Be Gentle “It’s My Dad”

•April 21, 2014 • 2 Comments

I’ve spent much of my life in TSA lines, a la dad working for Continental Airlines most of my life. Over the years, I’ve had to explain lots of weird shit in my belongings to TSA. My hotcomb that apparently the officer had never seen, the yellow wiffle bat with hand drawn birthday candles on it, a dead lizard en route home from Costa Rica..and now, my dad.

When he passed, I knew I’d eventually want to take his ashes to Denver and spread them at my moms cemetery.  When I got my cousins wedding announcement in the mail, I figured I’d take him then since everyone would be in town. After reading TSA rules, I started to mentally prep for this. I’d have to get a smaller temporary container AND transport them…myself. So many questions. What does it look inside the big container, I hadn’t opened it since I picked him up from the funeral home on his own birthday last summer? What’s the noise it makes when I shake it? WHY does it make noise, isn’t it just ash? What happens if some of it gets on me? What happens if I spill some in the process how do I clean it up? Do I ask someone to come over and help me do this? In the end I did ask. The body language of the first person I asked to help with this undertaking (no pun) expressed  disinterest and the verbals were less than supportive so I had to think a little more. Nehad, she’d be perfect. One of the most calming and uplifting souls I know. She didn’t wince, not even when some ashes blew onto her pretty sun dress. She helped me find a scripture to read before we started, and opened the bottle of champaign when we finished, I had to make this process a “thing” it only felt right to have some pomp and circumstance. Of course the next morning I got to the airport and put Francis on the conveyer belt and before I could explain, they asked “What is this”? At 5:00 am, barely awake and a tad emo, I said “Its my dad, be gentle.”

Not wanting to take any shine from my cousins big day, I waited until the next morning and sent a mass text “Taking dad to be with mom at 11:30 if you want to come”.  I didn’t plan anything or expect anything. I figured we’d say a prayer and scatter him along the lake near her plot. As I watched my family gather around me, I was overwhelmed, with an equal amount of joy and sorrow. My cousin Steve took a small piece of paper from his pocket and started to tell me his favorite stories and memories he had of my mom, who’s death crossed direct paths with my birth and my dad, who raised me on his own, thereafter. I was touched, soon, everyone started chiming in with their own stories. We finally scattered Francis along the bank of the lake near mom, and it gave me a great sense of peace knowing my parents were now physically together here on earth. I could hear my dad shouting from the heavens as I left “you couldn’t wear pants without holes in them to send me off!” a la the ripped boyfriend jeans I wore that day.

The death of not one but two parents is deepest kind pain one can experience and its only with the constant love and support of family, friends and my pastors (yeah, you need a few  of them for these things), that I have any ounce of sanity. I still have OH SHIT MY DAD IS GONE moments, but its normal and I own it. BUT, at least with cremation, you’ll always have a ridiculous story to tell that no matter how deep the pain, you will find a way to laugh. There are endless contemplations regarding appropriateness in talking about cremated remains and well, its mostly comical.  You never know what to call the box of ash, “It” seems so rude and heartless, and “Dad” is a weird. I usually lean toward weird and insert him in random conversations. I also laugh at myself every time I pass the aisle in Target that I bought the container to take him in on the airplane. Who puts their dad in a container from Target? This girl.  Strangely, its never the urn that brings me tears,  like ever, at all. It’s damn near everything else. When Sophia spent the night at my place while I was out of town, I asked if she’d prefer me to move Francis somewhere out of site.  “Nope, its fine, he and I will chat” and apparently they did…When my cousin said he missed my dad and I could say “Well actually he’s in car …” these comically awkward conversations and situations make it all a little easier…

 

 

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Dewars, Neat.

•November 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I walked into my dad’s house for the first time since the funeral. I paced through the kitchen, into the dining room, around the living room, peeked in his office and finally settled in at the kitchen table trying to figuring out where to start.  Do I go through the enormous pile of mail? Do I pick up where I left off cleaning out his desk drawers? Do I do none of it at all and just let myself sit there and cry?  For the first time, my childhood home felt like a house. There was no lingering scent of dad’s cologne, or hint of spices from whatever he’d just cooked. It smelled like a house.

Too eager to get inside, I’d left my luggage on the porch knowing I couldn’t sleep there alone anyway, so why bother dragging it all in the house. Overwhelmed with my to-do list, I decided against all of it. All I wanted  was to wash the airport off my body, put on a civilized looking outfit, and drive to Jill’s to embrace her newborn baby girl because the anticipation of her arrival brought me so much joy in the sorrow filled days after losing my dad. I also longed for Jill’s calming presence, abundance of love and mastery of all things grief.

Before I could do any of this, I had to pour myself a Dewars even though I hate scotch. It made me feel connected to the empty space I was sitting in. My dad, while never much of a drinker would always offer his brothers, cousins or friends a drink when they’d drop in. He’d go in the liquor cabinet and grab his handle of Dewars and ask “neat or on the rocks”, if I were there he’d offer me a glass. I’d always scrunch my face and  he’d laugh at my disgust. Most often I’d pour myself a glass of wine and join them for a game of dominos or rummy 300. That day I sat in solitude as I swirled a single ice cube in a scotch glass while I carefully studied the details of the grain in the hardwood floors and drifted in and out of childhood memories wishing he were there to share a drink with me. I tossed the ice cube and put the teeniest pour in my glass. I walked around the outside of our house, Dewars, in hand as I pulled weeds from the flower beds and vegetable garden. I filled my basket with tomatoes, cucumbers and squash that were still popping up despite my 8-week absence and sobbed as the loneliness came over me like a heavy wet blanket and all I could think of was “dad’s missing out on his own God damn garden”.

One drink, one long shower and several tissues later, I talked myself into a calm place. I walked around the house realizing the dust has both literally and figuratively settled and my new life as an only child, with parents on the other side has begun. I wrote a gratitude list of things, people and places to be thankful for. While my house no longer feels like a home, I was always raised to believe that “home is where the heart is”.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the village that raised me. My “home” may no longer be on Walnut Plain Road, but it is a near- infinite amount of other places. I have this village of family and family friends and friends’ families all whose houses I’ve always considered home. Love lives there, in abundance.

I recently read an article featured in Vogue by Madonna Badger, where she detailed her own experience with grief after losing her parents and 3 daughters on Christmas in a tragic house fire. I, like Madonna am taking my time in considering my dad’s ashes final resting place, for now he’s on my bookshelf in a temporary urn. Some days, his heavy green box of ash brings me a comical laugh, sometimes it brings sadness. He too needs a home (not facing my friends who won’t admit to getting weirded out when they visit).  I’ll continue to navigate where I’ll call home and in the process hopefully find his too.

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I shaved my legs at the Hilton on 14th St. *Shameface*

•September 1, 2012 • 1 Comment

So last night I decided what I was going to wear tonight. Hung said chosen dress on the back of my door, jumped in the shower, shaved my legs without my contact lenses in and paid for it today. I wore this short ass dress to work but over pants. After work I took the pants off and started walking to meet Meghan, look down and see what kind of blind ass job I did and that I could not go to the fiesta with hairy legs in my short dress. So what does a girl do when she doesn’t have time to go all the way home? Stop in CVS buy a cheap razor, dash into the nearest Hilton while she waits for Meghan and shave her legs in the sink.

BAD IDEA

There I stood in the lobby bathroom of the Hilton shaving my patchy hairy legs with handsoap and water with my $1.99 razer. Blood starts dripping from everywhere, I panic its about to get on my dress so I stand in the handycap stall, take my dress off and hang it up on the back of the door, stand there in my underwear, call Meghan who is stressing big time at work still and ask if she has cute kid bandaids (this makes her irate while she handles work biz) then text Soph and explain my fiasco, she tells me I should write it down, so here I am hours later watching Chelsea Handler and recounting my day.

DONT CRY DONT CRY DONT CRY DONT CRY

I tell this to myself as I stand there in mismatched drawers (which I HATE) smooth, but now bloody legs, and pretty much naked in a the handycap bathroom, where’s White Jesus in the form of Larry David when I need him? I heal the wounds, sit in the lobby and eat 3 cookies while I calm down.

STIFF DRINK PLEASE

I get to A Bar safe and sound. See, after a cran & vodka and hugs from friendly faces I’m almost fully recovered.

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Julian, my tall light skinned husband

•October 31, 2011 • 2 Comments

So my sleep has been off during this horrible transition of moving, life, etc. I finally almost sleep through the night…At 4am I wake up, check to see if Sophia, 6 hours ahead in Addis, is on gchat so I can tell her about her comical cameo in my romantic dream with “Julian” (I named him this based on his looks). So anyway…

In some random city, on some random day, in some other life, I was riding bikes through said city, it had beautiful cobble stone streets, hills, and bougie brown folks sitting on sidewalk tables drinking vino after work. Heaven on earth really. Soph and I clad in jean shorts, tees, and boat shoes, powered up the hills, and coasted down, laughing like school girls on a thrilling adventure as we speed down each hill. It seemed as if she was visiting because I kept telling her I’d show her places…We made a stop at the gym, then the spa and then I told her we had to meet the guy I was dating at my favorite bakery. We parked our bikes in front and got in the long line. I knew what I wanted, but Soph scoured over the menu and the perfectly decorated treats in the cases. A tall, like 6’6″ tall, light skinned man with freckles, smoothed down curls (or ‘founder hair’ as Akilah calls it, referring to all the founders of BGLOs), sunglass clad  in a perfectly tailored suit walks in, gently presses his hand in the small of my back to my surprise and says “well hello sweetheart”, apparently he was my lover because we embraced and I got all red in the face and said “Soph, this is the wonderful gentleman I’ve been telling you about”. She offers a hug and he offers her a brownie.  We stood at the counter and made a Cookie Monster like disaster while we inhaled our treats. We were sweaty and a mess from our all-day bike ride and he was prim and proper in his suit, we felt silly.

While we stood there covered in crumbs and powdered sugar, “Julian” says he has to head out for a meeting, we tell him we’re gonna head home and relax before we catch up with him for a late dinner. “It’s getting dark, you ladies shouldn’t be riding home in the dark” he says. I half scrunch my face and roll my eyes and tell him we’ll be fine. “Please, my driver is outside, he can put your bikes in the trunk and take you home”.  We walked outside and unlock our bikes and stare up the enormous hill we’d have to ride up if we decline his offer. We shake our heads in tandem and take the ride. “Julian” clicks his key fob, and the lights on a black Mercedes flash in front of the bakery. “Oh fancy” Soph says, turning to me with raised eyebrows. We schlep our bikes into trunk and get in. I seem confused by this life that is mine but isn’t mine. I’m dating this guy  “Julian” who is not my type even though I don’t have a type, and  get a sense of controlling from “Julian’s” end and I’m not feeling it. We get into the driver’s black Mercedes but there is no driver, its an automated car that moves on voice command and or GPS. In seconds, our doors close and this car with no one behind the wheel is escorting us home. We start to talk about him and the situation but zip it when we think this high tech car is probably recording our convo.

I must have looked unhappy because Sophia dug in with a list of questions. She joked that she thinks he’s amazing because he bought her a brownie at the bakery but reminded me if I’m not happy I can’t /shouldn’t stay in a relationship with him. He was so doting, and nurturing, thoughtful, and generous, but I wasn’t feeling it. Maybe because he was uber pretentious and unfun, and couldn’t take his suit off and let his ‘founder hair’ down and kick it, maybe his near demand that I not ride my bike home uphill at dusk bothered me, who knows. Maybe its just that he looked like Julian in School Daze  with the demeanor of Julian on A Different World but  that didn’t jive with me, who knows.

I woke up  confused at 4ish in the morning and hollered at Sophia in real life in hopes I could make some sense of all this weirdness in my dream that felt weird in real life. She inquired about a recent suitor  asking if he’s anything like Julian in my dream,  I say no, the complete opposite actually, he’s short, dark skinned and drives a BMW, and I’m not feeling him either” MOOOOOOP.

Le Sigh. My dreams make my brain hurt sometimes.

Dear God, Who’s in Charge?

•August 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I was in the middle of drinking myself into an ivy league stooper, driving around Princeton in a conversion van acting young and sensless with my girl friends celebrating the pending gradution of one of our friends from her doctoral program.  Soon my laughs turned into inconsolable cries when my dad called. My dad is one of the most thoughtful and giving people I know, he’s sensitive but his ability to 1)give bad news and 2) comfort you after said bad news is sub standard. His awkward tone on the other end let me know something was very wrong and even when he gathered himself to tell me my best friends toddler tragically drown in her parents pool I felt like if I kept shouting ‘BUT IS SHE OKAY’ into my phone  he’d eventually say yes. But she wasn’t okay, and he said no, over and over again. She’d not yet fully graduated from diapers and baby food before He took her Home. In the aftermath of the chaos there was guilt pain and sorrow densly filling the air and a tea cup poodle now temperarily in my dad’s care until she and her parents settled back into ‘normal’ life. Cleaning up puppy pee, and watching my dad walk a 3 lb dog on a leash provided a much needed mental break from the chaos.

Several pastoral care visits, counseling sessions, and buckets of tears later, life for us all seemed to resume as best our emotions allowed and everyone learned to manage the pain of tragic death with endless love and ongoing prayers.

Fast forward a year and I’m left asking myself what God is doing upstairs.

I wake up Saturday morning to a flurry of phone calls, texts and emails. Please call home. The same friend who tragically lost her baby, just tragically lost her brother, in his sleep unexpectly, leaving behind his 10 yrd old and new born son and wife behind. Now I’m asking “God, WHO is in Charge”  Who lets things like this happen? What bad energy is in the earth for tragedy to strike the same family, in the SAME HOUSE, in the SAME YEAR.

As I pack and prepare to fly home to be there in support, I’m reminding myself that this isn’t the time to question my faith, but maybe its time to strengthen it, that I should maybe stop skipping church in lieu of brunch and mimosas on Sundays and start thanking God for the very good life that I have and pray for those who have less. For now I’ll love with all my might and pray for mental and spiritual health of everyone attached to this awful situation.

Trains, Rings, Korean Men & Humanity…

•February 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Sooo last night  I was on the train and they were doing trackwork so it was a bit confusing which trains were going where. This old Korean man came to me and asked for directions because he was confused too. I told him to follow me and we sprinted to the other side. We sat and waited together, he asked me about my weekend and told me about his. He explained he’d gone gambling for the day to get away from the city, and he’d won some money. He leaned in and with bright eyes whispered , $2600 and drew his hand back like jackpot, and smiled ear to ear. He went on to tell me he’s had good luck lately and won $250,000 on one ticket and tens of thousands on other random tickets. Explaining it left him kind of speachless, or the excitement paired with language barrier, he couldn’t get it out. He’d make the motion of scratching lottery tickets, mumble an amount and smile. He said he and his wife needed it as they own a small store in Crystal City, that I’m assuming isn’t doing so hot, but he was embarrased to take the state required photograph for his big win. He took off his glasses and made a funny face and explained that’s what he did when he held the big check for the picture. He served in Vietnam in the early 60’s as a translater, as he speaks 5 languages and and is a master martial arts instructor who swims for one hour each evening and does not eat meat in the evenings and that’s why he ‘has the body of a 25 year old with a six pack’ as he explained.  He told me about a juice he swears by that keeps his ‘old body young’ and is good for your bones, and talked about the importance of treating your body well. No smoke, no drink, no meat late he demanded.
 
Before I got off the train he asked me my ring size. My face wrinkled a bit with flattery and confusion. “six” I told him, he pulls a ring out of his jacket pocket made from blown glass and asks for my hand and slides it on my ring finger, and said ‘this is very very good luck’. When you rub it, it changes colors. I stopped at 7-11 when I got off the train and bought a $10 scratch ticeket per his suggestion. While I got no money, I did get a realllllllly cool ring, and a reminder of the importance of humanity and the kindness of strangers. 
 
I told my dad this story and he reminded me about the time he and my mom were in Manhatten in the mid 70’s.  A French man was lost, and frantically asking for help mostly in French and barely audible English. My brilliant mom who spoke nearly 4 languages ran to help him. “I’ve never seen anyone look more releived in my life” my dad explained.  I suppose I adapted her nurturing gene.

Blessings.

Type delete type delete: awesomely awkard chats

•January 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

awkward is as awkard does. gchat, bbm, skype, aol  (if you’re a loser) whatever your chat outlet is, you KNOW when someones typing a message sometime this is great, but usually its  either a) annoys you because they’re taking too long to respond and you question their ability to type quickly in the digital age or b) gives you anxiety amidst awkward conversation as you impatiently stare at the screen and must read  ‘xyz is typing’ and ‘xyz has entered text’.  Its even worse when it says ‘xyz has entered text’ because it means they’re working hard at crafting the best response instead of speaking freely.

It makes already awkward conversation more awkard.  You ask a question  and on the other, its bad enough there’s a pause, but you see that they’re struggling to figure out a response, type type type, xyz has entered text, then nada, you wait, impatiently while they think up a better response and try again, type type type yxz is still typing, then they enter text, you wait, and finally they hit send.

*ding – After 5-7 minutes of sitting and staring impatiently, you’ve given me a one, maybe three word answer.

JESUS CHRIST. It’s bad enough folks can’t form complete sentences in this digital age, but please, chatting convo’s where facial expressions, body language, tone can’t be seen and heard can really fuck up what you meant to say. Sometimes this happens in simple things like where you’re meeting for dinner, to thinking you sent over a funny, but maybe it wasn’t all that funny to much more complicated things like the datinginDCclusterfuckery.

Anyhoo, whether you’re my homey or my homeloverfriend.  Sometimes I fuckinghatechats!