Eleven

Tonight I climbed into bed way earlier than I should have. On the way to bed I passed by clothes strewn on the floor, dishes pouring out of the sink and way more dog and cat hair than I care to admit to. It’s been an extremely long weekend, a really long year and an even longer eleven years.

As much as I would like to say that I am in as good of a place as I was last year –I can’t. Because I’m not. A lot has been sandwiched in-between these two years, and a whole lot has taken place over the past eleven. I could beat myself up, for feeling the way I do –sad, depressed, upset, frustrated, angry…but I won’t. At least not tonight. I will cut myself some slack –but just for tonight.

You see, eleven years ago I faced the one thing that I was certain I would never get up from. Holding her as she took her final breaths –leaving her behind and moving forward –both figuratively and literally –has been, and will always be the hardest thing I have ever had to do. There simply are no words to explain how it feels to watch everything go down the drain in front of your eyes while you stand by –helplessly unable to do the very thing you were called to do.

There are no words to explain how life altering and uprooting it feels to be told that you, as a father, are helpless to do anything. The only thing you can now do is stand by and watch as your daughter dies. There are no words and so I will spare the world my attempts.

A lot has happened in these past eleven years. So much. So much has changed and moved. Time has ticked by –fast at times and slow at others. But steady. All along. Ticking by. I haven’t always been a willing participant in this life –there were times when giving up just seemed like the thing to do…and while I have been able to say in the past that time has helped me come to grips with this seemingly senseless occurrence, I can’t say that today.

Because today, I miss her.

Tonight I would do just about anything to have her back.

To just hold her, and tell her –one last time just how much I loved her.

Last year, I was in a place where I could see the light. I didn’t understand why –but I could accept what I couldn’t accept. I was moving forward –regardless of how slow. I was doing her justice by not wishing that I could have her back –no matter for how long. I was letting her go.

But this year, tonight, I can’t. I can’t let her go. I can’t let her memory slide. I can’t forget her. I can’t move on. Regardless of how long it has been –I still miss her…and I still wish to hold her once again.

EM15

I miss you, little one. I miss you more than words can ever say.

Seventeen…

The air here is cold.  Colder than I remember.  I stepped out of the airport and was met with a bitter cold wind.  The kind that rips through every layer of clothing you wear and settles in -deep within your bones.  It’s cold.  Colder than I remember when I walk through the doors of the house.  The house that I haven’t been in for three plus months…even longer than that.  The house that the last time I saw it -really saw it, really lived there -things were ok.  They weren’t perfect, they weren’t even really good -but they were ok.  And I was ok with ok.  Ok was ok.

I’ve avoided birthdays this year.  Avoided them like the hot plague.  Avoided them with everything in me, and then some.  I ignored them too.  Did everything in my power to not remember, not acknowledge and simply not recognize them.  Them.  Birthdays.  A harsh reminder of what no longer is, who, no longer is.

Life lately, seems cold.  Colder than I remember.  The kind of cold that settles deep, deep within your bones.

I did everything I could to avoid today.  Everything around me seemed to be supporting this.  The daily calendars in most of the places I visited still read December 11.  And I was ok with that.  I didn’t need to be reminded that today was December 12, and I didn’t need to be reminded of what it meant.  I didn’t need another reminder -because reminders are everywhere.

They are in your room, in your bed.  They are in your closet.  They are even by the front door -where you shoes still sit.

I know it is probably morbid sounding.  But listen -the last time I was here -you were still coming home.  You were still holding out, still giving the false illumination that there was hope, that you were wanting to come home.  You.  Were still here.  So your shoes -they are still here too.

There is no harsher reminder -birthdays or not -then walking through the front door of a house you haven’t been in for a number of months to see the way things USED to be, and realize they are no longer that way.

See -I’ve been frequenting other houses for the past…probably nine months now.  House sitting, house hopping -whatever you call it, I haven’t been “home” for a number of months.

Coming home, coming back to this land -was hard enough.  Facing reality, pulling on the “I’m great, how are you face?” has been a challenge enough…but to walk into the home that was perfectly preserved -a chunk in time, reserved -was more than hard.

I have tried, really hard, not to be upset with you for the way things have ended.  Because as hard as it is to accept, it really is easy to understand.  But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been upset.  I know you did what you had to do, I know that.  I know you couldn’t see any other way -I get that.  I know that you felt so far buried beneath everything that there was no way out -I understand that.  I do.  I just don’t understand why it couldn’t have been enough -as selfish as that sounds.

I really don’t have any words this year -I have even less than I did last year.  Less answers, less ideas, less hope, and less words.

I know you think your life really didn’t matter -regardless of what you would have said -your actions have spoken louder.  You didn’t think anyone would care.  Or mind.  Or be bothered.  I don’t hold it against you.  Because as I have said many, many times -I do understand, to an extent, the rush of thoughts that swirl through your head.  To an extent.  Because I obviously don’t completely understand.

On your seventeenth birthday, while I should have been giving you crap about being out late -I am instead looking at the pair of empty shoes left by the door when times were so much better.

You may not have thought your life mattered -but it did.  It mattered a whole lot.  It may have given you relief -for that, I am grateful, but it has only deepened the pain I feel for you.  I am sorry.  I really, really am.  I am sorry that it wasn’t enough -and that you aren’t here because of that.

I hope you find some peace, kiddo.  You are missed.

Happy Birthday, Dylan.

Full Circle

Ten years ago, I sat in a cold room holding my two year old daughter as she took her final breaths. I begged anyone who would listen to let me go with her. Yet despite my overwhelming desire to lie down and never get up –I am still here.

Less than a year after her passing, I took in my niece and two nephews. For the next two years I would fight to gain custody of them –despite being told, countless times, that I shouldn’t. I couldn’t even tell you why I tried –something about giving life one final shot, I suppose. Despite all odds –I was awarded full custody of them.

I didn’t want to love them. I didn’t want to open my heart to them. I didn’t want to live this life. Yet somehow, I did. Somehow. Over the past eight years I have chosen to look at them as my second chance at life. My reason. My life. I have chosen to try and see a silver lining, even in my daughter’s death. I have chosen to get up each and every day and put aside all desires to give up. Because –despite ALL odds –I had them. And that had to be enough.

I chose to love them as my own, raise them to the best of my abilities and let go of everything else.

One year ago I drove to work. It was supposed to be another day. Just another day. As they all are. But it was anything but normal. My oldest nephew didn’t show up to school. He didn’t come home that night. Or the next night. When they found him they didn’t expect him to live. But he did. Only to spend the next year fighting every minute of it.

…and then nearly five months ago – after spending a year in and out of hospitals and youth homes, he was granted his final wish.

People often ask me to tell them that it gets better –assuming that after ten years, I would have some insight. And five months ago –I would have told you that it does. That somehow, it does. Except now –it seems as if the past ten years have all been undone. That instead of being able to see the silver lining –all I can see are the mistakes I have made. The things I should have done –and most importantly, the things I shouldn’t have done.

I should have lay down ten years ago and never gotten up. I shouldn’t have taken on something this big. I shouldn’t have assumed that it was for the best. I shouldn’t have accepted this as my second chance.

It took me so long to come to grips with losing my daughter that to do it all over again seems nearly impossible.

Somehow, I am expected to move forward.

Somehow I am supposed to forgive myself for making what could easily be classed as the biggest mistake of my life. To accept it, and move forward. Somehow I am supposed to come to grips with this being life. Somehow I am supposed to cling to the hope that it does get better…when the only thing it seems to have done is come full circle.

When Enough, is Enough

The past few months, despite what it would appear –I have written so many things. Mostly, broken bits and pieces here and there, the fleeting thoughts and momentary feelings that threaten to drown me alive. Things that don’t make sense or connect, things that drop off mid-sentence and start up somewhere else. Things that one day, I hope to burn, destroy or delete. Not because they don’t make sense –but because they are deeply personal and come from a time in my life I hope not to remember one day.

The one thing that is the common thread, ripping between the mismatched sentences and half-baked thoughts is one word. A word I rarely use and hardly ever admit to. A word that runs so deep and so far that I am not sure it will ever go away completely. Fear: Ironically, the very word that puts fear into me, is the one word that runs deep within.

To be quite honest –I am terrified.

Terrified to drop back into a life that is still waiting for me –regardless of how far I have run from it. Terrified of the way things will be. Terrified of the months to follow. Of trying to raise another child. Again. Now.

There are things that people fear: Spiders, the dark, thunder, storms…even death.

I fear life.

I fear that life will take every last person that I love. Destroy me from the inside out. Take away every last person that I care about and leave me to rot. As if punishing me –death is not kind enough to take me, but rather will take everyone I love and make me watch. Helplessly. Forcing me to live –without the very ones that make my heart beat.

I fear that death will leave me here, once it has taken everyone else.

I fear going home.

I fear facing reality.

…I fear 2 am, when the thoughts are heavy and I am alone. When they haunt me, hunt me down and torture me. As if to say losing them wasn’t enough –now you must be tortured by the thoughts that you should have. Could have. If only.

I fear choosing wrong.

I don’t honestly know, how to get up. I don’t know how to move on. I don’t know how to recover. I don’t know if I even should try. I don’t know when to throw in the towel and scream with my last breath “Enough is enough already!”

I am tired of sitting by, watching the ones I love die. I am tired of saying goodbye. I am tired of picking up the shattered pieces of my heart and reassembling them. I am tired of trying to make people believe I am ok. I am tired…of being so fearful.

I have plenty of thoughts. Plenty to say. But everything I want to say is riddled with the deepest fear that this life just isn’t worth it. Everything I have to say goes beyond the holly-jolly time of year. It goes against the grain of life.

There just aren’t any more ways to say: I am tired. I am scared. I am done.

To Be Ok

I don’t need good. I don’t need really good. I don’t even need sort of good. I just need ok. I just need things, life, to be ok. I say it –over and over again. I say the word like it takes no effort. As if saying it enough will somehow be ok. I say it because it seems like it is within grasp. Reasonable. Reachable. Doable. Ok.

But it is anything but, ok.

I don’t want good. Good ends. Good leaves. Good dies. Good hurts. I don’t want good. I don’t need good.

But ok. I can handle ok. I can do ok. I can be ok.

Sometimes it seems that ok is out of my grasp. That I am just one small step away from being so not ok.

I just, need to be ok tonight. And I’m not. And I don’t know what to do.

I am so…tired of not being ok. I want to be ok –so badly, that I hold onto the blind hope that there is something to be ok.

So this is me. Not being ok. Because that is the closest I can get to being ok. And right now…all I need is to just. Be. Ok.

I Failed Him

I never realized that something that seemed like it could be so good –could end, so bad.

Something that had so much potential to be good –could end in such disaster. Could go from being something that should have ended well, to something that should have never started to begin with.

Most will say that they saw it coming. That from the outside looking in, they knew. Because they always know. They always know what is going to happen, after it happens. They always have the answers when it isn’t any of their business and can always set you straight –so long as you would listen.

I suppose I was blinded by my pride. Blinded by the fact that I wanted this, so badly, that I didn’t care to think of any other options. That perhaps if I had honestly stopped and looked at things through a different perspective, I too, would agree: It wasn’t ideal. It isn’t that I ever thought it was, it was that I consider it to be the best option –for all involved. Instead of listening to sound logic, the voice of reason, a little bit of common sense perhaps –I carried on. Not thinking that others, or someone in particular, could be hurt in the process.

How could it?

I suppose you could say the only thing I did is prolong the inevitable. Clinging to blind hope, and wishing on falling stars is no way to live…and it isn’t any way to raise a child. Yet that’s exactly what I did.

He asked me months prior if I was upset with him. If I was disappointed in him. The truth is, I’m not. I am not angry with him for his decision. I am not upset that he couldn’t see another way out. I am not disappointed in him, or with him, or at him. That isn’t to say I’m not disappointed or upset. Because I am. Just not with him.

Rather, I am disappointed and upset that I failed him. When he was needed someone most –I let him down the hardest. When he needed help –I walked away. When he needed understanding –I didn’t understand.

I failed to get him help sooner. I failed to see things differently than I thought. I failed him. I failed him because I wanted to believe that it would be ok. I wanted to believe so badly that he was ok. I wanted to hold onto the blind hope, the falling stars, the invisible ropes –I wanted to hold onto them so badly that I failed to realize that he was dying right before my eyes.

I never realized something like this could or would end so badly –and yet I should have. I should have listened, I should have seen, I should have paid better attention to the warning signs that were coming years prior. I should have…and yet I didn’t.

Countless times I flew on the blind hope that everything would be ok –because it had to be. As if wishing would change the course we were on. As if.

I wish I could say it weren’t true. I wish I could say I did everything I could, but I didn’t. There is help. There is awareness, support, answers and solid help for this. And yet. I failed to realize just how badly he needed help.

I failed him.

I failed him.

The very thing I said I would do, the very thing I promised, the very fight I said I would fight –I failed to do.

Because when it comes down to it –I should have seen it coming, far before anyone else. While others gather around saying that they saw it coming, that they saw it coming for years. That they knew he wasn’t ok and wouldn’t be ok –I held to my invisible hope that flying blindly would work.

Because it had to.

And yet it wasn’t.

It never was.

Three Months

Three months, came and went. Without a mention of his name, or a whisper of who he was. It came and went as if he never existed, as if he were right –that it wouldn’t matter now that he was gone. Except that it does matter. It did matter, and it always will matter.

Except that, as time slowly ticks by –he is forgotten. By everyone. I am expected, in a sense, to forget him as well. To move on. To not remember. To ignore. Because this loss? Isn’t mine. It isn’t for me. It isn’t about me.

To anyone else –he was just another boy. Another number. Statistic. He wasn’t closely related to me, therefore, the loss is not mine. While it isn’t said in those words –it is implied. Heavily. In the tones of voice and change of attitude. He was just my nephew. But as the numbness gives way to the intense pain that comes from losing someone –I am reminded, painfully, that he was more. So much more. Yet I don’t have the words to say this.

My heart skips to an irregular beat, my head spins with memories that shouldn’t belong to me. My mind, filled with should haves, could haves, would haves –is silenced. The pain I feel is not warranted.

Why would I seek out help –when I know there is none?

I am not afraid to admit that I am not strong enough to be rejected, once again. Friends have returned to their otherwise busy lives, and stopped asking –mere days after he died. It was as if there was a silent relief that filled their minds…because finally, I could stop talking about him. Finally, I could just admit that he was a lost cause. Finally, I could return to ‘normal’ –except…

He wasn’t a lost cause, and there is no normal.

He was hurting. He, among countless others –was not given the help he needed. The help that everyone says is there –but isn’t. The help that is ‘just a phone call away’ is too far. Especially when you are hurting that badly. When you can barely keep your head above the water –there is no point in making a phone call, because you just cannot handle the rejection –again. All over. Once more.

I have searched just about every avenue I can, looking for something –someone –to relate to. But instead I am met with empty doors, and silenced friends. As harsh as it sounds – I cannot bear to hear their happy news. I do not want to know how well their children are doing, or how successful their job is. I don’t want to hear how great their lives are –because it contrasts just how horrible mine is. It isn’t that I do this to be mean, or selfish –it’s just that the hole in my heart from losing ‘just my nephew’ is so large –I cannot fathom that anything good can be happening.

I don’t need people to fall over backwards, I don’t need people to say his name everyday –but a simple acknowledgment –really could do wonders.

Tell me you remember him. That he wasn’t a lost cause. That his life mattered. That he was important. Tell me that he didn’t die in vain. Tell me that you don’t know what to say. Tell me anything –just don’t ignore the gaping hole that has swallowed me alive, and expect me to acknowledge the goodness that has surrounded you.

Because I am just barely keeping my head above the water…

…and don’t know how much longer I can.

I Just…

Sometimes, there just are no words.

People tell me I need to keep writing. That it is ‘good’ to keep writing. Yet I don’t feel this way. Because I just…

I just…

I just.

It is all that comes to mind. All that seems to sum things up. It is the only thing that makes any sense at any given moment. When my words only seem to tie my mind up, holding everything else hostage in its mangled mess of madness “I just” is the only thing that will set me free.

I just…

I just don’t understand. I just can’t deal with this. I just don’t want to deal today. I just. I just. I just.

When the pain is so thick, when I feel it pulsing through my veins and come through my fingertips, when I can barely function –yet smile at the crowds and comfort those around me with an “I am fine…but really, how are YOU?” The words, they comfort me. “I just…”

Why bother others with my tales of woe? Why disclose how I really feel when there is nothing that can be done. When it only brings on more pain and more empty hope? When every stone has been overturned, and every avenue explored –why bother looking for something when there is absolutely nothing? When I search for answers, purpose, meaning and help –the words are always there to bring me back around…”I just…”

I just don’t know. I just can’t wrap my mind around it. I just don’t know how I will do another day. I just don’t know why I would want to.

When people tell me well-meaning things, when people seem to have moved on, when people don’t understand, when others forget, when guilt moves in…the words are there to help combat and offset. “I just…”

Because they hold very little meaning. They mean absolutely nothing. They hold no greater meaning. They just sum up what I can’t in a neat, two word sentence…they say everything and nothing, because I just…

I just don’t know anymore.

I just don’t care.

I just can’t.

I just.

I just.

I just.

Perhaps…

“I lost my nephew.”

The phrase itself doesn’t seem to mean much. The questions that follow are usually related around his family: his parents, siblings, etc. The ones that were (or were supposed to be) close to him, the ones –that should have been here to walk this difficult path with him. Yet instead –he was stuck with me. Me. Who thought –like the blind fool that I am –that he, of all people, would be ok.

Eight years ago I decided to give it my all. After weathering a couple of the most difficult years in my entire life –I gave up everything –everything –to pursue them. I changed my entire life, for them. I fought like nobody’s business to get them back. Because I thought it was the right thing. I ignored everyone who thought other, and pushed my way to the top –choosing to believe that these kids were my second chance. I fought so hard that I failed to realize the logic, I suppose. I was blindsided. I was zoned in. I had tunnel vision. I refused to see any other option: Because if I looked any other direction –I would have given up.

I would have given up eight years ago, because I had lost everything that meant anything to me.

Except that I didn’t. I chose to fight. I chose them.

No, it hasn’t been easy. I have questioned myself –countless times, but the one comfort that I could always give myself was that I was doing the best for these kids. I was giving them everything I could. I was doing my best. The rest just had to be ok.

Except that…

I failed to realize, that, it perhaps, wasn’t the best.

…and ten weeks ago, I “lost my nephew.”

Or rather, I signed the papers and watched as they unhooked the machines keeping him alive –because let’s be honest here, he really died last year sometime. Or perhaps, he died ten years ago –with the rest of his family.

Yes, I lost my nephew. But I also lost a whole lot more. I lost my focus. My goals. My reason. My logic. I lost my hope. My security. My safety net. I lost my footing. My grip. My hold.

Perhaps it is unfair to say that. Perhaps it sounds like I put too much weight on these kids. Like I depend on them too much. But the truth is…I do. I worked so hard to get them back, to love them, to give them the life they deserved. I worked so hard –I pushed everything, literally, everything aside for them. I was ready to give up –eight years ago, and some reason –I felt compelled to give it one last shot.

…and now.

Now all that has been reduced to a simple statement that means absolutely nothing. A statement that doesn’t seem to mean anything to anyone. A statement that doesn’t seem to say just what has happened.

When I say the words: I lost my nephew, inside –my heart screams out. He was more than that. He was more. Why can’t you see. Why can’t you understand. Why don’t you see:

I lost everything.