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This is That Muddled, Rambling Post About Death and Life

August 31, 2016

My father killed himself one year ago today, and surprisingly I haven’t written much about it. Sure, initially I wrote a bunch of angry thoughts down in my moleskin journal, then I wrote a somewhat random list of memories that I shared at his funeral. That was pretty much it. In fact, I haven’t done a whole lot of writing since, though there are other reasons to attribute that to.

(This is probably not a feelgood post. Be forewarned.)

When you suffer a traumatic loss in your life, the usual advice you get is to not rush into any other big life changes right away. So naturally my wife and I waited until a whole month after the funeral to go back to our plans for finding a house and having a baby. This was partly my decision to not let my dad’s selfishness derail our lives. (You can tell me some other time about how suicide isn’t actually a selfish act, yada yada.) We did find a house, and we moved in. By the time we moved in, my wife was entering her second trimester.

Right after we moved, I started an eight week support group for survivors of suicide. It was helpful in dealing with my grief, and somewhat helpful in dealing with my anger. (And if you tell me I don’t have a right to be angry with my dad I’ll rip your fucking ears off.) It got me to where I needed to be to try writing again. I managed to produce a little something that my critique group liked. (Hopefully I’ll get around to editing it soon for submission to somewhere.)

Also not too long after our move, I discovered that I had an inguinal hernia. Maybe I got it from lifting something too heavy during the move (I know who it was that packed that box). Maybe I got it somehow from martial arts. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how I got the hernia. With a baby on the way it was vital that I had the surgery to correct it as soon as possible. While waiting for insurance to do their thing and approve the surgery, the hernia got progressively worse, to the point where I couldn’t stand up for more than 15 minutes at a time before the pain forced me down. You can imagine what a pain in the ass groin that was.

I eventually had the surgery, and while recovering, I dusted off a story fragment I had begun a long time ago, and expanded it into a full story. (My critique group mostly liked that one, but we all agreed it needed a little more work.) That was pretty much it for fiction until very recently.

(Side note for men who may one day need lower abdominal surgery: That post-surgery trickle of blood and fluids needs to drain somewhere, and that somewhere is often into the scrotum. This leads to scrotal swelling, which leads to one side of your jewels being extremely sensitive for several days until the fluid is absorbed and the swelling goes down. By extremely sensitive, I mean that anything that slighly jostles your janglies, like standing up and sitting down, can result in an excruciating wave of pain. Just thought you might want to know, because no one saw fit to tell me this before my hernia surgery.)

To cap off the year, about five weeks ago, our son was born. So for most of the past five weeks, my sleep-lacking life has very much revolved around baby, and various house-related things to try to keep the place in decent condition. (Have barely started baby-proofing so far.) And now the day job again.

What this all amounts to is very little time for deep thinking and reflection this last year. Pockets here and there. Father’s Day was spent drinking and playing video games, because this is the only year in my life when I would be able to make Father’s Day all about me, and fuck everyone else.

Questions I do struggle with: What will I tell my son one day about his grandfather? How old should he be before I tell him how his grandfather died? Will I ever tell him the story of how a text message sent to his girlfriend had us rushing over to my father’s apartment early one morning, in the vain hopes that he might not have gone through with killing himself yet? How old should my boy be before I talk to him about the dangers of asphyxiation from a car in an enclosed garage?

You know who I would ask for advice about this sort of thing? My dad.

Did I take my father for granted? In hindsight there were definitely signs that he was planning his demise for a long time. It still pisses me off that he looked me in the eye the week before he killed himself and agreed to meet for dinner the next week.

Since his death, I have a house and a child, both which need my near constant attention. My dad is the person I would want to turn to for advice and help. The person I could most depend on. (After my wife of course.) So where is he when his family needs him?

Running away from his financial troubles. And perhaps escaping the memory of a marriage that he sabotaged into failure. But the day he took his life was the first time he ever ran away from his children.

I look at my son and I feel hopeful. We may have another child, but even if we don’t, he completes our lives. I feel something almost like healing just watching him achieve new things, like pushing himself more during “tummy time”, and learning to hold his pacifier in his mouth. Just have to be careful not to burden him with expectations. Even so, when I hold him, when I comfort him, when I read to him, and when I rock him to sleep, I keep wondering is this how my dad felt about me when I was a baby? Is this how he held me? What hopes did he have for me at this early age, and did I fulfill any of them?

I don’t expect to come up with satisfying answers today.

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