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My Childhood Memories Are Basically All Fictional

“I didn’t like A-Team. You and Chris did, I thought it was ridiculous.”

That was the statement from my Dad years before he died that shattered my view of my childhood. WHAT? My Dad didn’t like A-Team? What about all of the memories that I have of us curled up under the table by the one baseboard heater (our house didn’t have central heat/air – we just had one baseboard that basically just pumped out enough heat to ward off frostbite) and laughing hysterically at the antics of Murdock and Mr. T. In my head my Dad loved that show as much as we did.

“Did you like Roseanne?”
“Oh, yeah. That was great.”

So those memories were real. But the other ones weren’t? THERE WAS NO DIFFERENCE IN MY HEAD.

It was that moment when I realized my memories could NOT be trusted. And that I’m really good at fooling myself and writing my own history, I guess.

BUT NOTHING PREPARED ME FOR THE EARTH SHATTERING REVELATION FROM THIS MORNING.

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This was one of the many photos I came across recently when I was condensing 14 boxes of photos in 5 boxes. Nothing really exciting about this picture but I kept it out to scan because it was a good visual representation of one of my childhood descriptors: My love of my stuffed animals. I used to harbor a lot of guilt when I couldn’t take them all to my Moms every other weekend because – and this was long before Toy Story – in my head they all had feelings. So, I would carry them all around together so no one would feel left out. And this picture showed that! SEE! I’M HOLDING ALL OF THEM!

But then I noticed the date and something in my brain was like…wait a minute.

2460663780_68f94318b6_bI would have been 9 in that photo. And those stuffed feet I’m hold clearly belong to my Ewok which is shown here in this old photo of Nikki in Wes’s carseat. The Ewok I’ve been telling everyone I got for my 10th birthday FOR 30 YEARS. Seriously. I’ve written about that Ewok on this blog several times (Here I talk about how he helped with my grief over losing my Dad.) and every time I say, “My Dad gave him to me for my 10th birthday.”

BUT OBVIOUSLY HE DIDN’T.

You might say, “The date could be wrong on that polaroid.” But my Dad would not have let that slide. If the year had been off he would have realized it pretty quickly and corrected it.

And the funny thing is, recently I did kinda start to question the “10th Birthday” thing. I was listening to a podcast and they were discussing when Return of the Jedi came out. I knew I had gotten the Ewok for my 10th birthday in 1985, so I guessed the movie came out in 84. But then it turns out it came out in May 1983 and that would mean it had been out a whole TWO YEARS before my 10th birthday and that felt weird because I felt like the Ewok was a very current gift. Like…it fit with what other people were giving their kids at that time – which was a rare feeling for me. I never got a real Cabbage Patch doll (until Amalah sent me one many moons ago!) or My Little Ponies or Care Bears when my other friends were getting them. But something about the Ewok felt like it fell in line with what my classmates were talking about or playing with or something. And that was kinda rare so it stuck out with that gift. “Look at my Dad! Totally getting me a hip gift!” Two Years after a movie wasn’t unheard of to gift a product, but it didn’t feel “current”. So, if this was a photo taken at Christmas did I get the Ewok for my 9th birthday? Because in my head it’s definitely a birthday gift. But who knows? Maybe it was a Christmas gift? I looked on Ebay and those Ewoks were definitely made in 1983, so maybe even my 8th birthday? WHY DIDN’T I FIND OUT THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION BEFORE MY DAD DIED? How will I ever know now when he gave me that?

Have you ever had a memory shattering discovery? Or am I the only one who obviously has written her past into some A-Team/10th Birthday Fairy Tale that NEVER EVEN EXISTED.

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Dear Dad,

1085271112_1a6fe1f8a2_bYou would have been 69 today. You should have been 69 today. Your parents both lived past their 90th birthday so I really assumed you’d live long enough to meet your great-grandchildren and I’m still a little pissed off that you didn’t. But, since it’s your birthday, I have to do that thing that you would hate me doing, write you a letter on my blog.

Part of the struggle of being a parent is that you never really know if what you’re doing is going to produce well-rounded, kind, good adults. When you died I was doing okay, but I was probably still one of the most lost 30-somethings to have ever walked the planet. I didn’t have a lot of focus and I was struggling a lot with my anxiety and depression after years of trying – and often failing – to build my family. You worried about me a lot. That’s what makes me sad now, is that you never really got to see me kinda get my shit together.

I KNOW! Hard to believe! Kim kinda has her shit together!

You would have been most excited by my trail running. I don’t know if you would have ever gotten into trail running, but you would have loved that I did. You loved hiking in the outdoors and loved taking us camping growing up. I’m certain you would have come up to be part of some of our trail adventures, maybe even helping out at a few races like you did with my brother. You would also crack up at my bullet journaling obsession because you were kinda bullet journaling before it was cool. Just like you were taking selfies before “selfie” was even a word.

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I’m running a 100K near Knoxville in 2.5 weeks and I know you would have been blown away by that. You were witness to my first attempt at a marathon in 2007 which I ended up walking most of because I trained so poorly. You would be amazed at how far I’ve come. I did a marathon a few weeks ago in almost 2 hours less than the one you saw me do, and I had run a 50K the day before!

I still miss you so much, Dad. I know I always will. I still talk about you more than any grown woman should probably talk about her dead Dad. You were just an amazing and interesting man. You raised us alone long before the internet was around to give you tips or pointers. I loved talking to you as an adult during the 2008 elections and learning how your world view fueled some of your political views. While you never really talked to us about politics growing up, I was amazed at how many ways our views lined up into adulthood. I wish I could talk to you this election cycle…I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO SAY ABOUT ALL OF IT.

I’m listening to a book now (I don’t have much time to read, but I do have a long commute) I know you would have loved – No God But God about the history and evolution of Islam. We read a few of the same books before you died, chatting about them, this would have been a good one for us to read together.

Well. It’s 4am. I’ve been up for an hour now. You would appreciate my life as a 3am waker-uper. I have to run 10 miles on my last big mile week before my 100K. You’ll be in my mind and in my heart all day, like you always are. If you were alive I might not think of you much because you and I often forgot each other’s birthdays. But now that you’re gone? I don’t know if I’ll ever forget.

Love,
Kim

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Dear Dad,

I have this wide assortment of things I wanted to write about this morning on my blog. The blog you used to read every day which is probably one of the things that motivated me every morning to write. I was wanting to write about my hydration pack, or maybe about how much I hate this weird trend of shaming entertainment choices in an attempt to encourage compassion. I also considered writing about the several incidental-but-embarrassing errors I made yesterday. You know, the kind that would normally keep me from sleeping as I replay them over and over and over again? They didn’t last night because I took melatonin to try to turn off the voices. BUT STILL. So many embarrassing errors.

But then I sat down and just thought, Shit…I really miss my Dad.

And I started crying, which I know you would HATE and it would probably make you yell at me, “Dammit, Kim. I didn’t want my death to be a big deal!”

But that’s the thing about losing someone you love, someone who was such a big part of your life, of your heart, of your soul…it’s always going to be a big deal.

When I was overwhelmed with life, you always were quick with a compliment. “I don’t see how you do it.” You said that to me all the time. You were just as in awe of my brother when we would discuss what he was up to. You couldn’t understand how I juggled so many balls and you didn’t every understand how he did so well in a career that you and I would have failed at miserably. You were just never EVER one to hold back in telling us that you were amazed by us and since we put you on such a tall pedestal…those words were priceless.

Maybe this is just one of those days where I need someone to tell me I’m amazing.

No.

That’s not it, because I actually have made a point since you died – consciously or not – to surround myself with positive influences and positive people. Dad? You would love my friends SO MUCH. I wish you could meet them all. Some days when we’re riding our bikes or running through the woods I think, “I might could have talked Dad into moving here after meeting these people.” So it’s not that I need someone to tell me I’m amazing, my friends feed me that energy just as I feed it to them.

I need you to tell me I’m amazing.

I actually cry over missing you more than I like to admit. The kids see it a lot. Sometimes they even know the trigger, like when I was dusting Nikki’s shelf the other day and saw your silly trigonometry book that she just loved so much. Or when I’m talking about how much I wish you were alive to enjoy Sunday Family Dinners. I think maybe I’ve been crying even more over missing you lately, maybe just because life is overwhelming right now and I’m fragile.

Donnie’s Ironman is in two weeks and I so wish you could be there with us to cheer him on. You loved Chattanooga so much and you would have carried the backpack full of water and snacks for me so that my back wouldn’t hurt for the next solid month.

Except, of course, that the blood cancer that killed you so seemingly suddenly, caused microfractures over your entire skeleton and one of the things we talked about regarding your decision to not consider cancer treatment was your sadness over not being able to carry your backpack. The pain was too much.

But in my imaginary world where you’re with us in Chattanooga, you’re obviously cancer-free.

That would be really shitty of me to imagine a world where you were back with us, but still riddled with cancer.

The kids are growing so much, E is about to be old enough to drink, and I’m still me…overwhelmed by my personal life and the life around me. I’m very passionate about a lot of issues both locally and globally – I’m not sure that side of me had really blossomed yet before you died. And lately it just seems like every day there is something upsetting me. The county clerk in Kentucky who still won’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples (YEAH! It’s legal nationwide now! You would be so impressed) and today there’s news that our state decided to continue giving tax breaks to corporations and to balance the budget on the backs of our education system because no one wants to raise taxes in any way in this state.

Maybe that’s why I started thinking of you this morning, because you were the most fiscally liberal person I knew. I remember once talking and how you wished there was a program where poor people could get cheap-but-stable modes of transportation. Mainly because the public transportation system in Knoxville was so abysmal so people without means had difficulty finding jobs. You said, “I’d pay more taxes for that, no problem.” You even said that if you thought it would be managed well you’d give all your money in taxes. “I really just need a place to live, my bicycle, and a library card to survive.” I joked with you that you should find a nice commune to join.

So maybe that’s what’s got me missing you this morning. My overwhelming sadness over the state of our state and knowing that you were shockingly (being a kind of stoic engineer) my hippie friend that I could talk civil economics with.

Or maybe it’s Fall. Fall has always been a weird time of year for me. I had a bad Autumn in 1999 and it still leaves me with this residual sadness and anxiety when the temperatures drop. And whenever I’m sad or anxious I miss my grounding phone calls to you more. It’s been 6.5 years and I still miss calling you so bad that I’m sobbing at 4:45am on a Tuesday morning.

I think I need to build a fake day today, Dad. I think I’ll stay off social media for the day and just curate my world – if possible – so that I’m only seeing joy. I think I’ll put blinders on today. I know that’s not a very grown-up thing to do, but I remember doing it after Sandy Hook too – just stepping away from the world delivering me news that I was too fragile to cope with. I guess that without you to ground me, some days I just need to self-preserve. Today is MOST DEFINITELY one of those days.

I guess though, I should maybe also spend the day being positive so that my light can dilute the darkness that I feel like is overwhelming me this morning. Maybe I should shut out the world for the day, just so I can be free to shine my light.

I just miss you so much, Dad. You were always the unique light I needed on my darkest days. The people I love all light my world in their own way, but your light is still missing and some days I can’t see the other light because the darkness left by your death is just too engulfing.

Jeezus. That’s not a very positive way to end this letter to you, is it? Especially considering no part of me believes in a conscious life after death so I’m very knowingly just writing this for myself. Hell, if I honestly believed part of you could see this I would not write it because it would TOTALLY PISS YOU OFF. Nope, this is a letter to myself disguised as a letter to you. So, I should probably try to end it on a higher note.

I’ve been telling the kids your jokes lately. How, if I asked you to make me a sandwich you would hold out an imaginary wand and say, “Poof! You’re a sandwich!” Or how if I asked you to turn off the light you would turn it off, then turn it back on again and leave the room. “You didn’t ask me to leave it off.” Nikki even did that EXACT thing to me last night. I think you would like that, knowing that I have taught my kids how to torture me in the SAME WAY you did when I was a teenager.

Love you, Dad.

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Holding On To Grief

I had to get up early for a work related task and as I was mulling over my blog post for the day I thought, Hmmm…maybe I’ll tell everyone about my spicy okra and beans from last night!

If I believed in any sort of life after death I would tell you that my Dad would see that thought and say, “Thank goodness. She’s finally going to let March 31st pass without some sappy entry about how much she misses me.” And while I don’t believe he’s watching over me in any way, it was a little jarring to momentarily forget that today was the day – six years ago – that he left me forever. It was especially shocking to have forgetten because Dad has been on my mind so much lately. Much more so than usual, as I’ve been feeling fresh waves of guilt the last month that almost feel like I said goodbye only yesterday. This has been a surprise, that the depth of the sadness can still feel so vast even six years away. But it has lately – really since the new year – it’s felt vivid and new and painfully raw. His new grandson, Donnie’s Ironman, E’s college experience, my Grand Slam, Wes’s basketball and Nikki’s vocabulary and dialog development…there are so many things over the last six months that have just made me scream to the clouds time and time again: WHY IS HE NOT STILL HERE TO EXPERIENCE THIS?

The sadness has tainted just about every breath I’ve taken these last few months and I’ll be honest – part of me doesn’t want to shake it off. Part of me has felt a renewed closeness to him with this fresh wave of grief, and I wonder if I’m holding onto it as a way to hold on to him. I know that over the last six years I’ve felt that before – a need to hold on to the grief when it hits. So part of me kinda got mad at myself this morning: Zoot! Okra? How could you be thinking about OKRA on the anniversary of your Dad’s death? I was mad I had momentarily stuck my head out of this fog of sadness and forgotten about how much I missed him.

OKRA!?

But I know that’s silly. If there’s anything this wave of pain has taught me is that no amount of time will fade the grief forever. While part of me fears that letting the sadness pass means that a part of him passes again, I know that is not how it works. I know that time does not build an insurmountable wall protecting me from sadness forever – it only builds small barrier that keeps it at bay so I can live my life. But the grief – it’s always there and letting go now doesn’t not mean I’m saying goodbye again.

I turn 40 in July, but in my heart I’ll always be a Daddy’s girl.

I miss you so much, Dad. Tears trickle down my face as I try to find new pictures of you that I’ve not shown before, because I didn’t know during any of these moments that you’d be gone so soon. I would give anything to have these moments back again.

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I Win The Battle Of The Necklaces.

A few months ago I sent my friend a message with this picture and said something like, “Hey…could you use some copper?”

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Because…you know…that’s a completely normal question to ask someone, right?

You see…my Dad grew up in a large family that didn’t have a lot and he was VERY MUCH of the No Waste, Ever mindset. If he came across ANYTHING in his day-to-day life that was even REMOTELY useful in ANY way…he kept it. We had stacks of yogurt cups on top of the microwave because they made good drinking cups for camping. He brought home wood crates that hospital equipment was shipped in, and he made furniture out of it. He made flashcards for us out of old punchcards used for programming.

So, needless to say, his house was full of a lot of things that he thought…ONE DAY…he might make use of. And copper, being just a valuable metal to begin with, definitely seemed worth keeping in his eyes. And even though we donated 90% of his stuff to the Knoxville Rescue Mission, I couldn’t let go of the copper. It didn’t take up much space in my life and I just felt like…some day…it might be useful.

Maybe that insanity is genetic?

But then my friend started a business making upcycled jewelry. And she did a LOT of work with metals….namely copper. She made jewelry out of pennies and I just fell in love with everything so I thought, “I bet she could do something with this.”

And she did. She took the tubing and made beads out of it. I have no idea the science or craft behind this task…all I know is that THIS is what she put in my hands last night and I freakin’ cried. We were in public, at a restaurant with other writers from Rocket City Mom and I freakin’ cried like a baby. Because y’all? My Dad would have just ADORED THIS. He would have been all, “SEE. This is what I’m talking about! Why throw this stuff away???”

And it would have totally validated every weird thing he had in his basement/garage.

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You can click on the photos to open up bigger copies to see the details and the colors of the beading. SERIOUSLY. LOOK AT IT. It’s truly amazing. I can’t even contain the love I have for this piece of jewelry.

So…yeah. Don’t be jealous, is basically the point of this entry.

My necklace is the best.