Dad

A version of this appeared on my Facebook page a few years ago. Apologies to those of you for whom it’s a repeat.

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At this time of year, thoughts always turn to my father, even more than usual. He died 11 years ago on July 31st.

Middle-of-the-night calls still freak me out, or any call when I’m asleep. The phone rang at 2:30 in the morning, waking me up. My mom was on the other end. “Your dad had a heart attack, Monica.” A pause. “He didn’t make it.” And just like that, my life changed. I didn’t have any idea then how…different my life would be. It’s just a thought, a concept, an idea that you won’t see him again. But as the years stretch on and on, this becomes the norm. And that in and of itself is weird.

I remember bits and pieces of that day. I didn’t go back to sleep, but I didn’t automatically jump in my car to make the 90-minute drive home. I knew I was too upset to drive, so I called my ex-girlfriend, who I knew would be awake. And that night, she was wonderful…after her initial response of “No, he didn’t!” when I told her my father had passed away. In time, she would show her true (awful, unhelpful, ridiculous, selfish) colors. But not that night.

After having successfully quit smoking for a month, after I packed funeral clothes and other miscellaneous items and got on the road, my first stop was for a pack of cigarettes — Marlboro Ultra Lights from the GetGo in Carnegie. I didn’t quit smoking again for four more years.

Those first few days are a blur. I remember calling work and breaking down at having to tell Lori over the phone why I wouldn’t be in for a few days. I remember showing up at my mom’s house at 7:00 or so in the morning and her meeting me at the door with a hug. She sort of looked at me, like “Well…what next?” I remember that awkward funeral-home planning session that first day and wishing I could smoke, but not being willing to because, at the age of 26, I had never done so in front of my mom. That wouldn’t happen for another week, at another funeral.

Days almost ceased to exist, turning instead to a large series of individual hours. The goal became trying to get through one hour so you’d be one hour closer to it being over. My grade-school English teacher showed up with food and stared at Mom and me in disbelief because we were waxing my car, a white Chevy Prizm. “What are you doing that for?” she asked, spaghetti salad in hand. Well, it needed to be done, and we needed to be busy. After all, my dad bought me that car, and it should look nice.

Most of my memories are like a slide show, flashes of individual pictures. Ron and Patrick showing up at my house with a cooler of ice, the first of many sympathizers. Me telling them I didn’t want Pat’s sister to know since she was on her honeymoon, and receiving guilty looks and “We didn’t tell her!” in response. Feeling relief knowing that she would be there after all. Spacing out calling my friends – one an hour or so – so it wouldn’t all have to be done at once. Having to leave a message of “My dad died” is awkward, but I thought it was even more awkward to not say anything. Dropping off a rosary at the funeral home and seeing his body for the first time, with just my mom. Seeing her touch his cold hand and not being able to do so myself. Breaking down because a high-school friend sent flowers. Friends showing up at each of the three visitations…and realizing how lucky I am to have such a support system. Being hugged by countless acquaintances…and receiving a hand shake from a friend who knew I hated being hugged.

Then there were the things that I look back on not necessarily with fondness, but with an incredulity that things so ordinary happened in a week that was so extraordinary. Someone having a seizure and having to be taken out of the funeral home on a stretcher. A garbage truck going over the side of the road on the way to the cemetery and the funeral procession being held up for 15 minutes or more. Ron trying to steal a lamp from the funeral home. The wrong date being printed on the “death cards.” Me, finally honestly answering the question “how’s your mom doing?” with “Well, you know Mom. She’s a tough old bitch.” Hearing a former coworker to say to me, “Oh, I got here in time to see person A, but I missed person B. Ugh!” Yeah, I’m so sad for you. How will you pick up the pieces of your life and move on? I’m actually dealing with a thing right now, so maybe we can focus on your issue later. Thanks.

I have no idea how we got through that funeral, but we did. We had to. There was no choice. And then…there wasn’t anything to do. Funeral homes and people stopping by with food and talking to friends and family filled the day, but after it’s all over, there’s a…silence that’s there, a silence that you can’t fill because you’re out of obligations. There’s no list of what to do next. And that’s when you realize that the hard part is just about to start.

I got a lot of qualities from my dad, both good and bad. I have his fondness for numbers but not necessarily his ability at math. I think I’m pretty good at explaining things, but I often lack his patience when doing it. I also have a love of computers but would not necessarily prefer working with them over people like he did – not every day, anyway. I tend to worry about money a lot, but I don’t necessarily have the same urgency he did in not spending it. My brother and I discussed the fact that we both apparently inherited some sort of personality quirk in which people are intimidated by us. He says that he cultivates it and I do not, but I still put off that vibe sometimes. This was news to me.

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One thing I didn’t get from him was a love for grey areas, causing me to pick up a double major in Theology in college — something his research-chemist mind just didn’t get. I still remember him asking me about it and not understanding what you, well, did with a degree in Theology. I’m still not sure I can answer that, but by the end of the conversation, he was at least content with the fact that I liked it. And secure in the knowledge that there was no use in trying to talk me out of it.

I always wanted my parents to be proud of me, which is why I was so scared to tell him I was gay. It’s still difficult for me to believe he was surprised, but he was. Mom said later that he was worried about me, either because I wouldn’t have anyone to take care of me or he was afraid I’d say the wrong thing at the wrong place and time and get the shit kicked out of me. In his defense, both are valid fears. I was always happy that I shared that part of my life with him before he died.

I went to see a psychic about 4 years ago, hoping to find some sort of connection to this man who taught me how to drive, had been at just about every basketball and volleyball game I ever played in, tolerated my incessant talking while he himself sat quietly, and always thought that I maybe didn’t aim high enough in my career choices. I was hoping for an appearance from him, but, you know, not hoping too much. And when the guy said there was someone there who could only smell out of one side of his nose, well…I think I may have started to cry a little.

It was a very full 20-minute session with all sorts of interesting things being said. (“My romantic future is where? Yeah, I’ve never even been there.” It was California. Yep.) Now, I have no idea if it was my dad or not. Maybe the guy just got lucky with the nose thing and just made a bunch of crap up. Honestly, I don’t care. It was nice to feel like he was with me again, giving me some advice. I was told that I needed to try some new things and be willing to fail, a practice I have recently implemented with some pretty good results.

The bottom line was that he was proud of me and I didn’t give myself enough credit. Hey, even if the guy made it up, the warm fuzzy that maybe he wasn’t was totally worth the 20 bucks.

I think of my dad every day. I can’t believe it will be 11 years that I haven’t heard him say my name, his pronunciation different than anyone else’s. (Don’t ask me to duplicate it. I can’t. I can only hear it, not say it.) I hate that he didn’t get to see my brother get married, and I hate that I don’t have the option to ask him to walk me down the aisle. (Unsure if we would go that way if it was even possible, but, you know, it would have been nice.)

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I wish he could meet Chris and see this life we’ve put together.

I learned a lot from my dad, and I was lucky to have him and my mom as parents. They were somehow able to tolerate my particular brand of crazy all this time, even liking it sometimes. They always accepted and loved me for who I am, no matter what that happened to be.

So, even if you didn’t know him, think of him fondly and raise your imaginary glass to him (or, if you’re not much of a drinker, perhaps tip your imaginary hat). To Bob, the best father Dave and I could have had. You are loved. And won’t ever be forgotten.

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To Erie!

Live-blogging our trip to Erie.

6:37 — And we’re off!

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7:06 — Judi had adjusted her seat because she “doesn’t need that quick reaction time” now that we are on the highway. Sure. We are going 70, so we definitely can slow down that reaction time.

7:16 — arrival at Sheetz. It only took 9 minutes to park. Yeah!

7:19 — Judi’s first Sheetz experience!

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7:50 — Judi had announced that she brought her CPR mask along. I have no idea what she thinks is going to happen.

7:55 — Chris can’t throw trash away. It took three tries and required an assist.

7:59 — Judi didn’t know there were cup holders in the back. She turned around to look at 70mph. Another reason she doesn’t need that quick reaction time!

8:08 — cop just pulled over a VW that blew by us. Car-ma.

8:15 — DIABEETUS!!!

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8:22 — groovin’ to the Jackson 5.

8:25 — sunset.

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8:41 — skydiver sighting at Grove City outlets!

8:45 — car temperature is currently Hoth-like. Starting to lose consciousness. Definite hypothermia. Concerned for my phalanges.

9:01 — Bohemian Rhapsody sing-a-long time!

9:10 — “my foot got stuck on the gas pedal!” Great!

9:13 — “I don’t like using cruise control because I feel like I’m going to lose control!” Even better!

9:23 — we have quieted down. We are getting tired.

9:25 — rest area! I predict shenanigans.

9:38 — Chris and I are singing answers to songs. We are fun!

9:51 — u-turn!

9:53 — safely arrived at the hotel! Yeah!

10:58 — after some initial issues, we are safely checked in. It was a fun drive!

Date Saved!

That’s right. We set a date — October 24, 2015. It’s not my brother’s anniversary (that’s the next day) or her brother’s birthday (that’s the previous month). As far as we can tell, it’s no one’s birthday, wedding anniversary, divorce anniversary, or death day. Whew!

And we picked a place — The George Washington Hotel in Washington, PA (or “Little Worshington,” depending on who is pronouncing it). The hotel is lovely, and so is the event coordinator, Brad. It’s gonna be a kickass wedding, guys.

We had all but decided on a different place and were just looking at this one because we had to, but we both fell in love with it. It has several different rooms for all of the phases of the day (cocktail hour, ceremony, me having a panic attack, food and shenanigans, etc.), and they are all super nice. Am I a little surprised we ended up in such a fancy place? Yes. Do I think it will still be unique and very, well, “Chronica”? Yes.

We have been looking at the menus and making secret foods and getting used to the fact that this business is even more real. In talking about a toast, I came up with one off the cuff that was so perfect, we both wish we had recorded it.

It did not mention my modesty.

Anniversary

Today is three-year anniversary of my first date with Chris. It was almost derailed by a violent allergy attack, but a nap and some Aleve saved the day. We went to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant and…both got Thai food.

Whoops!

Yesterday we saw another wedding venue possibility. Before the appointment, we agreed it was a formality because we loved the other place so much…and then we loved it. Loved it. When we started this search, I wondered if we would be able to find a place. Now we love two and have a difficult decision. It’s a good problem to have.

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We went for a bike ride the past two Saturdays. I liked it so much, I bought a fancy pair of bike shorts to make my ride a little easier.

We went to two birthday parties this weekend, and Chris’ uncle replaced some burned-out lights on my car.

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Trapped by presents!

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Bob’s Garage even provided a grape soda and a coupon for post-work ice cream!

What does all this other business have to do with our first-date-iversary? Well, I’ll tell you. All of this — this life that I find myself in that I’m so happy with — it all started that day. It was a good day.

Read more about our first date and how it came about here.

One of Those Days

You ever have a day where nothing seems to go right? Today is one of those for me.

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I made this for dinner Monday. It was pretty delicious.

I figure if I try to post anything from today, it would probably crash my phone.

Here’s to a better tomorrow.

Staycation, Day 5

Happy birthday, America! Also, my mom.

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What am I doing with my hand? Finger guns!

If you wonder how I feel about my mom, check out my Mother’s Day post. I’d hate to repeat myself. So embarrassing!

We had a nice morning at her house and then went out for lunch. Then to Chris’ aunt’s house for a cookout.

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And this guy. It’s been over two months. Delicious.

All in all, a great last day of staycation.

Yeah!

Staycation, Day 4

Today, I ran into several problems, but everything ended up just fine. Eventually.

So, I accidentally got into a Facebook argument about gun control. My friend Jennifer posted an article about a 5-year-old shooting (and killing) his 2-year-old sister. I am not going to go into details, but I jumped in towards the end and backed her up against a…contrary opinion to ours. I just had trouble wrapping my head around what this other person was saying.

Now, I’m not a member of the NRA or anything, but I believe people should be able to own a gun. However, some of the opposing opinions were…frustrating, to say the least. Like, it’s a 5-year-old. Making him take a gun class won’t do anything. He’s 5. And then it just escalated from there. But we kept it civil, because we are classy bitches!

Okay. Onward.

My mom’s birthday is tomorrow, and I promised to make her a cake. It’s the same one she’s made me almost every year since my first birthday — chocolate cake with caramel icing.

Well, to start, Chris was a bit nervous having me in the kitchen by myself. I am not the most talented cook or baker, but I did live there by myself for a while before she moved in, and I never burned down the house. But whatever.

Anyway, I made the cake and icing (with some “Scandal” in between) and went to frost it. I am good at many things, but icing cakes is not one of them. Thankfully, making the icing is. It was delicious, even if it looked like a blind meerkat frosted it.

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Messy but so, so delicious. You’re welcome, Mom.

So, I packed up the car — had to drop some stuff off at Chris’ aunt’s house on our way to my mom’s — and was all set. I left early enough to grab coffee on the way, so after our quick stop, we would be West Virginia bound.

And 3/4 of the way to the T station, I realized I forgot one thing.

The cake. Sigh.

I turned around…and then realized I should just keep going and stop on our way back through, so I turned around again.

Okay, a quick stop for coffee. I’ll just grab my Sheetz card and — and there go all of my shopper cards. In between the seat and the door.

Sigh.

It was smooth sailing after that. Made our stop, made it home without getting pulled over for speeding, made it to dinner, and the cake was pretty tasty. So just the bits in between were the problem.

But happy to be home and ready to celebrate Mom’s birthday. YEAH!!! Happy birthday, Mom!

And also America!