There and back again

It’s been a month since my last blog post. I have no excuses. I’ve been putting off writing every day. A lot has happened, but I haven’t really wanted to try to put it into words.

At the end of June/beginning of July, I went home. I say “home” but to be honest, home doesn’t really feel like the right word. These days, I feel like I have a lot of homes. Maybe that’s the subject of another post.

Anyway, I went back to the U.S. for two weeks on emergency leave. If an immediate relative has a terminal illness, Peace Corps will fly you back to see them. I was glad I was able to go, even though it was difficult. For those two weeks, I was able to see family and get their support, even when they may not have realized the extent to which they were supporting me.

I saw my nephews and nieces, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and sisters for the first time in a year, and it was wonderful. 

I don’t really want to talk about illness and sadness and all the definitions of “going home” right now, so I’ll throw a few photos from my trip in.

On that note, as happy as I was to go back to the U.S, I was definitely ready to leave by the end of the trip. When I caught my first glimpse of the lake as the plane made its descent, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of homecoming. I’m happy to be back.

Last Words

Written on February 1, 2016 (5 days after)

Sitting in my cubicle, crying at my desk because my coworkers left me a sweet card with lots of handwritten notes.

Thinking about last words.

I got to the house. I kissed his cheek. He kissed my cheek for the first time in weeks. Usually he was asleep or too tired to do it. But that night he did.

He was semi-comatose. He didn’t really speak directly to anyone else except to say “let me out of here.”

I told him I love him. I told him Jasmine loves him.

I sang him “All Along the Watchtower.”

Before I left, I said, “I’ll see you soon. I love you.” I kissed his cheek.” He said, “I love you.”

I said, “I love you, Dad. I’ll see you soon.”

And that was the last time I saw him alive.

Semi-comatose, and he managed to give me one last “I love you.”

Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for that. I think you knew that would be the last one. I think you found the strength to give it to me.

I said I’d see you tomorrow. I said I’d see you soon.

It didn’t happen the way I thought it would. If I’d known, I would have stayed all night. I would have flown Jasmine in on a $1,000 flight.

It’s okay though. I may not have seen you the way I thought I would, or the way I wanted to, but I do see you. I see you everywhere.

Currently sitting at Dad’s bedside

Written on January 16, 2016 (11 days before)

I’m sitting on the bedside toilet and holding his hand. I came in and he opened his eyes and I kissed his cheek.

Adding to the list of words he’s said that I’ve understood:

“Hey, baby.”

(Twice)

Once when I kissed his cheek and once when Bev said, “Jade is here.”

Anyway, he stuck his hand out of the blanket and Bev said, “I think he wants you to hold his hand,” and I did and he squeezed it pretty tight and damn I want to remember this moment.

I took a picture because even though I swore I didn’t want to document his frailty or illness, this doesn’t particularly feel like either. 


After a while, he woke up and was a little confused about what was going on. He’d say things like “we should probably get going” or “do we have to be out by the 16th?” He seemed pretty focused on moving/leaving the house/paying rent, but I tried to ease his worries and talk about other stuff.

I asked if he had a favorite Jimi Hendrix song (which he doesn’t.) I asked the same question when he was in the hospital 3 months ago and he didn’t have a favorite song then either, but I do think Jimi is probably his favorite artist.

I asked if he’d seen the news about the Flint water crisis, and told him that the governor allowed these people to be poisoned. Mostly I was just trying to fill the silence, and eventually he closed his eyes and seemed like he was going to fall back asleep, so I told him I was leaving, and I kissed his cheek and told him I love him.

(Twice)

Predestination is bullshit, but this feels real

Written on January 15, 2016 (12 days before)

Before I forget: I have a couple more clear, understandable Dad things.

“Be careful.”

“Sorry.”

I’m trying not to be sad all the time, but goddamn it, I am. Dad saying, “Be careful” just felt so…almost normal? That’s what he always says when we leave, and I appreciated that moment, but I get the feeling that he has to put out a lot of effort to do that. I don’t know.

The “sorry” though. God, I hate that sorry. Dad apologized to me after I threw one of his snotty/spitty tissues away, and just…fuck, I hate that he hates this. And I just want to be able to pretend that everything is normal, but it’s not fucking normal. This is so hard for me, and he knows it, but he has to know that I would throw away his nasty tissues and fix his cannula and help him drink water and fix his pillows and rub his neck and give him more blankets every day if he needed it. It’s not a burden for me to do those things. I want to be there. And I want him to know that I want to be there. I don’t want him to apologize to me for relying on me a couple hours a day.

This blog post probably makes no sense but I’m not going to read over it before I post.

In the past, I’ve kind of resented the fact that I’ve lived my whole life in Springfield. I hated myself for my many roads not taken. I didn’t go to NYU. I hardly applied to or considered any schools outside of Missouri. I went to grad school in Springfield. I got a job in Springfield.

For years and years and years—since before I started high school, for sure—I knew that I wanted to leave here. I always said I’d go to school out of state, or at the very least, a few hours away. I wanted to live in a big city…or really anywhere but here. So how did I end up here? Why did I end up here?

Initially, I think I stayed for a few reasons: It was the safe choice, I had good scholarships, and I wouldn’t have to leave whatever boy prospects I had going at the time. Later, I stayed for similar reasons. It made financial sense to stay, but I always had one foot out the door and my eyes on the horizon. When I started at the Honors College, I didn’t resent myself for staying quite so much. After all, I’d found my calling, and if I hadn’t taken these particular roads, I probably wouldn’t have found myself doing this particular thing that I loved. (Of course, I may have found a different passion, but whatever.)

Anyway, I had found something I loved, and I used it as a reason to let go of any regrets I had about going to school in my hometown (twice), near my boyfriend (twice). I was happy with where I ended up, but a big part of me still felt like I had sold myself short for years, and that I was doing far too few extraordinary things, or even just above average things. I didn’t want to live the life that most of my high school classmates were living. I still don’t.

That said, I’m glad I’m here. And I typically don’t believe in fate and serendipity, but right now I kind of need to believe that all of my possibly-shitty decisions have led to me being here for this. Because if at any point I had left Springfield, I’m positive I wouldn’t have come back. I’m glad I’m here. Somebody has to be here.

I don’t know, part of me almost feels like I was predestined to be the one who stayed. I can’t imagine what it would be like if Jaz was gone, and Michael was locked up, and I was in New York or something. As much as I hate this place, and as much as I want to get out, I will never regret being here with him.

Also, just an FYI for future me who looks back at this blog post and cries: When I leave, I always kiss Dad’s cheek and tell him I love him. And then he tells me he loves me. And then I tell him I love him again, just because I need him to know that I heard.

I swear I’m ending this post, but I just remembered something. The other day, when Steven was leaving, Steven said bye and kissed Dad’s head, but Dad didn’t seem super aware/awake. As Steven was walking out the door, Dad said (pretty clearly), “Thanks for stopping by,” but Steven was already half out the door and didn’t respond, because he didn’t hear him.

I never want that to happen when I’m leaving. I want to say I love you, and I want to acknowledge that I receive and appreciate his love, and I want to him to know that I know that he appreciates me. Right now, honestly, I think he needs to feel heard. He is seeking validation. I’m sure he fucking hates it when people are talking all around him, talking about him, but not talking to him. Not hearing what he’s saying.

Well, I may not hear what he’s saying most of the time, but I’m damn sure going to talk to him anyway. And I’m going to make sure he knows how much I love him.

And I’m thinking about What Sarah Said

Written on January 14, 2016 (13 days before)

“Love is watching someone die.”

Heads up: this post is coming to you straight from Bummerville.

I’ve meant to write so many times in the last couple weeks, but I couldn’t really bring myself to open my laptop and write the first sentence. So here goes.

Dad is dying. I know, technically he’s been dying for a while. Technically we’re all dying. Right now, though…it seems imminent.

On December 11, Greg and Nancy had their annual Christmas party. Dad was tired. I sat by him. Bev would go fill his plate, and it was obvious that he didn’t have a lot of energy to run around the house, but he was there and aware and talking and mostly being himself.

On December 25, Dad slept for most of the day. Bev wasn’t there. In hindsight maybe I should have been more…helpful? But I didn’t want to make him feel like I was babying him. Throughout this whole process, I’ve tried to treat him the same as always, with the occasional health question thrown in. Anyway, he was tired, and he was in pain, but when he was awake, he was mostly the same as usual. Standing for a picture was difficult, and he was shaking the whole time, but he did it. I kind of hated making him stand for a picture, but at the same time, I needed it. I won’t apologize for needing it.


The next couple weeks, he looked bad. Way worse than Christmas. He fell asleep a lot, but he still asked us questions and talked to us about as much as usual.
The last thing I remember him saying clearly—I think this was the day after Jaz left—was in response to me saying I’d be back to see him soon. He said, “Please do. Your daddy’s wasting away.”

He also thanked me for checking on him (I don’t remember when he said that, but I’m cataloging as many of his words as I can.)

I am heartbroken. The next time I came to see him—maybe a couple days later—he could barely speak. I don’t know if he’s just too tired to talk or if the pain medicine is fogging his brain or what, but about 99 percent of his words come out as an unintelligible mumble. I try to talk to him as much as I can, but it is hard, because he’ll mumble back to something I’ve said, and I can’t tell if he’s really trying to engage in conversation or if he’s just kind of out of it. And I don’t want to talk over him if he is trying to say something, but I don’t want to constantly ask him what he said either.

Every once in a while, he’ll say something that comes out fairly clearly. I think it takes a lot of effort, so I’m going to store the memories and be thankful for them.

One night, after I helped him adjust his cannula, he mumbled, and when I didn’t respond, he turned to me and said, “Thank you.”

Last night, Bev and Greg helped him walk to his bed so he could go to sleep. I sat beside him and kissed him on the cheek and told him I love him. I’m trying to never let a day go by without telling him I love him. He replied, “I love you,” and then I think he was scared that I didn’t hear or understand him, because he said it again, louder, and that time I replied, “I love you too.” And then I left.

More than anything, I want him to know that I love him, but I also recognize that it’s important for him to know that I heard him, and that he loves me too. I’m trying to be there, but it’s hard to watch him die. It’s hard to watch him waste away. I don’t know what his last words to me will be, and I don’t know if I’ll understand them, so starting now, I’m keeping track of the ones I do understand.

I’m carrying those words with me wherever I go.

Antes y después: la linea de mi vida

Monday, we started Spanish class in a new location with a new teacher. The new location is the porche of my casa and the new language facilitator is the guy who did my initial Spanish language  interview a month ago in Managua. I was a little nervous to have classes with him (actually, we didn’t know who our new profe would be until he showed up at 8ish on Monday morning). We didn’t know what to expect, but it was fine.

We loved our first teacher (they say you never forget your first) and I was sad to change, but I understand the value of learning from people with different perspectives and teaching methods.

One of the first activities we did Monday was the linea de mi vida, so I had to make a timeline of my life—including all of the highs and lows—and stand in front of the class and talk about it in detail.

I haven’t cried in Nicaragua. I don’t think I cried in the 3–4 months leading up to my departure (but I came close on the day that I left my job and at the airport when I said goodbye to big sister.)

Anyway, as I was standing in front of the class talking about my life, I felt a little emotional, and it almost showed. I talked about how my parents got divorced, and I said that have a stepdad, but in my heart I have two dads who are equal. En mi corazón, mi papá y mi padrastro son iguales. Tengo dos papás.

Hablé de my favorite memory, cuando Jasmine golpeó a mi novio abusivo en su cara.

Mostly though, I talked about the two most emotional subjects in my life: Harry Potter and Dad.

I talked about how the end of Harry Potter marked the end of my infancia, and about how I had a complete emotional breakdown—lloré mucho en el cine—after I finished the last movie (because my childhood ended una vez más.) I talked about how Harry Potter changed my life, and how reading book one in Spanish is like a brand new experience, like I’m a kid again, living the magic for the primera vez.

The end of my timeline was Dad’s death. I don’t have sufficient words in any language to express how hard it was (and still is.) I purposefully ended my timeline there; in many ways, I feel like Dad’s death is still shaping me too profoundly for there to be an after. It still kind of feels like during, you know? Or maybe there is a before and after, but the after just feels like a weird blur that isn’t allowed to be real.

(Side note: I feel like every time I meet a new person, I have to work Dad’s death into the conversation immediately. It isn’t really typical first-meeting conversation, but also I still have a dad who is alive and living in Missouri, so I kind of need everyone to recognize that yes, I have an awesome dad whose shenanigans I’ll likely reference in the present tense, but I also have a gaping hole in my heart that will always belong to Daddy Glenn. Maybe I’d just rather explain it all now than deal with confusion later? [“Oh, your dad died? When did that happen? Weren’t you just talking about him tying flies with squirrel fur?” “No, the dad who ties flies isn’t the dad who died. I have two dads but for some reason I’m just now mentioning that.”])

Anyway, the first question my profe asked after I presented my linea de mi vida was “What about the Peace Corps?”

Fair question, but it’s complicated. I ended my timeline where I did for a reason, but I ended up drawing a point in 2016 for Cuerpo de Paz after he asked. I had to explain that I am happy to be here and I love Nicaragua, but it’s difficult to think about the Peace Corps so close to Dad’s death, because I never told him about my Peace Corps plans. Ten years of thinking about it and a year of application stuff, but I never told him. I was offered this Nicaragua gig on New Year’s Eve, and he died less than a month later.

I explained that I didn’t tell Dad about it because I didn’t want to give him preocupaciones at the end of his life, but después, I really wanted to be able to tell him. 

I’d give anything to tell him and have him say, “be careful” one more time.

For the record, talking about this in Spanish is about 100x more emotionally draining than talking about it in English, so I quickly got to the point where I literally couldn’t continue speaking. I think if I had, I might have shed a tear on my porch in front of my friends and my new profe, so I just said “that’s all.” Luckily, all of the other follow-up questions were about Harry Potter, and I was running late to my English class so I had to cut the preguntas and run across town to play Jeopardy with my 9th graders.