Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Death on my Mind

I've been thinking of death a great deal in recent weeks.  More so than normal and probably way more than is healthy.

Just so you know, I've mentioned in my will that six of my smallest friends will be asked to be pall bearers at my funeral.  If for no other reason than the laughs I'll have watching six scrawny bastards lug my ass around.  I can hear the cursing already.

But no, death has been on my mind.  I think it has something to do with the time of year.  March 30 is the anniversary of my dad's suicide.  It was 1994 but for some reason it has really had an impact on me in recent weeks.  I think about it often.

As I've said before, my dad was a drunk and a fiend.  By the time I was in middle school, he was going through over a case and a half of Old Milwaukee 16-oz tallboys.  He would wake up extra early and drink in the middle of the night to take away the shakes.  By high school, he was going through even more because of his bar visits and shots of whiskey in the morning.

By the time I was Junior in high school, my dad had permanent brain damage as a result of his drinking.  He walked differently and his hands hung down by his side in awkward claws.  He was incapable of conversation.  He only spat out bitter insults.  Because of the diabetes and cirrhosis, he dropped over a hundred pounds in a few months.  He was gray and pasty.  His eyes were watery and his eyelids drooped.

He had begun falling asleep while driving as a result of the blood sugar issues and gotten into a few fender-benders.

There was a picture taken of the family when I was in high school.  My mother insisted we do it so the church would have a new, updated photo for their directory.  The photo speaks volumes about our family.  My dad looked like death warmed over.  It was as if somebody had propped him up and he didn't know where he was.  My little sister was trying so hard to be the good girl, I was sucking in my gut and had the fakest smile ever.  And my mother looked like not a goddamned thing was wrong in the world and we were a normal family.

I was angry when I found out my dad had killed himself.  I was in college and it really upset me.  I was relived, too, because that meant the battle was over.  The constant warring was done because even though he and I hadn't spoken in months, it felt like I was still at war with him.  He hated me and I thought his death would end that hatred.  Oh, so little I knew.

What this time of year reminds me of is more than just his death.  The funeral was perhaps the worst funeral you could imagine.  My grandmother kept going from extremes of ignoring us, to cornering us and saying if we'd been better kids and loved him more, he wouldn't have done this.  It was our fault he killed himself.

It seems in the months during the time he moved back in with his mother, Dad just went on non-stop about how awful we were to him, how we gave him a reason to drink, and how we horribly mistreated him.  His death was our fault.

At the funeral, people kept coming up with all kinds of theories as to what really happened.  Anything to take the blame off of him.  It was the diabetes, it was an undiagnosed head injury from a car accident over ten years prior, it was an allergy to some medicine.  It wasn't his fault.

It was insane.  All of it.  My aunt spun everything I said into a happy memory.  He refused to speak to me for a couple of years?  Oh, so it was nice and quiet, huh?  Shit like that.

My dad died twenty-two years ago and for the past few weeks, it's been like yesterday.  I can't shake it or the memories.  I can't shake how angry I was and how upset I felt.  How horribly tragic it all was yet somehow fitting.  I was furious that everybody was mourning such a monster while I had nothing but anger.


We all die.  My dad made a choice.  A week after his divorce from my mother was final, he killed himself.

I always wondered--did he think he made a mess of it and had no reason to keep going?  Or did he think there was no way to pull out of the nose-dive?  He was a broken man.  Physically, mentally, and emotionally.  He was living with a sadistic, manipulative mother who delighted in playing head-games.  For him, it was done and there was nothing left.

My sister and I have been talking lately.  We talk about Dad and how angry we are at him.  One of the things she pointed out was how he opened that door for us.  The suicide of a parent makes that option all the more viable.

My single greatest concern is how closely my life resemble's my dad's and how often I find myself doing things just to not be him.  He was a selfish prick.  I like doing things for people just because.  There's one woman I used to bring food I made for no reason at all but to see her smile.  I wasn't in love with her, I didn't hate her.  I didn't want her to love me.  I just wanted to see her smile and get nothing in return but that smile because that's something my dad would have never done.

I have no idea what helps me cling to sanity, but sometimes whatever it is works, and I don't feel so much like my dad.

I'm sick of feeling like a collection of fucked-up anniversaries.  I'm sick of dates on the calendar looming like a minefield.  In recent days, I've been getting head aches and I've had a hard time sleeping.  I get angry and then upset for no reason.  And then a list pops up in my head and I compare myself with my dad and how we're alike in all the wrong ways.  That's when it feels like I've seen this movie before and I know how it ends.  

My great-grandmother was a wonderful Irish lady.  She used to have a saying:  If you're born to drown, you'll never hang.  You can't change fate.  And I'm pretty sure I'll never drown.  

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