Ah, here we are, the final stage: Acceptance. This stage can come across as a giant sigh of relief, but the truth of the matter is, acceptance does not equal joy or mean that life goes back to the way it was.
Instead, it simply means that we are accepting life without our person; and we’re figuring out a way to create a new normal. This may mean that different people fill different roles, or that a daily routine looks a little different.
As I mentioned yesterday, my dad wasn’t a part of my daily life so not much changes in that regard. But I certainly feel different.
When I went to Tennessee for his memorial, a majority of my family was there, and it certainly felt so weird without my dad there. He was always keeping in touch with everyone and it would be strange to have all of us in a room without him. When my friend drove me back to Indiana the next day, things just felt a little colder, a little more empty.
I am still trying to learn a lot about my dad and the life he lived. Of the things I’ve heard, I’m starting to realize just how full of a life he did have, and how many obstacles he overcame in such a short time and did so without hesitation.
My dad wasn’t a man looking for fame or fortune – ultimately, I think he was just trying to find a little bit of happiness, perhaps even a touch of adventure in each day. He loved stories, loved meeting people, and even in the confines of what appears to be a reclusive last few years, he found joy in hobbies: fixing fountain pens, attending garage sales, reading, and playing chess competitively.
I am never going to be okay with my dad being gone. But I know my dad would be okay knowing that we are all going to try and find a way to go on without him here, physically. I hope this brings my family together – they’re pretty cool – and I know he’d like seeing us lean on each other.
My dad was cremated, and I flew my portion (1/7th) of his ashes from Indiana to Texas. Right now, they sit on my bookshelf while I wait to decide what I actually want to do with them. I know I’m scattering some of them, and am lightly planning that now. I know my other family members have their own ideas for how to honor my dad, too.
I have no idea how long a journey like this lasts. In college, a close friend unexpectedly passed away and I felt like my heart was ripped to shreds. I remember pulling over and calling my dad when I got the news.
That was almost 10 years ago, and sometimes I still get choked up about that loss. But I am someone who believes in spirits and signs, and I have a connection to radio waves (I know, it’s super weird but I hear meaningful songs nearly everywhere I go), and I’ve already seen a few signs from my dad.
Even just last night, I went to a dance class and we danced to Demi Lovato and DJ Khalid’s “I Believe”, and the lyrics almost brought me to tears: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do, As long as you’ve got hope, you’ll find your way.”
I know we’re all going to come out of this on the other side, and I have always believed that we aren’t given anything we can’t handle.
Don’t look back at this time as a time of heartbreak and distress, remember me.
…I don’t want you to cry and weep, I want you to go on, living your life.
-Hanson, “With You In Your Dreams”
Thank you so much for reading my grief series – I know it was not a cheerful read. There will be more on this, I’m sure, as I continue on.
If you knew my dad, and have anything you’d like to share with me, please do not hesitate to email me at: Holly@thebitterlemon.com – I would love to hear from you.
Stage four isn’t that shocking – it’s depression. Why wouldn’t someone going through grief suffer from depression? I have been slogging through the darkness of depression and sadness since my dad’s surgery in late September.
Although depression can come in many forms for different people, for me, there was one telltale sign: things that normally made me happy, no longer did. That is why my blogging fell to the side, my Etsy shop (I stopped making jewelry), I stopped cooking and relied on meal delivery, and my sleep suffered.
Things are slowly getting better – and I know that it’s okay if I have a bad day – now is the time to go easy on myself.
Expectations when it comes to grief are really weird. I got cards in the mail from so many people, which was great, and I’m so thankful – I hung them all in my living room. But on the other hand, some people just expect me to go on and be normal, like nothing ever happened… And well, that’s just not how it’s going to be.
People respond differently to people who are grieving. They reach out. But depression is so very isolating. It’s hard to explain to anyone who has never been depressed how isolating it is. Grief comes and goes, but depression is unremitting.
-Key Redfield Johnson
Some days DO feel normal. After all, I didn’t talk to my dad on a regular basis. Before his surgery, I hadn’t talked to him in almost four years. But nothing can explain the finite feeling that is death. He is gone, and I can’t talk to him like I did before, no matter what I do.
Other days, I feel like I keep freaking seeing CANCER… BRAIN CANCER, everywhere. It’s in the books I read, it’s on TV, it’s online… and I just never want to see it again.
Right now, there are two 50-pound boxes of his things in my closet. I have dug out a few of the items – a wooden chess board and pieces that I’ve set up on my dresser, an antique fountain pen that’s on my home desk, a glass paperweight that’s on my desk at work, an LSU sweatshirt, an Atlanta baseball hat, and a half-used journal.
Some days, I wear the hat or sweatshirt – the last few nights, I’ve slept with the journal at the foot of my bed. Other days, I don’t want to even think about opening up the boxes to see what else is in there. I’m just not ready.
I’ve found that reading is a good escape – I’ve read three books in the last week. I’ve even cooked a few meals and am starting to gather materials to make a few pieces of jewelry for my Etsy shop.
I am someone who likes to DO things; I like to be productive. But even with the greatest intentions, sometimes I still end up laying in bed for long chunks of time. It is a slow process. Writing about my feelings – even at a surface level – has helped me this week. Planning for the future also helps, and gets me excited about things coming up this year.
I’m taking it day by day, as cliche as it sounds.
Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the fifth and final stage of grief: Acceptance.
Stage three of grief is an interesting one. Bargaining refers to promises that may have been made before the person passed away. For example, praying and asking God to please spare your loved one; or perhaps making a promise that you’ll never do anything bad again if only this person can live longer.
These types of promises, or bargaining, may also occur after the person has passed, only now, they are imaginary. We may start to think back and wonder what if I’d done this, would the person have lived longer?
I’ll be honest, this really has not been a part of my grieving process, at least not yet. I know that there’s nothing I could have done to change the course of my dad’s life. I think many of us are probably in a position to think, well if we only took charge of our health or if we only exercised more, etc… but the truth is, our death is already planned. And it may not have anything to do with health or food or exercise.
I also know that my dad was given the best care possible once he entered Erlanger hospital, and I know he was grateful for all of his surgeons, doctors, and nurses along the way.
The thing is… guilt is also a part of stage three. And I cannot say I’ll walk away from this without feeling guilt. I wanted so badly to repair the relationship I had with my dad so that we could enjoy his final days, months, years laughing as we once did.
It’s a hard thing to imagine how somebody copes with grief and at the same time has to build a new life.
But despite everything I did, there was still a barrier. And the truth is, I will die not knowing what really happened there. There is one thing I did that I feel wrecked with guilt for, and I obviously can’t take it back.
Because of the nature of my dad’s death, I was blessed to have the opportunity to say goodbye. He was not capable of responding to me, but he was breathing, and I said – albeit through hysterical tears – everything I could think to say. And I apologized.
And that’s all I could do; and I just have to know that he heard me, and that he died knowing I was sorry, and that we were at peace with our past.
At this point, and as I continue coping, I know that I’m going to have to forgive myself, and the only real thing I can change, is how I act in the future.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Stage Four: Depression.
Already, anger has played a pretty big part in my grieving process. Actually, anger has had a role in the relationship I’ve had with my dad for many years.
As described by the experts, this stage of grief can be met with general feelings of anger, along with structured feelings of being angry at a specific person – maybe a doctor, or someone who wasn’t there during the time of loss.
I have had moments of being angry at a specific person, but I also do not want those feelings of anger over that person to overshadow my general sadness over my loss, if that makes any sense. I do not want my dad’s memory to be tarnished by one person is the best way I can put it.
I have also had incredible anger at the situation surrounding my dad, anger at work, and anger at the world for just not being an easy place for me right now. I’ve even gotten angry at Blanche!
At my dad’s memorial service, my great uncle said that memory is not something death can take from us. And for that I am so grateful. But, when it came time to share stories about my dad, many of the stories I have are of him being mad at me.
Of course, many of them are moments I can laugh about now; moments where he was just raising me, being tough on me, but they aren’t necessarily moments that describe him as a person. Or are they? My dad had a short fuse, and we butted heads countless times.
May love be what you remember most.
My feelings of anger are countered by my faith in destiny. I believe there are moments in our life that are planned – such as when and how we will die – but I also believe we choose our destinies. And my dad made choices that resulted in a situation that angered our family.
His death does not change those choices, and he was an adult, actively making those choices. To be completely angry is to deny that he made those choices.
My anger is also countered by the support I feel from my family and my friends – I have heard from so many of you, received so many hugs, and have shared tears with you. For that I am so grateful.
But yes, anger is still going to be there. Studies show that as a culture, we’re taught to suppress anger, even though it’s a very necessary, common feeling. Although I don’t consider myself an angry person, I’ve found anger to be a powerful part of this grief.
My anger has forced me to acknowledge a lot of things in my life that have otherwise floated by, and it’s given me the confidence to confront the people that are pissing me off! In a way it’s good, but of course, no one likes to get yelled at.
As I’ll continue to say, I’m coping. And it’s not really a pretty thing, but I’m just rolling with it.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about stage three: bargaining.
My dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in October of 2017. I know that typically, the five stages of grief are part of the healing process after loss; after death. But I have been coping with symptoms of grief since I heard the news about a mass in his brain.
I quickly learned that this blog was not a place for me to air my grievances – it was only adding to my stress as I received horrible messages from outsiders. No matter how many supportive messages I got, it only takes one dig to stick with us.
So, I quit.
I barely made an appearance here – a place I thought was mine. But that is sometimes what happens when you put yourself out there, in any form. There are always going to be haters.
For the most part, I have stuck to my journal and have let most of my other creative outlets fall to the side – including my Etsy shop (I am slowly starting to get back to it). But in general, I have been merely just trying to get by; just trying to get out of bed, look half-decent to get to work on time; do my tasks; and get some sleep at night.
At that, is stage one: Denial.
My dad passed away on February 3. It was not a surprise, and at first, I took a giant sigh of relief when I heard the news. And then I apologized for feeling relief. But I wanted so badly for my dad to be at peace, and to know that he would no longer be in pain.
After that sigh, I’ve felt a multitude of things, and each day – hell, each moment – feels different. So, I’m using this week to explore the healing process as I’ve come to know it. I’m still working on a larger project that will further detail my dad’s life and our relationship; so parts of this may be vague, as I’m still not ready to open those parts of my memory just yet.
Before starting this blog series, I thought that denial was literally denying that a person was sick or had died. And I certainly have never felt that way. I took my dad’s condition very seriously.
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her co-author, a grief expert, David Kessler, identified the five stages of grief that we’ve come to understand as a necessary part of the healing process.
Instead, denial is us just trying to get through each day. We may question why we should go on or HOW we should go on, and I have been feeling this SO hard. During this stage, life may seem meaningless, or things that once seemed like a big deal just don’t matter as much.
The latter explains my feelings about work. I hate admitting that, but ever since my dad’s surgery, getting stressed over trivial things at work seemed beneath me. And they still do.
But grief is a walk alone.
Others can be there, and listen. But you will walk alone down your own path, at your own pace, with your sheared-off pain, your raw wounds, your denial, anger, and bitter loss. You’ll come to your own peace, hopefully… But it will be on your own, in your own time.
My dad’s memorial service was a week after his passing, but I knew that upon getting back into town, I had to refocus quickly and jump into dance rehearsals. I was in the middle of prepping for the showcase and I had two weeks to learn two routines and get my costumes together. It was a much-needed distraction.
But the day after the showcase, I felt so lost. I didn’t really know what to do with myself even though between work and dance and just general life, my days are pretty much laid out for me.
Since then, it’s gotten a little better – I know I must go on, and I know I have to continue to live the life I’ve dreamt of, especially now. None of us know just how much time we have, and I don’t want to ever be in my final days wishing I’d done more.
As you probably know, the stages of grief are not linear. They can come and go at any time – sometimes they last a minute, sometimes they may last months. Everyone deals differently.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss stage two: Anger.
Last night, I put performances in my 5th showcase with Dance Austin Studio to bed. After our showcase in November, I said I was coming for you, Love Hangover, and that’s exactly what happened.
In the fall, my life took a turn when my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. When I found out, we were in the thick of rehearsals and I remember just how difficult it was to retain choreography. But with lots of practice and support from fellow dancers, I did it.
This time around was similar. My dad passed away on February 3rd, and although it’s still very difficult for me to talk about publicly, I will say that my dance family has been incredibly supportive this month.
So many of my fellow dancers and instructors, and even the owner of the studio, reached out to me to offer their condolences and support. I got so many hugs before rehearsals, and even last night, dancers I don’t see often made sure I was okay to go on stage. I am so, so thankful for that.
Before my dad passed, I signed up to perform in two pieces at the showcase: broadway jazz and lyrical hip hop. The two pieces were some of the more difficult routines I’ve ever learned – continuing with my goal to keep pushing myself each time the opportunity arises.
I had to miss one rehearsal to attend my dad’s memorial, and even though I got total support and love from my choreographer/instructor, I returned ready to NAIL. THIS. I needed the distraction and I knew more than ever that it’s simply my time to live my life.
I’ve felt like my mind, heart, and all of myself had been taken over by my dad’s disease and all of the trappings that accompany a heartbroken family. Sure, I am grieving, and will continue to do so. But after six months of finding very little that brought me out of my funk, I was ready to just DO this, and do it with all I had.
So, I did. I spent hours reviewing videos from class, dancing in my kitchen, listening to the music in my car, getting help from other dancers, and scouring multiple Goodwills for the perfect costumes.
There were times I wondered if I’d made a giant mistake; if I’d picked pieces that were too difficult for me. But that’s the thing about growth – it’s not easy, sometimes it hurts, but you come out a better person because of it.
And you know what? I got to dance beside people that I’ve looked up to since showcase #1. I’m talking to you, Kim and Charlene. I will NEVER forget when I saw Kim perform a unique routine to a Backstreet Boys’ song – I immediately wondered, “Who is that girl?!” I wanted to know her, and I’m so glad I got to rehearse with her and perform on stage beside her.
Charlene is a beautiful dancer in class, on stage, wherever, and she has this amazing ability to put everything on stage no matter what she may be feeling on the inside. I know I am not alone when I say that my eyes are often drawn to her no matter how many people are performing.
There’s also Chase and Mendy – I saw you guys freaking ROCK the last lyrical hip hop performance, and I thought, “That’s it, I’m taking that class.” And I did – and then we were all in rehearsal together and I remain so inspired by both of you – you have a performance quality that is so amazing.
Naturally, what would our performance be without our choreographer and instructor, Caitlin? I’m so lucky to be able to take her classes and learn from her – technique, style, performance WOW – she’s got it all and she’s so approachable and funny to boot.
I have been thinking so much lately about dance, and how many times I’ve prepped for shows, performances, and competitions in my life. Over the last six months, various memories have bubbled to the surface and I remembered specific instances from being on my high school dance squad.
The summer before my junior year, we went to a UDA Dance Camp for the first time. It was at a state college, we got to stay in the dorms (so cool), and we were going to learn all sorts of new routines that we could perform during basketball season.
Little did we know that UDA Dance Camp was, like, a THING, and other squads were incredibly serious, technically great, and focused. All of the other teams showed up in matching workout gear for each day of camp, including hair bows and the like, and we… well we brought sleep boxers and loose t-shirts.
Our assistant coach, who accompanied us to camp, did not back down. She encouraged us to go, go do our best, we deserved the ribbons and routines just as much as anyone else. She recorded us in our various practices and when we went back to the dorms each night, she helped us drill the routines until we had them.
And we got first place ribbons – mismatched outfits and all. Because dance is universal – it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what you’re wearing, where you come from – it’s about a willingness to try.
That same year, our head coach unexpectedly passed away mid-season. To this day, I still can’t believe it happened, and I can’t really calculate how we got through it, other than to say that we had each other and we had dance. I still remember performing a dedication to her on that basketball court. It felt like our whole city was mourning with us.
At the end of last night’s show, Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio – said she’d experienced loss in the last week, and it’s often in those times we realize how importance it is to just move the mental road block and live our lives, no matter what that means to you. Dance is healing.
That’s the truth! I’m so thankful I have a place to help me heal, a place to go when times are good, and when they’re bad. It wouldn’t be that way without the people there, and know that you all mean so much to me.
Okay, I’m about two days shy of the three-week mark using Invisalign, but this will just have to do! I have been curious about Invisalign for the last year for a few reasons.
For starters, I’ve never had traditional braces and I cannot TELL you how many times my dentist has asked me if I’m interested in braces. No, no, and no… until I was.
My teeth aren’t that crooked. Instead, they are very crowded on the bottom and a little angled up top. It has never bothered me until recently. In fact, I often prided myself on the fact that I’d made it this far without orthodontic work.
But the truth is, I take a lot of care in the way I look. I’m not vain or superficial, but I do like to take care of myself, and I also like to experiment with new beauty trends (I just Derma-rolled for the second time ever last night), and I have a bucket of makeup and a tiny collection of face masks to prove it.
I wear makeup on most days – mostly to express myself and help boost my confidence. That’s all great, but I started to feel like my look was incomplete with my teeth. Sure, my nails look great, contour is on-point, lipliner looking fresh… but my teeth?
So, when I switched dentists because of insurance, I specifically looked for one that offered Invisalign. I asked about it immediately, slapped down the down-payment, and they got to work.
The first step was to have impressions taken of my teeth. These impressions were sent off to Invisalign and they made a computer simulation of the changes my teeth would go through from start to finish.
My dentist also took tons of pictures of my teeth, and of my face – she said I would see a slight change in my profile.
Once I approved of the way my teeth would look (according to the simulation), my dentist was able to tell me that my “treatment” would be six months, which is the minimum amount of time for Invisalign.
At my next appointment, my dentist applied some “buttons” onto my teeth – basically they are small raised pieces that help “lock” the Invisalign in place, and they help the teeth move a little faster.
She then had to shave down the sides of some of my teeth since they were so crowded – the shaving involved her flossing my teeth with sandpaper. Literally. It was an interesting and awkward experience.
Before she handed me my first set of trays, she told me I had to wear the trays at least 22 hours each day: sleep in them, only drink clear liquids with them in, and take them out to eat. I was instructed to brush my teeth before putting the trays back in.
She broke two pieces of bad news to me at that point: 1. The first two days of each tray are painful, and 2. My coffee intake would likely be reduced given that I couldn’t drink it with the Invisalign in.
Ohhhhh… I was visibly upset over this coffee news. You see, I usually sip on coffee from the time I wake up (6:30 or so) until around 10. But if I did that, I’d already be breaking the 22-hour rule with Invisalign.
“It’s only for six months,” she said. She didn’t GET IT.
But anyway, I snapped in my first trays and was on my way. And she was right, it HURT. That night, I had so much trouble getting the trays out, I skipped dinner.
Since then, though, it stopped hurting, and it’s very easy to get the trays in and out.
On my two-week mark, I put in a new set of trays, and it hurt some (I took one dose of pain killers), but not as bad as the first one, leading me to believe the “shaving” was actually the issue.
I have 14 trays total, so I’ll be getting new ones about every two weeks. I expect to be putting in tray no. 3 on Thanksgiving Eve… which will make for an interesting Turkey Day.
So far, it’s been okay. It is a little annoying to have to take the trays in and out so much – I feel like I’ve cut down on snacking because it just isn’t worth the time and effort (in case you wondered just how lazy I was).
On the upside, I can already see the progress my teeth are making – and it looks great, even this early in the game! I also started using a whitening toothpaste in hopes of getting a bit of a brighter smile along the way!
I’ll keep you posted…
Hey, hey! We made it to Friddaaayyyy – this week has been crazy busy! I’ve been cranking out Holly Golightly Sleep Masks for my Etsy Shop. I’m thankful they are selling, but man, it’s a lot of work!
Anyway, I’m so excited to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:
Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.
Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.
Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion.
One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.
After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.
…This book was like a modern-day “Parent Trap”, and of course it focuses on two adults, not children. I absolutely LOVED this book! I read it almost in a single single sitting. It was completely an escape, thanks to Hilderbrand’s delicious details about Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (neither of which I have been), including sparkling rose, farmer’s market jams, and lobster pot pie.
I would recommend this book to my rom-com lovers, and/or anyone looking for a sweet summery escape before winter hits us all with depression.
The next book we’ll be reading in Blanche’s Book Club is “What Made Maddy Run” by Kate Fagan (!). You’re going to want to read this one with us… Just saying!
Almost two weeks ago, I got a call from my uncle letting me know my dad had been admitted to the hospital.
As I’ve mentioned here before, the relationship I have with my dad came to a halt about three and a half years ago. I haven’t heard from him since then, or really heard anything about him during that time.
This also means I haven’t really talked to anyone on my dad’s side of the family, and to be honest, I was just getting to used to the feeling of the silence. I know how that sounds, but there’s just a lot to deal with and a lot of pain there. The best thing for me to do was to cut it out.
But the other side of truth to this is that I have lived in fear of getting this call. I’m getting to that age where things happen to the people we once thought were bulletproof.
Upon first glance, my dad’s situation (which I’m going to try and keep as private as possible) seemed semi-serious. But within just 24 hours, things for him sounded much darker. I was told my dad wanted to hear from me, so I called him, and did everything I could not to just burst into tears. I didn’t know if this would be the last conversation we would have.
And then I jumped on a plane to get to his hospital room. During my flights, I thought a lot about my dad’s life. He’s overcome many obstacles, and I’ve always thought of him as someone who doesn’t take the traditional route. He’s a hustler; a doer.
I get that from my dad. My dad has the rare gift of being an intellectual, while simultaneously storing lines from “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Office Space”, among many other movies and sketches. He loves to play chess competitively, and he’s good. I learned from the best.
But most of all, my dad is a beautiful writer. It’s the ultimate gift of the Phillips’ family. We have a way with words. I guess you could say this is also our downfall. I won’t speak for all of the family, but I know my dad and I are willing to say what others won’t, and we are not afraid of controversy.
You can thank my dad for this blog, and for the 1,000+ times my name has been published. But I wondered about his dreams, his goals… Did he live the life he dreamt of?
I landed in Chattanooga on Friday morning, and caught a Lyft to get to the Erlanger Health System that was about 20 minutes away. I was trying to see my dad before he was wheeled into surgery.
Upon arrival, I saw my dad in his hospital bed. He was awake and talking, although there were so many people in his small hospital room: two of my uncles, my aunt, my grandma and grandpa, two of my cousins, my great aunt and uncle, and my dad’s partner.
I haven’t seen my dad in at least five years, and if I had to guess, it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen many of the people in that room – if not longer. The mood in the room was optimistic, which isn’t quite the message that was conveyed to me 24 hours before. But, I wanted to be upbeat for my dad.
Although the information was at least 3rd-hand, I was told there was a chance my dad may not survive the surgery. If he did, he may not remember any of us, or perhaps he wouldn’t be able to talk or walk.
Over the two hours I had in the room, we met my dad’s Doctor, who told my dad he was going to be fine, and that his main concern was a little bit of weakness on the left side of his body. However, that could be treated with physical therapy, he said. I also met the surgeon, who marked an “X” on my dad’s body where he would make the incision. He told us the surgery was expected to take around 2 hours – which was much less time than I was originally told.
As a family, we joined hands and prayed over my dad, and I kissed him goodbye before he was wheeled away.
I was terrified. I just wanted my dad to make it through the surgery. I’d packed a backpack with books, magazines, snacks, and my iPad to keep me busy while I waited at the hospital. But all I wanted to do was stare.
As I tried to eat lunch, my grandma filled me in on what I’d already heard: that my dad and his partner were living in total secrecy, they won’t give anyone their address or allow any visitors, that my dad has been very sick for at least a month, and that my dad’s partner was refusing medical care that could have saved my father sooner.
I know that there are three sides to every story, and frankly, I didn’t really want to hear any of them. I told my grandma to stop, and let’s just hope that my dad would be ok.
It wasn’t long before my dad’s partner tried to explain her side of the story, and again, I told her I could see both sides, but there’s nothing we could do about it now except just hope my dad would be ok.
I know these times are tough for everyone. And I know everyone has their own way of coping. I have no intention of playing the blame-game here, as I truly do feel for all of us who care for my dad.
About an hour into surgery, we got a call saying things were going great. Everyone had left but me and my dad’s partner, so we went in search of a plug to recharge all of our devices. I haven’t ever gotten along with her, but this was seemingly going okay. I honestly felt bad for her – I know she truly cares for my dad and I can’t imagine what this has been like for her.
Around 8:30 pm, we got a call saying the surgery was over, and my dad was doing well. We just had to wait for a call to visit him in ICU (this is protocol after the type of surgery my dad had).
When we got the call, we followed the hospital maze to reach our destination. I’ve never been in the ICU. I am not a fan of hospitals, or anything medical really, and I was nervous. I’d only visited one person in the hospital before and it was not for anything too serious.
But this particular ICU looked really nice. My dad was in the first room, right by the door. We met his night nurse, Dianne, who had this amazing southern accent that carried. “Come talk to ’em!” She said to us.
I approached slowly.
My dad opened his eyes and waved. He gave us a thumbs up when we told him they did a great job. I found myself staring – staring at his chest just to watch it rise and fall – noticing my own breaths going deeper.
The nurse showed us some of his scans – before and after surgery – so we could better understand what was happening. I felt like I’d learned more in those 48 hours about hospitals, MRIs, and surgery than I ever thought I’d learn.
Finally, Dianne told us to go home and sleep. She assured us that my dad was stable and that he would be in great care. I knew she was right. My dad’s partner gave me a ride to my hotel, which was just a few minutes away from the hospital, and I was thankful to climb into bed after being awake for nearly 24 hours.
The next day, I just planned to see my dad. His partner called me in the morning and said she got an update from the nurse that we didn’t need to rush to see him since he would still be sleeping. She offered to pick me up around lunch, and I agreed.
When she got to my hotel, she quickly told me that she would serve as the main point of contact for the hospital and she took the single allotted PIN number that would allow anyone else to get phone updates directly from the nurses about my dad.
Of course, I thought, I mean she’s his partner.
When we got to the hospital, my dad woke up quickly, and held our hands. He talked to us, and was making jokes, and of course, spouting off movie lines. His day nurse was proud to report that he was still doing well, and he was following all commands, and said to have no problems with his vision.
But as the day continued on, I grew very annoyed at the situation I was seeing. There was lots of hovering, with a near-obsessive watch over my dad (not by medical professionals). There was also a lot of questioning happening – why were the nurses doing this? Why did the doctor suggest that?
I know there are parts of healthcare that can be subjective. But I also know that I really don’t know anything about how to care for someone after surgery. I trust that these doctors know what they’re doing, and the nurses will care for my dad the best they know how.
I felt like my dad needed rest and he wasn’t going to rest if there were people standing around his bed, talking to him, and asking him questions all day. One of my uncles was on one side of the bed while my dad’s partner was on the other side of the bed and they got into a decently loud conversation regarding my dad’s symptoms before he was admitted to the hospital.
While my uncle was trying to point out that he told my dad to get help right away nearly two months prior, the partner was trying to defend herself, saying, “Well I didn’t have control of his phone and HE didn’t tell me!”
I felt it was inappropriate and unnecessary to be having this discussion, especially in front of my dad. In the four hours that I sat there, I learned a lot about myself:
- I don’t want to be in ICU and have people arguing over my symptoms right in front of me.
- I don’t want anyone hovering over me or touching my face (now or if I’m in the hospital)
- I don’t want anyone doing things that don’t follow the rules (I.e. Feed me food if it has not been approved by my doctor)
- I continue to be amazed at medical care. Period.
My dad’s partner noticed my silence and probably my clear aggravation. “Are you ok?” She asked. I told her no, I was annoyed. “Are you just wanting to be quiet?” No, I said. And then I left.
I left the ICU, I left the hospital, and I caught a Lyft back to my hotel. I didn’t think it was right for us to be keeping my dad awake all day – we’d been in the ICU for 4 hours at that point and my dad’s partner had also promised me a little time alone with my dad. But I had been warned by others: she never leaves his side.
About an hour later, she texted me asking if I was ok. Again, I told her no, I was annoyed.
Later that night, she said I could call her if I wanted to get an update on my dad. This is when I started to mentally make a list of all the ways she was going to control this situation:
1. Be the main contact/have the PIN number for the nurse
2. Only receive updates thru her
So, I called, and she was still at the hospital, right by my dad’s face, going on hour 10 of being there. I wondered if she pulled a Wendy Davis and got a catheter, going for that filibuster all night. Her update was that what the doctors/nurses were doing wasn’t enough to help my dad so she had to spend her day researching remedies.
She wanted to know my schedule for the following day (red flag for control/manipulation), and I told her I didn’t know. She said to text her (control/manipulation), so I said I would but knew I wouldn’t. I wanted to see my dad alone.
She let me talk to my dad on the phone, and I apologized to him for leaving. “That’s okay…” He said, in a weak voice. “Are you going to come back tomorrow?” He asked. I told him yes, I’d be there first thing. “Okay,” he said. “Love you.”
Even writing this brings tears to my eyes. My dad has never been one to be openly affectionate. He’d told me loved me more times in the last 48 hours than he had in possibly 10 years. That’s just how our relationship worked. I just had to know that he loved me, but hearing it was an entirely different feeling.
As I went to bed that night, my mind was spinning. Over the years, I’ve learned that I have a bit of an obsessive personality. I get excited about an idea, and then it’s all I think about and do, and for one reason or another, it’ll get dropped because I’m juggling a million things at once.
I wanted to help my dad, and although I don’t know anything medical, I thought maybe I could offer to help him and his partner with their business. With my dad being out, and her helping, things were likely at a standstill. I thought about helping them there, or could I talk to my boss and help take care of my dad in Tennessee? The wheels kept turning.
But the other part of this story is the reality that my dad and his partner have built walls around themselves. None of us know where they live, and they work out of their home. I don’t know why or exactly when they moved to Tennessee.
How much can you help someone who doesn’t want help, let alone outside contact from others? I wondered if this experience would show my dad just how much we all care for him and love him. I wondered if it would allow him to let us inside the walls. But I was about to find out just how much my presence wasn’t desired.
The next morning, I woke up around 6:30 to pack my things, eat, check out of the hotel, and catch a Lyft to the hospital. There was an Ironman competition that morning, so it took nearly 20 minutes to get a ride. But I caught sight of the bike portion of the race, making a mental note of it so I could tell my dad.
I got to the ICU a little before 9am, and spoke to my dad’s day nurse. She said he was still doing well, but she knew of some things that happened on previous shifts that weren’t approved by the doctor, and she wouldn’t allow those to happen again. I thanked her.
I told her I wanted to let my dad sleep, so I sat in a chair and flipped through a magazine. Around 9:30, she said she was going to wake my dad up for a test. But when she tried to wake him up, not much happened. He was so tired, so sleepy, he wasn’t going to be able to take his test. He would also have to get a feeding tube.
The doctor arrived shortly and said my dad needed to rest, so any visitors needed to be quiet and not wake him. He told me my dad would probably be asleep for 12 hours. This meant I wouldn’t get to talk to him – wouldn’t get to say goodbye.
So, I sat. I read a book. I greeted my grandparents and my uncle. I was upset, and I was frustrated. There was nothing I could do for my dad, but simply hope that things would turn out well for him.
His partner arrived that afternoon and immediately wanted to know how I got to the hospital. I don’t think she liked that I worked independently. Later, she asked me if I was mad at her. I told her no, but that the situation the day before made me upset. I didn’t think we should be speculating things about my dad’s symptoms or questioning the doctor. She basically took that time to tell me that my opinion was nice, but it wasn’t welcomed.
We were there, in the ICU room with my dad, still asleep, and she had the audacity to shut me out. I sobbed. I had dropped everything to be by my dad’s side; to show him I love and support him, and I had hoped that with every fiber in my body, that my presence did even an ounce of good.
If I’m being honest, I don’t know if I did anything good that weekend. Still, almost two weeks later, I am completely torn inside and I’d be lying if I said a day has passed that I haven’t cried.
After his partner made me feel like shit, I grabbed my bags and left the hospital. There was nothing left to say, and seeing my dad in that hospital bed not hearing me, is a moment I can never erase.
It’s worth mentioning that my dad’s partner doesn’t have a relationship with her family. No one. At all. And I would venture to guess that she doesn’t know what it’s like to see one of her parents in this situation. It ain’t easy.
I cried for my entire Lyft ride to the airport, through security, and once I got to my gate, I found a corner and cried. I cried so hard that someone from TSA came to talk to me to see if I could calm down.
The truth is, how could I be any semblance of okay after what had just happened? In just four days, I’d received the news about my dad AND all of this drama that comes along with my dad’s side of the family had come crashing into my face.
I felt alone; I feel like I don’t have anyone rooting for me; and I was scared shitless that I’d never hear from my dad again. I knew one thing for a fact: I wouldn’t be getting updates from his partner anymore.
Two things stopped me from crying for my six hours of travel home: my trusty Khalid album, and the Dallas Cowboys’ burger kiosk at gate A21 in the DFW airport. It’s the second time I’ve eaten there, both times I was upset, and both times I’ve abandoned my vegan lifestyle to get the Cowboy Blues burger and it is so worth it.
When my assumption came true in the coming days and I’d received no update, I called the hospital myself and talked to a nurse. She told me she would tell my dad I called. Once my dad was moved into a regular room, though, they wouldn’t provide updates without the PIN number.
His partner had the PIN – and I get that. But if you take the PIN, especially since she has been by his side 24/7, then you need to share that information. I didn’t travel across the south for fun – I am my dad’s daughter, and that’s going to be how it is forever. I am in this.
“So I’ll be coasting, roller-coasting through my emotion…” -Khalid, Coaster
I texted my dad on Friday, just wanting to let him know that I hoped he would text me once he was able to use his phone. He wrote back, and then I got another message from his phone that was from his partner, saying he wasn’t using his phone. .
It was confusing and hurtful – I felt like she was trying to let me know that she would be reading all of his texts (or possibly deleting some). I also got really excited when I saw a message from my dad, only to see it wasn’t really from him.
So I texted her cell phone asking her to please not text me from my dad’s number, and she told me, “Stop causing chaos. It isn’t helping.”
I’ve learned a lot these last few weeks about holding your tongue. I’m not even going to say here what I wanted to reply to this message with.
In case you’re wondering, chaos is defined as “complete disorder and confusion”, which makes no sense. I was actually very clear in saying that I did not want to receive text messages from her on my dad’s phone.
I asked her how I was causing chaos.
I have yet to get a response, possibly for two reasons: 1. I was not causing chaos, and 2. Because she blocked my number (that’s what she did to my grandma).
So, I haven’t heard from anyone in almost a week. And I’m the one that’s left confused. Because I went for two reasons: 1. To support my dad, and 2. To do what was right for me. I could not live with myself if something happened to my dad and I didn’t do everything I could to help him, even if it just means being there.
And that’s why my heart continues to hurt. I’m scared. His diagnosis was given to me via text, which I thought was inappropriate, but it also wasn’t an accurate medical description of his situation.
My cousin is nearing the end of his studies in neuromedical school, and he offered up his brain to help me understand. But I didn’t have much information to go off of, and I obviously will not have any say in the future of my dad’s care.
I want to stop for a second here and say that I’ve spent the last week questioning if I should even write this blog post, or if I should put a password on it. Because the truth is, my family is just going to hate me more once this goes live. I’m going to be called a piece of trash and they’re going to threaten to sue me, and perhaps I’m risking my dad ever talking to me again.
But I’m hoping I’m not the only one that’s been through a tough family + medical situation. I’m hoping there’s someone out there that can relate; someone to help me keep my chin up. Because this has been the most difficult time of my life.
I’ve never understood the saying “Between a rock and a hard place” until now. Because I know this isn’t just tough on me. I know my dad has been so brave and strong, and I know my entire family has really pulled together to support him.
I’ve tried to go through the motions of my life – tried to go to work, go to dance, work on my jewelry… And I know that’s a luxury that I have. I know my dad just can’t ignore this situation. But the truth is, none of my usual remedies for dealing with stress or depression have helped.
I just cry at in-opportune times and wear my LSU hat everywhere trying to hide it (which wasn’t easy after they lost their damn HOMECOMING game).
I am writing this mainly hoping to gain some semblance of inner-peace, and also to let my dad know that I care for him, and I hope to hear from him soon.
The situation is tricky; just because someone is sick doesn’t make our problems go away, but no matter what, I’m going to be there for my dad in whatever way I can be. I would do that for anyone I care about.
I’m not entirely sure what the road ahead will look like for my dad. But I know he is going to need love and support. And if I can offer that; if I can make him laugh after a doctor’s appointment, or send him some nurse-approved treats, or take him on the vacation of a lifetime, he can count on me being there.
Since I haven’t been able to talk to my dad, I’ve been taking to Twitter many nights before bed, putting my thoughts into the universe. I know he won’t see them, but it makes me feel a tad better knowing my love is floating among some radio wave and perhaps it would reach my dad.
Some of this probably sounds insane, and I know it’s a long, long way of explaining the thoughts and feelings that have been inside of me for weeks. But the ugly truth is that there is NO correct way to act or feel when you find out someone you love needs serious medical care.
Members of my dance studio have come to my side in a way I have never, ever expected – they’ve offered wine nights, coffee talks, movies, cocktails, information, phone calls, and when I’m on the brink of tears they’ve simply said, “I support you.” And that is not something I have ever experienced. These women are phenomenal, and to be honest, I’d probably still be in bed from weeks ago if it weren’t for their encouragement. If you’re reading this: thank you.
I have also gotten so many caring messages and phone calls from my mom’s side of the family – they have prayed for my dad and for me, and perhaps that’s how I’m still standing. Their support has been amazing.
So, the journey continues. I know that when my dad is ready, we’ll talk, and I can figure out the best way to help him. But until then, I’m just sort of floating in this sea of unknown and all I can do is hope that he continues to heal each day. I know he is tough as hell, and he knows I love him.
During one of the conversations I had with my dad in the hospital, he admitted he keeps up with this blog as a way to see what I’m doing. While I hope this post doesn’t cause any grief, I do hope that in the coming posts, my message is clear: I’m here. Hoping to hear from you.
Hey there! I’m fresh off a weekend of geeking out over WordPress, so I’m pretty excited to be blogging today.
I’ve had this on my calendar for a few months now, so I was pretty excited when the weekend rolled around. I wasn’t aware of this, but WordPress hold these WordCamps each year, in different cities across the country.
Volunteers come together to make the event very affordable for attendees ($40 got me entry for two days, two free lunches, and a free shirt). It’s a weekend meant to help those of us interested in or who are currently using WordPress – the speakers offered different levels of advice depending where you’re at on your “WordPress Journey”.
I attended several sessions, including: “Start Your Podcast Now: 3 Steps to Launch”, “Marketing: Simplified”, “Get Google to Love Your WordPress Website”, and “Content Ideas for When You’re Stuck”.
I particularly enjoyed one of the keynote speakers, Kori Ashton, who heads a WordPress company in San Antonio. She spoke about how she took her side hustle of building websites to creating an entire team and a thriving business.
I’ll admit, a few of the sessions I attended discussed many things I’ve already discovered – I’ve been using WordPress for almost 10 years. But it’s always nice to get reassurance from other people in the industry that you’re doing something right – even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
I’ve had a rough couple of weeks – I promise I will write about it soon – but going through the functions of my daily life have proven to be almost too much at times. I’ve struggled to get up, to make it to work, to actually be productive – I’ve been trying to simply get by.
When Friday rolled around, not even the anticipation of WordCamp (!) could get me to San Antonio. I did however, drag my ass out of bed at 5am on Saturday morning though, so I could make it to registration on time.
And it was worth it. Despite a few annoying people who tried to scold me for bringing coffee into all of the classrooms, people were friendly and the campus was nice. Above anything technical I learned, it was a jumpstart that I needed.
I’m able to not only do social media all day for my job, but I get to TEACH WordPress for blogging, and I get to talk to all of YOU through this blog. I don’t know what I would do without it, especially in times like these.
Which reminds me… are you getting the updates on The Bitter Lemon Facebook page? I post links to new blogs and when I have password protected posts, that’s where I’ll post the password. Following me on Instagram (@OrangeJulius7) would also be smart for those reasons 🙂
I’ve still been working in the Etsy shop! I added two new items last week and am working on a few new things this week, so keep your eyes open. I’ll be right back here tomorrow with a recap on “Siesta Key”!
It’s been awhile since I’ve offered an update on my health. In May and June of this year, I started the rounds on doctors’ appointments. I had checkups, exams, and even got my blood tested. At the time I wrote my last update, I was awaiting my test results.
I got them back awhile ago and for some reason, never reported back. But I’m here to say, all was positive. Actually, it was way better than I ever expected. I was scared something was wrong with my thyroid, or that I would have high cholesterol (it runs in my family), but NO – my good cholesterol was even high!
I was so happy, and I felt like all of my years of eating healthy and exercising regularly has paid off – in a big way.
I also went to the eye doctor, and after a weird exam, got a new prescription, along with new contacts and a new pair of glasses.
I still have one more place to go though: the dentist. My teeth have always had a rough time, and I had lots of dental work done a few years ago. I changed how I take care of my teeth, but I have missed my last two cleanings – it sounds so gross saying it! I just hate the dentist.
But, I know I need to go, and whatever happens is just something I need to take care of. Plus, I want to see if I’m a candidate for Invisalign or the like – I have some teeth I want to straighten out.
It’s definitely getting done within the next month, because I don’t want to keep putting it off.
Since my regular doctor’s visit, I’ve gone from a mostly-vegetarian lifestyle to a mostly vegan one. So far, so good. I feel light and not weighed down, and it feels great. I also find I don’t really miss anything from my previous diet.
I’ve also continued my regular dance regimen and added a weekly yoga class. On average, I take 6 classes a week.
It feels good to be on top of my health (for the most part).
Honestly, it feels good to be on top of…my life. I know I said this in yesterday’s post, but I think I’m finally ready to close some chapters and move forward (although I’ve yet to figure out how to do this).
One thing I’ve noticed lately, is how much I just want to DO things. I don’t want to let life pass me by, and I’ve known too many people who just let things happen. No. I want to be proactive in my life!
So yeah, I’m going to that dentist!
…definitely laughing while typing.
One of my goals for 2017 was to clean out my apartment. Not clean up, no, actually go through every little nook and box and get rid of things, and also do a better job of the things that I brought into the apartment.
My tiny place is 650 square feet, including my patio, and I hate feeling like it’s cluttered. I’ve already gotten rid of lots of clothes (H&M gives you 15% off coupons when you donate clothing/fabric), tossed old papers, and sold books and DVDs to Half Price.
I even started a little pile of things to sell on eBay.
I wasn’t entirely certain people still used eBay, but I had a few items that were too nice to simply give away. Over the past few months, the pile has grown, under the assumption I’d eventually take pictures of all of these items, resurrect my eBay account (which I got in high school), and actually list these things for sale.
I wasn’t sure that day would actually come, until I stopped talking to a guy I liked, and got the boot from one of my best friends. All of the sudden, I had LOADS of time. How do you think I read all of these books for Blanche’s Book Club?
Over the years, I’ve become a bit of a master at compartmentalizing my problems with men. Sure, it still hurts (I am not a robot), but I know I’m still a catch, and my life is good. I’m good.
But, losing a friend? That is something that cuts even deeper. That flat out hurts – and I realized it’s not something that’s easy to talk about.
In July, the Lenny Newsletter published an article from author Janelle Brown called “Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Toxic Friendships“. She captured perfectly how I’ve been feeling:
It’s shocking when a friendship dies that way: It feels impossible that you can experience total platonic love and devotion for another woman — BFFL all but tattooed on your heart — and then, abruptly, realize that you didn’t know that person at all. That your friendship was not what you thought it was; that it was just a way-stop for the other person on their path to bigger, better things.
I’m an only child and I come from a small family. I have always dreamed of being a part of a big family someday, and even being in a sorority in college gave me some of that comfort I craved. I used to hope I could marry into a big family, but those dreams have since faded. When the relationships with my own family have also nearly dissolved, I have come to rely on my friends more than ever.
But as much as we’ve romanticized forever friendships and sisterhood – not every friendship is going to be that way. Of course, I’m always thankful for the time we had.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the past two years, it’s that not only do I hang on to the past, but I also don’t let shit go. And that’s not good, admittedly.
It’s time for me to start letting things go.
So, I turned to my eBay pile and started listing the items (after recovering my password and realizing that yes, people DO still very much use eBay).
Quickly, bids started coming in.
Today, I’ve sold and shipped four items from my pile and am $200 richer. Money aside, I realized that I shipped off my baggage – some of it is in California and Vegas now.
And it feels good. Clothes, jewelry, mementoes of my past are no longer within my reach.
When I did the Dating Detox a few weeks ago, one of the steps was to get rid of any items like these. But, I didn’t have any. You see, this isn’t the first time I’ve taken to eBay to sell my baggage (someone now has a Mignon Faget knot ring from my college boyfriend).
But none of what I’m getting rid of today has any romantic connection. I’m clearing out the finished friendships and the family ties. No more boxes of hurt feelings.
Of course, I can’t get rid of memories – the good or the bad. But at least I’ve cleared out what I could, and I know I’m making room for the happy stuff.
I still have several more items to list on eBay. And I look forward to shipping them off to new homes – and let myself feel a little bit lighter inside and out.
Tell me I can keep the door cracked open, to let light through
For all my running, I can understand
I’m one text away from being back again
But I’m moving on and I’m getting over
-John Mayer, Moving On and Getting Over
Whew! It’s the final day of this Dating Detox. Technically, I know it took me longer than 7 days to get through it, but I’m a busy gal, and let’s face it, this was tough.
Day 7 Challenge: Check Yourself!
- She doesn’t need a man, but she wants one.
- She recognizes that men should be the “head of the household but she is the neck”.
- She has boundaries, and she sets them in a firm, but in kind way.
- She will ask very good, often pointed, qualifying questions to men she meets and dates.
- High Value women don’t let their emotions control their actions when it comes to men. They make decisions based on logic and the man’s actions not intentions or words.
- She values her body and will not offer sex until the man proves his worth through his actions.
- She values her body and strives to be healthy and fit. Her body is a temple and she chooses to make educated choices about what she puts into it and what it needs to thrive in life.
- She knows how to make a man feel special and worthy, like he is the only one.
Well, right off the bat, item #1 I don’t have. Ha! This is what I knew going in to the detox. I’m not really ready for a guy, but more so, I don’t want one.
I think what I’ve learned most through this detox is that I like my life how it is. My days are full with the things I want to do. I don’t have to compromise or share. I don’t have to plan or think about anyone other than myself (and sometimes Blanche).
Sure, I can be strong and please a man and wait for his actions and yadda yadda, but for what? I think I’m good. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a month or a year or five years, but today, I’m good. And oh yeah, I deleted my dating app.
Right now, I’m focused on improving myself for me, not for a man. I’m continuing to work on my dance skill, working on my hobby of making jewelry, reading several books a week, and gearing up to volunteer at the Film Festival. My life is full.
So, yeah – the cleanse worked, because I’m basically free from wanting a man!
Anyway, I’ve also added THREE new styles to my Etsy Shop this week:
I still have lots of items I want to add, but this week, I’ve been cleaning out an area in my apartment to dedicate to my jewelry making. Right now I’ve been just making everything while sitting on the couch, which is fine, but then my living room is a mess. Check out my Instagram Stories @OrangeJulius7 for updates on the craft area organization progress!