Dad.

¨18th of July  2015

Today there’s an angel up in the heavens somewhere celebrating his birthday. He’s probably laughing his loud and hysterical laugh. One that makes all other angels on the cloud turn their heads around and wonder whether the man is either having a heartattack or a ball.

As like your birthday last year, I’m on a plane on my way to States.
Unlike last year, I hope there isn’t a plane crash over Ukraine.
Unlike last year, there aren’t hysterical parents on 7 voicemail messages to make sure I’m alive.

I am in so many way like my father. I’m stubborn. I’m harsh. I’m full of energy. I laugh loudly. I’m opinionated. Impatient. Spontaneous. I’m kind. I always take it too far. I’m incredibly guarded, but when I love, I love hysterically. Me and my dad sometimes just needed to ‘be’ to understand one another. It’s weird not having a twin-soul like that around anymore.

I remember our last night together. It was a crisp yet very sunny late October evening. One of those evenings where you can smell the warmth. Where the leaves are changing into a whole array of yellows, oranges and reds. You loved the fresh air and sunlight so much. Once I’d taken you out in the wheelchair onto the parking lot, all you wanted was to be outside. ‘ah, you’re here! Let’s go outside!’. And so every time I came by, we went out.
This time we walked for nearly 2 hours. The nurses were mad I almost made you miss scheduled dinner time. You thought it was one of the worst things to have to be carried around like a baby, without any control over your body. But you loved the air, you loved the birds, and you loved our jibber jabber. Obviously, you still felt you had to order me around on how to best push the wheelchair. ‘turn right! You’re doing it all wrong, you have to turn and then push up the alley way’. Surely, I thought we’d take it to the next level.
I pushed you like parents do with little kids in strollers. Running, braking, twisting and turning. The sound of your scattering laugh will always be there in my memory. The way you grasped the armchair and flipped your head back. The laughter could be heard by a 1K raduis. It filled my heart and to this day is one of my most precious memories. It feels incredibly selfish to say how happy I am I got to spend your last conscious evening with you. Just the two of us.

And then you left. You’re body was still there, but your spirit slowly lost its flame.

IMG_0272I was so mad at you for the first couple of months after your death. Why did you give up huh?! Why’d you just leave?! We weren’t done yet. You’d made it to my high-school graduation, my bachelors and masters. All that seemed impossible at one point, but you still made it. Why couldn’t you overcome it this time? You’d been on a silver thread before, and you always came out of the hospital again, with flying colors. We were supposed to skype remember? I had an appointment to be on a sunny beach somewhere on the Australian East Coast, with you in the recovery hall on the other line. I’d probably have to first tell you 5 times how to turn the camera on, but we’d be talking. This is not what we agreed on! For once I wanted to express my emotions and tell you how mad I was and now I couldn’t.

For a long period, every time someone said ‘oh, but Rudy would have thought/wanted/said ….’ I would snap back with a ‘well, then he should have stuck around to say it to my face!’

I’m terrible with words. Actually speaking them. I’m much better at the written word. Give me a piece of pen and paper, a keyboard or a typewriter and I can go for days (hence the blog). Put me in front of a person, especially those I love, and the walls come up. I’ve got that from you. Yeah, we’re like that. We’re both super good communicators. And thus we’d crafted a bond over the years that didn’t need any words. Just being together was fun. We didn’t need to speak. The energy alone was good enough.

That energy’s no longer here. It’s left me with the speed of light. You took it with you. One moment it was just gone.

Since then, I’ve been chasing this constant high. The high of life. Of feeling something, anything. Travelling across the world, slamming hammers through the wall with remodeling, eating crazily green, studying, and working out on a military schedule. Constant movement. Stillness scares me. I’ve tried desperately in the past year to hold on to certain people as I thought it meant I would hold on to you. Friends, family, (ex)lovers, even if they were toxic or hurting. Like they could fill the void you’ve left behind. To hold on to our memories and your energy. Of how things were. How things could have been. How things should have been. Clearly, it didn’t work, like none of those delusional plans ever do. It’ll never be like it was. Other people aren’t you. And other people don’t hold our memories. They can’t. There is a new normal now. A normal without you.

I know you didn’t give up. I know you fought tooth and nail to stay here. You were even consuming your own muscles. You were like a lion fighting off a herd of hyena’s. I don’t think there has ever been something more excruciating than to helplessly stand by and look at you trying to fight.

It wasn’t until after your death the full realization came of how sick you were. Illness was creeping through every vein and harrowed through your bones. Every time I’m out running I think of you, on a bicycle riding next to me. When I feel my lungs burning out my chest, I wonder if that’s how it always felt for you, day in day out. Or how a heart could possibly leak when I could feel the blood pumping through my neck. Checking bloodlevels after every meal, taking constant inhalers, pumping insulin. I’m doing everything in my power to avoid it.

DSC_0278

So now. Now, I just want to thank you. Thank you for all the times you picked me up. Times you read to me. Times you rented the cinderella VHS for me. Times you showed me the brain is more important than any physical appearance. Times you sat in on my dance performances, as much as you hated tutu’s. Times you pushed me forward. Times you taught me. Times you forgave me. Most of all, I want to thank you for teaching me how to love. To love unconditionally. How to trust at least one person with your whole heart. Knowing I’ve been capable of such love means the energy will always be here. It’s within.

Today, on your birthday, I’m off travelling to the very same destination you and mom took me my very first holiday as a baby. 25 years later. I’ll hug Goofy for you, he was always much funnier than Mickey. I’m taking at least Goofy with me to the new normal.

We never did say goodbye. Such a needless word when you love someone.

Elena¨

 

Long have I pondered whether or not to publish this. But I feel there’s this huge taboo on talking about death. Grief doesn’t come with instruc­tions, but lay­ing this down is a first step towards personal navigation of it. Mourning loss is (a part of) life, everyone goes through it, but rarely is it ever publicly talked about. Seeing as it’s a current part of my life, I feel it’s also a part of this blog. This text has been staring back at me from my draft inbox for about a month now and I’ve  therefore tried to avoid this blog completely. But it’s time to face the music

Even though grief has no handbook, it sure comes with a lot of labels, which I must admit, were one reason of why it has taken so long to post this. I personally think these are labels we mostly put upon ourselves: The one with abandonment issues. The one who keeps people at a distance. The one looking to fill a void. The fatherless girl. I do not want your pity. Mostly though, I do not want my own pity.
By using excuses as ‘at least I had a loving father’ or ‘I’ve been able to grow up in the safety of a good family’ we use curtains for ourselves not to admit the depth of loss. The pain. For a period of time, I was shocked and quite numb. I’ve kept myself busy, trying to avoid my own grief. Wrapped up in the responsibilities of my personal and professional life, I’ve been able to keep it together, but have also kept a lot of people at bay while doing so.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past 9 months, it’s that we must have patience and have love, mostly for ourselves. It’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to be alone, it’s ok to mourn. Now it’s time to channel the grief into something good, something meaningful.

Life goes on. It’s about mov­ing on. I am OK.

signFTW

4 Comments

  1. Wow. Just read this and there’s nothing I can think of to say, other than wow. <3 for being able to write this down the way you did. Have a safe flight, great trip and say hi to Goofy!

  2. Heftig, en moedig van je om het toch te publiceren. Mooie woorden, Ellen. Zowel het leven als de dood is zoiets ongrijpbaars, iets dat niemand kan begrijpen. En iedereen gaatop z’n eigen manier met verdriet om. Gelukkig maar.

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