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Posts Tagged ‘father’

Melancholy Monday: sad songs

February 10, 2014 16 comments

When I first heard this song, I wept. Even today as I sat in my office and listened to it once more before pressing “Publish”, my eyes welled up and I found myself holding back the tears.

Why?

Ben Folds’ pensive tune, Still Fighting It, is all about a man recognizing what it means and how it feels to be the father of a young boy who will, all too quickly, grow up. As it happens, Ben did, in fact, write this wonderfully reflective song for his son, so the emotions you hear and feel are all real. And though he did write it for his son, I think it applies universally to anyone who is a parent. My favorite line, and the most poignant, is this all to true observation:

And you’re so much like me I’m sorry

–dp

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Flash fiction: I saw my father today

January 17, 2014 13 comments

I saw my father today. Though two years in the grave, he stared back at me from the mirror as I went through the motions of shaving the stubble from my face. And I wonder if he ever felt as I do today … tired, worn out, hopeless. I lay down my razor, lean forward, and hold myself up on the edge of the counter. I push the lift rod and watch the shaving cream, water, and tiny pieces of beard circle around the sink, eventually winking out of existence down the drain. I pause, wondering if I should even bother to look up, or whether it would be best to simply turn and leave and go about the day, as if nothing has happened.

He’s still there, standing just as I am. Though I’m thirty years younger than he was when he died, my reflection has taken on the years, the myriad lines of age reflecting back at me. I look as old as I feel, and I’m weary. I should leave, but I don’t. We stare at each other, the father and the son. One and the same. Despite every intention, every attempt at making myself something he was not, I am him. I have nothing but questions.

“Why?” I ask.

He looks at me quizzically, puzzled by my simple question. He runs his age spot wrinkled hand through his thinning hair; I notice my hand going through the same motion, though I feel my own hair, still thick and vibrant, not yet having succumbed to the decades to come.

“Why didn’t you tell us, dad? We know nothing. You just left.”

My throat aches as I push the words through my mouth.

He looks away, and I see his face begin to age. What’s left of his hair recedes, brows grow curly and gray, silver stubble adorns his chin. He thins, his features becoming gaunt, like that of the sick and feeble, and he hunches over. His eyes have become sunken and cloudy.

“I don’t know, son. I don’t know. I just thought I’d have more … time.”

I watch my father’s hand rise until, when it’s level with his shoulder, it appears to touch the mirror from the other side. I gaze at the reflection, until finally, I reach out and touch the elderly hand upon the glass. I feel the warmth of his finger tips spread throughout my body, and it’s then I finally grasp the unraveling of his soul, the depth of his pain, his isolation, confusion, and disbelief that life was coming to an end. A small tear forms at the edge of my father’s right eye, eventually sliding down his cheek, until it drips from his face and lands on a counter top somewhere in another world.

“I understand, now,” I whisper.

He smiles, as if relieved. “Love you, son.”

“I love you, too, dad.”

On anniversaries: pieces that remain

November 30, 2013 18 comments

Pieces from a life

When someone you love passes away, nothing remains except memories and, if you’re lucky, a few sentimental pieces leftover from their life. These items, so ordinary that in other circumstance they’re nothing more than so much clutter, instead help you hold on, however tenuously, to the reality that once was but is no more. Sometimes it feels so easy to fall into that place where you find yourself wondering if it was ever real, or was it all just dream.

A year ago today, on November 30th, 2012, my father passed away. Today I reflect on the bittersweet nature of this anniversary. I’m reminded of the man that I called dad, and the love that I held for him, and the many memories I have of him over the years. Yet I’m also reminded that he is gone: no more phone calls, no more visits, no more e-mails. There is nothing left of the man I knew except a gravestone and a few items that once belonged to him.

Wooden propellers for radio-controlled airplanes, a hobby that he loved. I grew up watching him build his planes in the garage, then take them out and fly them through the sky. I was lucky enough to tag along with him on many of his flying trips, and I remember them vividly to this day.

A pair of his glasses. For as long as I knew him, he had terrible eyesight and wore glasses of some kind or another. And I remember hearing him lament his condition, mostly because he regretted that he couldn’t become a pilot in the military. Instead he had to serve in the Navy.

An old watch, scratched and beat up. I don’t think he really ever cared much about time, or its passing, at least not until toward the end of his life. Then it seemed that time became a precious commodity, and one of which he was quickly running out. I can sympathize with his feelings, as I sit here today wondering just how in the world I ended up where I am today.

Finally, a voice recorder he picked up after his diagnosis. He’d originally intended to use it to document his successful battle with cancer, and then perhaps write a book about his experience. Unfortunately, he never had the chance to use it for that purpose. But he did use it to record a couple of brief messages about how he was feeling during his treatment.

As it turns out, of these items, the recorder is the most precious one I have, because it gives me the one thing I would never have had if it didn’t exist: I can still hear his voice. After weeks and months pass by, it’s so easy for memories to fade, but with this recorder, whenever I feel the need, I can listen to him speak, if only for just a couple of minutes. It doesn’t matter what he’s talking about, it’s just hearing that voice one more time.

Love you, dad, and still missing you …

–dp

On NaNoWriMo 2013: a confession

November 6, 2013 21 comments

I first tried “winning” NaNoWriMo back in 2010. Much to my surprise, I “won” with just over 50K words. Since then, that original manuscript has doubled in size and become what I think is a pretty darn good story. It has a few plot holes and characterization issues that I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to correct, but other than that, I’m proud of the effort.

In 2011, for no good reason other than perhaps I was simply uninspired, I started writing and crashed and burned within a week. In 2012, I once again threw caution to the wind and leaped headlong into the frenzy known as NaNoWriMo. With a good idea and a little bit of inspiration, I was typing away like mad and looking forward to another “win”. But then the phone call came on Sunday evening, November 25th. I rushed to the airport and boarded a plane to meet up with my family in Arkansas. My father was dying. NaNoWriMo came and went and I didn’t care.

And here it is, nearly a year later, and NaNoWriMo is here once again. For a few months prior to November, I was convinced I would attempt NaNoWriMo yet again. But as the winds grew cold and the skies turned gray, and as the days on the calendar inexorably found themselves inching toward the first of November, I found myself losing interest in something as mundane as a writing challenge. And now, NaNoWriMo has begun and I am nowhere to be found.

So this year, as I find myself facing the first anniversary of my father’s passing, I sit on the sidelines and watch so many of my blogging friends enjoying the frenetic pace of generating 50K words this month (all of course except for Eric who was willing to confess his disdain for the month of writing like a madman). I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I find myself missing the excitement of the challenge, of sitting in my office each night, pounding away on the keyboard until I hit the minimum word count, knowing that there are many thousands of other fellow writers around the world doing the very same thing. On the other hand, I’ve found that life so far this month has been more relaxed as the holidays approach, and, perhaps more importantly, I’ve felt at peace as I head, for the first time, toward the anniversary of the worst day of my life.

What will next November bring? I don’t know for sure … time will tell. But for now, I wish all my blog friends out there who are participating in NaNoWriMo the best of luck. Have a blast, drink plenty of coffee, and hit that 50K goal and “win”. I’m rooting for all of you.

–dp

Father’s Day – 2013

June 16, 2013 12 comments

For thirty years, father’s day has been a happy day for me. Up until now, it’s been a day to celebrate my father for all that he did for me, and it’s been a day to spend with all, or at least some, of my kids. It’s never really been about receiving or giving gifts as much as it has been all about the giving of time. For my part, I always enjoyed the opportunity to talk with my dad and reminisce, but most of all, the chance to remind him that he was a great father, that I loved him, and that he should be proud of his wonderful legacy.

This year is bitter-sweet, though, because it’s the first year I won’t have the chance to call my dad and wish him a happy father’s day, nor will I have looked for and sent a father’s day card. All I can do this year is sift through my own personal memories, and look at a few old photographs. That will have to do for today and from now on.

As a small tribute to my dad, I recently scanned a number of photographs my mom gave to me and put them together into slideshow. For anyone interested, here’s a three minute glimpse of my father over the years.

Miss you dad …

Categories: Family, Life Tags: , ,

On life/writing: missing in action

April 26, 2013 18 comments

Yep, that’s right. Missing in action. Guess that sums it up. Over the last couple of months, I took a nosedive in the creativity department and lost pretty much all my energy for writing. Why? Not sure, but I think it was a couple of things that combined to disengage me from the writing world.

I think it all started when the family gathered together on what would have been my dad’s 80th birthday, which was February 25th (he passed away on November 30th of last year). We’d planned it as a celebration of his life, and I think, at the time, that was what it was and what it felt like. I remember, on the 24th, me, my mom and my sister, were sitting at the kitchen table on the evening before my dad’s birthday, talking and reminiscing about life in general and about my dad in particular. Time passed, memories and tears were shared, and before I knew it, when I glanced at my watch, I saw that it was just a couple of minutes before midnight. When the clock struck twelve, I stopped the conversation and told my mom and sister that it was dad’s birthday. We all smiled, clinked our glasses, and wished him a happy 80th. Afterward, we continued our time of sharing while we sat at the table, then finally, around 3am, went off to bed. It felt good. It felt right. I think my dad would have been happy to see us there, talking, remembering, and celebrating.

I don’t think the real impact of  my dad’s birthday, or even his death, hit me until I returned home. It wasn’t like getting zapped by a lightning bolt, though. It was more a gradual, suffocating despair, like a blanket floating down and covering a bed, that led me into a deep malaise from which I’ve yet to fully recover. Along the way, it managed to sap from me any real zest for life, any sense of wanting to do anything but just manage to get by day to day. And so I did, with each day coming and going, as I tried to make sense of life and sort through thoughts that I just couldn’t get rid of.

I suppose I could have made it through all that well enough, and probably been able to continue creating, putting words to “paper”, hopefully allowing the ideas threatening to paralyze my thinking to escape in some manner, had it not been for what I think was the other essential element leading to my creative demise: deadlines at work.

In my world of software development, much of my time is spent in “normal” work mode. Schedules are set, tasks are worked on and completed as part of an overall goal, and life is good. Good, that is, until the date of a product release approaches. Suddenly, then, all those features that aren’t quite done yet, or those important bugs that must get fixed immediately, or those important customer requests, all become high priority and all must get done NOW. Suddenly, each day is filled with relentless mind-numbing work, where attention to detail is critical, yet hours are few. So days and weeks become longer, with little to no downtime. The end result? A brain so overworked that thoughts much more complex than staring at a DVR recording of the latest episode of such and such are almost unthinkable, and the idea of sitting in front of a computer for even one more minute than necessary is impossible to even conceive. Unless, of course, that time consists of theta wave inducing surfing of the web for nothing in particular.

But now, where am I? Well, I find myself at the end of the recent release cycle craziness and returning to “normal” work mode, which is good. As for the passing of my father, and its effect on me, I think the jury is still out. I’m beginning to feel like I’m emerging from the fog of apathy his death has caused, and I think life is beginning to make sense once again. If it weren’t, and this is reassuring, I most certainly wouldn’t be sitting here at my computer at this hour (8:41pm), typing away at a blog post, which while it isn’t the most creative of activities does at least require some level of interest and energy to produce. So I’m encouraged.

Where does that leave things? For now, I think I’m ready to resume blogging. And I think I’m ready to resume reading blogs and actually participating in the discussion they evoke. And, more importantly, I think I’m ready to get back to working on accomplishing those goals I set for 2013. Inside, I feel a twinge of excitement, a small flicker of desire to create once again. And it feels good. It’s been a while since things have felt good, since I’ve had the time to even think about anything beyond making it through the day and getting work done for my job. In a way, I’d like to think these words, from the seventies song “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, apply to my life:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sun-Shiny day.

I Can See Clearly Now

Time will tell.

–dp

On family: the walk we must all take

June 12, 2012 3 comments

NOTE: I wrote this several days ago but am just now posting it. Life has been busy …

I’m sitting here in the bedroom of my parent’s house the night before the last day of my dad’s second round of chemo. I’ve only been here four days but I find myself weary. Watching someone succumb to the strains chemo places upon the human body isn’t easy; it’s worse when the person you’re watching fall apart is your father. You know, father’s aren’t supposed to get sick, let alone fall victim to a form of one of this world’s most dreaded diseases. But it’s happened, and reality has begun to sink in.

I was with my dad during the first few days of his first round of chemo. The way he handled them, and the accompanying radiation treatments, was nothing short of inspiring. Despite the deadly chemicals flowing through his system, and the radiation burning away at the two tumors in his lungs, he was upbeat and full of good humor. Even by the time I left, he was still showing no signs of the effects of the chemo or the radiation.

That was about a month ago. After going home for a few weeks, I’ve returned to my folks house and been sitting with my dad as he’s finished up his second round of chemo. While the humor remains, there are hints that the upbeat attitude is beginning to erode. He’s become weak and, for the most part, barely able to walk a straight path. I worry about him.

This recent experience reminded me of a music video from years ago that I really liked. At the time, I was the father taking care of his son(s). Today, time has passed, and now I am the son taking care of his father. Life has begun to come full circle. Yet despite the difficulties of helping my ailing father through the most critical time of his life, I find myself grateful for the opportunity to repay just a small portion of that which he sacrificed for me and our family.

–dp