meant to me.

But we never had one of those birthdays for him, and we never will.

I think that’s the saddest part of all.

Even studying grief and death…it doesn’t make it any easier. It just gives you tools to better cope. I still find myself having the instinct and thought to give him a call sometimes and tell him something ridiculous–and then when I remember I can’t…

I lay in bed at night sometimes and all I can see is him laying lifeless and cold in a wooden box.

And the boots on his feet.

The boots he built his dream home with.

He had more plans for those boots.

When I look at my son I sometimes think how proud my Dad would be of him. How much he would absolutely love to get a warm little hug or see him walk and talk and experience new things.

Sometimes I manage to forget for a while, and then it all comes back even more vividly than before. You think you’re okay and that you’ve ‘moved on,’ but you haven’t and you never really will.

When someone you love dies, everything changes. Literally every single aspect of your life and mentality has changed forever. You will never be the same person again.

It’s like when the loved one leaves this world, they leave these little pieces of themselves behind for everyone that loved them. They stick to us and envelop us and help us along our own paths.

Sometimes it’s easy to celebrate life, make him proud, and be the most amazing person I can be.

Sometimes I get weak and sad and angry and don’t see the meaning of it at all.

But then I remember something he said to me when he was dying.

“No regrets, kid. No regrets.”

It’s hard not to live in the past and it’s even harder on days like today to keep your head up and simply move forward.

But that’s what he did. All the time.

I cry sometimes. I get angry sometimes.

I feel guilty for NOT feeling sad or angry enough sometimes.

It will be this way for a long time, this I know.

All I can do is follow the path his death has sent me on and try to be the best person I can be in the time I have here on this Earth. All I can do is try and live with no regrets.

So this year for your birthday, Dad, my present to you is a promise to live with no regrets–NOT reckless abandon, but an honest, good-hearted, kind and compassionate, learning, intelligent, regret-less life.

Instead of regrets, I will have lessons and learning experiences. I promise to take those experiences to heart, and not to waste any time on meaningless emotions and actions.

I promise to appreciate those around me, tell them I love them, earn and give respect.

I promise to make you proud and give the memories I was able to share with you to my son.

I promise to LIVE.

That’s what my Dad taught me.

I understand now, Dad. I understand so much more.

Happy birthday.

"Sundays too my father got up early 
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, 
then with cracked hands that ached 
from labor in the weekday weather made 
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. 

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. 
When the rooms were warm, he'd call, 
and slowly I would rise and dress, 
fearing the chronic angers of that house, 

Speaking indifferently to him, 
who had driven out the cold 
and polished my good shoes as well. 
What did I know, what did I know 
of love's austere and lonely offices?"  -- Those Winter Sundays
                                           Robert Hayden
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Inertia…Sometimes We All Need A Push

Laws of science always apply.

Lots of people ask me for advice. Well, okay, I’ll admit…they don’t ASK all the time. They just sit there, frowning, talking about all the things that are happening in their lives. All the things that are making them sad. All the things they wish they could change.

I admit, I’ve lost a few friends over this. I’m sorry, but if you have all these problems, and I’m a good enough friend to give you insight into what the problem is and how to fix it–and you agree– and you do nothing about it…I can’t associate with you. I can’t associate with weak people. I can look at them from a distance, but I can’t get too close. Weakness is like a disease…it spreads quickly like a wildfire and without bias. 

MOMENTS of weakness are a different story. Everyone has them. Everyone can relate to making a decision that goes against everything you believe in just because it feels right at the time. Everyone’s done it. If you haven’t, I suggest you do it at least once to get an insight into what it feels like to let everything go, and just do what you feel…

Tangent aside, I like to give advice. I can’t stop myself. Ever. It gets me into trouble sometimes. but I don’t care. Don’t come to a bereavement counselling student and discuss your problems and NOT expect advice.

Anyway,

I have these two friends…they are a couple. We’ll call them Sam and Sally. Sam and Sally are “repeat offenders”, as I call them–people who have broken up and gotten back together before. They recently broke up again. Sally is a good friend of mine. She was in my wedding. She came over and was very upset. They had broken up a few days before, and I’d seen her right after it happened, two days later, and then finally, the night before they got back together.

She was a mess. Let’s say the breakup was a mutual thing. Sam acted like an asshole, Sally called him on it, he apologized, but the level of asshole-ness was too extreme at the time, so she had a hard time forgiving him right away. She dwelled on it, which lead to him dwelling on things, which lead to a mutual ‘dwelling’ phase. Until she realized she missed him. A lot.

She was over here, at ‘The Clinic’ as I call it (my couch), and I could tell someone had to do something. So I interfered.

I threw myself right into the middle of their problem. I got myself involved because I saw a need for something to happen.

You know that moment when you see something happening, and you feel like you could help? Like if you were to see a lost little boy wandering around in the city…or an old woman hobbling across a busy street?

Is that wrong? Even though I helped the situation and they got back together with better ideals, and a more concrete idea of what they BOTH want out of their relationship, and a deeper understanding of each other, should I have gotten involved? I think the answer is yes.

Well, the answer is Inertia.

Inertia is  is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. And object at rest stays at rest, until an external force acts upon it, giving it motion. And then once in motion, will not stop until another external force comes along and…well, you know the rest.

I am the external force. 

I think everyone needs an external force at one time or another in their lives. You need someone, an unbiased outsider, to give you the low-down, down-low on your situation. Someone that can see both sides, and see where the problem is, and give it just a little push in the right direction.

In Sam and Sally’s case, they are just a young couple with nothing holding them together. No kids, they don’t share an apartment, they have nothing keeping them together besides their genuine desire to be together. True beauty. in it’s simplest form.

Sam and Sally needed some inertia.

Sometimes, all someone needs is a little push in the right direction. Some people don’t like to be the external force, but I don’t mind. There’s something gratifying about noticing that someone needs help, and them offering them your assistance.

Whatever the case may be.

Sam and Sally aside, there have been many times in my life that I, myself , have been given an external force. And I appreciate it. Whether good or bad, external forces bring you to new understandings, and new perspectives on life.

Giving birth to a child without any pain medications was a huge ‘external force’ for myself. It really gives you a new perspective of what pain really is, what strength really is, and what really matters in life. I guarantee if you speak to a first-time mom who had an epidural, versus a first-time mom who went all-natural, you’d have a Venn diagram with almost NOTHING in the middle. Besides the baby.

Death would have to be the ultimate external force.

The unexpected death of a loved one has been one of the biggest changing factors in my life, to date. Although the death was extremely painful to watch and deal with at the time, it has brought be to higher levels of appreciation and understanding for the life I have been given. It gave me purpose and direction,  and a desire to excel. It gave me a better perspective on what to appreciate and what to hold dear to my heart.

We all need these external forces, regardless of how they come into our lives. Whether it’s a friend helping your situation (that’s what friends are for, right?), a huge life event, or the death of a loved one, we need all of these things to happen sometimes.

We all need something that rattles us to the core, something that wakes us up like a smelling salt. Something that reminds us that we are alive, and ever changing. Something that reminds us that while, yes, there are other people in the world, it is US, personally that need to take a stand in our own worlds, and make something happen for ourselves.

We all need something to live for, and sometimes we forget what those things are, until we receive our external forces.

They say everything happens for a reason…

I never really knew or understood how life-changing it could be when a loved one dies. On May 21, 2011, I watched as my father took his last breaths at Saint Peter’s Hospital in Albany. It had only been five or six weeks since we found out he had stage four lung cancer, and by that time it had progressed to a point at which there was nothing more they could do. He spent his last 11 days alive in the hospital, and the last three of those on hospice care.

The pain I felt in my heart was overwhelming. Indescribable. Unless you have been in this same circumstance, you will never understand. To watch someone you love very much die right in front of you is hard enough—the things that happened in my life immediately following the most heart-breaking experience in my life made it even more overbearing.

We immediately moved back into my mother’s two-family home to try and help her with some expenses, and to just be there for her. She quickly found that, with taxes coming up soon and his final expenses (he had no life insurance) she wasn’t going to be able to afford the mortgage. She put the house on the market, and it sold in five days. They wanted to close by the end of the month, so we had about three weeks to vacate the premises. The last day before we had to be out, I went downstairs into my mother’s apartment to say goodbye to our cat who we had for about eight years (he was staying with the house per the new buyer’s request), and I had a realization. My whole family was now gone. Everyone. Growing up, it was my Mother, Father, The Dog, The Cat, and I. Our dog had died in February, my Father in May, now the cat was gone, and my Mother was moving away. My entire family was gone. I had taken them for granted for so long, and now they were all gone. I could still call my mother on the phone, but they days of her being close by were no more. Now it would be weeks – even months between seeing her

We found out later that week that it would be my husband’s last day at work. He worked for a subcontractor for DirecTV, and they were bought out by a larger corporation. Almost everyone that worked there was out of a job, including him. So, along with everything else that was going on in our lives, now this. We had no money saved up to move into a new apartment, and with him losing his job we really had nowhere left to go. We called my husband’s parents and asked if we could stay at their home for an undisclosed length of time. They have a nice home, with two extra bedrooms, so I suppose it worked out fine.

Now, here we are a month and a half later, living in a home with five people and six cats. They already had four cats—Fuzzy, Cleo, Lucy and Flash, and we have our two—Clamps and Tiny Dancer. I have never before in my life had allergies to any animal. However, living in a house with six cats, I have developed the itchiest eyes I have ever had, along with a nose that at times runs like a water faucet.

I feel awful. We are a married 25-year-old couple with no savings, a one-year-old child, and two cats. We are such bums. Living in a house with this many living creatures just does NOT feel natural. I’m not sure how the Amish do it. I know it seems more economical to all live together and conserve things, but not at the expense of my privacy. My husband and I have had our own household for almost eight years. At first, I must admit it was nice to have dinner on the table at 6 o’clock every night, and have the dishes done, and not have to clean much but at a certain point I want to cook my own dinners again. I wish I could be using my dishes, and sitting on my brand new furniture. We were so unprepared for all of this.

I am currently in the process of taking control of my life. A month after my father died, I decided to enroll in school. He had always told me to go to school and do something with myself, and after what I had saw and heard from him over the last week or so of his life, I knew I did NOT want to waste ANY MORE of my life…ever. If something that quick and drastic could happen to someone like him, then it could happen to anyone. Even me. I looked at my family’s situation and knew I couldn’t depend on anyone to change it. Not my mother, not even my husband. I knew I couldn’t complain about something I wasn’t willing to take action on. I took on a second, part-time job at Stewart’s and eventually quit my full time job to work there only. Working two jobs and going to school full time, along with having a family was too much for me, so I decided that one part time job was enough. School needs to be my number one priority if I’m ever going to get my family out of the situation we’re in.

My husband recently heard of a good job opportunity, so he’s in the process of interviewing for that, and applying to other companies in the area. Hopefully he will get something soon (UPDATE- He got that job!). For now, I suppose things worked out all right. We are all still alive (for now), my mother is happy in her new life, I am on a career path that will make me very fulfilled (and rich, hopefully), my husband is able to stay home with the baby so we can avoid day care costs, and we are all okay. We’re also saving up some money and most important of all – I now have direction. Something I never had before. I know where we are, and I know where we need to be.

I would have to say that my father dying changed my entire life. It hurts me very much to think that he is gone, but in a way, it made me a better person. I now have an appreciation for life that I never had before. I have purpose and direction and a will to succeed. It’s hard to think of my father’s death as a positive experience, but when I think of all the knowledge and power that I received from having gone through that, I can’t say it was bad. If it was going to happen anyway, I am so glad that I took what I could from it and gained what I did. I feel and know he would be proud of me right now even though we are living with my husband’s parents. All he ever wanted was for me to work hard to reach my full potential, and I never did before. It feels satisfying to know that I am doing everything I possibly can to make my life turn into what I want it to be, while I still can.