Like any experienced gulf coast resident I know how to prepare for a hurricane. In July, my father was given six months to live. As with any storm I knew this timetable could change. He had been a tropical disturbance for years brewing in the gulf that we all kept a weary eye on. And now he was gaining strength and about to make landfall.
So I put into practice what I knew. I monitored the storm day to day and made the necessary adjustments as it accelerated and the cone that projected it’s path narrowed. I made a plan and I prepared.
I thought I was in the clear or at least on the clean side of the storm. I thought all my preparations would serve me well. I had given up on any further attempts to “connect” with my father. It just wasn’t going to happen. So I made the best peace about him that I could. I moved into preparation mode and poured over papers and information about the five steps of dying, burial policies and what benefits would be due to my mother. I tended to the business of dying and the necessities for survival.
As landfall grew closer I wrote an obituary, put together a slide show of photos of his life and began to prepare his eulogy. So many things I never knew came to light as the timeline took shape of the life he lived and the experiences that formed his opinions and attitudes towards his family and life.
He passed the afternoon of September 15th at 3:55pm. Little did I realize that that would be the calm eye of the storm and that the dirty side of damaging winds and devastating floods would follow me home after the service, after everything and everyone else had been tended to.
I came home to my own fears and my own disappointments. The guests who came to the memorial service were a virtual timeline of my own life. Teachers, friends, family as well as ex-lovers and former friends all doing “The right thing” and coming to the service for a man few knew and many had never even met. They came for my sake and the sake of my family. It brought up good memories and bad from my life. It had little to do with my father. Memories of a former classmate and close childhood friend whose mother came to pay respects and to remind me her son had been gone 17 yrs. She wondered aloud if we still remembered him. I do – everyday. Teachers were there to remind me to see the life lesson. Family was there to remind me that it was my mothers grief and recovery that was most important. My friends were there to remind me that I never have to face the world alone unless I just need to.
I felt I needed to this time. I hid myself away from phone calls, texts and visits. I needed to let go of the man I never felt close to or loved by. And it was just one of my challenges. At the memorial I had embraced the woman I had at one time given my heart to and felt her momentary comfort – only to have to let it go all over again. I watched the friend I love so dearly walk in and walk out like a brief blip on the radar.
I found myself trying for days to ride out the worse of the storm after the service. Battered by the winds and drowning in the flood waters I have struggled to hang on. And then it dawned on me tonight to take control. To not wait for the winds to die and the storm to pass because life is like a storm and it never really leaves. Like a merry-go- round it spins round and round and the closer to the edge you are ,the dizzier you get and the harder it is to hold on. I had been riding the edge of the storm and was exhausted and delirious.
A voice said…..”Move to the center. Relax and be calm”.
Can it really be that simple? Just change your grip and move to the middle. There is a peace and quiet there. I crave it. I need it. Tonight I will rest in that peace.
I love each and every one of you
Copyright 2011 Juliana Wathen