Thursday, January 8, 2015


{Reflections on year #4 without my daddy}

Of course we didn't do it on purpose. No one ever does these sorts of things intentionally, necessarily. They just sort of happen. And it's not until later when the intense fog of grief has subsided substantially that you are able to see clearly how obvious it all is. How obvious it should have been in the moment.

 Paint is a fairly permanent thing...easily painted over yes, but with quite a bit of hassle. In our case, we still like the wall color and new look, but I would not go about making a habit of painting and redecorating while grieving. Eventually you will open your eyes and find the very thing you were grieving all over the walls and in the paintings, even possibly in the shower curtain.

My dad died on our bathroom floor. Or perhaps in the kitchen. It's hard to say really.

All I am sure of is that by the time the truck full of people came rushing through the door to save my dad's life, there was no life left to be saved.

It happens all the time, right? People faint, have heart attacks, seizures, go unconscious. The paramedics come and force air back into lungs and convince hearts to go on beating.

Not so with my dad. There was just no convincing him. I've always wondered I suppose, why their methods just wouldn't work on him.

Anyways. Like I said, I'm almost certain he was gone in the bathroom. Unbeknownst to me as I sat praying on the edge of the bathtub and waiting for the sirens and the rush of people through our front door. I sat doing nothing useful at all because my optimistic self was so sure it was just another seizure.

Then there was a day at the hospital. In my pajamas (obnoxious Christmas ones at that) Lots of people. Phone calls. The first time I ever said the words, "my dad is dead."

By the time we got home, I guess someone had cleaned up the bathroom. My grandma if I remember correctly. It looked normal enough, minus the missing hand towel bar under the window.

All I wanted to do was take a shower. Lock the door and let the sound and the warmth of the water swallow me up so I didn't have to think or hear or speak. I just wanted to wash the day away. But convincing myself to step into the bathroom was quite the task. Of all the rooms in your house, you can't very well avoid the bathroom. Not for very long anyways.

By the time I came home from college in May, we had all had enough of the bathroom.

We never talked about it or discussed how it was strange for all of us to spend so much time in the place where my dad stopped living, but we just all knew we had to do something.

So, my mom started tossing around the idea of painting the bathroom. We said it was because the paper was old and it really needed the work and the updating. Which is all true. But really I knew we needed to stop seeing my dad in there. At least like that.

So we made a trip to Home Depot. Started looking through paint chips. Of all the paint colors there, we landed on this soft but vibrant shade of green called refresh. My mom had already found a new shower curtain with bright shades of purple and green and yellow, butterflies, flowers, and several scriptures. We were sort of dragging our feet with the project, but one weekend my uncle surprised us and painted it while we were away.

My mom and I weren't the only ones ready for a bathroom refresh.

Slowly, over time, the walls became adorned with prints of butterflies accompanied by inspirational quotes. And maybe a year or so after my daddy had died, when we had all accepted a new normal, I looked around the bathroom and realized what we had done.

Without acknowledging any of it, we had all decided that we needed to stop seeing my dad helpless and lifeless on the floor and instead see him the way he was in our hearts and minds; very much alive. We didn't want the bathroom to imply we were trying to wipe the memory away or that we wanted to forget him or even losing him. We wanted it to say that even though we didn't get to choose when or where or how we lost him, we could choose how we were going to remember him.

My daddy loved to laugh. He loved to smile. And he loved to make other people laugh and smile. He was a breath of fresh air. You really couldn't remember him any other way.

And so my daddy lives on vividly in our hearts and in our little refreshing, green bathroom. We did with our bathroom what he taught us to do with our lives. To make the best out of sad, dark, difficult things. To embrace change because it's going to happen, and that life isn't fair but it is what we make of it.

It's been four years since my daddy died. This is the first year I've been at home on January 7 since the January 7 that made January 7 a notable date to me in the first place. It's snowy and freezing just like it was four years ago and I honestly have no idea how to go about this whole "daddy day" thing this year. It's one thing being far away from it all and celebrating in my heart with no immediate physical reminders to take me back to that day. It's a different story when you wake up and feel like you might actually have to relive the whole thing because it's all so strangely similar.

It's yet another lesson in grief. Another reminder of its unpredictability and overwhelming grasp. It may come and go but it's never really gone for good. It's a surprise visitor. Sometimes the kind you love to find on your door step and other times the kind you want to pull the shades on and never open the door to.

I've only been to his grave site twice. The first time to see what the stone looked like and also to make sure everything was spelled correctly. And maybe part of me wanted to see what the whole visiting someone you love at their grave thing was all about. I mean they do it in the movies and so I suppose I felt obligated to at least give it a shot....though I couldn't imagine liking it. I could hardly look. I felt so out of place. Too young. Too apathetic. Too composed. Too empty handed. I went back a second time thinking perhaps I didn't do it right the first time or that it had been too soon or something. Maybe things would be different further out.

They weren't

I watched as people stood scattered around the cemetery leaving flowers or standing quietly in front of stones, sitting on benches. Maybe I was supposed to talk to him or think about him. But all I could think about was how I was closer to my dad than I had been in four years but that he was in a box and under my feet. I never saw him in a box and to even begin to imagine him as such was more than enough to send me running back to my car.

I guess it's because my dad just wasn't the dying type. He may be gone, but he'll never be dead to me. Not only do I feel out of place in that park full of dead, I know he's out of place there. In fact, he's not even there at all which is probably why I felt so out of place. He probably laughed at me for even going. Funeral homes and cemeteries and sad things in general are just out of character for both of us. Of course it felt strange there, I didn't find what I was looking for. My daddy isn't in a cemetery, he's in places like our bright green bathroom and around our kitchen table. He's in the pages of his tattered Bible and in the flight of every vibrant, soaring butterfly. His laughter and wisdom and joy are in the deepest cavities of our hearts.

January 7 is not a day to mourn the death of my dad, it's a day to remember and celebrate his life and to keep him alive and our little green bathroom is not a place to remember sadly how we lost him but instead we inhale deeply and refresh our souls with the vibrant, soft, green way he lived.

1 comment:

  1. This was a lovely post...I think about your dad all the time. He was a sweet man. And you have that same sweetness and warmth in you, and it really shines through in the way you write (and obviously, the way you live your life too!) Love ya--Kelly