Stefani's most-fantastical-reads book montage

Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows
Yellow Brick War
The Wicked Will Rise
Charm & Strange
Their Fractured Light
These Broken Stars
Big Little Lies
I'll Be There
Red Queen

Stefani's favorite books »

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The pain and the loss...

I haven't blogged in awhile. Not because of a lack of topic-worthy events, not because I haven't been craving the time and emotional release that come with writing... simply because life has spun out of control so quickly that I'm just now feeling that my feet are back on the ground long enough to start trying to process things.

On June 9th, as I was waiting to board a plane to Las Vegas with my husband, anxiously awaiting the celebration of our 9th anniversary - I answered a phone call that changed my life. My mom was on the phone and she very calmly, very clearly said the words that I've dreaded since I was old enough to understand their meaning.

"Dad died this morning."

Four words. Less than two seconds of my life. And yet everything changed.

I don't remember how long I was in the phone, or what I said next. I don't remember getting off the phone or how I told my husband. I just remember looking around the terminal at the airport and feeling like somehow, even though I was in a crowded room - I was completely alone. My life was crumbling around me and the lives of all those people around me were continuing on as planned that day. All of the sudden there were decisions that had to be made right away - get our luggage and go home, board the plane? My mom had begged me to go on our trip - to try and have the vacation we had planned. My rationale was simply that Vegas was two hours closer to Mesa, and that once we arrived in Nevada I could make travel arrangements to get the rest of the way. So we boarded, and in a haze of tears and shock, we made our way south.

Once we were airborne, I dug out my tablet and started to write. Putting my thoughts down in writing has always been a form of therapy for me. At first I didn't know what I was writing, but it quickly became clear to me that it was something that I would read at his memorial. Something I wish I would have written and read to him much earlier in life. I am still working on that piece of writing, and I will share it here once the memorial has passed. This piece, this entry, serves a different purpose. The blog that I am writing today is selfish, it's focused on my feelings, my pain, my loss. The piece I'm writing for the memorial is focused on my dad, on his life, and on who he was to so many people.

When I was in the 7th grade, I lost two of my grandparents within weeks of each other. In September, my mom's mom passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. Less than six weeks later, my dad's dad passed away from complications with emphysema. I watched both of my parents grieve their losses, make final arrangements, and try to pick of the pieces of their lives to move on. In that short time, I came to understand very clearly, that someday, I would lose my parents. It's something that we all grow up understanding to some degree, but it always seems like it must be so far in the future that worrying about it and imagining what life will be like or what will need to be done, is nearly impossible. Even when my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2011 and after he came out of remission in early 2013, I never really could wrap my head around the idea that this disease could kill him. Logically, I understood it. I knew that his cancer was very aggressive, that the treatments hadn't been successful, that we were running out of options. But, the idea that my dad would be gone at 68 was something that my brain simply couldn't process. I have lost someone who has been a part of my life from the very beginning - someone who brought me home, loved me, protected me, taught me, guided me, and shaped me. I still have a hard time understanding how the world can continue on, seemingly without a hitch, while it feels like my world has come to a screeching halt.

The only other loss that I've ever felt that has compared was the loss of my pregnancy in spring of 2011 - just before Dad was diagnosed {I wrote about it here if you missed it...}. Losing a baby before you ever get to know them is a heart-wrenching, soul-crushing experience. I already had a child and I knew the capacity for love that my lost pregnancy represented and I grieved it very deeply. I knew I would never see that baby's face, hold him in my arms, send him off to school, or have any other beautiful moments with him. That grief was hard to stand because, on one hand, I felt like I had no right to grieve for someone I had never known. On the other hand, there was a loss of life and of potential that was simply too agonizing to ignore.

I feel like losing my dad has been equally agonizing, but for almost opposite reasons. I cry because I have so many memories - good, bad, funny, scary, mundane, special - and I loved him so deeply and knew him so well that his absence has left a gaping hold in my life. I know that these memories are something to treasure, and eventually, when the pain of loss is no longer so acute, I will cherish them and share them with my mom and with my kids as they grow up. Right now however, it's the knowledge that there will be no more memories with my dad to make. Even last night, as I was organizing pictures for a book I'm making for my kids, I caught myself thinking it would be fun to go on the boat again with Derek and the kids and my parents. In the next moment I was caught with a lump in my throat and I realized, again, that there would not be any more boating trips with my parents. I won't get to fish with my dad again. I won't see him on the bridge of our boat, grinning at me. Those times are done and THAT is the part that hurts. It seems unfair that he is going to miss so much - he had so much life in him and so many plans. He looked forward so much to being able to toss a football around with Cohen, taking the kids camping and boating, traveling with my mom, and countless other hopes and dreams that will never be realized. It breaks my heart to look ahead and see what he's going to miss and what my kids are going to miss. Addison and Cohen will never KNOW their Papa. They will see pictures and hear stories but they won't have any memories of their own with him. As painful as remembering is, the thing I fear even more is forgetting. I worry that I'll forget the way his eyes crinkled with he really smiled, how he always squeezed several times during a really good hug, how his voice sounded, and a million other things that made him MY dad. I recorded his voice-mail message on my phone so I can replay it but that will never even come close to being enough.

I do have things to be thankful for, despite this loss and all the tears. I'm thankful that I had an amazing relationship with my dad. We certainly didn't see eye-to-eye on everything {I learned my stubbornness from him} but from the time that I moved away to college, we never ended a phone conversation without saying our "I love yous", we played cribbage often, and hiked up to see Praying Hands on my last trip to Arizona.

My single regret is that we never had the graduation dinner that he promised me almost a decade ago. Before he retired, he used to have lunch at the Met in Seattle. I begged him to take me there and he promised me that when I graduated from college he would take me to dinner. Since then, I've graduated with three different degrees and each time we've joked that it was finally time to have our special dinner - and each time things got in the way. I looked forward to that dinner for the better part of two decades - not because of the food {which, I'm told is amazing} but because that dinner meant that my dad was proud of me and THAT meant more to me than anything else I could think of.

I don't know how you are supposed to end a post like this other than to say that I was lucky enough to be the daughter of an exceptional man and I am thankful for every moment that we had together.

Papa finally has a boy to love on...
Summer 2012
Summer 2012 at the summer house
The last picture taken of my dad,  five days before he died.

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