Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da...

If you know me at all then you know that my brain is absolutely full of useless and random knowledge. Who here needs to know what kind of car the Director of Career Services at North Georgia College & State University drove between the years of 1997-2001? Duh, a white Honda Accord...probably a 1995 model. What? You find this odd? If so, then you may also find it odd that while I can remember that kind of information, I cannot for the life of me remember exactly what date it was when my dad passed away. Sure, I vividly remember that I was wearing a turquoise sundress with smocking at the top and that I had watched the movie "Up" [cue Alanis Morrisette's Ironic here] earlier that day and what I had eaten for lunch and how the next afternoon Maggie and Katie drove me back to Athens to help me pack for the visitation and funeral, but as to exactly what day it was in June of 2009...that detail is a blur.

As it turns out, it was June 14 which means that as of yesterday, I have now made two trips around the sun without my dad here with me. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of him even though when he was still here with us, many days would go by between our conversations. You know what they say about taking things and people for granted? Well, they were right. I do miss him terribly. I've learned that the thing about missing someone is that sadness isn't the only emotion associated with those feelings. Sometimes it's happiness. Other times it's anger. Sometimes it's relief. Relief? Yep, as in "I'm so glad that daddy isn't here to say 'I told you so.'" When I think back over the last two years, I can't even begin to list [nor are you interested in reading] the ways that I have changed and grown. But you know, I've decided that's what we're supposed to do. Even when some of the people that we love aren't here to see it happen. Life really does go on. I think moving forward is one of the greatest ways to honor the loved ones that we have lost. [That's eerily close to a line in the Phi Mu creed without me even intending for it to be.] Just this morning as I was driving from one campus to the other I heard Don Henley's song Dirty Laundry on the radio. Sure, maybe not every child associates this song with their childhood (which is probably a good thing) but I could not help but to smile to myself as I was "rockin' out" and think about the fact that this was a regular hit played during the Friday Night Dance parties in the Page household. Had I heard this song 2 years ago, it would have made me burst into tears because the grief was still too new and the territory of loss too unfamiliar. But the human heart has an amazing ability to heal without developing too much scar tissue around it to block the feeling of any emotion. Trust me on this one.

Perhaps one of the reasons why I can't really remember the date that dad died is because I would rather remember the good than the bad. However, I also believe that healing and moving forward requires us to remember the bad too. Remember how I wrote earlier that sometimes when I miss him that I am also angry? I've learned that anger is also a natural part of loss. I get angry that he chose cigarettes [PSA: PUT OUT YOUR CIGGIES. LIKE NOW. THANKS.] I get angry that he wasn't the kind of dad that doted constantly over his little girl. [But if he had been that dad, my sarcasm would have never lived up to its full potential now would it?] Or I get angry that I didn't work harder at my relationship with him during my adult years. In the first year or so, I felt guilty for getting angry. You know, it's like a rule to not speak ill of the dead or something, right? I find that ironic considering we rarely have a problem speaking ill of people when they are alive and kicking! I've learned that there's a difference though between getting angry and staying angry. Staying angry is what prevents us from moving forward in life.

Two years ago today I wrote what I had the privilege of reading at his funeral. Honestly, I haven't read it since. But I'm posting it here today in the event that I decide to do so in the future. I'm sure there are grammatical errors and typo's and I could have said it differently or better, but it was my heart. And even though he would have never said it out loud to me because for better or for worse that's not the kind of person he was, I know that Daddy was most proud of me when I put my heart into something.

I am much better at putting words on paper than actually speaking them, but today is a special day so I am going to give this my best shot. With any luck, you all will have the opportunity to help me out in these next few moments as I’m speaking by laughing and smiling instead of crying and looking forlorn. Even if nothing that I say is the least bit funny, laugh anyway because we all know that is what my Daddy would prefer. When mama, the boys, and I began to discuss how we wanted him to be remembered, we decided that we wanted it to be done in a manner so that the life that he lived on this earth is celebrated by all of his family and dear friends.

The truth is, it's a hard thing to watch someone you love with all of your heart pass from this world into the next. Especially when that person once stood 6'4" and was the strongest person you knew. Even though it's the natural progression of life for a parent to pass away before a child does, it's also natural for a child to expect that his or her parents are always going to be here. They are mama and daddy and when it seems that nothing else in life is constant, they are.

Selfishly, I'm thinking about all of the things that I still need my daddy for. Who's going to ask me if I have checked the oil in my car lately? Recently he fell down a little bit on this job because it just so happened that I randomly checked my oil and there was essentially none whatsoever in the reserve. And yes, the fact that there was a reminder sticker for my next oil change which was obviously long overdue in the top left hand corner of my windshield is absolutely a moot point. I had no idea that it was possible to receive so many phone calls from the same person in a one mile stretch of road between my apartment and the gas station, but in that moment I was not an irresponsible 30 year old, but simply his little girl and he wanted to make sure that I was going to make it safely without any problems.

Who is going to call me during the middle of my favorite TV show just to say hello? Was it a coincidence that these phone calls typically always took place during the same time each week? I hardly think so. He just liked to keep me grounded by reminding me that people are always more important than TV shows. Who am I kidding? He always did it to simply annoy me beyond measure.

Who is going to remind me of what a wise decision I made to raise and train a Chocolate Lab puppy in a one bedroom apartment? As if the chewed up shoes, furniture, pillows, and kitchen flooring is not reminder enough.

Who is going to give me away on my wedding day? Though I can only imagine the argument that would have ensued when I informed Daddy that wearing overalls to walk me down the aisle was absolutely against proper attire protocol, I find it quite unfortunate that I will never have the chance to have such a discussion.

While on the one hand I feel absolutely cheated and robbed of so many memories that I never got the opportunity to make with my daddy, on the other, I feel so fortunate to have had him for the years that I did. As I think back through the years, it seems as if a flood gate has been opened up and the memories come to mind in flashes one right after the other. If there was a way in which I could bottle them up forever so as not to forget a single one, I would.

Take for instance, the weekend "dance parties" that he, mama, and I had when I was a little girl. He was the DJ while Mama and I would dance up a storm to whatever record was spinning on the turntable. Because of him, I could identify John Fogerty’s voice quicker than the average 6 year-old.

My daddy never got the chance to see the Laser Show at Stone Mountain. It's not that we never went, it's that once we got there, I would freak out over the fact that there was going to be fireworks at the end so Daddy always carried me back out to the car because I was so scared. He finally issued an ultimatum and said that if I ever saw the Laser Show, I would have to drive myself there in order to do so. Now each time I go, I always tell him what a great show he is missing out on and how he really should get down there and see it sometime. Something makes me think that those lasers might look a little piddly compared to the sights he is currently taking in.

Daddy was my softball coach for years. It was the father/daughter activity that he and I did together. It was how we bonded. But the thing is, on the field he treated us all as equals and it wasn’t that I was just another player; it was that we were all his little girls.

I love that daddy was sometimes a bit spontaneous. Take for instance that time he went out and finally bought a VCR because I was at home sick with strep throat and needed something to watch on TV. Because everyone knows that back-to-back episodes of Little House on the Prairie were not adequate enough for a bed ridden elementary schooler. And let’s not even talk about the time he decided to buy me a Nintendo the week before the Christmas when I got a computer as my big gift. …and people wondered why I had such a difficult time relinquishing my only child status at the age of 14.

I’ve never been more thankful for these memories than I am right now.

Daddy was a man who was filled with love.

My daddy loved kids. He was never happier than to just sit and watch kids play or pick at them in his good-natured manner. I cannot tell you the number of little girls he has thoroughly confused by asking them what their name was before they got married. He would have been an incredible grandfather. I'm sorry that my children will never get the opportunity while here on this Earth to know their Grandpa Page.

My daddy loved making people laugh. He was witty, sharp, and absolutely hilarious. Of course I think this because my humor is very much like his…sophisticated. He taught me how to take a joke which is one of the most valuable life lessons I have ever learned. Even though many of those lessons were not always very fun at the time!

My daddy loved his family. How do I know that he loved us? Because one of the Waffle House waitresses that showed up during visitation told me how much he talked to her about his family, that’s how. Not to mention the fact that he told us and showed us that he loved us too.
And this I think is the hardest part about losing him. We all loved him back very much and when you really love someone, these are the people that you take for granted. You say things that maybe you shouldn't say. Or don't say things that you should. How I wish that I could have just one more conversation with him…even if it was during my favorite TV show. I remember the very last thing I said to him on the Sunday afternoon before he was put into the hospital on Tuesday as I was leaving to go back to Athens. Of course I needed him to do something for me, and it breaks my heart to know that this cannot happen now. My heart also breaks when I think about how losing a parent is a big thing for a 30 year old to grasp…I cannot imagine experiencing this at 16 or 11. It breaks my heart to watch my mama grieve the loss of her teammate...her soulmate...the love of her life.

My daddy loved naps. I can remember hours of endless frustration as a child when he would go lie down for just a quick nap…and wake up 2 hours later. But now that I’m older and wiser, I can see that when one works as hard as he did for so many years, a 2 hour nap every now and again is quite justifiable after being worn out from a hard day’s work.

In his last days, he was probably the most tired he had ever been. He fought hard. He defied the odds because his doctor told us twice in 12 days that he would not make it through the night. [Have I mentioned that my daddy was a bit stubborn and liked to do things on his own timeline?] Praise Jesus that my daddy is not tired anymore. He is at rest on this earth, but alive and well and enjoying quite a welcome home party in his new forever home. I don't know if overalls fit the dress code in Heaven, but I like to think that he had a brand new pair waiting for him once he got there.

I’m really going to miss my daddy. But I am so thankful for the time that I had him, and I take comfort in knowing that I will see him again one day. I am most thankful that we both have a Heavenly father who makes this pending reunion possible. So until then, I will rest in God’s promises and celebrate my earthly daddy as I strive to live in a manner that would make them both proud to be my father. And rejoice. I will definitely rejoice. I hope that you all will join me in doing so as well.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” –Philippians 4:4-7