Wobbly Table

There’s been a trend in my life lately. One where I sit back and try to figure out what exactly is causing me to feel out of sorts. I started thinking about it this past week because I feel out of sorts and the only thing I can come up with – is school starting back up. And that seems a little lame. Before that it was prepping the house for sale, and then moving into the new house, and then buying the new house. I realized I can trace back my own excuses for feeling out of sorts…up until Dad got sick.

It was the day I was going to Chicago for the opening event of a new freelance writing gig. I felt out of sorts even before I got the voicemail on the plane from my Dad’s doctor saying it was urgent he speak to him and he couldn’t get a hold of him anywhere. I was feeling out of sorts because I hadn’t really talked to my Dad yet about the trip or the writing gig. I had been trying to, but (as I know now) he was in so much pain in the midst of kidney failure and severe bone lesions/pain – that he and I hadn’t really had a good talk since Christmas.

In other words, I think I’ve been waiting almost two years for that good talk. That’s why I’ve been out of sorts.

Everyone tells you when someone dies that the pain fades. And it does. But I’m realizing now, that the role that person played in your life – that role never gets filled. It just leaves a hole. Or maybe, in my case, it’s like removing and inch of the leg of a table. The table gets wobbly and unstable and no amount of time will fix it.

Talking to my friend Beth this weekend about her own loss of her own father recently, is when it really hit me. I’ve been out of sorts for a year and a half. Sometimes this means I’m quick to anger and yelling. Sometimes this means I’m quick to tears. Most days I struggle finding peaceful sleep and am in a constant battle with my own anxiety. It’s a revelation to me, to realize it’s not the Big Event or Big Cause I’ve been switching blame to for almost 2 years. It’s the SAME event. The SAME cause. Not moving. Not painting. Not buying a home or getting laid off. Not spring musicals or soccer season. I’ve been blaming my instability on so many things and it finally occurred to me: I just miss my Dad.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this over the weekend. My brother went to Chicago and sent me a picture from in front of The Bean. That day I went to Chicago, the day my Dad was hospitalized, I was very much looking forward to going to Millennium Park and photographing The Bean. But the free time I had that day, which was minimal, was spent waiting in my hotel room for updates and phone calls from family members and doctors. And Dad. I talked to him that day. He told me, “I’m fine. I’m not dying. Stay in Chicago. Your brother is on his way here even though I told him not to come.” We learned later Dad was very aware he was dying, even though no one had told him yet.

I’ve been really out of sorts since that day.

My Dad filled such a pivotal role in my life, as a friend, a counselor, a confidant, and an adviser – that my table is still very wobbly in his absence. His role would be impossible for anyone else to fill, as the words that came from his lips to my ears were the words of my father. The same words uttered by anyone else, wouldn’t mean the same. But not only was he my father – he was one of the few people in the world who I ever felt truly understood me. He knew what to say, what counsel to give. Hell – he knew what to say even when I wasn’t needing counsel. The funny thing was – we were very different – and a lot of those differences were mysteries to him. Yet somehow, even when he was simplified mystified about something that I was doing, or that was bothering me, simply talking to him always helped.

Whenever Dad would come visit me, he would always make a comment either about (a) my weird desire to constantly pick up the clutter on my counter or (b) my cooking. He thought both were very odd tendencies since in his household? Those were always considered a waste of time. Why bother? Why put so much energy into fixing a meal that gets eaten in 4.2 seconds? He thought that long before I even really learned how to cook, since that’s been a transformation in his absence. But when he made this observations, it was always the type of comment that made me feel good. I knew he liked how I cared for my home and my family. Somehow, his simple words of commendation or awed praise, those words always helped get me through the mundane domestic struggles of caring for a family.

Another example: Me training for the marathon. I called him every weekend after my long run to tell him how far I had run. I knew Dad could really appreciate the road it took to get me to that point because he remembered my struggle to run a mile in my youth. I would call and say, “I ran 10 miles today!” He would always be in awe, SINCERE awe, and make some comment about not understanding why my brother and I take on these challenges. I always thought it was a compliment he grouped me in the same sentence as my brother since he’s a real athlete.

It’s really hard to put into words, the specific role my Dad played, but I realize now that my life has been unstable ever since I lost him in it. Some days I cry when no one is looking. Other days I yell at my kids for the most minor of infractions. My table is not shaking because of any of the reasons I’ve been blaming it for months. It’s because I have yet to figure out how to live any sort of stable existence without my Dad.

Not a weekend goes by that I don’t drive somewhere and thinking about calling him. That was my ritual. On one of my weekend errands, I would call Dad. It would give me the closure I needed on the events of the past week, telling him in review. And it would prep me for the upcoming week, letting him know what was on tap for our family. Without those talks, without him here in my life for almost 2 years, I’m missing that closure, that prep.

I’m out of sorts.

And like with any Big Life Revelations – I sit here and say, “Okay. So this is the cause of my emotional distress over the last 18+ months. NOW what do I do?” Besides the obvious, I guess, learn how to stabilize the table without my Dad. Nothing I can do will ever make the table perfect again, I guess. But I need to do my best to figure out how to stabilize it a bit.

I think I’ve just been waiting for time to pass to heal all of the wounds over the loss of my Dad. Naively assuming it would take only that: Time. And time does help, don’t get me wrong. But there are some wounds that won’t ever be healed, some pain that won’t ever leave, and I guess I’ve just been ignoring that. Blaming it on any of the number of stresses in my life – but never truly recognizing it for what it was. My difficulty coping with my new life without my Dad.

So, now what? I don’t know. But as always – I throw this stuff out there in an effort to process it for myself, and to hear a kind voice across the way remind me that eventually – it will be okay. Someday.

This is a picture of Dad took when we were all together for his brother’s funeral. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the actual picture he’s taking here.

Edited to Add: I found it! I spent all morning going through the files from Dad’s memory cards and I found it. The photo he took is here and the pictures together are here.

14 thoughts on “Wobbly Table”

  1. Oh Kim, I wish I had some words to say to make you feel better! You are always going to miss your dad, but it does get better as time goes on. You are doing really well considering how little time has passed since you lost your dad.

    In my case, I think maybe I felt better in fits and starts, not really a little better each day but more like I’d realize I’d gotten thru something without crying because I couldn’t talk to my mom about it. But not realizing that until a little bit after the fact. Does that make sense? And at first I would mark the anniversary of her death every month. Eventually I stopped doing that without realizing it. Now I just do that on the yearly anniversary. Everyone is different but it seemed to be a gradual process for me.

  2. Oh sweetie, I feel for you. I know we’re all getting to that age where our parents generation is just starting to get into that “danger zone”, but I steadfastly refuse to contemplate ever losing a family member (even my grandmother who is now in her late eighties). I know you don’t feel like you’re coping well, but I’ll tell you, I hope I cope as well as you if/when I should ever need to.

    Take care.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I needed to read it. I feel that way most of the time now and I go back and forth between feeling guilty for the times I feel happy and feeling like there’s something wrong with me for still being so angry and sad. I hate that you feel this way but it makes me feel more normal to know that someone else feels it, too.

  4. This post really, really resonates with me. In the last two and a half years I have lost my father, then my sister who was very, very close to me and then my mother. After my father died someone said to me that grief comes in waves. I had never heard that phrase before but have found it so very true. For some reason I’m feeling the force of a very big wave right now and I realize it effects everything I do…and don’t do. I miss the glow in my father’s eye when he saw me or my boys. And my mother well, I miss her desperately. And my sister….well, I feel as though I lost part of myself. I thought it would get easier but I guess it doesn’t really. I guess maybe you just cry a little less. I don’t know. Thanks for writing this though….

  5. This is beautiful and heartbreaking and poignant. Thank you for sharing such a personal and yet universally relatable story.

  6. I understand the need for your parents to somehow ground you, even when you are grown. There have been times in my life when I couldn’t turn to them, couldn’t have them in my life, and as much as it is nowhere near what you are going through, I can relate on some small level about feeling like you just can’t find some sort of homeostasis in your existence without that touchstone.

    My only suggestion is this: I know that you and your brother are close, but maybe you should both make a point of calling each other every weekend no matter what happens. When I felt lost and alone, I found that my brother (ironically the one that I had never been close to) and I became not only better siblings, but true confidants and friends. We related to each other as equals, and taking our relationship to the next level was life-altering. Chances are, that he is feeling the same way, and doesn’t quite know why. We began to lean on each other in a different way that we never had before, and still do.

    Regardless, I am sending you my updated contact info. We’ve known each other for a while now chica, and I am here if you need me. HUGS.

  7. Ah Kim, this especially resonates now, as we’re preparing to lose my grandmother. (That sounds so strange.) I know that it’s not as bad as losing your Dad, and that it really is a blessing to have had her this long, but it’s still damn hard, especially when we’re dealing with a DNR and a procedure in place if she bleeds out that does NOT involve calling 911. I find that so hard to wrap my head around, when my instinct is to kick and scream and fight against it – even with my 90 year old Granny. I’m just so unsure what the world will look like without her in it.
    Anyway, enough highjacking 😛 I’m sending hugs and good thoughts your way <3 It's a beautiful tribute that you miss your Dad so deeply, and I know he would continue to be incredibly proud of the woman you are, and are becoming.

  8. My mom has been gone about 10 1/2 year now, and I’m going to be honest – I still feel out of sorts at times. I even wrote a whole post about this several years ago – about how the grief comes in waves as if you were standing on the beach – sometimes the waves are big enough to pull you into the ocean and sometimes they just gently lap at your feet. It’s still that way. There are just some days that I miss my mom so much and I feel so sad and empty because she’s not here with me. But as time goes on those feelings are farther and farther apart. It’s not easy to lose a beloved parent. Sure, that’s the way it’s “supposed” to be – parents are “supposed” to die before their children, but it doesn’t make it easier to deal with. The thing I try to remember in those moments is that I always have a part of her with me in my daughter – a tangible piece of who she was. And I can hear her voice (I can still hear it 10 1/2 years later) in my head and still feel the touch of her hand. It’s not the same as her being here, not even close, but it’s all I have and so I hang on to that for dear life some days. Even 4 years after she died when I was pregnant, I remember one night just sobbing my eyes out “wanting my mommy”, and my poor husband just held me and felt helpless because what could he do?

    Kim, everyone’s grief is different, but it’s normal. It’s normal to feel that way. But it will get better. And maybe it will get worse some days. But then it will get better again. Hang in there and know that there are people who truly understand.

  9. I was going to suggest writing to your dad at the end of each week as a substitute for the recap/review of upcoming events, but I think Shannon’s suggestion to talk to you brother as the check-in would be even better.

  10. Thank you. You have put into words a lot of how I feel since my mom died this spring. Like others, I feel how the grief comes in waves–some days the waves are very peaceful, and I merely say to myself “I miss you, mom,” and then go on with whatever I was doing, and sometimes there are the storms.

    All I can say is that, yes, time will help. The grief won’t ever go away completely, but time will help.

  11. I am lucky because all of my parents are young and healthy. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll stay that way, but as of now I certainly feel lucky. I just can’t even imagine what it would (will) be like to lose one of them. I’m sorry that it’s been so difficult for you. Big hugs to you, I hope you find peace somehow.

  12. My grandfather died in January of 1992, when I was 28, and every so often I still become painfully aware of his absence. He was an important influence during those 28 years, more important than either of my parents or my other grandparents. I felt like an orphan when he died, even though both my parents were alive. My older daughter had just turned 6 months old and I know that she and her sister were cheated by not being able to know their great-grandfather. I guess I’ve learned to lean on others over the past 18 years, but nobody else can really take the place of another. I grieve again whenever there’s a milestone or a particularly rough patch in my life. The grief isn’t as intense as in those first couple of years, but it can still take me by surprise. Most of the time I just remember fondly. Right now I have tears streaming down my face because I long for my grandfather’s counsel about a certain situation and his assurance that “this, too, shall pass.” It really does get better as time passes. Flare-ups like this are few and far between for me now. It can help to talk to someone else who was close to your dad and reminisce from time to time. Try to find a “new normal” for yourself and establish new traditions/customs/habits. It’s easier said than done, especially with the daily or weekly things like phone calls. If you truly can’t seem to move forward, grief counseling could be helpful. Some hospitals have grief support groups or one-on-one counseling. Call the hospital’s general information number to find out.

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