I woke up this morning out of sorts. I had to drag myself to my journal, but first to the coffee maker. The sky is gray; the sun is working overtime just to give us light this morning. It’s dark for 8:30am.
Then I wrote the date on the top of the blank page in my journal.
In four years I will have outlived my father.
Four years isn’t that much time and it will move fast. Things change in four years. I have different goals, dreams, perspectives, tastes, habits and friends than I had four years ago. I spend my time with different people doing different things. I’m different. Yesterday I spoke to an old friend and we picked up like nothing had passed. The foundation was built for years, through divorce, death, tears, trust and it was great to talk to her. We’ll always be friends and we are both different.
My days are different, I let them unfold a little more than I used to. I used to be a pusher. Forcing myself to do what I thought I should be doing. Now I listen inside and I determine my next move from a more grounded place, from my heart. My goals have changed. They’re more defined, maybe larger, more connected to my heart and I don’t have to work as hard to achieve them. (That seems ironic huh?)
I’m easier. Easier on myself and so I’m easier on others. I’m attracting people who are in the same place these days, ex-pushers. Now strivers. We’re thrivers. (I like that word even though I’m pretty sure I just made it up.)
24 years ago today my Dad left this planet. He slipped away, eyes closed, expelling his last breath, my Mother by his side. The nurse had come over to her in the middle of the night. It’s time she said. My mom moved to the side of his bed in the private room on the 8th floor at Cedars in the middle of a night in September. She held his hand and watched him move on.
I couldn’t imagine that moment. I’ve tried. That moment when you lose someone you’ve spent 47 years knowing and 25 of those 47 married. I’ve tried to imagine the depth of that moment and its well of grief.
I can only know my own. Grief pools at the bottom of my deep well and on hot days its vapors rise and permeate the air; breathing becomes thick and labored. I know grief. I’m not alone. I’m not the only one to let it wash over me, through me, swirl around me, to dive into it and come out with a splash.
I have been cleansed by feeling the purest of emotions.
I know a lot, have learned a lot and in four years I’ll discover more.
24 years ago today my life took a sharp left. From there I wandered twisted, curved, winding yellow brick roads that took me up and down and under and into this moment. This overcast cool grey September morning I sit in my living room breathing into the gifts my father gave me.
My business savvy.
My sense of humor.
My resilient beating heart.
(And my spelling, I spelled savvy wrong, grateful for spell check).
My heart grew stronger that day, more robust in the years that followed. Her scars give her character. I’m proud of them and the left turn and my gifts.
It’s a strange thing to say, I can now look at my Father’s death as a gift. It is also a true thing to say. My life is my life because of all of the events in it and I can’t say I would change them. I miss him. His laugh, the way he would enter a room, how he was the center of attention at a party or a dinner, how he was so strong and confident on set, or in the office calling to the set, did you get the first shot off?
He was funny. We’d compete: I’m funnier than you Dad.
To come home from school and see a new car in the driveway, just because. His love for personalized license plates, movies spelled MUVEES, or CARLES, for me and my sister. He could never top NGOSHE8. (I have it and Michele came up with it.)
My Dad wrote great letters. I’d get lots of letters and post cards all written in different color flair pens or typed. The best. We have memos he wrote about terrible times on set, Violets are Blue is a good one. We have letters he received from Paul Newman and others he’d worked with over the years, funny letters he wrote to his buddies in New York when we first moved to Peck Drive and he was only driving two minutes to work at Fox. When I was a kid he’d start sending me birthday cards on August 1st, Happy 10 days ’til your birthday, I was away at camp and I’d get a card every day until my birthday. He did it when I was in college too.
He would’ve loved Facebook.
I’d walk into his office at Paramount and he’d ask, are you here as a daughter or employee? Daughter, I’d answer. He’d press a button under his desk, his door would close and he’d say, Great, we can gossip.
As I write this I can see him in my mind, dark olive skin, thick black hair, hazel eyes, deep smile.
He lives in my heart.
I am here, in this moment, in this life, living my dreams, because of his presence with me until I was 25 and beyond.
I bet he’s proud.