I have not been writing here as much as I’d like. I have been working a lot and am up early and really tired by the time I get home. The joys of being a blue-collar semi-skilled worker. I’m glad to have found a job and do it to the best of my ability. But I sure am not overly stimulated in it.
And this time of year really is tough for me too. I feel the falling apart of my relationships and my past most acutely at Christmas time. And I really want to make it special for my child but it seems like it’s only making due. And I get sad that I can’t be there for the whole thing or her mom cannot either.
But it was also my Dad’s favorite time of year was Christmas. He went all out and genuinely enjoyed himself and got such a kick from gift giving and being together. So I associate much of this time of year with him. This is only the third since he died. The first one was so soon after the death that we were all in shock and sort of numb and it hadn’t really sunk in. The second one I spent away from everyone. So this one is sort of the first one where I am present and feeling. It’s hard. I know my Dad would have been so happy with his grandkids and seeing them get big and he would have got them all kinds of silly gifts and probably had more fun than them playing with them. The loss just feels so much bigger right now.
I am feeling pretty okay with my life right now. I just feel lonesome and I am missing people who aren’t here.
Hope your life is doing you well right now and giving you all the joy Christmas can.
Be well. Be love.
O Captain! My Captain!
– Walt Whitman –
This world is very much not a good place for me right now.
I have nothing much else to say.
Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir,
I have tried in my way to be free.
– Leonard Cohen –
I am feeling like I am standing on the platform as a train pulls from the station. And I see these faces and scenes in the windows. As the train builds momentum the windows blur one into another and I only catch the suggestion of a face or an image. All of them memories, hopes and beliefs. And then the caboose finally clears the station and there on the back platform stands someone I know or knew, the amalgamation of people and loves and hurts and beauty. And it’s waving goodbye. I find myself weeping alone as the big steel wheels pull it farther and farther away. Hoarsely whispering “Come back, come back, I am not ready to say goodbye”.
Is it not such a stretch to see that the train has been used in deep spiritual metaphors. Old Negro spirituals and workmen’s chants and backwoods picker’s hymns. The power of hearing about a train that carry’s salvation or carries away the devil is enhanced by the sounds of the steady hum of the boilers and the thud of the steel on steel. Metaphorically it’s a powerful image.
Of course writing about trains and God and imagery I see in my mind is simply an avoidance. See today or possibly very early into tomorrow is the second anniversary of my father’s death by overdose. And I am one of those that is just so affected by echos and ghosts that the reminder is making me feel all that confusion again. Sadness, grief and anger. But mostly I feel lost. Just like I am a little boy again, searching a crowd of people for his face, for his voice, for his presence. Just so I know I am safe, that I have not been left behind. I look and scan this great big crowd and I never see him and I never hear “Jeffery, come on boy. Over here. You’re okay, stay close.” And I just feel so much like I am standing alone and I am not ready to be alone.
I never expected this. I never planned for it. And now it is my life. A single man, with a small child, a family that is fractured and for all intent and purpose gone. Lonely, sad and shell-shocked. I am a strange amalgamation of clockwork gears, animal skin, rusty motors and greasy servos, man fingers, child eyes and all the screws, string and staples it takes to keep it together. I build altars to the distractions and fancies of a sorrowed mind and I cradle the icons of a cluttered heart. And in me somewhere a kernel of faith and a tiny electrical spark of truth jumps from terminal to terminal, raw wires smoldering and smoking with a plastic and ozone smell. I creak and squeak as I move. Long rusted parts that need to be tended constantly. There I am…I am.
Can you hear me? Does anyone really know? I know one person did, but two years ago he died laying on the floor of a shitty two bedroom apartment in a state of drug induced numbness. All his love, his anger and his life of rejection, fear and hate all come tumbling down all over the room around him. And he left it all right there for his lost little boy to come in and pick it all up and carry on the burden, some sad legacy.
I just hope he has peace, please God if you can hear, if you are there. Give my father the peace he could never find here. If you can do that, that would be enough. Enough for me.
I know I probably shouldn’t and I know it’s probably not good for me. And I am prone to fear and anxiety but I am sitting here trying to not have the significance of this coming week come crashing down on me and I am letting it. Not on purpose of course, but I can’t avoid it or maybe I don’t know how.
It was 2 years ago next week that my father died. And the weather, the sun and the way the season of autumn all combine to put me back in those sad, terrible days.
Only this time around it feels sharper, more acute and striking. Because I am alone now. Back then I was still with my daughter’s mother (who was wonderful and strong for me and I’ll never be able to properly show my gratitude) and I was still in the midst of my addiction. So I could numb it down. Pack more insulation on the machine so to speak.
Death takes so much from us. But I think the thing it does most is it irrevocably changes us. Rewires us and alters our chemistry. I have been through death before and they were less immediate and less the stark hammer my father’s death was. After all he died of a drug over-dose. And even they sort of turned my dials and tuned me different. But my father, he went and tore down the whole thing and left me to pick up each piece and put it back together. No instructions, no blue prints and no experience. So I am this little lone man standing before the great machine and I am trying fit one piece into the next to see if they fit. To see if I can get the machine to run again. And it is so lonely and there is nothing you or anyone else can do to help. I need to take each rusty, greasy piece in my hands and feel them out, roll them around and stick them back on the chassis.
I do what I can I guess. Some days I feel more than others. And I am willing to give more. And oh my Lord! I am healing, I give this to my faith and the slow gentle love of some friends and my church. I was so broken down after my Dad died I ended up having a breakdown and being hospitalized for my own good about two weeks after.
God has been good enough to give me the space and time to come together slowly and honestly. I am never going to be one that grieves in a sudden burst and never again or at least never again visibly. My face and heart are so out in the open. There is nothing I can do to hide. And were I to act alright, if I told you it’s okay I’d be lying. And you’d know. Even those who only ever read my words. You’d know.
So today I get my little girl for a bunch of days and I try to stay here in the world of the living. And I experience her vitality and her exuberance. And I try to keep the ghosts at bay. And I try not to lose too much ground in the war.
“I hate graveyards and old pawn shops, for they always bring me tears, I can’t forgive the way they robbed me of my childhood souvenirs.”
Parenthood was something I never really had sussed out till I was a parent. I mean as a wise old 20 something I had it expected and almost wanted. I had all my rules and lines set in store. There were things my parents done and things your parents were doing that I wasn’t going to and the things I was going to do because it just seemed like the right thing to do. So many unfounded ideas and thoughts but brother let me tell you I was sure of them. And don’t you argue me when I am sure. Because man can I speak in the definitive and I can throw in some arcane and vague fact, figure and trivia. I got me a shovel and I know how to dig down into that great big pile of bullshit I call my intellect.
But then along come August 2007, and a nurse handed me this tiny little girl we called Ruby. And boy oh boy! All that empty wisdom flew out the window. Here was the most beautiful thing I ever saw and the scariest. I remember looking at my hands as I held her and thought ‘What am I going to do? I still feel like a kid myself.’ And it was then that it all sank in. I guess I am going to do the best I can. I will do as I can whenever I could. And I am going to try to always make the best choice. I knew I already loved her, loved her like I never have loved anything before. I knew that from the moment I knew of her existence swimming around in her mommies’ tummy. That can ever be questioned. And it’s the only part of this whole crazy ride that I am absolutely sure. But all the other stuff. Man I had no clue…I was flying blind.
And as life does I got spun hard. Eleven weeks later my father died of a drug overdose and it broke it all apart. Or at least started a big crack in the foundation and the rest of the house started to come crumbling down. I was devastated. Because it seemed like things were just starting. My old man was a grandpa, something he always wanted to be. And he was already showing that he would do just fine. The last time he saw Ruby he leaned over as I held her in my arms and kissed her and said “I love you baby, I’ll see you again real soon” and I could see that the angry young man who raised me and filled me with fear, the breaking machine that drove me half insane was gone and here was just another man, an old man who’d lived too hard and was softened by it. He’d seen enough miles to know it’s a long trip to go and it wasn’t worth the pain and rage anymore. And I was so hopeful. That maybe I wouldn’t have to do this father thing all by myself and I could call him and he’d always be there and he’d laugh at the good and talk me through the hard. I could see him fussing over a pretty new dress that she was wearing and teaching her silly songs. He would take her in his lap and tickle her. It was as it should be. At least that’s what I thought.
Life being the puzzle I never could solve threw that all across time and told me it had other plans. Grandpa died, I went a little crazy and lost my way for a while. A couple hospital stays and some poor choices for myself took me out. And recovering took some time. In fact it still is taking time. My mother made some choices for herself, my brother too. And suddenly all I had known was gone. I had no real family. You ever want to know how people feel about you and how they stack up? Throw death into the mix. People just scattered. No one called, no one seemed to care and only were there when I came to them and then it felt mostly like they were responding to some obligation that remained unspoken. I don’t blame them. Who wants a hurting and grieving machine firing on two bad pistons sitting in their living room. And I felt more alone…Even more then before.
My relationship with my daughter’s mother went to hell. I became insane, possessive and panicked. I got hit by a bad case of the “hostage taker’s blues”, that’s where you take someone emotionally hostage and become so demanding and determined that it crushes the life from the relationship. And before it’s done you wonder why there’s love at all anymore. Making you even more blue than before. Ultimately it ended. I can say I take responsibility for my part in that. I do completely, I feel guilt and I feel shame and I feel hurt. I regret the hurt I caused and the shame I gave. I don’t blame her for running. Man I would maybe have run too. Maybe even sooner than she did. And so where once there was love there is now distance and contention. Grief is a bitch and it gets in everything.
I have been trying to pull an even keel and get myself together. I have searched out God. Because I know there are questions in my heart only he can answer. I got sober. See I was just like my Dad. An addict with a heart and a mind to want better. But I made a lot of really bad moves in the process. Things I may never atone for and things I owe so much in apology for. To everyone I know. And to me. I live with things I cannot forget and I fight to forgive, mostly I done to myself. I have become a Daddy on alternating weekends and agreed upon days between. I do the best I can. Just like any parent does. Or any good parent. Because more than anything else in this life, that is the definition of being a good parent. Did you do the best you could with what you had? Because I swear here and now, there is no perfect score in this dance.
But man what I wouldn’t give to turn back the clock. To when it was all still there in front of me. Back to when I took it all for granted and made myself a deserving fool. Just to sit down again and see something other than ghosts, hurt and goodbyes staring back at me. When lonely was just something I felt for an hour at a time. Back to another life I sometimes can’t remember anymore.
My father died two years ago this month. And I am scared to go outside because sometimes the weather feels just like it did the day I laid him to rest. The day it all began to come apart. Good or bad, change for the better or not…It started there. And now I live this everyday.
And I miss my old man.