The past few months have been difficult. My family lost another family member, my cousin Bette Anne. She died at the age of 33 from cervical cancer. Fucking cancer. She left behind a 10 year old son and my aunt and uncle and her sisters who all adored and worshipped her. In some ways, her death has me way more shaken up than my dad’s. To be fair, I hadn’t spoken to her outside of Facebook for a while, but we were really close our entire childhood. We are the same age and had a lot in common. Especially music and movies and boys. In the summer of ’95, I flew from my home in Florida to spend the summer in New Mexico with my grandma and cousins, as usual. After that, it was decided that I would go spend some time with my cousins at their lake house (that sounds a lot fancier than it really was) in Arkansas. They had no air conditioning, so we spent our days swimming and listening to music in front of a floor fan. We were 14 and thought we were really cool, but we still loved the New Kids on the Block. With each other, we could let our NKOTB loving flags fly high and proud. Sure, my other cousins teased us relentlessly, but we did’t care. After Arkansas, we somehow talked our parents into allowing her to come spend a couple weeks with me in Florida before school began. Earlier that year, I discovered the Beatles. I found a cassette tape of Abbey Road in the kitchen junk drawer. With nothing better to do, I popped it in my cassette player and put on my big headphones. As corny as it sounds, that was a life changing moment because I’ve been a Beatle fan/freak since. Now my love for the Beatles is just like a nice, warm constant. Back then, it was the new, fiery, obsessive kind of love. So I told Bette that I had some music I wanted to share with her when we got to my house. I remember her being polite, but not really excited. I knew how to get her though, I had a secret weapon: a VHS copy of Help! and A Hard Days Night. I showed her those movies and that was it. She was now a Beatlemaniac with me, and she’d remain that way until she passed. I might even go so far as to say she loved them more than me. When that summer ended, I very distinctly remember getting on the bus to begin the first day of school and thinking, “1995 might just be the best year of my life.” She probably didn’t know it, and it’s entirely my fault if she didn’t, but she was one of my most favorite people. One of those people that are in your life for a reason. That make an indelible impression on your heart forever. That was her. I wish I could go back to the summer of ’95 one more time. She and I had a lot of great times in the years following, like a graduation trip to Boston. Oh man, that’s a whole other post in of itself. I’ll write that someday. And the Paul McCartney concert in Las Vegas. Dancing with her at my wedding. But I think for now, I’m going to remember that happy, sweaty, musical summer and sing Beatles songs at the top of my lungs in her honor. I miss her. —– There’s more stuff going on that I’ll write about soon. Basically, I’ve had my laptop stuffed under the couch for months because when Henry sees the glowing screen, he goes insane. But now, it’s under my bed and I’ll pull it out and write when my anxiety is peaking or I feel it bubbling up, which is almost always these days. I need to write. It’s always been my release. And with this new chapter in my life, I will be starting a new blog in the next couple of days. I’ll post the link when it’s up and hopefully all of the two real people following me will bookmark me over there. I promise to not always be so sad-sackey.
I’ll be honest, I’ve come online to post something several times recently and every single time I’ve had to close the laptop and walk away because I had a physical reaction as I began to type. As soon as my fingers touched the keys I’d become nauseous or light-headed. Psychosomatic, much? Yeesh. Actually, the other day, even after I walked away, it took a lot of water and deep breaths to feel even a little better. Thankfully that was the day Henry took a mega epic 4 hour nap and I had time to regroup before he woke up.
So instead of talking about my dad this time, let’s just talk about fun stuff: Henry!
My kid is super into cooking/watching me cook/pretending to cook. He barely cares about cars, he’s just now kinda getting into his toy train, but his play kitchen? ALL. DAY. LONG. I pull him out of his crib in the morning, and he goes straight for it. He really likes to make me “soup.” He doesn’t say “soup” but I call it that because he just puts a little of everything into a pot and stirs. I’ll say, “Henry, can you go make mama soup?” And he’ll run in there and throw some things in the pot and bring it to me.
(Note: If you look at our YouTube channel, that is not me or my husband subscribing to Elmo or Surprise Egg channel. Henry’s latest obsession is stealing my phone and YouTubing it up in a corner. I have no idea how he finds this stuff. I swear I’ve never helped him search for anything.)
We got a learning tower for the kitchen because I could no longer carry his 27 lbs of love on my hip as I tried to prepare dinner. Next to the play kitchen, this has been the second best purchase we’ve ever made. I let him help me cook his dinner tonight, stirring the noodles and adding the vegetables (holding his hands so he didn’t accidentally touch the burner) and he ate that meal with more gusto than I’ve ever witnessed. I kept stressing to him that he made it, what a good job he did making it, etc. I’m aiming to having the next Gordon Ramsey here, guys. I love food (obviously) so if he can start taking over cooking in a few years, then yes, I will nurture this interest.
For Halloween, we bought him an Elmo costume. He fucking hated it. I had to add that expletive in there because 1) he really fucking hated it and 2) it was a fucking waste of money. Ahem, sorry. Can you tell I’m a little annoyed by Elmo the costume right now? So I bought a chef’s play uniform. At first, he hated it. I seriously almost canceled Halloween. I was sooooooo fed up. But then, all of a sudden, he loved it! Even the hat! I tried to take it off and he made it very clear that no, he did not want me to take off the hat! I couldn’t believe it.
He was the cutest chef ever and OMG. Once he got the hang of trick or treating, he was in his element. I thought he’d get freaked out by the crowds and going to people’s doors. NUH UH. He was as cool as a cucumber and SO HAPPY. Holding his Elmo bucket (at least we could use that) in one hand and a death grip on his Tootsie roll pop in the other, he strutted up and down those streets like a pro. This town does Halloween right. I mean, they go all out. So some houses were super crowded at the door and I’d hang back at the street while Chris took Henry up there. I would hear “Awww, what a cute little Chef! Chef Henry!” (He had a name tag that said Chef Henry). And then I’d hear from my child, “GAGAGAGAGA!” or “CACACACA!” or “YAYAYAYAY!” He likes to mix it up. Which I think is his way of saying “Thank you” or “This is awesome, I love candy.” I can’t be sure. Anyways, it was a blast.
His talking has improved a little since then. When we were driving today, he was pointing out of the window “tee…tee” which I’m pretty sure he meant “tree” since there were some of those all around us. And I’ve been able to understand a few other words here and there too. His signing has improved and picked up drastically. Tonight I put him to bed, but he kept breaking out in nasty sounding coughs, which usually means I need to give him some albuterol. So I brought him out here with us to hang out for a little while and do his breathing treatment. After, he ran to the kitchen and signed “more crackers, thank you.” THREE signs together. That was a first. I was so proud that he took it upon himself to high-five me. HA!! My kid is cool.
We’ve been thinking a lot about baby number 2. It’ll happen (hopefully) but not for a while still, I think. I’m still not fully recovered postpartum-wise from this guy! I want to get back 100% and then see what happens. But also, this kid has been so wonderful and joyful and EASY (how many toddlers do you know that runs to the bed while laughing like a maniac when I tell him it’s nap time?) that I just know the next one will be a challenge. And that’s fine, I like challenges, but for now, I just stare in amazement at this little dude, who is growing up way too fast. I snapped this last pic in Target the other day. I actually had a list of things to get and he was so patient. I let him hold the list and I’d ask him what we needed next and he’d pretend to look at it and tell me in his language that no one but he understands. He also didn’t want to let go of the first aid kit I bought to keep in the car. The Terrrget lady had to scan it while it was still clutched in his baby death grip.
Things are pretty bad right now, I’m not going to lie. I cry a lot. I can’t sleep. I feel like I’m failing in many ways. But that kid up there? Well that just proves that everything will be ok. That I didn’t fail at one thing. That love is all around me. My dad lives on through us.
My dad passed away last week. October 2, to be exact. I don’t like acknowledging that date because it’s so final. He now has this start and end date for his life, but his life was so much bigger than that. He’s always going to be a part of me. So, for me, his end date will be my end date, really.
I could write a literal novel on my father. He lived a truly full life. He was more sinner than saint, I won’t lie (because that would annoy him) but man, did he have a big heart. And he loved hard. Especially his kids and me, his little girl.
I will write more about my dad specifically on another blog I have yet to set up. Just one where I will write stories and invite those who knew him to participate. Since his passing, I’ve heard the CRAZIEST stories about him and I soak each one up. I can’t get enough. I want to know it all.
But for now, I’ll use this space to help me grieve. If that’s not your bag, I understand. I don’t want to be a downer. If you stick around and offer a little support though, well, I sure could use it.
Thursday morning, I woke up at 5:30 to use the bathroom. When I walked back into my room I made the mistake of looking at my phone. I noticed several missed calls and voicemails from “Dad’s Cell.” I knew it wasn’t my dad, he was in the ICU still, but due to be released the next day. Obviously, this was not a good call. To avoid waking Henry up (I’ve been co-sleeping again because that’s the only way I could sleep with the anxiety I’ve been feeling the past month of my dad’s hospital stay), I checked Facebook. I knew my brother would post something because he always did. “Things are stabilizing,” he wrote. “But we’re not out of the woods.” That was written like 4 minutes before I saw the message. So I laid back down and somehow, went back to sleep.
A little back story: my dad has been sick on and off since 2011. He had pneumonia and didn’t go to the doctor until it almost killed him. That really jacked up his lungs and heart. Last year, he went in for a cardio ablation that went horribly awry and he ended up in a medically induced coma and hospital bed for SEVEN WEEKS. He got a pacemaker and felt better, but lately, he just wasn’t doing well. He would call me and say, “Katy, everything hurts. Everything.” So when he ended up in ICU this time with sepsis, I was worried, but I knew he’d pull through. And after a couple weeks, his doctors were optimistic too.
But, the day before we was going to be released to a rehab clinic, his blood pressure just dropped and dropped and then went back up and stabilized…and then plummeted. And he was gone. Just like that. My brother Merritt called me and said, “he’s got minutes, Katy. Minutes.” And minutes later, he called me back and said, “it’s over.” I had to ask him what that meant because I couldn’t comprehend that my father was dead, never coming back. I still can’t.
My brothers and step mom were there, and I’m so grateful for that. An offer to fly me and Henry out there 2 weeks prior was put on the table but I didn’t want to go all the way out there when he was going to be released soon. No, I’ll wait til he’s home and then bring Henry out. My dad was crazy about Henry. My brother showed him a video I sent of Henry play cooking on his toy kitchen and my dad smiled really big. He couldn’t talk and he was miserable, but Henry made him smile.
Chris asked me if he should stay home from work to be with me and I said, oh no. Of course not. Go. I’ll be fine. I cried a lot but nothing major to freak out Henry. Just a little when my back was turned. Until I looked at my phone and thought, hey. Maybe there’s a voicemail or 2 from my dad. Should I look? I did and there was. One in July. Henry was napping and the apartment was quiet. I just froze, staring at it. 21 seconds long. I pressed play. There was his voice. “Hi baby. Just calling to see what’s going on. Call me back if you want to. I love you.” My knees buckled and I fell to the floor. I was in Henry’s room, holding the rails of his crib, sobbing and screaming “Daddy!” Yes, it was not my finest moment and certainly the first time I’ve ever had a reaction like that. Henry was still napping in my room (so grateful for a deep sleeper). I stood up after a minute and I ran to the bathroom and threw up. That was also a first. That’s when I knew that this grieving process was going to be a long, hard one and I better ask for help when I need it. So I called Chris and asked him to come home. I needed him.
He stayed home with me on Friday too. It was so nice to go in my room, put on music, look at pictures and cry. Henry was in the living room playing and laughing with his dad, so I had no worries there. I was allowed to just cry and think and talk aloud.
Night time is the hardest. I don’t want to fall asleep. I don’t want the nightmares to come. I don’t want to have to wake up the next day and face that reality again. I take a couple Tylenol PM and try hard to stay awake. I only fall asleep when my body involuntarily does it for me, but I fight til the last second.
When I wake up, it hits me again that he’s gone. I can’t just call him and ask him about his crossword puzzle or the latest book he’s read or what Stephanie Miller said on her show that day. He was a Stephanie Miller super fan, almost to a scary degree, and I loved teasing him about it. A world where I can’t talk to him is just not a world I ever imagined and it’s not one I care for too much to be honest.
But I try to think of my dad and what he’d say to me right now if he could. He’d tell me to buck up, live life, laugh, love on Henry, be happy, be successful, if not for me, then him. Honor him in that way. Cry, grieve, scream, kick, get it all out. And then get over it. That’s exactly what he’d say, probably with a expletive thrown in here or there. So that’s what I’m trying to do, and it’s hard, but I’ll get there.
For now, I have pictures and that voicemail, which I have listened to several more times, and his emails to me, and all of the wonderful memories. I was lucky. I had a dad who walked me down the aisle at my wedding, who saw me graduate college, and always supported me. Sure, I would have liked to have him around longer than his 65 short years, but we don’t always get what we want. We have to cherish what we had.
Rest in peace, Daddy. I’m always thinking about you and I love you forever.