Sunday, June 20, 2010

So, it's Father's Day.

"Your stitches are all out but your scars are healing wrong."

Okay it's officially, undeniably Father's Day. I've been able to ignore it for the better part of a decade until today. I'm not ordinarily sentimental. I'm not the type to set aside time on specific days and focus on "my loss". I can't say that he doesn't cross my mind, even now, about six thousand times a day but I can't dwell on it. I can't live that way. I don't intentionally avoid it--I just haven't been faced with Father's Day in a really long time. I've been living in my very own, isolated, little bubble for the past decade and haven't been all that forced to look at other people. But I work at WalMart now and all I saw were daddies and little girls and balloons. And, for the most part (about 89%) I felt really good for them that they got to hang out today.

I took a psychology class my senior year and we spent a really long time discussing grief and how to deal with it. Professor Waddle talked about how often times we work hard to push it behind us. But the problem with that is that inevitably you will be faced with something (a memory, an obligation, a conversation) and it pops out and you're caught off guard and maybe take a sick-day or three to pull yourself together.
You can't live with it at the forefront of your mind, either because that becomes your identity and you become a weirdo. I knew a person who, after the death of an immediate family member, completely identified herself by her loss. It was one of the first things that she would tell people when she met them. All of her profile pictures in various interweb venues are photographs of her and her late loved-one. I'm not saying that her grief isn't real or is, perhaps, dramatized. I believe that she lives with cutting, aching pain everyday. And that is unfortunate. I remember when I first started to feel guilty about getting on with my life after my dad died, I honestly was afraid that if I kept going, then I'd forget about him. But so far that hasn't happened.
Apparently the "healthy" way to deal with grief is to take it with you but not to let it define you. If it's next to me--if I let the idea of my dad walk around with me (rather than pushing it to the back or keeping it way ahead of me), then when it seems to come on really strong, it's not so scary.

And I guess I say that, but we all have our moments, right? I mean, we can't all practice perfection one hundred percent of the time. In light of that, let me take you back to this Friday. So I woke up, showered, Facebooked, dressed and then went to the coffee shop before work. I like this one girl who works behind the counter--I don't know what her name is but her amaretto lattes have this healing quality about them. I was hoping for her but instead got Chippy McChipperson. I wasn't going to take my chances with her skills so I just ordered a very big regular coffee that I could ruin all by myself.
Before Chippy rang up my order she said, "Sunday is Father's Day!!"
"If you haven't gotten a great card yet, we have a great selection. I can wait to ring you up until you've picked out a card, if you want."
"I'm okay."
"Are you sure?? Have you bought a Father's Day card yet?" Her chipperness was intensifying with every statement.
"Uh, no. But it'll just be the coffee for me, today." She started to swipe my card.
"Well, if you don't want to be a good daughter..." She said with a wink and a nudge.
At this point, I was no longer in control of my responses to her. My eyes started to well and I just stared at her until the first tear fell and then I just sort of whispered, "he died" and then I couldn't stop it. I was openly and awkwardly weeping in public.
Her eyes got huge and she said "I'm sorry" about forty-five times.
I tried to be convincing but saying, "It's really not a big deal, it was nine years ago" through sobs just doesn't drive home the truth of the matter. The truth being that it really isn't a big deal. I'm used to people just assuming that I have a dad but usually they don't push so hard.

She just caught me on the right kind of a morning, in the right sort of mood to make me the saddest that I could possibly be. And it's not like I was suddenly sad that Dad wasn't alive anymore. I was mad that she wouldn't let up and that I knew that once she found out, she was going to feel absolutely horrible. And that frustration is sometimes way too much to handle. I still don't know how to tell people that my dad died. I try to avoid telling them for as long as possible because it just makes everyone feel weird for some reason.

She threw in a muffin and I ate it on my way to work but my makeup was officially ruined and I had red-nose all day. Thanks, coffee shop girl. I think she probably learned a valuable lesson about pitching a sale that day, though. So that's good.

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