Thursday, January 24, 2008

My One Day

Disclaimer: This will be the last serious post for awhile. I hate starting one of my first posts on a more somber note but to ignore today's date would be ignoring an important part of me. This post is also very personal and it is taking a lot of courage to share some of these things, but isn't writing supposed to be therapeutic?? I will let you know if it is.......

Everyone has that one day, the one that changes everything. I am not talking about a day that may change your lifestyle, but a day that rocks your inner core and makes you question everything about yourself, everyone around you and everything in the world. My one day was today, January 24th, 2002.

Most of you probably know that I lost my father on this day, 6 years ago, it was a Thursday too. I remember because I had Friends on in the background (oh the good ol' days when we had our Must See Thursday Night TV!). Sometimes I feel like all I do is drop references to this day, but it was so defining to me as a person that it is intertwined with everything I am today. Some might say this is because I am still having trouble moving on. I think I can finally say that I actually have moved on. I have accepted what as happened - one of those "stages" of grief we learn about it in psychology. In fact, I am proud to report that this is the first year that I didn't dwell upon the approaching date with anxiety, I actually even forgot about it until a couple of days ago. Then, I realized I didn't want to forget about it so easily. It is important I remember because it defines who I am. So, I want to reflect on a few things leading up to that day because it is important I remember when I grew up. I know some of you might question some of these things because they are a little strange, but I have never thought of them as weird. I think our mind and spirit prepares us for dramatic changes and God knows what we need when we need it.

Jessie and I had been planning our wedding that fall of 2001, when I had a dream one night. I have lots of crazy dreams but usually forget them the second I wake up. It was me on my wedding day waiting in a church lobby and I remember asking everyone where my dad was. No one knew. I kept asking and asking, getting more worried by the second. Finally, he appeared out of nowhere. I felt relief and asked him if everything looked ok. He replied. "Everything is so beautiful but all the flowers are dead." At that instant I woke up in a panic and started praying that my dad would make it alive to my wedding. There was absolutely nothing to lead me to this thought. My dad was the healthiest he had ever been. He rode in a 150 mile bike marathon a couple of months before, played racquetball and golfed several times a week. There was no indication of any health problems. Even to this day that dream is as vivid as it was that night I had it.

I put the dream and the crazy thoughts out of mind, after all I was planning a wedding. Then Christmas came and I remember having the thought pop up that I absolutely needed to spend Christmas in Midland. For most people going home to their family is a normal part of Christmas but for me with divorced parents I spent the holidays everywhere. It was rare I was in Midland and with my dad on Christmas Day, but I was adamant that year. Thankfully, my instincts were right. We had a wonderful Christmas that year, the last one I would ever spend with him.

Two days before his death my dad called me. We talked about once or twice a week but this call was a little out of the ordinary. It wasn't on our usual day of Friday and I had just talked to him on Sunday. So, I was little surprised to talk to him. I was in the middle of bringing groceries in the house but for some reason I stopped what I was doing and just sat there. Our conversations were usually brief. We said what we had to say, made a few jokes and hung up. That day I didn't want to get off the phone. I made excuses to keep talking. It was my dad who finally told me he had to go, which was very unusual since I was always the one in a hurry. We talked about some more RSVP's that had come in, he was keeping track of them and was always so excited to tell me the updated list. At this point in the conversation. I said, "It is going to be a great day since you will finally be free of me and won't have to pay for me anymore." He instantly replied "You will always be my baby girl no matter what." It was an odd moment, something he normally would never have said and I remember a long, silent pause before we said our goodbyes. Those were some of the last words I heard him say.

That Thursday I had lunch with a friend at Souper Salad (I wasn't working at this time) and decided to go shopping for something to wear to my planned bachelorette party in Austin that Saturday. I went to the mall and walked into Foley's. Suddenly I had a major panic attack. I felt like I couldn't walk around the store because I couldn't concentrate or breathe. I have never had a panic attack before or since. It felt as though I was suffocating in that store so I had to walk right back out and go home. I calmed down a little but still had a very high level of anxiety the rest of the afternoon. I felt very restless and agitated.

That night I was making dinner and around 6:20 I felt a sudden wave of sadness. It was so all consuming that I went and laid down in the middle of making dinner. It was dark and I knew rolls were burning in the oven but I couldn't get up. A few minutes later the phone rang and I was too scared to answer it. The caller id said "unknown" I let it go to the machine. Jessie made me get up to eat dinner, but all I could do was sit there and stare at my food. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. Again, the phone rang and I was frozen. We didn't answer it.

A little after 7 I turned on Friends while Jessie cleaned the kitchen. The phone rang again and Jessie answered it. Immediately, I felt that anxiety rising in my throat. Jessie only said hello and nothing more and I noticed he was crying. In my heart I knew, but I went into denial instantly. Jessie hung up, turned off the tv and sat me down on the couch. I knew. Jessie told me my dad had a heart attack. I instantly burst out "Is he dead?" I knew. He shook his head yes. That denial is a sneaky "stage" though and I started screaming "You are lying." I knew he wasn't. Later I found out that my dad had a heart attack in the middle of a racquetball game and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital at 6:24.

It is weird what the body does in a time of distress. Some people go into automatic overdrive and start taking control of the situation, some shut down, some just cry, I ran. I don't know why, but my first instinct was to run as fast as I could. I ran and was stopped by a wall. A literal wall, not a figurative one! I ran into a wall and tried to break through. Then I collapsed crying and continued to cry for days on end. I don't even know how many days it was, it felt like years.

There were so many wonderful people in those days, and I am sorry I never really thanked all of you. My mind was a blur. I couldn't think, I couldn't function. I still can't remember a lot about those days. As my father's sole survivor, I was in charge of everything, planning the funeral, going through his estate stuff, you name it, I did it. I don't know how I did it, since I don't remember but I know I didn't do it alone, so thank you to everyone who stood me up. People sent beautiful arrangements, people made delicious food, some people made donations to my dad's favorite charity, Habitat for Humanity and some people were just there. Many friends flew in to be there for me that day and I will never be able to repay you. I know I couldn't show you at the time, but I couldn't have made it without you. Thank you notes never got written like I wanted because my wedding was only 6 weeks away so in the midst of trying to carry that through and do all of my dad's stuff I just never did them. I have always felt so guilty about that. So, you know who you are, thank you!

Transformation does not come easy, but looking back I am glad I am different. I have learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of doing. Of course, if I had a say I would have never let this happen. I was extremely close to my dad. One day I will post more about him as a person, and I am sure I will bring up more details about this experience since it was so important to me. This one day wasn't really about him though. I know that might sound self-centered but he was done with what he had to do here, I was just beginning.

To end this serious post on a lighter note I want to share one of my favorite songs. Just so you know, I have a new favorite song every week, but this is it this week. I also think the title is very appropriate for my mood this week. It is called "I Feel it All" by Feist. Her music will not be everyone's taste but I wanted to share. Listen to at least half of it before you make up your mind. My favorite line is "I know more than I knew before."


JaLisa said...

WOW Jennifer. You are amazing at how you place your words and emotions to describe all that occurred. I truly admire you!

Those Dandy Dillards said...

This was so amazing to read! You truly are a talented writer! Thank you for posting this... I had no idea that today was such a special day or I would have invited you in to talk more. I enjoyed this glimpse into who you are as a person and how you got here, even though the road sounds like it was overwhelmingly difficult. I hope the writing was therapeutic... it was moving for me!