Friday, September 30, 2016

Losing Dad: Part 2

Since my last post, my grandpa passed away.  I received word right before I went to a women's weekend retreat.  In the last five months, I have lost my uncle, dad, and grandfather.  I spent the time at the church serving, praying, and socializing.  Oh, and I cried a few times.  I think, out of all of the weekend, the praying and being close to my heavenly father helped a great deal.  All the "churchy" things, like group prayer and mass, talked about love and coming to peace.  Now, I am sure that I will struggle over the next months and the rest of my life, but I am strong at the moment.  Granted, I am going home this weekend and may face more tears.  I will continue to drive forward, not by avoiding grief, but by acknowledging the process.

The book I read about being an orphaned adult that I discussed in my last post talked about how "Death has been sanitized and institutionalized," page 11.  Our culture no longer takes care of the body.  All preparations are done by the funeral home.  Now, I don't know which is better, but I do know that the world expects those of us in mourning to be done with it once we leave the funeral.  We have to go back to work and get on with life.  Many people have no guidance how to proceed with the world.  They try to block the pain away.

Dad's well used library card.
"No one can help you to get 'over it (grief).' You don't need to.  Grief is something you get through, and if you let it get through you as well, you will eventually find that you have enough room in yourself to contain it.  …you will find that you are able to face, and conduct, your life in a new way," page 28.  I find comfort in knowing I will always grieve for my dad.  This might sound odd.  Who wants to grieve forever?  But how can I not?  I will always miss him.  In the missing, I will continue to grieve and that is natural.  Now, I don't plan on crying and being depressed the rest of my life.  But it is perfectly normal to acknowledge the loss.  My new life is a life without my dad.

If I didn't look at my loss this way, in essence, I would be avoiding grief.  That is not healthy.  We have to grieve to get on with living.  But how do you get back to living?  The book helped.  I found while in the deepest part of my grief, I had a hard time getting anything done.  I was faced with a weekend retreat that I needed to prepare for as one of the workers.
  How did I get it done?  I kept my jobs small and simple.  Originally, I wanted to do a lot of fun creative things for all the women.  This was close to impossible.  So, I did simple little projects to begin with.  As I finished each one, my mind cleared up and I was able to do some more complicated work.  Once the weekend arrived, I finally had my creativeness back and could work with more complicated concepts and enjoyed myself immensely.  Now, I am starting to garden again.  I am keeping it simple and doing one small thing at a time.  I don't know if I will get everything done by the time the snow flies, but it is better then avoiding it all until spring.

My dad loved to fish.  Here is my gifted metal fish from dear friends.  It is right outside my writing window.
Another way to help get through, not over, grief is to have a support system.  I am so very blessed in this area.  An older couple traveled all the way to my hometown to attend my dad's funeral to support me and my daughter.  Another friend brought dinner, cookies, and a metal fish for a lawn ornament in my garden to remind me of dad.  I received cards, messages, and hugs.  One dear friend walks with me and listens.  At my retreat, I received a downpour of love, laughter, and normalcy.  One friend spoke about the death of her father.  Yes, I cried, but I also healed a little more.  Best of all, I have a sister, children, and husband who are always by my side when I need extra support.  Oh, and the project for the weekend retreat?  Two dear friends helped me work on that as well.  I am truly blessed.

Health is another area to remember when walls crumble due to loss.  Though I haven't made it out to the mountains to hike, I have walked almost daily.  My dog and dear friend make sure I get fresh air a good six days out of the week.  I have tried to eat my veggies more.  I didn't skip my dental or doctor appointments.  I advocated for a new med for my rheumatoid arthritis.  I am even thinking of walking more and trying to lose a little weight.  Of course, these are tough areas for me in the best of circumstances, but I am feeling better, so maybe.

The book talks about taking a break through rest, recreation, and distraction.  I am pretty good at this, though I do get impatient after a long period of not being productive in my chores.  When my health declined in 2008, I learned to take breaks by resting.  I either read or watch a little television.  When I am in pain from the arthritis, I distract myself with music and fun little tasks that keep my mind preoccupied by playing with paint and words.  Since I lost my words during the extreme grief, scrapbooking helped to distract me.  I am becoming an old pro at this method.

Prayer has always helped me through life struggles, so this was also an easy part of swimming through the grief process.  God has helped me through my husband's deployment, my daughter's illness, my health issues, and a number of other struggles through life.  My faith keeps me strong and helps me persevere.

I am a project person.  When each of my boys left for college, I redecorated a room in our house to keep me distracted from the loss, so when my father died, I knew I would have to do something creative in his honor.  As I read through the book, when they mentioned memorials, I chuckled.  A garden idea had already been developing in my mind.  On Monday, I broke ground to make a memorial garden for the loss of 2016.  I am going to plant a tree, peonies, and rhubarb.  Next spring, I will continue with the design.  The garden will be at the edge of our lawn facing my writing window.  I want to get more metal fish for the garden, but the original fish from my friend will stay in the garden next to my window.  I like looking out at it as I work. 

Our new sugar maple for my garden for Dad.
Though I miss my dad and will grieve for him always, I am feeling very strong this week.  His picture, with the James Dean pose, hangs on my wall.  The tree is freshly planted.  I chose a sugar maple.  I can watch the wind blow the leaves through my writing room window.  Dad's library card sits on my desk.  He is with me, and I still feel his love.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Losing Dad

For the last two months, I feel like I am living a double life.  Now, how to explain that statement!  Since my dad fell at the Brendan House on August 2nd, my mind has been logical and living my normal life.  I have helped make decisions, run the show, progressed in the daily duties as daughter, wife, sister, and mother.  My mind tells me all the good things: Dad is no longer in pain and he is watching over me.  I am enjoying my family, going on outings, went on vacation, volunteering for church, and progressing in most areas in my life.  This is life number 1.

The imposter life is being led by my heart and body.  I have no energy or desire for energy.  I look at my gardens which I can't seem to bring myself to step into.  I know in my head it has to do with my dad and his love of gardening that we shared, but I am scared that by gardening his death will be closer, more real.  I am struggling with the page and my words.  He won't read my next novel.  I might have to write of mourning.  I don't want to.  I don't want this to bring me closer to reality.  All I want to do is read, sleep, or watch television.  My heart is also telling me horrible things.  My childhood is lost.  I am no longer protected by my dad.  I am no longer a daddy's girl.  Lincoln County is lost to me.  The great outdoors has been shut away from me.  I have lost my Nixon family.  I have lost my home.  I know many of you would like to tell me this isn't reality.  My head knows, but my heart isn't listening.

My mind has tried to kick me in the butt.  The other day I ordered a book to read.  One that I hoped would help me be logical in this process of being without my dad, of mourning.  "The Orphaned Adult" by Alexander Levy is teaching me that I am quite normal.  (Dang, I like being abnormalJ)

For 48 years my father's "… touch has comforted and guided and corrected and made you (me) safe since the beginning of time," page 7.  I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband who helps make my life safe.  I have not asked my dad for very much advise in the last 30 plus years.  I have created a self-sufficient life.  I am strong.  My life is filled with friends and family that help me.  My brain tells me all of this.  However, my dad has always shored up my belief of safety.  Just because I grew up, it didn't take away that feeling of his protection.  Now it is gone.  I will never have it again.  It sucks!!!

"There is a sudden awareness of no longer being someone's child, which carries with it a loss of childhood altogether," page 16.  I am no longer Doug Nixon's little girl.  I will never see the glint in his eye when I drive into the driveway.  I will no longer jump in the pickup with him to go visiting or fishing.   I have always felt so much love, acceptance, fun, and whimsy during our outings.  They are over.

The feeling of losing my home, Lincoln County, the Nixon family, and the forest has been very perplexing.  I have a beautiful home.  I love hiking in the area that I live in and taking drives all over the state in our beautiful mountains and flatlands.  Lincoln County still exists and I can visit anytime I want.  Why do I feel it is gone?  "Parents provide a unique spot on this planet, which is called 'home,' where we can return, if we need to, to be loved and to feel that we belong. … This spot cannot be imitated.  It cannot be recreated.  There is only one spot that is ever the real spot called home.  After parents die, it's gone," page 31.  I have not lost all of these places or people, but I have lost the aspect of them that is connected to my dad.  I don't know how to navigate them without him either being with me or being able to share it with him.

I remember a number of years ago walking around Spring Meadow Lake.  It was a beautiful fall day.  At one end of the lake, I hear a bird but didn't see it.  I wondered what it could be and watched for him in the trees.  As I rounded a corner at the opposite end, a osprey flew overhead and landed in a tree next to his mate.  I was delighted and thanked God for such a beautiful site.  I finished my walk and called Dad.  "Hello, kid," he said as he answered my call.  We chatted about the birds and probably fall gardening. 

I haven't walked outside my neighborhood since Dad died.  I think I am afraid of dialing his number before I realize I can't talk to him.  This is probably the other reason I feel I have lost so much.  I am left with a horrible question.  "Who am I now that I am nobody's child?" page 44.  Dad was my directional beacon.  He was one of my best friend's.  He was my longest reigning companion.  I chat with others about gardening, but we had long conversations about it.  We talked nature.  We swapped books.  Yes, I swap books with Jerry.  Yes, people have to listen to me talk about gardening and nature, but they don't talk actively.  Where do I go from here?  I feel very lost.  My beacon's light is extinguished.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Dreams and Hope

"'You can't stop girls from wishing.  No!  Everyone must dream.  We dream to give ourselves hope.  To stop dreaming - well, that's like saying you can never change your fate.  Isn't that true?'"  Kwan says this to her sister on page 194 of The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan.

When I read this quote over the weekend, I thought of my feelings as I took the Creole Queen paddle boat up the Mississippi just a couple of weeks ago.  A deep sadness filled my heart as I realized I would never sail on the ocean with my dad.  For years, I dreamed of taking him deep-sea fishing.  Madelle dreamed of taking him on a boat trip down the Mississippi.  I also wanted to float the Missouri River with him.  We no long have these dreams, the hope.  We can't change this fate.

I don't like dwelling in the negative, so I am changing my dreams.  Simple, right?  Not always, because after the death of a loved one, many people become depressed.  They lose their dreams.  They forget to change their dreams and continue living.  Dad wouldn't want this for any of us.  Thus, I still dream of fishing on the ocean and taking a trip down the Mississippi and Missouri.  I have no idea if I will do this alone or take someone with me.  Really, it doesn't matter, but dream still lives.  And the best part, Dad will be with me in spirit. 

This morning I dreamed of England.  My sister, a friend, and I will be flying there in March to celebrate life and my kid sister's 40th birthday.  Geez, I still remember when she was born!  I dream of stepping on the island where my family lived and died so many years ago.  I will celebrate those that gave life to their dreams by coming to America and moving West.  I will celebrate the heritage of my father, Leroy Douglas Nixon.  The furthest back our family tree goes is to York, England, 1393, with the birth of William Nykson, fourteen some odd generations ago.  I doubt I will find any traces of the Nixons there, but I will see the land of their birth and death. 

Where will the dream go after the trip?  Are you kidding?  The sky is the limit.  I am full of dreams and hope.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Life takes so many unexpected turns.  One consistency in my life is the love of literature.  No surprise with that statement for those who know me.  I always find it surprising that literature in the form of books, plays, television, and movies help me through difficult times in my life.  Literature transports me beyond the reality of my world to give me strength, to let my imagination sore.

As a child, I missed a lot of school my first year.  I struggled with reading due to the inconsistency of being taught on a continuous basis.  When my dad found out in the spring, he worked at changing my days.  Each night after work, he checked in with me about school to make sure I attended.  My presence at school picked up, but he didn't stop there.  He took me to the little town library.  We read constantly.  We swapped books, which continued through the rest of his life.  He opened up my world to so many other worlds, past, present, future, and make-believe. 

The two of us also watched television drama.  Two of our favorites were TJ Hooker and Fantasy Island.  We threw in the Love Boat for good measure because of the programming.  My sister and mother usually went to bed early so it was just the two of us.  I loved out time together watching the shows.  We discussed the plot during the commercials.  TJ captured the villains.  The crew explored foreign countries and cultures.  Mr. Roarke creating new worlds.  A bowl of popcorn also was in the mix. 

Dad didn't take me to too many movies because he worked early in the morning.  He made an exception for Westerns and horse movies.  One night we went to the Black Stallion at the drive-in and ate dinner at King's Pizza.  I loved that date.  Another movie favorite was The Man From Snowy River.  I still listen to the soundtrack.  During the summers, Dad always handed me money to go with my cousins to the movies.  Again, we talked about the plot the next day.

Dad passed away last month.  I struggle with explaining my feelings.  I feel his presence; yet, I feel a void.  I can't share with Dad my latest word count or the ongoing battle with weeds.  He will never read another one of my books.  He will never give me the name of an author he just discovered.  I know he is cheering me from heaven and is still in my corner.  My drive to garden and write has dried up, but I feel his nudges.  I turn to literature.

Last night, my husband and I went to a movie.  I flew through space.  Good battled evil.  A father died, leaving a son questioning his path in life.  Should he stop what he was doing and follow in his father's footsteps?  I have thought of that a bit.  I look out at my appalling garden with weeds taller then the plants.  My dad would shake his head at the atrocity.  I contemplate taking September off to fix my gardens like he would.  However, Dad would also have a glint in his eye looking at me through the window typing away.  He loved my second book more then the first book and looked forward to book three. 
I know Dad wants me to continue writing.  The garden will wait.  The son in the movie was reminded by his father that he too must follow his true path, not that of his father's.  The main character will use his father's skills in his life, as I will use my dad's.  When I find myself struggling in my writing, I will turn to the dirt and weeds for inspiration.  I will go beyond.