Tribute to My Dad

On September 9th, 2018, just one month to the day after my dad passed, we held a memorial for him. I got up and spoke about him. I want to share with you all my tribute to my dad.

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“It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living . I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live” These words were spoken by Augustus McCrae, one of the main characters in the Lonesome Dove book, written by Larry McMurtry.  Lonesome Dove was one of my dad’s favorite books. I’ve been reading a lot during the past 2 years and this was one book I had never read but knew it was my dad’s favorite. It wasn’t until after he passed away that I finally decided to read it.  Maybe to feel closer to him or maybe because I wanted to know about all the things my dad loved that I never really paid attention to until now.

“It ain’t dying i’m talking about, it’s living” and my dad was sure proud of where he lived.  He was a true swamp yankee. He would always make comments like, “Providence, what the hell would I go to Providence for?”  He loved west kingston where he spent most of his years, and he loved Noank and Mystic CT where he grew up before moving to West Kingston.  

He loved his country music, his cowboy books and horses, gardening, woodworking, and of course his budweiser beer.  I remember him picking me up from elementary school, budweiser in the cup holder (I never thought anything of it back then), and we would take daily trips to Wolfrocks, the local liquor store..or the package store as we called it, for his 6 packs after school.  Years later he and doctor’s orders, he would switch over to his o’douls when he had to give up the beer.

I remember sitting in his workshop while he did his woodworking, playing his Marty Robbins and other old school country music, the smell of sawdust.  To this day I love the smell of sawdust. I’m not sure what I really did in that workshop, if I watched him or learned anything, but just being around him was enough.  

My dad always had the best and simplest advice.  Like the day I was terrified to tell my parents I was 19 and pregnant, as I sat there crying he simply responded, “What the hell are you crying for? Nothing you can do about it now.”  Or when my son was little and I would complain about all the questions he would ask. I’d say, “Dad, he never stops!”… to which dad simply replied, “Well, ya coulda had a stupid kid.”

There were the times when I was broke and would ask to borrow $20 until payday and I would be so worried about paying him back but he would simply say, “good thing it just money.”  

More recently as he got older and his health started to decline he couldn’t be left alone.  One weekend I went to spend the night with him while my mom went on an overnight retreat. I remember helping him get settled in bed and I had flashbacks of the days when he would tuck me in or just stand at the doorstep and say “night punkin or night darlin” in that soft, barely audible voice.  It was then I saw how our roles were slowly reversing. I started going over on Sunday mornings and that was my time with Dad. Mom would go to church and dad and I would sit and talk, over coffee and maybe some Allie’s donuts. He would ask how many books I was reading and how many I had read so far this year.  Or sometimes we would just sit in the quiet because I knew he’d spent the last 52 years listening to my mom talk so maybe he would just enjoy some quiet.

Those are the moments I am going to miss most.  Just sitting with him, no words needed to be spoken.  Just the calm of his presence. Just BEING with him.  

Clara, one of the characters in Lonesome Dove says, “What do you think happens when we die? Maybe it’s not as big of a change as we think. Maybe you just go back to where you lived or near your family or wherever you were happiest. Only you’re just a spirit now…. And you don’t have the troubles the living have.”   

I’d like to think clara was right.  That his spirit is still here, in South County, surrounding all of those he loved and loved him.

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Grief – The Scenic Route

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I have always been the type of person who has the mentality of all or nothing.  If i’m going to do something I’m like Nike, Just do it! Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to everything in life.  Grief is one of those things. See my dad was the patient one. He had lots of patience. Me…not so much. That’s one of the reasons I hated being in the passenger’s seat when he drove.  I just wanted to get there. Get to the next stop. Keep moving.

Dad was more for the scenic route, the long way home, he was never in a rush.

I feel that way with grief.  My dad passed away just over a month ago.  I thought for sure my life wouldn’t go on. And if it did i would just spend days crying and then things would slowly go back to normal.  I’ll cry, I’ll grieve and then it will be over and I’ll be OK. Like a skinned knee, a broken bone, a cold.

Grief is not like that.  Death is not like that.

Each day I wake up is different.  It’s like your life is just the same, yet your life is very different.

Some days you feel angry at the world over what seems like silly things.  You run into someone and they simply say, “Hey, sorry about your dad” and hug you.  One day you may respond, “Thanks!” and smile. Another day you may take a deep breath as you choke back tears because you’re standing in Starbucks and God forbid you cry in the middle of a store in front of all these people who will judge you.  Some days you smile and think of something funny he would have said or just a memory of him pops into your head and it makes you happy.

Then you run into the person who must know you just lost someone close yet they just simply say, “Hi! How are you?” as they make simple conversation, never acknowledging your loss. You smile and chat while inside your head you are having your own conversation.  “Are they serious? MY DAD DIED!! WHY DON’T YOU KNOW MY DAD DIED? YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO TELL ME YOU’RE SORRY!! WHY ARE YOU NOT SAYING YOU’RE SORRY!”

Inside your head you want to punch this person in the face and scream at them.  How can they be so insensitive??

It’s the strangest feeling.  As much as you don’t want to talk about it, you want people to acknowledge it. And when they don’t, it only makes you angry.  And sometimes, you don’t even know if it is just because they simply have no idea or maybe, they just don’t know what to say.

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Some days I feel like I walk around looking normal to everyone on the outside.  They must think, “Wow, her dad just died and she seems fine!” But I’m not. Yes, I may look OK.  Yes I still smile. Maybe I smile a little more now because I realize that there may be millions more going through what I am going through and maybe someone needs to see that smile to make it through the day.  But really I just get up, keep moving and fake it a little.

Some days I feel OK and all of a sudden it hits me and I have to run to the ladies room to cry.

I feel like I keep waiting for it to hit me.  Like maybe one day I won’t be able to get out of bed because I will be overcome with grief.  Many days I just feel tired. No tears, just tired. Many days I forget things. I have a great memory most of the time but lately I feel much more forgetful. I often keep myself busy and my calendar full.  Then there are days that I just need to be alone. Even if it’s to sit home and cry by myself. Other days I need to be surrounded by others and maybe even laugh or share stories about my Dad and tell everyone what a great man he was.  I think the scariest thing about grief is that you really don’t know how and when it will hit you. If it will be tears or anxiety or anger. So right now I’m learning to take each moment as it comes. Whether it’s strength or laughter.  If I need to cry, I cry. If I need to nap, I nap. If I need to scream, I scream. Because the one thing that is for certain about grief is that there is no wrong way to experience it, just take it as it comes.