Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dear Dad - Spring Awakening

Dear Dad,

The interludes between my letters continue to grow. 
It's always around this time I think we all start to remember the March when you got sick. Ironically, I was having a great year that year. I had just met April & Ashley (the "Tarts") and I was working on a photoshoot with them in New Braunfels. I stayed with you and mom overnight so I didn't have to drive back to Austin, and so I was there right before you finally went to the doctor. I must have texted with Susanna about how bad off you seemed, because she remembers having a feeling of dread when told about your jaundiced appearance. This was just days before we'd get the news... 

I remember you were still trying to go to work, but the image I have of you is in your red polar bear pj pants and grey henley. You had your water bottle and were drinking tons of water, because you were hoping to flush what you thought were gallstones out of your system. If only! You were fascinated - and a little creeped out - by the symptoms you were experiencing. Mom had been telling me for several weeks that you were not feeling well and this or that. I had sort of dismissed it until I saw it in person myself and realized it might be something serious. Still - the idea of cancer NEVER entered my mind. My whole world was SO untouched by it then that it didn't even seem fathomable, much less likely.

Cancer. It's become such a part of who we are these days... we can't seem to escape it. Friends' parents are falling right and left. I hurt for them. I know there are long days ahead: for some they will be full of doctor visits and treatments and the agony of never being sure how much longer is left, and for others, now, there is a new and untraversed future - without. When you died I didn't know many other people my age who had lost a parent. Now I feel like I have this unlucky circle of friends, all connected for the same terrible reason. In some ways it's comforting, to know we are not alone in our loss and can now help others through theirs. In other ways it's terrifying: so many of us shouldn't be burying our parents so young.

I've had similar conversations with each of these daughters... that they feel a bond with me because of what we've been through with our parents. I think your story, our story, maybe touched the edges of a lot of people's lives. Maybe we were more vocal than other people, and less private about the whole cancer journey. I'm not sure the reason, but it keeps coming up, and people use us as a reference. I get asked questions. Sometimes I just volunteer information or advice. At least I can DO something with what we learned from this... that feels nice in some ways. I just wish it didn't mean someone else was in a similarly awful circumstance.

Yesterday, a photo of Cole and Alanna's wedding popped up on my Facebook feed. They looked so happy together. It was such a random thing and my first thought was that you'd want to know because you were always so fond of Cole. I almost reached for my phone to text you. It was fleeting, because of course I realized that was impossible. It's been a long time since that happened. I wonder if it ever stops. 

We spent all day yesterday out in the yard. I weeded the garden beds. There's nothing like my hands in dirt to feel like you're right there beside me. It is such GOOD dirt this year, too. It's got composted soil with peat moss and sand, and, after sitting for a long winter, a layer of dead leaves that I crunched up and mixed in, and lots of earthworms. The little insects all went running for cover as I turned up the soil, but now it's ready for Spring planting. The bees have been attending to our citrus trees, and the olive and fig trees both have new growth. It's so nice to see bees around town! I imagined our conversation about the bee genocide, and basically all of the awful ways we continue to ruin our planet. I would probably ask questions you might not know the exact answer to, and I could just hear the sigh... "I don't know, Laurel...." Like loving-irritation. Is that a thing? I think it's a thing.

Sometimes I have to go out into the natural world and touch things that are alive and buzzing with life to remember: we are here. I don't have to understand WHY, I just have to be here. It helps me to feel grounded. Ironic how pulling up unwanted weeds can make me feel more rooted to the earth. Winter is dead! It's time to breathe in sunshine and pollen and lie in the grass and watch the ant highway on the water hose. There's a reason God gave us Spring.... it's a reminder that life comes back around and taps you on the shoulder, even when you've forgotten it was there. People get sick and die, old and young. People grow up, find love, and get married. We have dogs and babies and family dinners. Go outside. Remember. Wake up.

I know now why you spent so much time in the garden.

Love you always and forever,


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