I write to you now from an old desk in a new room. My partners and I purchased a giant new building to house all of our growing businesses….. right before the pandemic hit. No grand opening celebration. Instead my month of renovations was concluded with complete and total silence. We are all in quarantine. We are all alone, all fearful of the virus that threatens to hurt us. We’re all holding our children tighter, and scanning for any and all intruders, friends turned into carriers of potential pain. The feeling of doomsday is fueled by the sight of people in masks and gloves. Closed signs. Empty streets. Loneliness. This new building and all of our dreams for it put on hold. That creative space now replaced with survival mode. No time for frivolity. No sports, no entertainment. No time for joy.
A fitting tribute, the world joined together to quietly bow its head to my family’s pain.
Maybe they don’t know it, but I feel it.
My dad is facing the last days of his battle with cancer. The sudden face to face I’m forcing to have with death has been jolting. Finality is something we all know and yet we absolutely do not until it’s too late. The shocking realization that no matter how I live my life, no matter what I do or what I believe, we all will face the same fate. And more terrifying yet is to know that I will watch loved ones meet theirs.
I’m not a religious person. The lack of an afterlife terrifies me. No. Confuses me. It is incomprehensible for me to accept that we just cease to be. And so, I, like everyone else, look to my imagination to complete that final picture. In an attempt to better prepare my daughter, and probably me, I purchased a book that offers possible scenarios that follow death. The idea that life is what makes the body move, and when life leaves the body that body stills. The explanation that both my daughter and I agree is the most comfortable to accept is that the soul returns to nature…. or possibly France as my 4 year old suggested. After discussion with my dad, we agreed the large tree across the street from my house was a suitable location to rest, although he agreed not to rule out occasional vacations to France. I hear the Eiffel Tower is quite nice.
As we near his final days, as one would do, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on our time together. I was mad at my father for many years. I still am possibly, to some degree. I didn’t think he made me and my siblings as big of a priority as I feel the need to make my child. But even I must admit I struggle with that at times. Parenting is the most selfless thing a person can choose to do. It is without room for error the most important purpose of my life now. My life exists now to ensure my child thrives. That alone sometimes can be overwhelming and honestly irritating. It is human nature to want to make your own joy and well-being your first priority. But once you create a child, they must take that prized honor. I’ve been extremely lucky to be able to share this adventure with a person I very much love and admire. My mother and father did not share that partnership. I don’t think it was either of their faults, I just think they were a bad combo. Like bleach and ammonia- both strong and capable apart, together explosive and unhealthy. They’ve both since moved on to better and happier relationships. And that’s where my understanding and forgiveness blooms. I’ve realized he did the best he could. Not the best you or I or anyone else could do. The best he was able to, considering his own unique make up and the specific situation he existed in. I’ve come to realize that who we are is so much bigger than whom we came from. The recipe that is us is a staggering combination of our genetics, environment, experiences, wealth, diet, goals, fears, and so much more. We are each complete and total individuals, and not one of us are capable of handling everything the way everyone else does, or the way we want them to. We can really only do our best with what we’ve got and what we are. I think it only acts as damage to yourself if you choose to measure everyone, including yourself, upon the highest mark. Instead we need to consider each unique situation and ability.
I think my dad did his best. And so for that I choose to be grateful.
It’s funny. I’ve spent the last 4 years of my life trying to protect my daughter from anything that could make her cry. And now, for her, I’m forcing myself to face my pain. Perhaps my dad is still parenting me, in his own way. A way that only now as a parent myself can I recognize. His existence, and now departure, is preparing me for my own exit someday, which in turn is preparing my daughter.
Having lived the majority of my life from behind emotional walls, allowing this peace and acceptance to infiltrate my protective guard has been a new and unfamiliar experience. But thanks to a lot of counseling and a determination to improve myself so that my daughter’s story does not mimic this one, I know I must welcome and process this pain. This virus will move on. My dad will move on. And when normality calls me back to work and this new building starts to buzz, baggage, though possibly useful someday in France, cannot weigh me down.
You know, when I first started this blog it was intended to be a log of my day’s events, a glimpse into the life of a restaurateur. But it turned into something entirely different. Life happened. Life, a bizarre collection of events, feelings, relationships, illness and death. I’m not a trained writer. Knowing that I rolled the dice and hoped few people would mind my random and aimless train of thought. Lucky for me, you don’t, and lucky for you, I don’t mind documenting it all here, flaws and all. But words sometimes feel not good enough. I can’t for the life of me encapsulate what life is into a combination of sounds and letters, and I cannot articulate death. What I can see is the tree across the street from my house. I can watch it grow. I can watch it move. I can hear its limbs sway. I can see it through changing seasons. I can feel its stability. I can see my daughter playing in its shade. My daughter, the granddaughter of my father. No words can embody that. But I don’t need them to. I can be at peace with an unexplainable explanation.
I can be at peace with dad’s final peace.
Rest well, dad. Thank you for bringing me into this world. Thank you for creating me, which in turn created my daughter, our Grace. Tell Grandma I said hi if you pass her in the wind. And perhaps someday we’ll catch up in France. I hear the Eiffel Tower is nice.
Painting a tree in our new building.