I woke up this morning and stared at my closet for a few minutes. It's always a battle trying to figure out what to wear. And believe you me I'm not one of those people that stresses about what to wear because I'm concerned about what people might think of me. Ask my kid. She rolls her eyes at just about everything I wear (probably because everything I wear contains a hole or two). My usual daily attire is my work shirt and a pair of jeans so when I have the day off sometimes I just get lost in these options that hang in front of me. My eyes fell on an old flannel. It was my father's, the only piece of clothing that I kept. I don't remember him ever wearing it. I have no actual sentimental memory of sitting with him while he was sporting it. It was just one of those things that when we were cleaning out his closet I gravitated towards. Over the last few days he's been on my mind a lot. Was it because Thanksgiving, our third Thanksgiving without him just came and went? Perhaps but he's never too far away from me if I'm being honest. I grabbed this blue flannel and out of habit smelled it, just to see if his scent was still there. I've worn it a few times over these last three years. There he was, faint now but I could still smell him if I closed my eyes. As I sit here and write these words, the one thing he always encouraged me to do, I wear his old shirt and I laugh at myself at how sentimental that old man has made me in his death. I finished getting dressed, kissed my naughty kitties goodbye, and head towards the coffee shop to write the next great big thing. The first song that comes on my Spotify mix? That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine by Simon and Garfunkel. I looked down at my radio and smiled as I felt my eyes water, knowing that for whatever reason he felt how much I have missed him and how sometimes on certain days his loss still sits heavy on my heart.
A friend and I got stuck in a conversation last night that sort of triggered this blog. She also lost her father and we could empathize with each other about how that loss feels. It gets easier and it doesn't at the same time. I am fine and then somebody will mention the Cubs and then my heart hurts a bit. I am fine and then its Thanksgiving and I remember all the dumb jokes he would tell and my heart hurts a bit more. I am fine and then I see a man who looks like him and my mind gets tossed in this confusion, knowing that's not him but wanting it to be him so badly. It gets easier to live my life every day, to live one day at a time. It gets easier to remind myself how lucky I was to have him as long as I did and to hold onto the memory of him calling me Red, of him falling asleep in the middle of our conversation. It gets easier but I still don't know how to rectify the fact that I can't just pick up the phone and call him. In the conversation the other night what became clear to me was that everything wonderful he ever was, everything wonderful her father ever was is carried on through us. So, I can wear this flannel and feel his blood run through these veins and look at my reflection and see him any time I want. I cannot physically hug him. I cannot punch him on the shoulder when he makes an inappropriate comment. I cannot sit in front of him and torture him with the things I would say on purpose just to make his blood boil ever again... but I will carry his memory with me. I will tell my grandchildren and, if I'm lucky enough, my great grandchildren about the flawed, beautiful man that was my father.
Sometimes it's easy to doubt the people we are. It's easy to look at our parents and say, "Well, it's all your fault that I'm messed up so bad." And perhaps for a time I said those exact words because in my youth I was incapable of taking responsibility of my own wrongs. Then life happens. Then you see your father laying in a hospital, struggling to hold onto any sort of life, and something beautiful happens in that moment. Were my struggles my parents fault? No. Most were on me and a few just were what they were. We have a choice when we become adults to become who we want to be, to behave the way want to behave, to bloom into something lovely or to fall into misery. When that song played this morning, this song that always makes me cry, I thought about those last moments that I saw him, knowing he wasn't really there anymore. In those moments, I forgave my father and my mother even though she was standing right there next to me. I forgave him for all the times he didn't know how to help me. I forgave him for all the times he pushed me too hard. I apologized for all the things I couldn't do for him, for me when he needed me the most. I apologized for not seeing in me what he always knew was there. And I thanked him for being the best father he knew how to be. It wasn't until he was gone that I started to understand him as a person. It wasn't until he was gone that I truly appreciated how much love he had for all of us. Every time I make a right decision now, I think of him. I ask myself would this make him proud? And then I laugh at myself because how happy would he have been if I had behaved this way when he was still here? I guess I understand finally what him and my mother were always trying to teach me. I don't think they ever really cared if we had amazing jobs or high class spouses or perfect children. I think all they ever wanted for any of us was to be happy whatever that happiness was. They just wanted us to be kind, be grateful, to show compassion to the world around us even when we didn't get it in return. So, I'll wear his flannel and I'll keep singing along to his music and I'll always be someone we can both be proud of. Because for 35 years that was the only lesson he ever really wanted us to learn.
Thanks, Dad. I finally heard you.
I have found sometimes the wisest things to do in this life is to keep your mouth shut and just observe what goes on around you. Say not a word and just watch human behavior. You would think at some point in our lives we would stop being surprised by a lot of it but every day I seem to find something to shake my head at. Am I just an old fuddy-duddy? Have I lost my sense of humor? But, no, because I get that most of this life is just ranch, not that big of a deal. It's more the way people treat one another that still makes my jaw drop. I've always had this weird battle between the difference between self preservation and self serving. Do I do this one thing that is going to help me out but screw someone else without them even knowing? Or do I do what is best for them and figure my stuff out on my own? Working in a restaurant where its just not about you, I face these kind of moral dilemmas all the time. And unfortunately in my life even if my intentions are in the right place, the person's next to me are not. At the end of the day however I can't control what someone else does. I can make the best choices to the best of my ability and cross my fingers that you will do the same. It's tough though, figuring out how to please everyone. Reality is you won't. There will always be someone who isn't quite happy with the results and sometimes you just got to chalk it up to a learning experience as a wise man once told me.
You would like to think that everyone has the best intentions for the people around them. And honestly I am more pleasantly surprised than not. I will admit though that there are days when I come home baffled by how I had been treated that day. I mean I've said this before. Waiting tables does not save the whales. It doesn't earn a great amount of respect from society in general which is bonkers. I would love to see those ladies in their power business suits and perfectly quaffed hair get up and handle ten tables at once but I digress... So many times I am deemed less than because my job is viewed as undesirable. Cool. I can't change someone's mind who isn't willing to be open to what I have to say so I can shake them off for the most part but am I not still human? It's that which bewilders me. Regardless of our jobs or color or sex or even blood type, we are still humans. The lights in my parking lot are out right now. When I get home at night, late at night, the parking lot is pitch black outside. My husband today went and put in a complaint with the leasing office. He said he was concerned since I had to walk through the dark parking lot to our front door. The lady brushed him off (as she usually does) and that was that. Wasn't there any humanity in her that felt an ounce of concern? And that perplexes me. You would think as one woman to another that she would have some urgency to addressing this problem but quite honestly I don't see a resolution any time soon. Good thing I wear running shoes to work, right? But I bet it would be a different story if she had to walk through that parking lot...
Sometimes doing the right thing is harder. You don't always get the benefit at the end of the day of that choice that you made. Sometimes that's fine because it all works out the way it is supposed to. But it sucks when you get duped by it, too. You go into these decisions thinking that you are doing what is best for everyone but at the end of it you realize it was really only best for one person... and that sucks to be blunt. So what do you do? Again you can't control the actions of the people around you even the ones you like. You have choices though. You can never do the right thing again for anyone just to make sure that you don't get the short end of the stick. You can always do the right thing, always being the one that ends up at the back of the line. Or you can choose to figure out a compromise that works for everyone (if possible) but drawing a line if that bottom line means you are the only one sacrificing. I remember when I first started working where I am years ago, a guy said to me that he wanted to be there the day I lost my shit. I gave him a look and asked him why? He laughed and said that I couldn't possibly be as nice as I am and one day somebody was going to push me too far and find out. Well, since that day, I am happy to say that I have found a happy balance of when to stand up for myself and when to shrug off the ranch. We learn which battles are important to fight and which ones are not. So, yeah, I spend a lot of my day just watching what goes on around me, choosing wisely at which moment I should start throwing fists. We are just human, flawed and beautiful humans. I just think we can do better. We can be better. We've already come a long way.