The Novel

Good morning,

I’ve been quietly working on a novel for the last several months. I’m not very many pages into it because it has become one of the most painful processes that I’ve encountered in some time. It’s semi-autobiographical and draws mainly from the period from my dad getting sick up to more or less when my second daughter was born. I’ve had it squirreled away, partly out of worry that it will show my humanity in a way that I’m not 100% comfortable with, but what’s writing if not terribly personal? I figured it’s time to let it breathe a little and maybe get some feedback. Only two people other than myself have had access to it so far. 

 Here is the first page or so. I’ve got a couple of working titles but for now let’s just call it

Room Full of Strangers

I was born in a room full of strangers.

The doctors, my parents, everyone a blur in the delivery room.  A world of unknowns beyond those four walls of which I was completely unaware.  This feeling is not one that I’ve always been able to identify, to confine or define.  However, in retrospect, it’s one that has always been there.

Me.

All alone.

In a room full of strangers.

I found myself most recently in a stranger-filled room the day my father died.  My wife was on a food run.  My mom was downstairs.  I discovered that a new inhabitant had taken up residence in the room I had left minutes prior.  A stranger with familiar, familial features.

Can it be? I thought, and for one, brief moment, my world froze in a solid silent vacuum as the reality of my dad’s lonely death seeped into my eyes and ears, my nose and throat, my pores.  Death, on tiptoes, stole the man I knew and loved and left in his place a strange, empty shell; someone new and unfamiliar.

Did I know this man, my metamorphosed father?  Of course I knew who he was once was.  In his previous iteration, he was there in the delivery room.  He was there in the emergency room when I broke my arm, the courtroom when I married my wife, every childhood bedroom that a sicker, younger version of myself occupied.  But then, now, in that moment, he is, was not that man.  In that moment, in that room where I watched him slowly grow older, sicker, more broken, he became a stranger once more.  A week later, a lifetime later, a lifetime ago.

The memorial service.

Were we remembering the same person?  Or so many iterations of one person?  The uncle, the husband, the businessman.  My father, my hero, my friend.  The people in that room that I’d met before were as strange as the ones I hadn’t.  Ah yes, I’d say, of course I know who you are.  Who, I’d think, is this person?  Thank you, I’d say, for your condolences.  Why, I would think, are you here?  I saw everyone there through melancholy lenses.  People changed by, dressed in, obscured by death’s cold hand.

Even I, my most familiar self, was not who I had been.  My reflection, a refraction.  My memories and perceptions hung at arm’s length in the rough-hewn obsidian remains of my soul.  Darkness?  No, no.  Darkness gives the illusive promise of a reciprocal light.  The graying world as I saw it seemed fake, painted, staged, wrapped in cellophane.  I could perceive in the corner of my eyes a barrier separating me from the rest of the world, like the lines around a moving cartoon, defining it from its surroundings and confining it to itself.

Confined to myself, to the what’s it called? Cortege?  The funeral procession, the line that defines those that belong to the living and those that belong to the dead.  I look to the left and a stranger is standing there.

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“The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – Carl Jung

I’ve been avoiding this post.  I’ve been avoiding this whole blog to be honest, save for the occasional stats-check here and there.  I haven’t written anything in about five weeks, which is along time, even for me.  I’m going to tell you now that this post is not going to be a very pleasant one, at least in the beginning.  It is going to be very dark and then probably darker and very emotional and then it should end on a positive note, if all goes well.

You see, my dad died on March 8th.  I typed and retyped that sentence a few different ways to maybe soften the blow (I hear I can be overly blunt sometimes), but the truth is that my father is dead.  He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last summer, it was 95% gone by November, then came back with a vengeance and took his life.

My wife and I consulted Betsy Braun’s book Just Tell Me What to Say when we were trying to figure out how to break the news to our four year-old daughter.  We didn’t tell her much during the first round of chemo because the outlook was good and we really didn’t know what all was going to happen.  Then the cancer came back and we felt like we should prepare her for the worst, especially once my dad decided that he would rather stay at home than suffer through another round of chemo.  So Betsy Braun says to be honest and use the medical terminology and avoid euphemisms.  During the first round:  Papa has lumps inside his body called cancer that makes him sick but the doctors have a very strong medicine called chemotherapy that they think will help and they know a lot about cancer so they’ll know the best ways to help Papa get better.  Later, during hospice:  The medicine didn’t work and cancer is making it harder and harder for Papa’s body to work.  Papa’s body is going to stop working soon and he is going to die.  Then:  Papa died today.

This is difficult.  I can remember her reaction to each conversation.  I can remember the works coming out of my mouth feeling like barbed wire but sounding much smoother.  Trying to stay strong for everyone around me.  I think it might be harder now in some ways though, now that the shock is gone, and the memorial service and internment have passed.  I feel like a  lot of other people have moved on and maybe don’t think about him as much as I do.  I know they don’t.  But I think about it everyday.

You see, I’m the one that found my dad.  My wife spilled her heart out to him, we left the room, and when I returned less than five minutes later, he was gone.  I still think about his face.  His eyes.  His hands.  I think about the Medical Examiner coming to the house and the funeral home workers coming to get him in the hearse and how terribly sad it all was and my  through all of it.  I kept/keep thinking it’s a joke and that he’ll call or come around the corner and we’ll all be pissed that he played such a mean joke but so happy that he’s still alive.  I think about all the things he’s going to miss and how I should’ve called more and how I miss him so much that it physically hurts.

My dad is dead and I was not, am not ready for it and each second, hour, dayweekmonth that goes by is that much further from the last time I’ll ever see him alive or otherwise.  I held his hand as the warmth left it and my heart filled with pain and sadness and I sat and played guitar for him while we waited for the official people to come and officially say he was dead and take him away.  I helped the guy take the hospice equipment out of my parents’ bedroom and out of the house so that my mother could sleep in the room again without the glaring reminder that her husband had just died there.

Her husband, my dad, my hero is dead and I keep hoping that I’ll feel better about it if I tell myself a hundred, thousand, hundred thousand times a day, but it doesn’t.  I was not, am not ready for him to not be here.  I was not, am not ready to be an adult without him in my life to provide me with the paragon of what it means to be a husband, a dad, a hero.  There are so many big things coming up that I want his advice on, that I want him to see and be a part of.  I want my daughter to have two grandpas because I didn’t.  I want her to have strong, decent men (and women) in her life so that she grows up with high expectations and standards for interpersonal relationships.  I want my dad around because he was, is the best man I know and I miss him so much it hurts.

It’s almost exactly one day later and I’m glad I stopped where I did.  That train of thought tends to dip into some even heavier stuff that I probably shouldn’t ever put in writing or say out loud.  I talked to my wife last night.  I talked to my mom, too.   I slept better; I feel better.

[My dad’s death is like a semi-colon; a break in the sentence that unifies the pre&post the before&after in all of this.]

One of the biggest thoughts I have about all of this, something that I wrestle with almost every single day, concern the Why’s.  Why him?  Why us? Why now? Why not that guy? Why did the cancer go away in the first place?  Why did it come back?

The truth, The Truth is that our world in its entirety, life  Life as a Whole is beyond our understanding.  I believe in God and Jesus.  My God is not a white-haired old man, but an energy that permeates everything and creates a balance within all of existence.  This thought, this idea of a balance is what keeps me going when the going gets tough.  Faith is a powerful tool in situations like this and situations that aren’t like this at all.  Faith is the current in the river, the warmth in sunlight.  I feel better today, but I don’t feel great everyday.  I have to wrap my head around this and have faith that my dad is in a better state.  That his energy lives on and that his soul is balanced and cleansed and where God intends it to be.

I miss my dad.  I know that it is going to continue to be hard without him around.  But I also know, because he told me, that it’s important to keep living my life.  It’s funny but I appreciate the days like this, the ones where I feel good and energetic and happy? more, mainly because of how sad I’ve been recently.

So, in closing.  I would like to proudly announce that Mrs. Glass and I are expecting Baby Number Two!  We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl yet, but the due date just so happens to be on my dad’s birthday!  We are so very happy and thankfully my dad got the opportunity to see the first sonogram while he was alive.  I now that wherever he is, he’s looking out for us, all of us, and that he lives on in our hearts and our blood and our name and our memories.

I love you, Dad.

 

 

Half-full, half-empty,

Glass