I’ve been home with a sick kid all day. Well, she said she was sick and cried until I said ok to letting her stay home, but about 3 hours into the “sick day” she made a miraculous recovery and wanted to play – so I’m doubting the validity of the sickness. To tell the truth, I wasn’t that disappointed to have a valid excuse to not go out among other people today. I typically don’t dwell on negative things. It saps my energy and frustrates me, so I’ve learned to be very good at compartmentalizing things. Put it in a drawer I’ve always been taught. Probably not the healthiest of responses but one that is firmly entrenched in my personality and so it continues.
My dad died 9 years ago today. I’ve often wondered if he had died in a “normal” manner, if this day would be as significant in my year as it is to me now. I mean, people die. It is a 100% guarantee of living, we die. To every season and all that you know. But I think death in a particularly tragic way marks us in ways that are a bit different. At least that is what I tell myself when I am tugged into melancholy every December 20th. If my Dad had died of a prolonged illness or at a ripe old age, I wouldn’t be so sad on this day. I would have been prepared and not need to mourn every year on “the day”. Perhaps, but I don’t believe that if you truly love someone, the sense of loss is ever lessened no matter how they met their final day. It is just hard.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the end of life. I’ve had several friends lose loved ones in the past few weeks. And words that are typically used to “comfort” those walking through those times often seem hollow and inept. I think this is because the limitations of language do not allow us to express the groanings of our souls when people we love leave the only life any of us have ever known. Eternity is impossible for our finite minds to fathom. The best we can offer is sincerity and pray that it will suffice. It won’t, but what else is there?
But this entry isn’t a writing about death and loss – though I could go on and on about it…today I am writing from a place of irony.
My Dad was brilliant. I know, I know…all daughters think their fathers are brilliant but mine truly was. He had a mind that worked in ways I can only envy. He was not perfect, not by any means, but he was brilliant. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be brilliant. I wanted to be able to look at hard topics and break them down to their core and then build them back up into something I could explain. I would spend hours with my Dad trying to emulate his ability to do so, but I never quite made it. But what was so amazing about my Dad was his ability to encourage the effort. In the last years of his life, I finished my undergraduate degree and began my graduate degree. Coincidentally, he did the same. We were students together. And, as was common in our lives, we were competitive.
Each of us would toil over our respective topics – write and rewrite and with much consternation turn in our papers. Then the grades would come in. We would meet for coffee and with much as much nonchalance as possible, we would announce our grade. He never failed to get an A. I struggled more but was committed to keep pace, so most of the time I would score the same. We would look at each other, struggle not to smile and call each other “freak”. A West Wing reference and if you don’t know the context, I don’t have time to remind you.
I finished my graduate degree after his death. I got an A on my thesis. I wanted to hear the “freak”. He had submitted his final project for his doctorate prior to his death. He got an A. I wanted to call him “freak”.
I miss the freak. I miss the competition. I just miss my Dad. I miss a mark to shoot for – though my husband is so much smarter than me and I have new mark to hit.
There is so much going on in my world right now. And now we arrive at the irony – if my Dad were here – he would tell me to follow my instincts and inner “freak”. He would know that he had already taught me and modeled for me the things I need to know. He would know he built a freak who could handle all this. He didn’t raise a dummy. He raised a “FREAK”.