Browsing Tag

fathers

Guest Posts, parents

Fathers

October 11, 2017
fathers

By Acacia Blackwell

My mother told me that my father had the sweetest breath in the world. This was a man who chews tobacco and has been known to go for weeks at a time without brushing his teeth. “And you have it too,” she said. She leaned her face close to mine. Millimeters. The kind of proximity reserved for mothers and lovers. She said, “Breathe on me.” My mother closed her eyes and inhaled my breath like she was breathing in a part of my being. The way I inhale my lover’s armpits, craving the raw, human intimacy of sweat. “Yep,” she said, opening her eyes, “sweet breath and too much gums in your smile. You are your father’s daughter.”

Father’s daughter. Fathers’ daughter. Fathers. Daughter.

Once, when I was almost but not quite yet a legal adult, I managed to piss my mother off in the way that only teenaged daughters really can. She seethed but for the first time I didn’t back down from her rage. I raged back. Her glare receded—a softening—and she offered only a resignation that, “You are me. And your father. But you might be more of somebody else than both of us combined. He didn’t bring you into the world, but he clearly brought you up in it.” Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Practising Grief

September 11, 2017
dementia

By Julie Butler

I’ve braced for my father’s death my whole life.

Dad was two decades older than my friends’ fathers. As soon as I could understand mortality and average life expectancy, I counted down the years and milestones I might have left to share with him. I became a child who practised grief.

As a teenager, I snooped through the folds of his wallet to find the neat, white envelope where he kept his nitroglycerin, as though keeping a secret inventory confirming that he had slipped a tiny tablet under his tongue might protect me from shock if his heart gave out. That was the threat in all my worried forecasts; a sudden, massive, lethal myocardial infarction.

There were times I believed I’d arrived at that eventuality, bursting through the backdoor, my bare feet descending two porch steps at a time. I anticipated the snip of pruning shears that would prove to be too much exertion. Yet, Dad’s heart defied my worry. So focused on what may come suddenly, I did not consider that death may slowly claim him, and in minute pieces. There was no rehearsal for dementia. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Over and Over

July 5, 2017
fishing

By Jessica Knuth

There is an unexpected sense of loneliness in watching the dead body of someone you love being taken away from your home. Alone in the back of a car. Zipped up inside a body bag. Driving away into resounding blackness.

Somehow, in your delirium, through the tears and snot, through the sharp pains in your chest and loved ones touching your shoulders, your hair, somehow you manage to walk down the hallway where your Dad should be sleeping, where he has slept your entire life, and you look inside his bedroom, though you know you shouldn’t. The bed is unmade, sheets jumbled and repositioned in haste. There is a stain on the bed and you can’t tell if it’s blood, or urine, or vomit. Otherwise, the room is the same as it was two hours earlier when he was still alive. When his lungs still worked. His heart, his brain, however limited. Before he went from present tense to past tense. Animate to inanimate. Living to dead. Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, parenting

My Age of Fatherhood

June 28, 2017

By Vincent J. Fitzgerald

Parenthood was the furthest thing on my mind when you were thrust upon me, but I undertook the charge, and its grown-up responsibilities, because part of me desired to be a grown up. You were fragile, vulnerable, and needed me close. Fatherhood was the first time in my life someone needed me to survive, and although often confounded by its tasks, I adapted, and was saved from reckless games my peers played. I never looked back, fixed my eyes on you, and hoped your future bright.

Divorce darkened that future for a while, but I remained a steady presence during the death of our family. Infidelity and deception devastated you, and although you had grown some, you still needed my shoulder to provide your tears a place to land. The whole affair rocked you at peak suggestibility, and although my wounds were also deep, I ignored them to ensure I tended to yours.

You had been hospitalized for a million days during which I prayed for your return. The moment you felt the victory of verdure, we imploded, and I feared you would return to where people never smiled, and medicine was measured by voltage. It was more worry than could fit in me, but mine was a malleable mind, and it expanded to the point of burst synapse. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Beach Town Liberalism, And An Answer For My Deceased Dad

June 18, 2017
dad

By Deidre Reed

It’s Father’s Day, the first one since my dad passed six months ago. Tomorrow is my birthday.  We’re in church, my mom and me.

I lit a candle for my dad, but by the time we got to the last row where my mom’s wheelchair fits, it had blown out. Being full of magical thinking and even more full of guilt, I spent a good while staring it down, willing it to spontaneously light up again.  Certain the dud wick meant that my dad was still pissed at me from The Big Upstairs.  Maybe I’m still a little pissed at him, too.

Halfway through the sermon, the family to our right – all five of them – doubled over with the giggles. That has to be one of the greatest feelings ever, when you get the giggles in church and just. cannot. stop. I nudged my mom and whispered that it reminded me of that Christmas Eve service, remember?  Where we’d sat behind that lady with one roller left in her hair, right smack in the back of her head? We’d taken turns pretending to pluck it out in slow-motion while stifling snorts.

If you’ve ever known someone with dementia, you know that weird things can set off barking laughter, and that did it.  But when my mom laughs now, it turns into something that sounds like she’s wailing and choking and possibly dying.  It echoes, people sometimes shift and look away. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

The Life of This Grief

December 9, 2016
grief

By Lesley Harper

When I was a kid, I had panic attacks. I worried when my dad went into the bathroom late at night that he may not come out and that we would find him swinging in there once one of us was brave enough to open the door. I would close my eyes and hold my breath waiting for the sound of the toilet flushing and the footsteps back to his bed. My mind would play tricks and my heart would sometimes skip one of its beats when I felt there was about to be a gunshot or the sound of him stepping off the side of the tub and into his death. I didn’t have the word depression then or any of the qualifiers so often accompanying the word: clinical, chronic, cyclical, situational. But I had a profound understanding that my father was deeply sad and I lived in constant fear of the damage his sadness created in our home. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

I Am My Father’s Daughter

July 31, 2016
grief

By Chamisa Wheeler

It’s OK, I tell my 37 year old self…

It’s really not.

I have not seen my father in 27 years until 2 days ago.

2 days ago,  I said Hello and a final Goodbye, in person, as my dad is lying in a bed, dying in a nursing home, after a short visit of 25 minutes and it was apparent it was time to leave…I said “I love you Dad”with a kiss on his forehead and walked out of the room.

Excuse my french, but what the fuck do you do with that?

Backtrack to last week:

I got THE phone call last week. The ONE call, I knew would happen at some point, for many years now, knowing it would come, and still not knowing what the hell I would with it when it came.

I had  thoughts before…had visions of what could happen. I saw myself driving with my brothers to go see our dad…see the town he lived in, called home. Hoped it wouldn’t be at his funeral, but in my thoughts, it was possible…Or maybe we wouldn’t go at all.

Had many years to think about this moment and I thought I had prepared myself. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, writing

Guidelines For Submission

July 13, 2016
writing

By Katie Lee Ellision

When an essay I had written about my father was accepted for publication in 2013, I decided on a rule for letting him know about it. I would send him a finalized copy of the piece before it went live or to print–not so that he could decide whether or not it would be published, but just so that he knew what I had written and where it would be. I thought this was fair to both of us. So when I got the final from the editor, I called my father up, though we hadn’t been speaking much at that point.

I won’t spend time on the details about why my father and I hadn’t been in regular touch—that’s a much bigger story I’m writing. What I do want to talk about–and for a long time I couldn’t talk about anything else–is his reaction and its effect on me and my writing.

When I called to tell him about the publication, he was congratulatory and eager to read it.

“So…” he said, “is this about you and me when you were a kid or…?”

“Just read it, dad,” I said, and he said okay. Continue Reading…

Eating/Food, Family, Guest Posts

Starved

July 8, 2016
weight

By Vincent J. Fitzgerald

A week prior to my father’s arrival for his annual ten day visit, I am stricken by a plague of hyperawareness about my shape, and as much as I long to see him, I fear judgments to come. On the day of his arrival I am bloated with turmoil while I drive to pick him up from the airport. I have failed to reach his weight expectations, and a glance at my belly hanging over my seatbelt distracts me. At 44 years old, his approval of me maintains its pricelessness, and bearing extra weight is the same as presenting him with a subpar report card. To discern which way best hides my shame, I alternate pulling my shirt down, then rolling it up while I wait for him to exit the terminal. He struts out the door all swagger and smile while I suck in my gut until spleen hits spine. He scans me from afar, leering at my midsection, and I feel objectified.

My kiss on his cheek is a lone dividend of a childhood marred by paternal detachment, and I am grateful for it. When he pulls back to assess me, I cover my midsection with his carry on, and wonder how much baggage he brought with him this year. Body weight has become his obsession in recent years, but the central focus is my weight, not his own. He executes scrutiny the way narcissistic parents do, baking criticism within supportive suggestions, and belching health warnings to induce fear. On the ride back to my home, I try to update him about my kids, career, and impending nuptials, but zone out to complaints about his wife and professed love of his dogs. The conversation takes its inevitable turn towards all things gastronomic, and his saltiness seasons our dialogue at random intervals for the ensuing ten days. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Dressage: The Story of A Father, A Daughter, And A Horse

June 19, 2016
father

By Mary Wysong-Haeri

My legs and seat move with the horse, absorbing his gait. My sits bones move with his rhythm: one-two-three-four is walk; one-two, one-two, is the power of the trot; and the canter is a waltz, one-two-three, one-two-three, as wind whips past my ears. It whistles like a kiss.

The power of his body moves through me and I try to look like I am not moving even as every part of my body is in motion. There is contact in the reins to control his shoulders and my seat drives his hind legs. Each of my legs moves separately to control his gait and keep him straight. I am always afraid on my horse: he has a mind of his own and I cannot be certain of what he will do at any given moment, but I ride him, I love him, the more for that.

***

I was lost when the streetlamps came on. There weren’t enough of them and, frightened, I ran from one circle of light to the next. I had promised my mother that I would walk home from my friend’s house. I don’t remember the name of the friend or what she looked like or where we played, in her bedroom or the yard or both. I know the sun was low and the sky darkening when her mother sent me home. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, parenting

My Father as a Hologram

April 29, 2016
father

By Ryane Nicole Granados

When the evening traffic transforms into bursts of brake lights, that’s when my son’s rapid-fire questioning begins. There is no escaping the questions and for the most part I don’t mind them. Traveling through the inner workings of his mind can be an effective distraction from Los Angeles gridlock. Thankfully he learned long ago I didn’t have all the answers: why is the moon following us? How much does the sky weigh? He has come to accept my inevitable “I don’t knows” and my continuing deference to Google. He has even come to appreciate my creative attempts at merging science, with fairytale, with folklore with fine art, all in an effort to provide answers to his endless inquires. For the 15-minute car ride home he asks, I try, we laugh, I falter, it’s our thing and I cherish it, but ever so often, and usually when I least expect him to, he poses a question so razor-sharp I’m thrust into silent contemplation.

Yesterday’s blunt force came after an enthusiastic discussion about the release of Star Wars the Force Awakens. Through the rearview mirror I could see his 8-year-old eyes widen with talks of galaxies far far away. His long lashes shooting skyward like Fourth of July sparklers. His smudged eyeglasses sliding downward like an amusement park attraction.  It was a beautiful few minutes to behold, and then silence.

“What’s wrong, sunshine? Why so quiet?” Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts

A Choice of Wood

April 25, 2016
death

By Whitney Fleming

“I can’t do it. I can’t go into the room with all the caskets. I can’t do it again,” she told me.

“It’s okay, Mom. I’ll take care of everything,” I stated easily, as I knew that my father wanted to be cremated, which reduced the decision-making burden. Although I was the youngest in my family, the responsibility would be mine. My brother and sister had their children to manage, and I was the most involved when it came to my dad’s care.

“Just do what you think is right. I just need you to take care of it.”

My mom wasn’t much older than I was when she buried her own mother, along with three teenage siblings. They died in a fire started from bad electrical wiring in their dilapidated Ohio farm house. As the oldest of eight, she managed the burial arrangements, and selected the caskets for her teenage brothers and sister. The act of selecting small coffins for young people yet to reach their prime crushed her to the core. It was a weight she carried around with her each day.

She was the strongest woman I knew, but even she had her limits. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

The Long Goodbye

April 18, 2016
father

By Leanne Chapman

My father died today.  Or at least he was my father once. I hadn’t seen him in almost 25 years.

People told me I’d regret it if I didn’t go and see him when he got sick. But I don’t regret it. They said I’d suffer if I left things undone, but it feels done. Our time together ended decades ago.

My father was not the primary abuser of my childhood, he was the enabler. I’m grateful to him for buying me a bicycle and teaching me to ride it, for encouraging my swimming and walking beside me as I swam my first 50 metre lap, for indulging my love of animals and the outdoors.

If he’d been married to someone else, he probably still would not have been a great father, but he would’ve been a father.

He didn’t want children, and when they found out they were both infertile, he was content to remain childless. My mother pushed for adoption, and he decided after my arrival that parenting wasn’t so bad after all.

My mother shifted the opposite way. If I’d been a puppy she would’ve returned me. Continue Reading…

Family, Grief, Guest Posts, Regret, Relationships

Daddy’s Barbershop

November 13, 2015

By Georgia Kolias

There are places that hold silences. Even within congested and vibrant streets you can find inhalations that are held in like secrets. I had my own secrets that I held within my ribs, caged and fluttering. At 16, I knew my traditional Greek immigrant family would never accept my desire for women, so I started my secret keeping.  I thought I was the only one holding secrets, but I eventually learned that my father and I walked the same sidewalks, living hidden lives.

***

Daddy’s barbershop was in the heart of the Mission district in San Francisco, on Mission Street at 24th, right across the street from La Taqueria and Dianda’s pastries. If you don’t know, it is impossible to go to either of these establishments and not leave satisfied, licking your fingers, and too full. The succulent grilled meat wrapped in a warm corn tortilla and topped with huge chunks of avocado and fresh salsa would drip down my arms as I took hungry bites. At Dianda’s we would greedily point at the pastries through the glass case and salivate. Napoleons creamy and crisp, puff pastry filled with a coffee filling and drizzled with crispy caramel, chocolate éclairs forced full of satiny custard. Even now, I am fanaticizing about a gluttonous suitcase of pastries and an eagerness to experience a stomach full to bursting.

Visiting Daddy’s barbershop was rare when I was a kid; it meant a couple of bus lines and my mother’s willingness to be in his company. He charged $8 a haircut and that seemed like a lot of money to me back then. His shop always smelled like the barber antiseptic that he used to soak his combs, and meaty sweat. There was a poster that displayed a variety of proper haircuts that my father could execute, not like the hack jobs that Super Cuts provided. Daddy had pride of craft, and resented being put in the same professional class with Super Cuts.

His landlord owned a bakery, and once a month when the rent was due, Daddy would come home with an apple pie in a white cardboard box. We would jump around, mouths watering – except my mother, who preferred lemon meringue. Mommy sometimes got a turkey or pumpkin pie from her job waitressing at Zim’s, but that was only on Thanksgiving. One night Daddy came home with the white box and an angry scowl. Instead of hopping around, we took the cue to step back to see what would unleash. Mommy took the pie and put it on the counter, then followed Daddy into the bedroom, where the yelling started. Continue Reading…