Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dear Dad,

Mentioning your death in social situations is such a mixed bag. Sometimes it is uncomfortable because people want to say something sympathetic or empathetic, which is quite sweet and kind, but often makes me want to disappear. It's like I want to be able to say "my Dad died" and then teleport back to my room where no one can say "Oh, I'm so sorry" even though I know they mean it and are being considerate and caring. Other times it can be angering because people often want to do their own teleportation away from the subject. Death is something that most people do not want to discuss. So when it's mentioned it's a "oh please get me out of here now and away from this horribly awkward subject!" type of situation. And I can't blame them, it's no fun. But sometimes it pisses me off that they don't ask when you died or how it happened. I mean, it's a pretty major thing, shouldn't they at least pretend to care?

But sometimes it can be a thing that connects me to another person. Because they have lost someone too. Sometimes a father. Tonight I was in a social situation and I mentioned your death in front of someone I know lost his father when he was quite young. To be honest, I mentioned it on purpose. I am hoping that he and I will get to talk about it eventually. But I am nervous to just say to him "Hey, both of our Dads died, can we talk about this?" Because I feel like it might be good for us to talk to each other, even though there are some major differences surrounding the deaths of our fathers. I guess I just wanted to say it out loud in front of someone who knows what it's like as opposed to in front of people who can just sympathize from a theoretical place. Not that their sympathy isn't genuine, but you know what I mean.

I guess the truth of it is, sometimes I want to talk about your death a lot. For hours. I feel like it's such a difficult subject that so much of it gets locked away inside me. That's part of why I write these virtual letters to you. I know this means I should possibly seek out a support group, but I don't know if I am ready for that scale yet. I have friends that I can sit around with and talk about various subjects for HOURS. But I feel like this is The Subject We Don't Do That With. But I know that's why I brought up your death tonight in front of that specific person. Maybe he will be someone who can talk about it with me. And we can say "death" and "died" and "dead" and not hide behind "passed away" or "lost my/your father". I know those phrases can be good in certain tactful situations, but they usually seem like cop outs to me.

Well, this is not my cheeriest of letters to you by far. And it's a bit disjointed. But see, you showed up in my dream last night and that is always both welcome and throws me out of whack for the day. It makes that low-level hum of grief that's always playing in the background turn up a bit louder and make itself heard. But that doesn't mean you can't be in my dreams tonight if you want to. Because I'd rather have that mental visit than nothing at all.

Goodnight Dad, I love you,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dear Dad,

It's funny that I haven't told you what the hell I've been up to in the 1 year and nearly 4 months since you died. I kind of went ahead and made some major changes in my life. And, in a way, you had a lot to do with those changes.

As you know I was not happy at the job I had when you were still alive. In fact, I hadn't had a job I was particularly happy with since those jobs I had in high school when working was really fun and it made me feel like an adult and it often involved free movie rentals or all the crappy snack shack food I could possibly ingest. But as an adult, work was always just something I did while I played music on the side figuring, some day, music would take over as my "career". Until I realized I didn't want music to become my career, because the business side of it makes me want to grab an axe and get all hacky and slashy. But I was so into the habit of Just Working even though my last half dozen jobs or so bored me to tears and made me feel like my soul was slowly dying. But during all of this sturm und drang, I would have this recurring fantasy of going to beauty school and learning how to become a hairdresser (or whatever the P.C. term is these days). And yes, I know, I know, how typically gay of your gay son to want to do hair. But I think you had enough evidence in life to know that I am hardly the Typical Gay. Still, that fantasy had been there off and on for about 10 years; ever since I had worked as a paid-under-the-table-and-possibly-illegal-assistant at a hair salon in New York the summer after I finished college. But it kept being a fantasy I quashed thinking I should have done it when I was younger or how I already had a Real Job and how could I make such a drastic change?

But with your mounting illness and all of the stress that brought, work became a place I loathed more and more. In fact, anything that I was not pleased with seemed to magnify in horribleness once it was cast in the long shadow of your deterioration. But as you came to your physical end, I started to think about all of the things you did in your life. And the things you didn't do. I don't want this to seem like I am criticizing you, Dad, because I am not. But I know depression was a major part of your life for a very long time. As was drinking, until I was in my early twenties. And I know there were often things you wanted to pursue that you either avoided for whatever personal reasons or would start and never finish. And here you were, age 67, getting ready to pass away far earlier than you should, and I wondered how many things you might possibly regret not doing. Now, I am not unrealistic, I don't necessarily think everyone can do every little thing they fantasize about doing in their lifetime; there's often not enough actual time, or money or resources to do everything. But I found myself evaluating my own life and wanting to not have those kind of regrets when it came to things I had a real yearning to do. And then that little fantasy of doing hair popped up on my shoulder again. And it wouldn't go away.

So I started researching schools in the area. And I found a really great one. And the next thing I knew, I was interviewing there! And applying! And giving notice at my job HOLY SHIT!! And I was scared. as. fuck. I hadn't been in school since I finished college in 1997. And I for sure was not 24 anymore. But I remembered something you said to me more than once in the last decade or so. Whether it was about me moving to a new city I wanted to live in or recording and going on tour with whatever band I was in at the time, you would say "You got more balls than your old man." Which is exactly how you would phrase such a compliment, and one of the many reasons I loved you. But that phrase, as glib as it may have sounded, always meant so much to me. When I was a kid I know you wanted me to do sports and other manly pursuits. And I wanted to be in plays and draw comics and write stories. I think sometimes I worried that I disappointed you with my less-than-butch ways. But as I grew up and came into my own and pursued the things I loved as an adult, I turned around and you were there to support me at every turn. To encourage me. To believe in what I was doing. And, I think, slightly envying me for not having whatever it was that blocked you from pursuing your dreams.

And it was with that "more balls" attitude that I left the working world I had been comfortable with for so long and plunged headlong into a career path that has been better than any of my fantasies about it could ever be. It's really amazing, Dad, I am so incredibly happy pursuing this; more happy than I ever thought I could possibly be with "work". Except it doesn't feel like work at all. Just something I want to get better and better at every day so I can really shine at it. And yeah, it may not be the most manly of pursuits. But I know you. You might have your reservations at first but then I'd give you your first haircut and you'd be singing a different tune. The next phone call we had would be you asking me what I was working on now, how much was I practicing and when would I be opening my own salon. You always did that: encouraged me and treated me like an actual adult; pushing me to not rest on my laurels and always strive for more. I think, in some ways, you were maybe talking to yourself in those moments too. But the one thing that tinges this all with sadness, is that you aren't here for your first haircut with me. Or you twentieth. But I guess I wouldn't be pursuing this dream if things hadn't happened the way they did. It's bittersweet, to say the least. But I really think this path saved my life in a lot of ways. Or saved me from plummeting into a depression so massive it could have swallowed me whole. Don't get me wrong, there is a lead cloak of sadness that I have to resist being crushed by on most days since you left. But having something that brings me so much joy and pushes me to work harder and harder has been so important in helping me have forward momentum.

And I have you to thank for that. So thank you, Dad, for helping me follow this dream of mine. I hope I make you proud.

So much love,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh, Dad,

I think I will never ever encounter a situation where I want money *less* than when it comes from the fact that someone I love has died. Because not only is it tainted with the undeniable loss of someone I would love to have back in exchange for said money, but because it also involves such insane amounts of signing and dating and wrangling and negotiating and dealing with horrible insurance companies who really can't possibly be manned by living beings, just soulless robots who don't care at all about death or loss or grieving. I swear, there is not a penny that makes it worth losing you or worth dealing with these ghouls. I honestly don't know how some people sleep at night, doing such work.

I know you wanted those of us who you left money for to use it for something important or joyful and I have no end of appreciation for that care and generosity; please don't think this is me being ungrateful. But it really is about the worst way to get money I can possibly think of. And making use of it does not make me miss you one iota less.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dear Dad,

I ordered the urn just as I promised. It still took a ton of deliberating. In the end I realized that there is no perfect container for your remains because the only perfect container for you was you. But this will have to do, won't it? I decided on one that is made of wood and would hold a photo. Which there are several of to choose from. To be honest, the nicest wood/photo ones are for pets. And while I entertained that notion for a moment because I only have a small portion of your ashes, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. All I would need is for someone to see it and say "Oh, that's the same urn I have the ashes of my dog, Mr. Bootsie Fluffykins in!" Not appropriate in the slightest.

I am going to make myself choose the photo I want to put it in it before it arrives. Because that could turn into another procrastination/avoidance festival and I really am going to hold with my promise.

But this still sucks and this is still so fucking hard to imagine. I just have to keep pretending the ashes are a representation of you and not the remains of you. The latter is basically just too hard to accept.

I love you,

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dear Dad,

I guess a good question to ask is why the hell am I doing this? If there is some way that you can "see" the world you left behind then I hope you would find much better things to do with your time than read a blog. But I really am not doing this because I think you can read it. I'm doing it because I think it will help me cope with not being able to see you or talk to you. Especially talk to you. Because of the geographic distance we had for most of my adult life our relationship often revolved around phone calls. Now some people find a phone call to be impersonal or a poor substitute for face-to-face time. And that can often be true in a lot cases. But not with you. You always gave great phone, Dad. I sometimes think the physical distance made it easier for you to be a bit more open and honest. Not that you couldn't do that in person, but it seemed to make a difference in what you could say to me.

Some of my fondest memories of you are of us talking on the phone. Especially as an adult. I think one benefit of me not growing up in a home with you every day was that it was a little easier for you to see me as an adult once I became one. You would be honest with me in a way that Mom never could. And I appreciated it so much - whether it was in a discussion about relationships, a job I was unhappy with, a living situation or anything. You were caring but truthful and never sugar-coated things just because you were my Dad. I always appreciated that. And I hope you knew it.

But I also have to give credit where credit is due. I was largely inspired to start writing this blog when I read Dawn French's memoirs. (Dawn French is an hilarious English comdienne who I think you'd appreciate; although I know you'd have a hard time with her accent.) She wrote her book in the form of letters to friends, family and loved ones. The bulk of the letters were to her father who committed suicide when she was 19. The letters to him were both funny and heartbreaking; serious and whimsical and everything in between. Reading them was cathartic for me despite how different her life with her father was and how different your death was from his. But it got me thinking that doing something like this could be useful. Because I seem to have these endless amounts of thoughts and emotions about you and your death and I have to do something with them. And maybe, like when I read Dawn French's book, someone will read this and find something helpful or useful in it for them.

But mainly it's something for me. And so far it has actually been good. Maybe it's knowing that I have somewhere to channel my many thoughts/feelings about you. Not that a blog could ever fully contain them or fully assuage them. But it's some sort of forward momentum. And that is the best I can hope for right now. It will still never replace hearing the sound of your voice.