I subscribe to Spotify. A long time ago I realized I was spending more than $9.99 a month to download music and would save a metric ton of money if I just paid a monthly fee instead. As with any other music platform/app these days you can create your own playlists. I have many. They are really a representation of my life and the moments that have impacted me the most. A mosaic of myself. You can look at my playlists and see every pivot my life has ever taken. One playlist is just a amalgamation of songs I randomly hear and love in that moment. Some playlists are happy and upbeat. Some are melancholy and languishing. One is titled Mom and it contains every song that reminds me of her or songs that she loved. And one is titled Dad. Same content as moms.
I often wonder if people ever wonder if I still miss him since the loss I speak of more publicly is the loss of my mom. The truth of that is a little more complicated than yes, because yes, of course I miss him. It is no secret that I was closer to my mom. Mom and I had a very different relationship than I ever had with my dad. Towards the end of his life I believe we had finally made peace with one another but our relationship journey looked quite like topography. There were many hills and valleys. Many ups and downs.
My father died believing I was team mom after their divorce. The truth was I was team “I just want my parents to be happy.” I knew 20 years before their divorce that it should have happened and if you ask my sister she will tell you we had many “family meetings” where I began my “Dr. Phil” journey of coaching. Where I made us all sit down and talk about it. Every single one of them hated these meetings. No wonder it took me forever to realize it was my life calling. My initial audience did not provide me good feedback. Communication was vital to me even way back then. Obviously I didn’t Dr Phil them enough and they got divorced anyway. What I witnessed afterwards was my moms health drastically improve and my father crumble to the floor in a giant heap physically and metaphorically. I had never seen my father do that. He was a big guy. Larger than life really. To witness the destruction and devastation of this man was something I carry very quietly with me still to this day. As hard as it was to watch, I could not reconcile with him that he was equally responsible for the failure of the marriage. His unwillingness to let it go and his public display of hatred for my mom was a large part of why I closed my bar. A business I had dreamt about since the very two people who were divorcing had taken me and plopped me at one to have my first kitty cocktail. This was a pivotal moment for us both. He was one of just a couple people I had actually kicked out of my bar. Those aren’t memories I have very often anymore because they suck. Shortly before his passing he had finally turned the page and was ready to get on with his life. It was the happiest I had seen him in a long time. I will never understand why he had to leave the stage in the middle of his song. Maybe I never will.
My fathers death was only the second person I had lost who I was that close to. We watched cancer take my mom’s mom. As awful as it was, we had time to say goodbye. My dad just went to sleep. I know now how lucky he was but at the time it felt like we were robbed. I will never forget the call from my sister. She was not even speaking legible words. I didn’t know in that moment that it would not just be his unexpected passing that would drastically alter the course of my life but it would be the catastrophic fallout that succeeded.
That chapter of my life was one of the hardest I have ever experienced. And it was exponentially harder for my sister who was gifted with handling his estate. Without going into every single solitary detail, his passing eventually would cost an entire section of my life. Half of what made me whole. I handled his passing and what followed as horribly as you can imagine and became very good friends with whiskey. (Which I still love by the way, but we have a much better relationship these days.) There was a moment shortly after he passed where he was referred, by someone who should have loved him unconditionally, as a renter. Nothing more than a tenet. It was in that moment that I pulled up every single solitary root that had ever been planted there. And I never looked back. I still grieve that. And I will forever.
If you have ever wondered why I don’t talk about my dad or the grief I experience from his passing I think I can chalk most of it up to the memories it conjures for me. They are muddy. Murky. Not unlike the river he used to farm near. I hated being in it because I couldn’t see the bottom. Couldn’t see what was around me. Couldn’t see where I was going. Sometimes that is what thoughts of him do to me. Make me feel confused and uncertain. I do also have good memories but his death was the death of so much more for me, and it is still to this day, 10 years later, a very painful thing to think about.
There are moments I absolutely loathe that we speak of either of them in the past tense. Mom would have loved this. Dad would have loved that. There are days I am drawn like the worlds strongest magnet to wear something of his. There are days I look in the mirror and see only him even though I have been told my whole life how much I looked like my mom. There are days I remember the early mornings he would let me go fishing with him as long as I was quiet. The day I finally took the boat fishing even though he swore I couldn’t handle it. Snowmobile racing. Dirt bike riding. How excited he used to get when I would come home from Minnesota. How he would purposely drive his truck sideways on the levy because he knew it frightened me. Riding in the grain truck and getting DQ after the delivery. The first glass of whiskey he gave me to shut my cough up. Finding him laughing hysterically having fallen in the shower from too much whiskey himself at the fire with his boys. His Tetris like packing skills to get 5 people in van for 2 weeks. His love of parties and socializing. The way he would light up during his 4-wheeling weekends. The little packs of peppermint gum he would snag for us from one of the feed salesman. How he would only let us play in the empty grain wagons, because well we would suffocate to death if it was full of corn. The way he begrudgingly filled moms finch feeders even though all the bird food he was buying was going to cause us to go broke. The excitement in his eyes when we hosted an adult kickball game in our yard for St Jude which a version of that is still happening today. The first time he let me use his zero turn mower. How you mow in circles around trees Tiffany. I love the inside of cake and the outside of brownies because of him. He preferred them with powdered sugar NOT FROSTING. We shared eggs. He hated the whites, I hated the yolks. More or less, if I spend enough time I can think of the beautiful fun things. But those are not the ones that immediately come to the surface. I have to dive for those. I know they are always there and they always will be, I just don’t have immediate access to them.
Today is his birthday. He is 76. He would have wanted yellow cake with chocolate frosting. He loved Applebee’s. He loved Runts. And Junior Mints. And Mr. Goodbar. And Twinkies and Ding Dongs. And he drank Miller 64’s because someone told him it was healthier. He loved super sugar crisp. The one with the bear. NOT honey smacks. NOT the box with the frog. Kristina tells me from time to time that I am very set in my ways. That I have to have certain things. That I am very brand specific. This comes directly from him. I have his extremely short fuse. I can be an asshole, just like he was. The older I get, the more I see him in myself actually. That is not all good. It is not all bad either.
It is easier to talk about mom. It is that simple. Her death was no less painful. Honestly I don’t know which one I would chose. The slow dimming of her light or the abrupt power outage of his. I just know I chose a different path to reconcile his and while I have no regrets, I do wish I could have handled it better. In many ways. I miss him everyday. I miss them both everyday. I am the best and worst parts of both of them. I will carry that forever. I do know that the chapter I am currently in, the best one of my entire life, is due in part because they are both not here. Seems ridiculous to say that but entirely true. And I know they are both proud of me in different ways. Just as I have loved them both and grieved them both in different ways.
Happy Birthday Dad. I bet cake in heaven is amazing. I love and miss you. Forwards and backwards.