Dreaming of Dad

I had a dream about my father last week. It’s my first since he died. You know when I was a kid, I would dread dreaming about my dad. See, just after my parents split up when I was about 9, I moved with my mom and brother to a small apartment across town. I had a nightmare one night and watched someone rip my father’s head from his body. A few nights later, I dreamt that my father had a heart attack and I ran from his house to our apartment to get help–we’re talking probably 7 miles on a little chubby girl’s legs. So after that second dream, I just knew that if I had another dream about my father dying, he really would. Kids have weird minds, don’t they? I didn’t sleep well for weeks until exhaustion finally made me sleep. Fortunately, it was a few years before I had any more dreams about my father dying, and I was even luckier because I got to keep Pop in my life for another 37 years after those initial dreams.

But the dream I had last week was not a death dream. I saw Dad die in real life and I sometimes re-live it, but never when I’m sleeping. Instead, this dream was some kind of wonderful. Odd, but still wonderful.

Dad and I and my son were driving to the dump. My boy was in the back seat, spending too much time on his phone, and I sat in the front while Dad drove. It was like one of the cars from my childhood that Dad would drive–a big car, big hood, bench seats. For whatever reason, we were picking up someone else’s trash and taking it to the dump. A nice gesture, I suppose. But the person’s trash was really a bunch of recycling all packed into a huge cereal box. Ok. At least it’s neat, not messy…until I tipped the box and old macaroni and cheese came out and dry cereal. So I’m stuffing everything back in and complaining to Dad, “What the heck is this? Why did they do this?” And as I kept stuffing I realized that there was a nice neat little square tucked into the garbage that was actually a trash bag. WTF?!?

So I sigh loudly, mutter a little while unfolding the bag and trying to put everything into it, when very quietly Dad says, “Hey. Look at that.” I look up and through the windshield on the opposite side of the road but coming towards us, was this huge tortoise. I glance at my dad and he has his arm out the window in that relaxed way he always did for the entire summer, with his right hand on the steering wheel. He had a smile on his face and was just as fascinated as I was. I alerted my son and told him to look out the window. And as the tortoise got closer, we could see that there was some kind of plastic doll tied around the tortoise’s neck so it looked like it was riding him. I whispered, “Wwweeeirrddd.” Dad chuckled and I woke up.

I don’t think there’s anything to analyze here, but I love that my father came to visit me in my dreams. I’ve struggled a bit this past week–my emotions and moods have swung wildly, feeling more stressed at work, not loving the pain after physical therapy. Yet the more I think about that dream, the more I feel ok. Dad was a great sounding board for me. He let me vent about whatever I needed to, but always, ALWAYS put a positive bend on things. My mom does that, too. They both could be negative about their own lives, but tried to show us that things will get better or they’re really not as bad as we think.

So today I focused on how much more I can move my arm. I made a plan for the next few weeks at work so I won’t feel so stressed and have tried to keep calm when I start getting irrationally angry or sad about anything. “One day at a time, Hol,” Dad used to say. “One day at a time.” That was Dad’s mantra from the time he stopped drinking in 1987 until the day he died. I’ve always tried to be patient and follow his advice, but I’ve never been that great at it. I rush through life sometimes and want the next week to end or the next month or the season. But what if something amazing is waiting for me today?

So I keep trying. I will try and live my life by taking the pleasures and difficulties one day at a time. Savor the good stuff, get through the bad stuff.

I think I’ve finally got it, Dad. I can picture you now, throwing your head back and laughing while sitting in your chair. “Figures!” you’d say. “Now you understand and I’m not there to see it! Oh well. That’s life, right? At least you finally get it, kid, and that’s all that matters. Now get over here and give me a hug.”

I wish I could, Pop. I wish I could. ❤

Dream Envy

Last night as we got ready for bed, my son came into my room to snuggle with me for a bit. My husband is still away for business, so we’ve had some wonderful conversations and laughs this week about a variety of things. But last night, as my boy tried to snuggle without touching my right arm, he told me about the dream he had the other night about his uncle.

“So, Mom, I was in this bathroom (our main bathroom for everyone) and I burst out of the door and into the living room, asking where Uncle was. But you said he was in your bathroom (the master bath). I heard the toilet flush, then I woke up. I never got to see him!!”

He told me how disappointed he was when he woke up, but a little happy, too. That at least my brother was there somewhere, even if he couldn’t see him. So I told my boy about the dream I had of my brother two months ago.

It was the first week after my husband left for a month of training in New Jersey. I think I was a little nervous with him gone, worrying about things going wrong in the house or with the car (or breaking my arm which I did while he was away!). In my dream I was in my kitchen, attempting to fix my kitchen table leg, or maybe a chair. That part is fuzzy. But as I’m working on the thing, my brother calls out from my living room, “Hey, you need some help?” And out he walks with a smile and an outstretched hand. I said, “Yes, please!” Then I woke up.

Phil’s partner just gave this to me. It was in my brother’s things. It’s the two of us in 1974.

I was so happy when I awoke. I got to see my brother and he was smiling and offering to lend me a helping hand as always. After I described the dream my son said, “Oh man, I’m so envious! I really wish I had just seen him, you know?”

I do, son. I do.

I told him he’ll see Uncle in his dreams again. I know it. I’ve only dreamt of my brother a couple of times since his death, and that last dream was most certainly the best. I know my brain and heart needed to see him. I understand that many of you believe in a spiritual after life that I don’t. And I envy you. I know that some of you believe dreams are a way for folks in that after life to speak to us, and I envy you, too. I will never put your beliefs down or ridicule you for them, and I hope you’ll give me the same courtesy. But there are certainly times that wish I had your faith just for my peace of mind.

But since I don’t have that faith, I’m just going to go to sleep tonight and hope I’ll get another visit from my favorite brother. ❤ Good night, friends.

Two years

So much has happened since you’ve been gone, dear brother. Mom is in a nursing home now. She kind of lives in a nice world where most people are still alive, including you. At least most days. And Dad’s gone now, too. Maybe you know that? Or if what you and I believed is true, then I’m just talking to folks that read this, not you? You no longer exist. And yet I can’t stop talking to you and wondering what you would think about this and that. The human brain is weird, no?

Your nephew has grown a half a foot since you had to leave. He’s just 3 inches shorter than me, and should be your height by his 14th birthday. He’s liking horror movies more now and has such a morbid sense of humor–just like you. Your niece is pretty busy with her kiddos and she’s finally getting married to her girlfriend. Our sister has to have a new knee soon but still no bionics. Doesn’t that suck? And yeah, I broke my arm. That week after I did it, I imagined you here, helping me along with Larry, but also shaking your head and calling me a “klutz.” Then shuddering when I showed you the photo of the plate and screws in my arm.

So do I still miss you every damned day? Yup. And I’m trying so hard to live the best I can without you, to try new things, to live a life like you did for your first 40 years. (Well, maybe not quite as risky as a few of those years, Phil!) I know those last 9 were pretty shitty, but you lived as best as you could and you helped raise your nephew during that time so I’d say you did pretty well.

Last year on this day, the boy and I were in Boston to see the city and meet dear friends. We decided that we would try new things and live large on this day for you. This year, having one wing, I didn’t really want to go too far. So we went to Belfast and ate different foods, bought a new card game and walked the Harbor Walk. It wasn’t as exciting as last year, but it didn’t need to be. We just needed to do something new and different and talk about you. Like we do every day. It’s impossible not to talk about you since still nearly everything reminds me of you. I imagine everything always will.

I love you. I miss you. I wish you’d visit me in my dreams more often. I’ve only had two that I can remember since you left. It nearly wakes me up when you’re in my dreams because I’m so fucking happy to see you. When I’m fully awake, I’m both devastated and ecstatic if that’s at all possible.

Good night, dear brother.

I wish you were here.

Phil with my boy back in 2009

Bionics!

I’m not gonna lie. I am sometimes grateful for an excuse NOT to run. But this might be overdoing it.

That thing that looks like a parasite is a plate with what seems to be 9 screws. It’s keeping my arm together.

It’s been two weeks since this operation and 18 days since the break. The doctor told me today that it was just a mess inside there. More breakage then they thought, but things look good now. Still not allowed to do much but I can keep the sling off more. Still can’t use my right hand to start the car, wipe my ass, or do much, but if I plant my body just right, I can type with both hands now! Yippee!! It’s the little things.

My new scar.

I think my “outsides” look just as odd as my insides. I mistakenly showed a friend my arm yesterday and her knees nearly buckled. Today, though, I wore a tank top because I had to see the doctor, so no sense wearing too much I would need to take off. That just takes too much time nowadays! I found people sneaking glances at the scar, and a sweet little girl asking her mom what happened to me, and why not? I’m her librarian and I didn’t look like that a few weeks ago, so what the heck? I felt a little freakish at times today, but I’ve always told my son to fly his freak flag high, so why shouldn’t I?

I was pretty despondent yesterday–just everything taking too long to do, arm hurting, brain still reeling and making dumb mistakes at work. But today I have a little more hope. I still won’t be able to do a lot on my upcoming vacation–no major hikes and even no swimming (can only get the scar wet with water and soap)–and I still won’t be able to wear a regular bra for some time or wash my hair with two hands, but there’s hope that physical therapy MAY begin in three weeks. I know it will be tough and frustrating, but right now, I am SO ready to get to work.

So here’s to a good fight and a future where bionics are the norm!

Interdependence

On this July 4th, I am longing for some independence.

I’m not here to “complain” about all the freedoms and advantages I have as a white, educated, lower middle-class woman. I am well aware I have a shitload of them. I am also currently hyper-aware of the advantages I have (or will have again) as an able-bodied person.

Many of you know that I broke my arm 11 days ago. It was just a freak accident while goofing off with my son and landing “just wrong.” It’s been a week since I had surgery and I now sport a plate and a bunch of screws inside of my body, just below my shoulder. I really wish they could have just inserted bionics, because seriously! That would totally be worth the pain if I could lift a car with my right arm or throw a baseball 2 miles. But apparently I’m no Jaime Sommers and this isn’t a cool 1970s television show. It’s just my real life in 2019. Ain’t that a pisser?

When I first broke my arm (and yes, it’s my right and I’m right-handed), the pain was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I rarely stopped screaming or crying those first few hours. My brother’s partner drove my boy and I to the ER. Every bit of movement was excruciating. Meds helped very little but some at least relaxed me. Once I was somewhat stabilized, I became horribly depressed. How would I do anything?!? (My husband was out of state when all of this happened, too.) My beautiful sister drove over an hour just to take my damn bra off me and give me a sponge bath, and her husband made us dinner. My son did anything and everything I asked him to, but I needed to do some things for myself. Yet every damned thing was just so fucking difficult. Go brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand and tell me how it goes. NO! WAIT! Go wipe your ass with your non-dominant hand. THAT, my friends, is just friggin’ weird.

Now that I’ve had surgery and my husband is home to help the kid and myself, I’m not quite as depressed or disheartened as I was. I’m still very frustrated with not being able to do certain things like put my bra on by myself, do dishes, wear pants with buttons or zippers, or even sleep in my own bed. And keeping my pain level manageable still isn’t easy, especially at work. BUT, even with all of my frustrations and annoyances, I am incredibly lucky to have family and friends lending a hand to help me, and a staff at work who have my back in more ways than one. As independent (and stubborn) as I am, I know that if we all were a little more interdependent or even just admitted that we needed one another, we could live in a truly incredible world.

So lend a hand if you can to someone that needs it. And if you’re in my vicinity, I’ll be happy to borrow your right hand, arm and shoulder.

Let’s take care of each other. ❤

And then today…

Sometimes I really hate Facebook. Or maybe I just hate some of the people that use it.

Today is my brother’s birthday. He should be 51 today, yet he will forevermore be 49. An age that many like to say they’re at when they’re really older. But no one, including my dear brother, wants to stay at 49 for an eternity.

Last year on this day, I did ok. Until my sister called me then I cried…a lot. But I was ok. Today? I just wasn’t. I felt uneasy as soon as I woke up, although I thought it was from the argument my son and I had the day before. My parenting skills were not at their best yesterday and I said things I shouldn’t have. I did apologize to my boy, though, and we made up before bed last night. But I thought this morning’s uneasiness was due to a guilt hangover. But then, like a lightbulb exploding, I remembered. It’s June 20th. Six days after my birthday. Phil’s birthday.

I knew it was coming. Of course I did! It’s just after my own birthday, typically just after Father’s Day. But for a few minutes it was not part of my conscious thoughts. And then it was. And the grief started to settle into the back of my eyes, my downturned mouth, even into my bones. Once I got to work, I sat at my desk in my empty building and sobbed. I tossed my glasses, covered my face with my hands and let it go.

And yet I couldn’t let it go. I could feel that sadness and grief cling to me all day. I thought I would go home early in the afternoon, but I stuck it out for most of the day. But foolishly, oh so so foolishly, I looked at Phil’s Facebook wall. I knew some of my family might post something, and I get that. I do. I sometimes write on his wall, too, or talk to him in my car or in my head. But today I just couldn’t write anything. I just read the few comments. And I started to get so damn angry.

One person just wrote “happy birthday.” So, does this guy know that my brother is gone? Maybe he doesn’t. So shouldn’t I tell him? Shouldn’t the entire world know that this amazing, hilarious, sweet man is no longer on this godforsaken planet and it will never again be as good as a place as it was? But what about the woman, who I KNOW knows about my brother’s death, and her fucking cheery message? “Happy birthday, Phil!” with stupid ass balloons in the background. WTF? Seriously! What is this?!? He’s not here! He can’t celebrate ever again! Why did you write this?!? WHY?!?

I know I need to ask myself, “why do you care, Holly, and why are you so friggin’ mad?” These are the exact questions Phil would ask me. I know he would. Especially the part about caring. He was pretty good about trying to distance himself from things and people that really didn’t matter. No sense getting worked up over people that don’t care about you nor do you care about them. Just let it go.

But sometimes….sometimes it feels good to be angry and hate someone for something as silly as a FB post, because there isn’t anyone to be angry at about losing my brother. There’s no one I can yell at for taking away the person whom I looked forward to talking to, the person my son confided in and needs so much right now, the person that made me laugh like no other. So instead, I rage to myself (and to you) about a stupid meaningless post, until my anger burns out and I cry once more.

If I had some wine (I cannot believe I don’t have any right now), I would toast my lovely, hilarious, snarky yet kind big brother.

I miss you, jackass. I can’t quite move forward (there will never be moving on). I’m mostly standing still, occasionally going backwards, but I’m trying to put one foot in front of the other. I’m trying. ❤

Today

We’re burying my father today.

How am I supposed to get through this?

This morning, I woke up late because I flat out refused to get out of bed. I just didn’t want to face the day. Once I had my instant Maxwell House (also my father’s favorite), talked to my husband and got the kid up, I was kind of ready to get this day going.

I went for a run, or a semblance of a run, to clear my head. Instead self-doubt flooded my brain and I barely got to my turnaround spot just 1.5 miles from home and wondered how the hell I was ever going to get back. I just kept thinking about my dad and how much I missed seeing him and his laugh and his love. I thought, “I can’t get through this fucking run, how the hell am I going to get through this god damned day!”

So I walked then jogged then walked again. I started to think about the person Dad was when I was a little girl, and how much I feared him when he drank. But once I was in high school and he stopped drinking, I finally got to know the real man that was my father, and what a good guy he was. How much he changed his way of thinking when my brother came out, how supportive he was of us, how proud he was of every one of his children and grandchildren. He fiercely loved us.

These thoughts helped me to pick up my run again and keep going. I certainly didn’t make it home in record time, but I made it home.

And now I somehow have to get through this day and watch as they put my father’s casket into the ground. I know he’s not really there. Just his body. But you can say that all you want but it still fucking hurts. He’s still gone. He won’t ever call me on my birthday again and sing to me. He’ll never make up funny little songs for the grand kids again or hug me or cry with me about my brother or give me advice about my mom. He will never be here ever again and that fucking sucks.

I miss him so friggin’ much.

But I also know we’ll get through this awful, awful day. Right, Dad? You’d be telling all of us that we can do this. “This really sucks,” you’d say. “But you’re strong and you can do it.”

So….ok. Somehow. Some way. We’ll get through it. I love you, Dad.

Love you, sweet Papa. ❤