Dad, Grief

Saying Goodbye. To Ugly Things.

I spent yesterday doing things that made me think of Dad. I ate breakfast at his favorite spot, I even ate his favorite meal. (He could have lived off bagels – NO LIE.) I hiked Green Mountain – one of our favorite haunts around town. I ate soup for lunch. I cooked my vegetarian lasagna for dinner because it’s one of my new meals I would have loved to have fixed for him. But most importantly? I decided to say “Goodbye” to a few things I was holding onto a bit too close. I decided awhile back that moving on would require letting go of those things as I was only holding them close because I missed Dad. Sometimes, in order to move on, you have to let go.

Especially if the items are ugly.

I’ve been holding onto Dad’s backpack and using it whenever I needed one because he carried that damn thing EVERYWHERE. Few things made me think of him as vividly as that ugly yellow backpack. Unfortunately, I realized very quickly that I HATE that backpack. I have my own backpack I’ve been carrying for years and it fits my body perfectly. Dad’s? DOES NOT. It was big in the wrong places and had way too many straps. I couldn’t ever find the ones I needed. Yet, I couldn’t stop carrying it places. It’s like I felt as though not carrying it was an insult somehow. Which I know is ridiculous. So I took it out one last time yesterday and took a picture of myself near the same place I photographed Dad years ago. I tried to take a picture in the same spot but there were no good trees to prop the camera on. That’s one of the hazards of hiking alone. No one to take pictures of you.

Now I can pack the backpack away with the ninety million others we own. And go back to using my own. As soon as LilZ gives it back to me. *sigh*

Item number 2 on the chopping block was my Ewok. This was a gift my Dad gave me for my 10th birthday. I slept with it as a pillow between my elbow and my head for a decade, at least. I don’t know if there has every been a person more attached to a stuffed animal than I was to that Ewok. Dad would wake me up in the mornings using that Ewok as a puppet. “Time to get up, Kim…” he would say in his “Ewok” voice. He would nudge me with it, tickle me with it, and often (especially as I got older and harder to wake) beat me over the head with it. I slept with it through high school and even through most of college. That’s why it looks so little like an actual Ewok. It got very flat over the years.

I had lost it for awhile and got a little stressed about it. I found it shortly before Dad got sick on the bottom of the kids’ toybox. For some reason, as soon as he got sick, I started sleeping with it again. I’m kinda embarrassed to admit that, but hey – I feel I can trust you with this information. You won’t haunt me with it when I’m rich and famous, will you? Anyway – I felt like this was probably an unhealthy habit for an adult who shares her bed with another person. I’m certain my husband was a bit creeped out by it. I decided awhile back on the year anniversary I’d shop for a suitable replacement. One without a face. I found a faux-suede pillow that was about the same shape as my Ewok. We’ll give it a try tonight and leave Ewok shelved until the next time I have an emotional breakdown. Which, as we all know, will probably be sometime next week.

And finally…the watch. The residential hospice took Dad’s watch off of him after he died and gave it to us in a very plain envelope. After I had been home for a few days post-funeral, I decided to put it on. Something felt very comforting about wearing that watch. It was like, every time I checked the time, I thought of Dad. And when I was missing him? I just looked at the watch. The only problem was? It was ugly as sin. And a Casio. Which, not that I have a problem with in theory, but is totally…well…something my Dad would wear. And while I’m not the most trendy or fashionable person on the planet, I don’t normally wear a Casio. And if I were going to? I’d probably wear one with a little more personality.

But, I was more attached to that watch than either of the other two items. And I was very attached to the backpack and the Ewok. So, I knew that watch would be harder to let go of as I depended on that reminder on my wrist every second of every day. So…what’s a girl to do?

Get a tattoo…of course.

The second I decided to get the tattoo I knew what it would be: The infinity symbol. And I’d put it right where I wore the watch. Dad was a math geek and I have very vivid memories of us discussing the concept of infinity – both mathematically and metaphysically. It seemed the perfect thing to replace the watch. Especially because my Dad truly hated that I loved getting tattoos. Nothing would make him more irritated than me getting a tattoo in his memory. And for some reason? That made it THAT much more necessary. I got it done last night and put the watch in the China cabinet with a few other Dad trinkets.

I won’t probably ever get rid of any of those three things, but they became such symbols of my grief over the last year, I knew I at least needed to get them out of my daily life. I knew the year mark would be the best time for it because I’ve been telling myself all along, grieve my way for a year. Then try to do it Dad’s way. I think he would have accepted that as a decent compromise. To give me a year to cry over him and wear his ugly watch.

He would have never signed off on the tattoo, though. But, you know, I like to consider my tattoos as payback for the years he made me do homework…for fun.

22 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye. To Ugly Things.”

  1. I am so proud of you for being able to do these things and I am sure he would be really glad you are finally going to give his way a go for a while…

    Love this post and love you too!!

  2. I was too young to do anything as awesome as that to remember my Dad…instead I just had panic attacks and emotional breakdowns for far too many years.

    What an awesome post my friend. I wish you lived in Atlanta, I would totally take you out for coffee to talk about our dads…

  3. For a minute there, I was afraid were going to say you had tossed the Ewok. Whew.

    It sounds like you spent a beautifully exhausting day memorializing your dad. And I think doing the first year your way was a good idea. However, I’m kind of interested to see what *his* way looks like.

  4. What a wonderful way to remember your dad. You’re such a cool person, Kim. And the tattoo thing just makes me smile – because rebellion and the assertion of independence is such an important part of our relationship with our parents too.

  5. Lurker for many years (does that make me a stalker?) and just wanted to say, I think you have done well with this first year of grieving. I think the tattoo is a perfect way to memorialize an important person in our lives.

    I just wanted to say thank you for being so honest with your feelings with dealing with this time in your life. I haven’t always known what to say, so I haven’t said anything. But thank you for sharing anyway.

  6. I have been reading for years (since amalah linked to you moons and moons ago, like you mentioned the other day) and this is the first time i’ve commented. my mom died in march of ’08 and watching you go through this remembering and grieving of your dad in the last year has made me remember and made me think about my mom in new ways. Your post today and the things you did for your dad on the one year anniversary of his death are inspiring. Thank you for letting us look into your life.

  7. I seem to be doing the opposite of what you are doing. The more I can let my dad be a happy memory in my head and not feel like quite as sad – the more stuff from him I can have around me.

    I’ve been wearing his wedding ring for almost the entire two years (and a bit) he’s been dead. Me and my husband actually got our wedding rings because they have some matching details with my parents rings (who are divorced. We decided it wasn’t bad mojo, after thinking about it). Last week I decided I wanted to wear one of his very expensive watches. So now I do. The clock part itself is as wide as my wrist.

    In a few weeks me and my husband are moving to a bigger apartment where we will have room for a dining table… so we are bringing in the table my family had for decades, longer than I’ve been alive. We always used to have dinner at that table, every night. But… it’s also the table he died by. One of the chairs (and I bet I can identify which one) he was sitting on in his last moments of life, before he slipped to the floor and stopped being alive. Those last moments still haunt me and make me crazy sometimes, but I love that table and all the good it represents. I am hoping I can forgive and forget it was the setting of dads death and my lifes biggest tragedy.

    Man. The grieving process is so freakin long and hurtful.

  8. I agree with Kami. I think grieving your way for a year and your Dad’s way after that is a perfect compromise. Your Dad is smiling today and very proud of you Kim-even for the tatto 🙂 He certainly recognized that part of your personality by now!

  9. Totally crying at my desk! Great tributes to a wonderful man. I think he would like the tattoo. It has great meaning and significance to your relationship.

  10. You are doing a great job. It is hard to move forward because you feel like you are leaving your loved one behind but you are doing great. Love the tattoo!

  11. Swistle – Thistleville – Swistle lives with her husband Paul and children Robert (born 1999), William (born 2001), twins Elizabeth and Edward (born 2005), and Henry (born 2007). Email: Swistle at Gmail dot com. "Swistle" rhymes with "thistle."
    Swistle says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. And I love your new tattoo.

  12. Tears are just streaming down my face. Your approach to your grieving is so personal and perfectly suited to who you are, as it should be.

    I lost my dad almost 5 years ago, and thanks to some very selfish family members, I was never given ample opportunity to grieve his loss. My father was the most important person in my entire life, other than my husband, and yet, I still haven’t processed losing him, which has led me down a terrible path of emotional breakdown.

    I am so proud of you for being so thoughtful and insightful about how you would process your grief, and in the end, know that your focus on how to grieve for your loss will make you a much healthier person in the future. Hugs and kisses to you all.

  13. I think you have done exactly what is right for you. And that makes you totally awesome in my book.

    I know it isn’t the same but I sleep with a teddy bear that my husband gave me while he’s out on the road. I feel a bit silly but it makes me feel better.

  14. Love the tattoo and love the day you spent for you and your dad. You’re such a cool lady, Zoot.

  15. Thank you for sharing this with us. You are SO strong – whether you believe so or not – and I really do look up to you for that.

  16. Rachael1013 – Bellingham, WA USA – Sassy, fiery, tattooed bookworm, kinda-geek-girl, big heart, movie buff, mama to 2 crazy boys, photographer, windows down car singer following the thread of hope into a new phase of life. The written word is in my blood.
    Rachael says:

    Firstly, I totally love that Ewok.

    Secondly, that is a GREAT tattoo! I love it, the placement, the symbolism, that you’ll always have something to remind you of your dad and make you smile.

  17. What a lovely post.

    I am outing myself here as a 32 year old woman who has slept hugging a stuffed animal (the same lion) ever since I was 6. I even take it with me on vacations. I can’t sleep without it.

    I also wanted to let you know that I too got a tattoo as a way to memorialize my father who died when I was 18. I’m not sure what he would have thought of that since tattoos hadn’t ever crossed my mind before 18, but I think at the very least he would have appreciated the image.

    I know it is hard, but you are doing well.

  18. Susan B. – Parker, CO – Owner / Photographer at Susan B. Photography I specialize in High School Senior and Family Portraits. I’m located in Parker and serve the Denver and Colorado Springs, CO areas. Mother 2 amazing children and married over 20+ years. I have a passion for Doritos and Coca-Cola. They are not paying me to write this... :(
    Susan says:

    When my dad died in ’96, they came to us at the police department and gave us an envelope with his things. His glasses were broken and my sister started crying and saying “he needs his glasses to see, he can’t see without his glasses.” We divided his personal items up and I took his watch, and it was huge – but I wore it for a year. I still have hanging in my closet one of his favorite sweaters that newspaper people wore. It gets easier letting some things go, but never easier missing them.

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