Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He died 6 years ago from complications of alpha-1. It’s a terrible genetic flaw that causes lung disease and I wouldn’t wish it on a single soul. In some ways he was lucky as his symptoms didn’t really effect him until the last ten years of his life, for many others, by their 30’s it’s already in full swing of suffocation mode. He was 77 when his lungs finally gave out.
I still miss him, that doesn’t ever go away. My grief and obviously the rawness have diminished with time. Its such a strange experience to watch someone you love in such extreme pain and discomfort that you pray for it to end, but when their body finally surrenders to illness, your relief is eclipsed by missing them and selfishly wanting one more hug, or joke, or phone call.
The first year and birthday were tough. I kept wanting a sign that he was ok. I had this irrational perception that he would let me know in some profound way at some point, I decided that should be his birthday. My father had been stoic in his plight, his will to live had been strong. I had grown up with an appreciation for the occult and supernatural, but that had been my mothers influence, my dad had not said much on the subject. My husband took my children to a Mets game the night of his birthday that first year. I thought I was better off at home just reminiscing and willing a glimpse of his life force.
There I was, home alone, 7:30 at night, just thinking of my father, when suddenly my dogs went crazy. My Luna, a golden doodle, was just 2 and beating the basement door with her paws. I foolishly opened it and chased after her in my own curiosity. Unbeknownst to me, a skunk had somehow gone into my garage, ripped through the drywall and had gone into my utility room where my furnace and well are located…he immediately was afraid of us and used his primary weapon of defense, spraying the air, Luna, myself, and my home with his noxious musk. The horror was instant and unrelenting. Poor Luna was howling as the vapors burned her nose and eyes. I was screaming at the universe, yelling though my tears that this, most definitely, was not the sign of life I was hoping to find.
The next few hours of triage for Luna and I were probably more hellish than you can possibly imagine, and yet I kept, between my tears, cackling with laughter as I spoke to my father, saying ” Really dad! Really! A skunk!?” I was no longer sane, and was quite relieved my family had not been there for the worst of it. Alas, my sense of smell was ruined for weeks if not longer. The walls had to be ripped out of the basement and much of what had been stored there was ruined. I was broken but yet in the fallout of mass destruction, I found a spark back to life, a mission to ensure my children’s home environment was livable and secure took over my self pity and forced me to choose the present moment over missing the past.
It’s not always comfortable or easy to just be present, or to accept those bizarre and painful moments that just happen. Death is the biggest loss any of us face, but by fearing, worrying, self pity, and yes even reminiscing the past, we are kept from living and having the potential for more joy, more love, more growth, and less skunks. I don’t need anymore signs dad, Happy birthday xo.