Friday, September 02, 2016

Daddy,

Hey, daddy. I'm not sure why I'm writing this. I'm not sure what I think is going to happen. I think maybe I'm grasping desperately at closure. Or maybe I'm grasping desperately at talking to you. Either way, here it is.

I still miss you so much. When I think about you, or about the last three months of your life, or the months since, it makes my chest physically ache. It makes me ache, and then if I keep thinking about it I feel sort of like a cannon ball hit me in the stomach, like my whole body wants to curl around something huge that hit me in the guts and I don't have any control over it.

I've written here before about the strained relationship we had over the years. And I know we were never best friends, even all the way at the end. But I have to admit, I felt like during the last 6 or 7 months of your life something shifted, and we were a little closer, and a little more understanding of each other, and a little more aware of what made each other tick.

I have to admit that for a time I thought that Jennifer was your favorite, and I was jealous and a little resentful. Okay, more than a little resentful. I never showed it to you or to her; it was something that lived inside my head and wiggled around every now and then and made me flinch. And in those last months of your life I realized how silly it was for me to be jealous or to think she was your favorite. You love us both; we had different relationships with you because she and I are different people- it makes perfect sense. And all those times I was jealous or mad because of things the two of you shared that we didn't share, I should have realized that the reverse was true as well- there were things that you and I shared that you and Jennifer didn't share. It's the nature of divorce and half-siblings and living a few hours away from each other: we're going to have different experiences and different perceptions of what is important and what is happening and what's being said and what's being felt. I see that now, and it gives me some peace.

However, I also have to say that even with my secret jealousy and insecurity, I have always loved Jennifer. When I was a kid she was my pretty, cool older sister that would come visit. I had one pretty, cool older sister that I lived with and saw all the time and drove crazy, so when Jennifer came to stay with us I piled it on thick since I didn't see her as much. I wanted her to play board games with me and play Barbies with me and play dolls and grocery store and whatever else I could think of. As we got older I loved and admired her. I remember at my wedding, standing and talking to her, and bunch of the kids came running by passing too close to the corner of a table. I grimmaced and put my hands over the corner, and once they passed I looked at her and said, "I get so nervous when they do that, like one of them is going to crack their head open." She laughed, and then smiled at me and said, "Don't worry, you CAN'T kill 'em." I have gone on to give that little jewel of advice to many of my friends. All the times we all gathered at your house for Christmas or for a random summer visit, I loved talking to her and something about the way she laughed and talked about herself or her kids in this self-deprecating way and made me laugh with her reinforced how much I love her, even if we didn't know each other that well.

And when you were sick and kept telling me over and over that you wanted Jennifer and me to be friends, to love each other, to be pals, it was confusing to me. I kept thinking, why wouldn't we be? Of course we'll be pals and friends and love each other and help each other. Just your being sick had given Jennifer and me a new relationship in which we texted and called each other and updated each other on what was going on with you and asked how the other was doing with this difficult, sad situation. She said to me "We're going to need each other." And I knew she was right, that we were going to be incredibly important to each other as we dealt with your terrible illness, and then your death. I opened up and shared with her things that were embarrassing to me or painful to me or hard for me, to make sure she knew that I intended to build a better, closer relationship with her.

I know that over the years Wanda and I weren't close, and that she and I are very different people. I suppose that we never connected and never found common ground to be able to attempt to build much of a relationship. But we were never ugly to each other; I never felt the desire to be ugly to her and I assumed she never felt the desire to be ugly to me. It never bothered me very much; I sort of just chalked it up to the fact that we can't be best friends with every person we ever meet in life. There are people you're automatically going to click with and fall in love with and build beautiful relationships with, and there are people you're going to be nice to and see sometimes and make polite conversation with and that's going to be about it. I could see that she truly loved you and you truly loved her and that made me happy for both of you, and grateful to her for being there.

When Brett died two-and-a-half years ago, I didn't know what to do for you. I could see that it broke you, broke your heart, and all I knew to do was to tell you I love you and ask questions about how you felt and how you were doing and try to say I love you to you a lot. Then your dog Levi died a few months later, and it broke my heart and I worried about you so much. And when I saw you I could tell you were different, muted in some way, which says a lot since you were never incredibly verbose to begin with. I sincerely don't know if I did or said the right things or as many things as I should have.

I know I was a shitty daughter sometimes, a lot of times, in a lot of ways. There are probably about a MILLION ways I could have been better, more loving, more present. But I also know that you weren't a great dad all of the time. The honest truth is that you weren't around much when I was a kid. You left around 5 in the morning to go to work, and you poured yourself through the front door after golf and many rounds of beer at the 19th hole around midnight or one most nights. Once I got into my teenage years, old enough to form an opinion that I thought might have been valid (it probably wasn't), I felt alienated from you. Once I got a few years older than that, it always seemed like your disappointment in me was palpable- it felt like another person in the room when we were together. I simultaneously wanted to gain your approval and your affection, and wanted to not care because I was too cool to obsess about my dad's approval. By the time I had moved out of mom's house and was going to college and learning who I was going to be, I didn't make much of an effort to be with you or be close to you. Of course hindsight lets me see how stupid that was- of course I'd give the majority of my shit to spend another day or two with you NOW, but then my stupid, early twenties self thought, this is the relationship that the two of us have, this is how it is. And I spent a lot of time blaming you for our relationship being that way, even though buried deep in my mind was the knowledge that I could have changed it and it wasn't all up to you.

I will always cherish the three months that you were sick. It hurts my heart to even admit that, and it hurts my heart even more that I think that. But during those three months you and I were vulnerable with each other and honest with each other in ways that we never had been before. You were openly flawed and afraid and heartbroken with me. And while I wish you'd never felt those things or been those things with me and OF COURSE that you'd never been sick in the first place, I have a little chunk of my heart now that holds those moments with you when you weren't the guy that was checked out of my life, or the guy that was telling me all the things I was doing wrong, or the guy lecturing me about what I ought to be doing, but instead you were the guy that was telling me you love me, and telling me that you were afraid, telling me that you were hurting, telling me what you wanted for you and what you wanted for me. Somehow now it exists in this weird place where I simultaneously wish you'd never had to go through what you went through, but still grateful that we had those moments to be honest with each other, and for you to stop being my dad who was disappointed with me and thought I should be doing better, and start being my dad who wanted to tell me what he was going through and wanted me to be there to make him feel better. I will never take for granted the amount of time we spent alone together talking, or not talking, watching tv, talking about golf or basketball, talking about people we know and what they're up to, or just being in the room together. I'll never forget what your face looked like when you'd have finally closed your eyes and rested for a minute, or ten minutes, or 30 minutes, and then suddenly woke up and turned to look at me and relaxed a little seeing I was still sitting there. I'll never forget, when I talked about Reed playing baseball, you patiently listening as I talked about his progress, and then saying, "Well is he having fun?" I'd say, "Yes, he says he loves it." And you'd say, "Well that's the only thing that's important."

I'll always regret that Reed didn't start baseball until you were too sick to watch him play.

I'll always regret that the most time you were able to spend with Philip was after you were sick. I'll never forget Phil bringing you lunch or helping out around your house or sitting and talking to you about golf, and Phil calling me at work and telling me how you were doing.

I'll never forget the chili dogs and slaw dogs. I'll always regret that there wasn't time for more of them.

I'll never forget that I wasn't there the moment you died. I'm ridiculously flawed, and ridiculously uncomfortable and selfish, and I pushed myself to be there with you so much, but I also stupidly got terrified and ran away a lot of times. The last weekend you were alive was excruciating to witness. I know how self-involved that must sound, saying it was excruciating for me, when I can't imagine and have no idea how excruciating it was for you. You came home from the hospital on a Thursday, and I could see that afternoon that things were moving much more quickly than I expected, that you weren't nearly as long for this world as I thought you'd be. I had never done that before- watched someone I love fade and fade and then disappear. I'm sure it's probably common once someone dies to think, did I do enough? I'm very aware that I should have been there more and done more. I, like everybody, make mistakes and have flaws and fears and don't always do the right thing. I only hope that you know how much I love you, that you knew how much I love you before you died, and you understand and forgive me for running away some.

The Friday before you died, I dreamt that I was sitting by your bed with you, in your bedroom, not the hospital bed in the living room where you spent your last days. We were there together, just the two of us. You turned your head to the window and said, "The moon sure is full out there." I looked and said, "Yeah, but it's not a full moon yet; the full moon is tomorrow night."

You died that Tuesday, March 22nd. The night of Wednesday, March 23rd, there was a full moon.

After you died I kept expecting to dream about you- happy dreams in which you told me you were happy and free of pain and fear, sad dreams about when you were sick or about how much I wanted you to still be here, anything. But I didn't. I didn't dream about you for a long time. Probably about two months after you died I finally saw you: in a dream you came in my front door and I said, "Where have you been? I thought you were dead! Are you sick? What happened?" I can't remember the exact explanation, but I remember you said you'd had to go away for a while and you'd had to let people think you were dead for some crazy dream reason. You told me you were back now, and you weren't sick, and everything was fine. I cried so hard and hugged you.

Just a few nights ago I dreamed about you again. Everything was just totally normal, and you were telling me you were going to teach me how to play golf.

Five days ago Reed suddenly cried and told me he misses you so much. Four days ago Philip told me he talks to you when he needs answers or guidance. I haven't gone a single day since you died without thinking about you and missing you. I have talked to you some, but talking to you hurts even more than thinking about you.

I spent Fathers Day this year feeling numb and disconnected.

Shortly after you died, Jennifer and Wanda cleaned out the garage together. Having told Jennifer that I wanted to spend time with her when she came to town, on top of having told Wanda I wanted to help with cleaning out the garage/going through your things/etc., I was hurt and angry and having been kept out of it. Jennifer repeatedly assured me that all they did was go through everything and throw out garbage, "literal garbage", she kept saying.

Somewhere around this same time I texted Jennifer and asked if she knew when we'd be getting together to read the will. All I know to say about that is, I'm stupid. I'd never been through the death of someone this close to me before. In movies and tv shows, when someone dies, the family gets together to read the will. I just assumed that that was something people did, so I assumed we'd be doing that with yours. I can see where someone might take that to mean I was greedy and entitled and wanted a bunch of stuff or money, but I just assumed that was a standard thing people did and that it was something we would do. She told me she didn't think we would be getting together to read the will, that we already knew what we were getting, and then there were life insurance policies in our name, and that everything else went to Wanda and that's standard. I said okay, and thanked her for the information, and told her I didn't want to upset Wanda by asking and I just didn't know what was supposed to happen. This conversation, along with the garage cleaning, eventually led to me telling Jennifer that I felt hurt and intentionally left out, left in the dark. This devolved into Jennifer telling me she wasn't going to correspond with me without Wanda being included, that I had asked her questions that weren't hers to answer, that I had been abusive to her (verbally), I had pumped her for information, accused her of things, and made her feel unsafe.

A few days later Wanda asked me to come over and we had what I thought was a civil, much needed conversation about everything- why I wasn't there when you died, the will, your belongings, how we felt about you, how we felt about each other, a lot of stuff. After we talked Wanda insisted that I go downstairs and view the pile of "literal garbage" before it was thrown out. I found metal bucket with golf ball graphics that I gave you for Fathers Day when I was little. When I opened it, I found a glow in the dark golf ball I'd given you long ago, a lavender and turquoise golf ball you'd bought me from the Terry Walker Pro Shop when I was nine, a few brightly colored golf balls from an evening of putt putt on one of our many trips to Panama City, some Terry Walker golf ball markers, and Levi's Alabama hat. I remember we used to love putting that hat on Levi, because he would stand perfectly still and cast his eyes downward in shame and embarrassment. I was never sure if Levi just didn't like wearing the hat, or if he was a closet Auburn fan. I wish I'd had the courage to say to Wanda or Jennifer that this, THIS is why I wanted to be included. What looks like "literal garbage" to them might look like a treasure to me.

After that Jennifer and I mended our relationship. I'm sure we both had some lingering feelings of resentment, but we both tried to move on.

Five days before my birthday, I found out that Wanda had sold y'all's house. I texted her to ask her about it; when she didn't respond I texted Jennifer. Jennifer said yes, she'd sold it, the first person to look at it bought it, she had to be out by July 4th. I said, "Wow, that's fast!" To be clear, what I meant was she didn't have much time until she had to be out of the house, not that she had sold the house so soon after you died. However, I think it's fair to say 3 months after you died is kind of fast to have sold the house. But I also knew that she would eventually move to be closer to her family; I was surprised at the time frame, not the fact that she did it.

Wanda eventually responded and asked me to come over the next night to talk about it. Philip, Reed, Kylie and I went that Thursday night, expecting to hang out and talk, and for her to sort of just generally chat about selling the house, moving to Tennessee to be closer to her daughters and grandchildren, that kind of thing. What happened when we got there Philip later referred to as "walking into a buzz saw". While my ten year old son and nine year old step-daughter watched and listened, Wanda got Jennifer on speaker phone and proceeded to tell me that she had no interest in being in my life, in having me in hers, in talking to me, telling me what she was doing, finding out what I was doing. She said that the people at Terry's told her I was in there all the time "digging for information" on her. She said that I hurt you all the time by not talking to you unless I needed money, by not calling you or coming over on holidays. She said, "You only called him when you needed money or a baby sitter. And I only know about the times when he said yes! I'm sure you called asking for money lots of other times and he said no, but just didn't tell me about it." She said she had tried and tried and tried to build a relationship with me, and I never made any effort, and now that you were gone she's done with me. When I started to cry and said I was floored by what she was saying, she pursed her lips and said "I'm just telling the truth. Jennifer told me you were raising a ruckus about me selling the house. Frankly I have no desire to let you know what I'm doing." Jennifer said that it was unfair of you to expect her and me to be friends. She said over the years she had repeatedly changed her schedule so that she could visit when it was convenient to me and then I wouldn't show. She said, since you'd died, she asked about Reed and baseball, and I never asked about her kids. She said Philip and I should have been at your house more while you were sick to take some of the load off of her and Wanda, that she couldn't believe we would leave to go home, that she and Wanda didn't eat or sleep for days and how could Philip and I leave them there, how could we go knowing they weren't sleeping or eating. Throughout this conversation, I attempted to break in when I could, but it was hard between how mortified and hurt I was, how hard I was crying, and how much they had to say. I managed at some point to say, "Do you feel like you're accomplishing something by saying these things to me? Do you think daddy would want you to be saying these things to me?" I managed to say, "I don't presume to know or to tell either of you what your relationship with daddy was. Don't try and tell me what my relationship with him was. We spent time together and called and texted plenty of times that you probably don't know about, so you don't get to tell me what my relationship with him was." I said, "I know he loves me and he knows I love him." I may have said, or it might have just been a thought in my head that I didn't get out, "We live 3 minutes away, and the house was full of people staying from out of town. I didn't think there was room for us and I didn't think anyone needed or expected us to spend the night." I said, "Reed is not old enough to stay home alone yet." Jennifer replied, "My kids aren't either. I made arrangements for childcare." I know Phil said, "No one ever asked me to spend the night", to which Wanda loudly replied, "SHOULD I HAVE HAD TO ASK?" I know at some point I managed to say, "Look, Wanda doesn't have to run things by me. I'm not suggesting she ought to tell me when she's going to Walmart. I'm not suggesting she should have asked my permission to sell the house. I'm not suggesting she ought to care how her selling it makes me feel. What I'm saying is that I wish she had wanted to tell me she was selling it to allow me some time to emotionally say goodbye to the last place my dad lived, the last place he was alive." Jennifer said, "Well did you call Wanda when you bought a new car with your inheritance?" I said, "You mean the insurance money? Are you suggesting Wanda needed to say goodbye to my insurance money?" I know at some point Philip took up for me, and told them that he couldn't just sit there and listen to the "Buffy bashing party". I know about half way through what would end up being an hour and a half or two hour reaming, Reed started to cry, and Kylie laid down on the couch and covered her face with a pillow. I know eventually, Reed stood up and walked out of the house, and Kylie followed him. A few minutes later Philip stood up and said he was done, and he needed to go check on his kids. Apparently he sat with Reed and after a few minutes Reed said, "We are NEVER coming back here again." Then a few minutes after that Reed said "If mom isn't out here in five minutes I'm going in to get her and tell her it's time to go." I am absolutely not including the whole conversation, my words or theirs, because it seemed to last so long and I was so shocked by everything they said and I know I don't even remember all of it. Throughout, I kept thinking to myself "I don't deserve this shit and they don't deserve for me to listen so I'm leaving"; but then something else in my head would say, "No, you're staying, so they know you aren't afraid of them and they don't have the luxury of saying you wouldn't listen to them." So I stayed.

I don't know if I will ever be a big enough person to forgive them for what they tried to take from me. Three months after you died, in reaction to my texting "Did you sell the house?", they suddenly felt the need to surprise me with this tag team of awful, terrible things, to tell me all these things about what a bad daughter and step-daughter and sister I was, that I hurt you and took you for granted, and that I was SO bad in fact that they felt no need or obligation to ever speak to me again, to remain in my life at all or let me remain in theirs. I don't know why, I don't know what they felt like they would gain, but they were trying to take you from me; they were trying to take away what I know about our relationship, what I know about our mistakes and our love and our missteps and our effort to have a relationship, no matter how imperfect. And they did it at a time when they knew I couldn't ask you if these things were true, if you agreed with them, if you thought I was as terrible as they did.

And not only did I have to withstand this tidal wave of sewage, but my son and step-daughter did too. Reed had to listen to Wanda say that, not only did I USE you as a babysitter (I didn't), but he had to feel the implication that you somehow were spending time with him because I asked and not because you wanted to (you weren't). Kylie, who throughout your illness asked CONSTANTLY how you were feeling, what was happening with you, if you were okay, had to listen to them say they were done with me, and feel the implication that by extension, they were done with her and Reed and Kendell too. At any point, before we came over, or after we walked through the door, or once they started to talk, Wanda could have told me this wasn't a conversation for kids. She could have told me "Don't bring the kids, I want just us to talk." After we walked in and my kids gave Wanda a belated Mother's Day present and card for God's sakes, Wanda could have asked the kids to go hang out downstairs and watch tv, or step outside and catch lightning bugs, or step outside so we could have grown up talk. And make no mistake, Jennifer knew they were there too; when Wanda got Jennifer on the phone and put her on speaker, she said, "I'm sitting here with Buffy, Phil, Reed and Kylie", and Jennifer said hello to the kids. Maybe I'm being overprotective or maybe I'm overreacting, but I just can't bring myself to think that any of those things needed to be said in front of two of your grandkids, especially two who were ten and nine years old.

When we left, Wanda walked out with me and went to the truck where Reed and Kylie were sitting in the back seat, and hugged them and blew them kisses and said "Love you!" I could almost literally taste bile in my mouth; I wanted to slap her hand away from them and say "Don't you DARE make them cry, make them listen to all that BULLSHIT, and then confuse them further by pretending that they didn't just see and hear what they saw and heard AND trying to be close and loving." But I didn't. As we drove away, Reed said, "They should NOT have talked to you like that and treated you that way." Kylie said, "Yeah, and me and Reed probably shouldn't have heard all of that." I turned around and said, "You're both right, and I know that must have been really weird and scary for you, and I'm sorry I let y'all sit in there and hear it." Once we were home, I talked to them about it and told them that at any point, if either of them wanted to talk to Philip or me about everything they'd heard, they should absolutely come to us and ask- but beyond that, they should do their very best to erase the entire encounter from their minds. I told them to know in their hearts and minds that none of the crap Wanda and Jennifer said had anything to do with Papa Ron; that you loved and love them and Philip and me, and you know that Philip and I and they loved and love you so, so much. I said, "Forgive and forget: forgive them for being so terrible to us, and then forget that it ever happened. Jesus would want us all to try to do that." Reed said, "Yeah, you're right, Jesus would want that. But we're never going there again, right?"

Four days later, on my 37th birthday, Wanda sent me a text that said, "Happy birthday! Enjoy!" It was the first time in my entire life that Wanda had ever sent me a happy birthday text.

I'm writing all of this now because you're not here, and you weren't here that night. I don't think in my whole life, before you were sick or after you were sick or after you died, I've ever wanted to talk to you as much as I did that night. I wanted to tell you how much I have always loved you. I wanted to ask you if you really felt the way they said you felt about me. I wanted to ask if you doubted that I love you. I wanted to beg you to forgive me for every time I've ever messed up and tell me that you understand that I'm not perfect and that you understand that, even when I wasn't a good daughter, you still knew I loved you and needed you. I wanted to hug you and and I wanted you to tell me that even though I messed up some, you messed up some too, everyone messes up, and that I didn't deserve the things they'd said and the way they'd made me feel. I wanted you to tell Reed and Kylie how much you love them and how glad you are that they're in your life.

The whole encounter that night reopened, drastically deepened, and threw a hand full of salt in the wounds I already had from watching you get sick and die so suddenly and unexpectedly. In the months since that night I haven't been able to close them. I have prayed and meditated and distracted myself and talked to you, out loud and in my head; I've pushed my mind and heart to be so full of the good things- gratitude that I had you as long as I did and that we were able to spend as much time together in your last three months and that you were here long enough to know Reed and Philip and Kendell and Kylie- that there isn't any room for the bad things- anger at Wanda and Jennifer doing that to me and my family, anger at you for not being here to protect me from them, fear that what they said might be right, fear that you wouldn't have wanted to protect me from them. But I'm imperfect (understatement) and obsessive (serious understatement) and I'm just... in pain. I miss you and I'm sad you're not here and, whether you'd have been on their side or my side or somewhere in the middle, I just desperately wish we could talk about it.

Look, complete honesty: I know that Jennifer and Wanda built a close relationship with each other. I know that Wanda and I didn't do that. But I've never disliked her or wished she wasn't your wife, and I have always known she loves you very much and was a loving, caring wife to you. I have always just been okay with the fact that she and I were very different people and we weren't going to be best friends or close, but that we would always be friendly and nice to each other when we spent time together. I know that Jennifer and I are half sisters who live in different states and have always lived in different states and that we don't see each other much or know each other very well. But since I was a little kid I've always loved her and liked who she was. When she said to me, "We're going to need each other to get through this", I completely agreed.

And hey, honesty: I know that I asked you for help, a.k.a. money, a lot of times over the years. And you helped me a lot of times over the years. I mean, a LOT. In the spirit of being honest about myself, I can say here that you paid the closing costs when Jason and I bought our house, you paid for every vehicle I've ever owned (except for a few monthly payments on the Honda, but not enough for me to pretend I paid for that car), you paid the outrageous emergency vet bill when Zelda got parvo as a puppy, you paid the deposit on Philip's and my apartment (sidenote- one of the few times you said "no" that Wanda was talking about- I asked if you would cosign on the apartment because Phil and I didn't have the $800 deposit; you said no, you wouldn't cosign, you'd just pay the deposit), you bought the house Phil and I are living in now. We were supposed to buy the house from you- the reason you were involved is because we couldn't get a mortgage-, but in a final move of Little Caesar's generosity you willed the house to us so we didn't have to pay for it. And that list is vastly incomplete. And I don't think there are words for me to accurately express how grateful I am for every single time you've helped me, and how sorry I am that I ever had to ask for help in the first place. But somehow we managed to make it through my whole life, even with all that time we spent alone together in those last three months of your life, without you telling me that you were hurt or angry that I asked, or that you wish I hadn't asked, or that you thought there was something wrong with me for asking. More honesty!- when I would ask, you would always ask me questions about what I was doing and steps I was taking to not have to ask you for help in the future, and you would make sure I knew that you expected me to work my ass off to take care of myself and not just think I could call you up any time I needed something. You wanted me to be strong and live up to my potential and take care of myself. But, I think, the reason you wanted me to be those things is because you wanted to know that you didn't have to be afraid for me or worry about me, not because you thought I was a shit for asking you. When I told you, so many years ago, that Jason and I were getting married, you expressed concern because I was still in college and Jason didn't make a whole bunch of money; you said, "I know I haven't always been around and I haven't always been a good father. But I love you and I want to know that you are safe and happy and that you are being taken care of."

Right now I want to say to you, I know I haven't always been a good daughter. I know I have asked you for a lot- a lot of money, a lot of help, a lot of patience. I know I haven't always been around as much as a good daughter would. But more than anything in this world right now, I hope you know that I love you, that I've always loved you, that I am so glad that you are my dad, that I've never wished I had a different dad, and that I always knew and still know how lucky I was to have you. I hope you know that every last penny you've ever given me was a big deal to me, that I was grateful, that I was ashamed I even had to ask. I hope you know I forgive you for any shortcomings you ever had as my dad, and I'm praying you can forgive me for my many shortcomings as a daughter.

I am heartbroken for you that Brett died. I can't imagine how painful that must have been and how it must have changed the way your brain worked on a day-to-day, or hour-to-hour, or minute-to-minute, or second-to-second, basis. I can't even bring myself to think about Reed and think about what that experience must have been like for you.

I am grateful that you had and have Wanda and Jennifer, because I know how much you love them and how much they love you. But I am holding out hope that they were wrong about me, or were at least wrong to do what they did to me. And it's not because I think I'm perfect or great or because I want them to feel bad or wrong, but because I can't bear to think of those last days of your life and think that maybe, on top of all the pain and sadness and fear you were feeling, you were thinking any of those things that they said to me.

And finally, I'm sorry that it took fucking cancer for some of these things to be said between us, or for me to be writing them now. I can't say enough, I am hopelessly flawed. It's one of life's bizarre cruelties that sometimes we don't know certain things until it's too late to use that knowledge. All I know to do now is keep praying, and keep talking to you, and keep talking to Jesus, and keep loving you and missing you, and keep talking to Philip and my mom and India and my friends when I feel afraid or sad, and keep reminding Reed how great and funny and fierce you were and keep telling him stories about you and reminding him how much of a Channell he is.

I know one day I'll see you again. I hope you'll be watching us and I hope you'll make your presence known to me as much as you can. I know you're up there in heaven with Mubo & Papaw, Brett, Levi, Beno and Nicki- I can't even imagine the ruckus that group must make. I know one day I'll see you again. I just want to make sure you know I'll be thinking about every day between now and then.

Love,
Buffy

Friday, February 17, 2012

Long gone.

From Jon Armstrong, on his separation:

I’ve also made an effort to be positive despite the deep, deep pain that I feel every day. It’s difficult to be told that you did it wrong for years and take a look back and feel the deep regret that if only you’d known you were doing it wrong, you could have made changes and done the work that would have fixed the wrongness. How does one handle this gracefully? I don’t know. I’m trying.

I am way past all of this, so I hope y'all will forgive me for bringing up my divorce again. It's just, this struck something in me.. kind of like a string on a guitar that keeps vibrating long after it was struck. This is exactly how I felt for a very long time and never managed to put it into words.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

"This has got to be the good life."

Man, I am a ball of confusion and self pity and feeling gross lately. It’s really pretty ugly. I am ugly, lately.

My asthma is totally out of control; I gag and wheeze and pant every where I go. My two inhalers usually make me feel better for about an hour; then it’s back to wheezing and panting. I’ve been to the doctor several times; he doles out antibiotics that never make me feel better, and usually make me feel worse, until I’ve given up, I think.

I’ve gained some weight, which I think bothers me less than I keep telling myself it should. I’ve always done this, gained and lost and gained and lost. It’s just that when I get on the gained side of things, and I get all those surprised and pitying looks from people I haven’t seen in a while, or even from people I’ve seen recently, it gets a bit difficult. Phil through it all tells me that I am beautiful, that he will never think I’m not beautiful. He says things like, “You can probably still wear your old jeans if you just lay down on the bed to zip them.” And I can’t help but reply, “Yes, but then I’ll look like ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag. NO MUFFINTOPS.”

I’ve hit one of those walls in which every day feels like the movie Groundhog Day- I do the same things, day-in and day-out, and I’m not able to satisfy anyone around me. We run out of groceries; we need to buy groceries. All the clothes are dirty; we need to wash clothes. Reed is dirty; he needs a bath. Phil’s daughters come every other weekend and witness more than I’d like to admit my inability to handle regular, every day life that seems easy for everyone else they know.

I am especially concerned about Reed these days. He acts pretty normal, and we seem to have settled into a pretty good schedule as far as sleep and school and everything else. He got his purple belt in karate, meaning he moved up a level already. He’s learned Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in violin, and will have a recital this December. But then, about once week, he does something awful and I get totally worked up and confused about how to react. Let me be clear- he’s not abusing animals or joining the Republican Party or anything like that; he threw a rock at a passing car and scratched it. He hit a neighborhood boy in the face with a stick, scratching his face. It’s mostly just the sorts of things that can honestly be passed off as “the kind of thing growing boys do now and then”, that should be dealt with sternly and immediately, but not obsessed over.

But I’m finding myself obsessing and worrying, feeling incredibly unsure about what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. I feel crippled and impotent, if you want to know the melodramatic truth.

What I wish, what I think would be best, is if Reed’s dad could actually help. As it is, he’s doling out clich├ęs and parenting mottos from 3000 miles away. I try to explain what’s happening and it is frequently clear he’s not listening, because he either asks the same questions over and over again, or asks for details that I’ve already given him, usually stuff that I’ve actually given him in writing already. When did this happen? What did the teacher say? What has Reed said about it? Where did he do that? It usually devolves into the two of us, sitting totally silently on the phone, with nothing to say to each other.

I am absolutely not sure what I’m doing, is what I’m saying. I mostly teeter back and forth between trying to suck it up and deal with it, and collapsing on Phil at the end of the day. Phil loves me and he loves Reed and he’s here to help. He does things like picking Reed up from school or taking him in the mornings, taking Reed with him to his daughter’s soccer games, taking Reed with him to the grocery store. But neither he nor I expected that he was pretty much going to be Reed’s other parent, and it’s weighing a little heavily on all of us.

So, here’s where I try and remind myself about all the good stuff. Phil loves me, and I love him, and we’re married to each other and we live together in an apartment that we love. Reed is smart and cute and sweet, and a joy to talk to and be around. As I write this, my best friend in the world is having her baby, and I get to go and meet him tomorrow. I have a place to live with heat and air conditioning and showers and beds, and food to eat. I have a job! That I like! We got a dog about a week ago; his name is Rocky, and he is hilariously cute (read: ugly) and sweet and well-behaved. I have a few girlfriends left who still can put up with me, and I with them.

I mean, I get it: this, too, shall pass. I will get through this, and Reed will get through this, and Phil will get through this, and we will all be happier and more grown-up and more carefree when it’s over. BUT, best I can tell from other parents, it’s not over for about 15 more years, so I still can’t get too comfortable with it. I’m hoping God might bestow upon me a little bit more grit, a little bit more backbone to persevere through the hard times that will inevitably come. Until then, I’ve got Halloween candy. And American Horror Story. Seriously, what the HELL is going on in that show?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sometimes the bridges get burned out from under you.

These last few weeks have been really crazy and confusing and draining and painful, in so many ways that I’m certain I won’t even think to detail all of them here.

Phil and Reed and I have all been taking turns being sick, with stomach problems and back problems and colds and flu and allergies and asthma and sliced-open thumbs and slipped discs. WE HAVE BEEN A BARREL OF MONKEYS, I tell you, and I am praying that perhaps now we can be well for a bit. There is nothing more exhausting and sad than taking care of a sick kid, except maybe taking care of a sick kid when you’re sick too.

Reed started kindergarten, and with it karate, and it’s been so exciting. It is so weird to drive him up to the front of the elementary school each morning and drop him off, watch him pause to turn around and wave, and then run inside by himself.

His teacher is very pretty and very young and very enthusiastic. She is, however, an Auburn fan, but I forgive her because she has such great hair. She wears super-high wedges with a belt that matches the straps and she always looks fresh and excited and, y’all, THE HAIR IS FANTASTIC, long and wavy and always perfect.

In school Reed has a different “special” every day- music, computer lab, art, library, and free play, and the music teacher has already emailed me to tell me how sweet Reed is and how glad she is to have him in her class. Also, his regular teacher told me one day in a very serious tone that Reed is one the most “meticulous” students she’s ever witnessed.

I can tell you myself that Reed has certainly turned out to be an Agan; “actually” is one of his favorite words, following in the footsteps of his articulate older brother. He does this thing where you explain something to him, and he says “Okay, SO, what you’re saying is..” and then repeats everything you just told him. If that’s not Kane, I don’t know what is. He also just started swimming without swimmies, and jumping into the pool with so much abandon that I hardly recognize him as the kid who, only a few weeks ago, would only enter the pool by gingerly going down the steps. He’s loosing teeth and getting big-boy hair cuts and getting himself dressed and washing his own hair. HE TURNS SIX IN THREE MONTHS, PEOPLE.

This life is weird, and I gave up a long time ago trying to keep up or stay ahead of things. It’s one day at a time around here, and sometimes I even have to cut it further down, coach myself into just toughing out the next hour, or the next ten minutes.

Phil and I persevere by goofing off together, watching movies and playing cards. The card-playing has become our standard time-passer, and there are few ways I’d rather spend the evening, once I’ve gotten Reed settled in with a movie or supper, than sitting together on our patio playing rummy and listening to music.

I read a tweet from Dooce today, or yesterday maybe, that said September is a particularly hard time for people with depression, and it made me think not just of myself but of a lot of people I love. September is an odd time; fall starts rolling in- perhaps somewhat slowly here in the South- and the days get shorter and you see your friends a bit less because people are buckling down, not quite as carefree as during the summer.

A particularly challenging problem for me right now is the loss of a very close friend, someone I’ve loved and trusted, asked for help, offered help, leaned on, let lean on me. I’m finding myself thinking I was just asking for it the whole time; I’m one of 6 people she has stolen prescription medication from, sometimes in large amounts, and she’s stolen them from ME twice before this time. Every time it’s happened I’ve called her on it, told her how hurt and mad it made me. Every time I’ve thought, okay, that’s it, we can’t be friends any more. But then I end up missing her so badly, wanting to talk to her about my day or about something funny I read or heard.

This particular friend is someone that I connect with on such a deep and organic level that the experience of trying to control myself, keep myself from talking to her feels like cutting out a relationship with a sister. This is someone who knew me before Jason, during Jason, and now with Phil. I have told her all of my secrets, let her in on every aspect of my life, fought for her with other people whose trust didn’t regrow like mine did.

The other times that I’ve discovered that she’s taken things from me I’ve told her how mean and unacceptable it is, how she could just ASK for these pills and I would give them to her, but to just find them missing is so hurtful, such a bizarre and unexpected betrayal, so disrespectful and shitty.

A particularly painful aspect of the entire experience is knowing that she knows how difficult things have been for me lately. She knows that life has been precarious and scary, and still thinks it’s okay to sneak into my medicine cabinet and take 11 oxycontin (out of 14) and 2 morphine pills (out of 2) without asking. And let me make it clear: the oxycontin were prescribed to Phil for a slipped disc, and the morphine were given to him when he nearly cut his thumb OFF of his hand, and he just never took them. In the past it’s been Ambien I was prescribed for sleep, Lortabs I was prescribed for a severe throat infection. Point is, we don’t have this stuff for recreation, we have it for legitimate health problems, and this person who I have frequently given rides to or bought beer and cigarettes for, not to mention given a place to stay, came into my house and went through our medicine cabinet and took our medicine and put them in her pocket before giving me a hug, telling me she loved me, and leaving. It is fucked up.

I also want to make clear that I am very aware that I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I make people mad. I hurt people’s feelings. I am absolutely certain that there have been times when this girl needed me, or wanted to go out, or wanted to talk, and I wasn’t there for her. But no matter how many terrible things I try to think up that I may or may not have done, I can’t come up with a reason that makes me think, “Well, in THAT case, she should have stolen from me. 3 times.”

I can’t really articulate, can’t really completely explain how I feel about all this. For the first week I was really just pissed off. Now it’s devolved into sadness, an intense pain in my gut knowing that I am just a total idiot, that I should have seen this coming, that our friendship was this disposable to her. I feel thrown away and worthless. I feel heartbroken that it didn’t matter to her that it would hurt me.

Since then, she and I haven’t talked. I spent several days trying to decide what to do, how to confront her. I finally decided that even if she admitted what she’d done and apologized, it wouldn’t help, since this isn’t the first time she’s done this, and it isn’t the first time she’s gotten caught. Then she started to post to Facebook- pictures of a new laptop, new clothes, posts about spending $60 on nail polish and shampoo and getting a new phone. I lost my temper and posted on her page that I hoped she enjoyed the medicine. We still haven’t talked. She hasn’t bothered to deny or admit or scoff or cuss or anything at all.

Keep in mind that for several years now this has been a girl who can’t buy her own gas, beer, cigarettes, food, sodas, and suddenly she’s buying a MacBook Pro and new clothes and make up. It just feels insulting, hurtful, mean, and a hundred other words I’ve probably either written here or whined over the past week.

Bottom line is now is the time when I have to move on, but it’s just so hard to do when this girl has been one of the first people I tell ANYTHING to. There are about a million different tv shows and movies that make me think of her, not to mention about 2 million songs, and before this happened I’d text her any time I was thinking of her. I find myself picking up my phone and putting it back down about a hundred times a day. I thought that she loved me and respected me, needed me, wanted to be my friend, but I’m not sure how to think that considering what she’s done.

So, this is September for me. I’m trying to remember to enjoy Reed and Phil and my life, while grieving a huge loss, one that hurts worse because she chose this.

Monday, July 18, 2011

L-I-V-I-N.

Still here, still surviving, still hitting myself in the face with a shovel, metaphorically speaking.

I get timid about writing these days, as every single time I post anything I get an angry phone call from my ex-husband- telling me everything from how selfish I am to how I better stop “poking the dog”. It’s exhausting, and unfair, and hilarious, and infuriating, and sad and confusing and bizarre and about a million other things. But, I’m making an attempt to carry on, to remember who I am, to keep being who I used to be before everything got tossed into the air and scrambled around me. I deserve that, I think, and however pathetic some people might think it is, this blog has been an important part of my life for several years. I’ve let it slip for too long.

I realize all the time that there are so many things that I haven’t written about, things that are important to me, or funny, or interesting, and I can’t keep up with them.

In the last several months I’ve met the band Guster and the comedian Pauly Shore, both huge favorites of mine, both owing to my thoughtful husband Phil. Meeting Guster was fun and memorable because I love them so much and I’ve loved them for so long and they were so nice. Meeting Pauly Shore was memorable because I love him so much and I’ve loved him for so long and he was a TERRIBLE, AWFUL ASSHOLE. I mean, DIVA, people. It was such a disappointment.

I also met a band from Austin, Texas called The Sword, and took their pictures. Phil is buddies with them, so they’re constantly sending him emails that they’ve got his name on the list, or back stage passes, for their shows. They were nice fellas, and I’m glad that I got to meet them. If Phil was ever going to marry a dude, I think it would be Bryan from The Sword. And Bryan’s just so sweet and funny and personable that I think I’d just have to be okay with it.

Reed will start kindergarten in about three weeks. He’s such an amazing person, so funny and complicated and difficult. I find myself spending at least a few minutes every day getting to know him, learning new things about him that I didn’t know, being surprised by how smart he is. The kid has lungs, too; I sincerely hope we might be approaching a time when hissy fits can go by the wayside, because it gets me SO worked up and irritable when he freaks out, mainly because he reaches a point where there is nothing that will stop the fit. He doesn’t want me in the room with him, but he doesn’t want me to walk away. He wants to (for example) call Ma, but he doesn’t want me to leave the room to get my phone. He wants some ice cream, but giving it to him now doesn’t make him happy; I should have given to him when he asked a few minutes ago. Sound confusing? Try living with it.

Most recently, he just got back from going to stay with his dad in Long Beach, California. He flew out with Kane and Jude, and let me just tell you: the experience of sending him 3000 miles on a plane for 6 weeks away from home has been one of the most intense of my life, in a lot of different ways. First, the two weeks before he left were two of the most excruciatingly awful weeks of my life. I was terrified and unsure and confused and anxious. Was it okay to send my 5-year-old so far away, to a place where I’d never been before? What would happen if he got sick or hurt? What would happen if he wanted to come home early? What would happen if he totally wigged out on the plane and hated flying and wanted to get off? Would Kane and Jude be able to handle Reed’s headstrong, willful personality on a plane for 7 or 8 hours straight? I’ll just stop there, because you get the idea- it was a whirlwind of questions in my head. And enduring everyone else’s advice and opinions, whether they were for Reed going or against it, was FUCKING TERRIBLE. Every single person that expressed any opinion whatsoever had good intensions, okay? I know that. And most people’s manner of telling me what they thought about it was totally acceptable, not stressful for me, not confusing. But there were a few people that nearly broke me into pieces, nearly drowned me with wave after wave after wave of indignation and condescension. And those people, unfortunately, made it more difficult for me to process what everyone else thought of it, or what I thought of it.

Eventually I made the decision that I was letting him go, and I stuck to it through a lot of nastiness and difficulty. Reed said he wanted to go. I talked to him repeatedly about what it would be like to fly, how long he’d be gone, etc. etc. etc. He continued to be excited about it. I stood by my decision.

Now he’s back, and I still feel that letting him go was the right thing to do. He got to be with his dad and his brothers for six whole weeks. He got to be away from me for six whole weeks. He did exciting new things and went exciting new places- to the beach, and the aquarium, and Little Tokyo. He probably tried new food and saw amazing things. He met a lady with a pet rabbit and decided that we need one, and assured me that if we get the brown and white kind, it won’t pee and poop in the house. He lost his first tooth. AND FOR GOD’S SAKES, HE BOUGHT A NINJA STAR.

But wow, did I miss him. It would hit me so hard and fast; one moment I’d be totally fine, then I’d suddenly be crying, heartbroken. When he came home, when I saw him walking out of the gate, I couldn’t keep from sobbing right there in front of everybody. He ran to me and I held him and I cried, and he kissed me several times and said “I missed you, mom.” It was like a scene out of a movie. It was a beautiful moment for me, one that I’m pretty sure I’ll remember vividly, still be able to taste in my mouth, for the rest of my life.

Which won’t actually be that long anyway, because THE CHILD IS DRIVING ME CRAZY, I’M GOING TO THROW MYSELF INTO THE POOL WITH A CASE OF BEER STRAPPED TO MY LEG.