Friday, June 16, 2017

The First Father's Day

Dear Daddy,

It's been almost six months since you became one with the sky. These have been the hardest six months of my life. I feel myself going from one end of the spectrum to another. In between the day-to-day moments lives an emotional pain I was not fully prepared to deal with. I don’t know what advice you would give me except maybe something along the lines of “Nothing truly dies. Energy is transformed” or maybe “Don’t be sad Boo Bear”. I don’t know if I’ll ever not be sad but a good friend told me the other day that someday I’ll be able to accept the sadness.

Father’s Day is in two days and I feel a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach. By now, I would have sent you a special card (from Papyrus because they just somehow always manage to get it right), with the perfect wording or a blank one that I can write myself. As a gift, last year I sent you Huis Clos (No Exit) by Jean-Paul Satre and you absolutely loved it. When we spoke you were so happy and said you felt like a kid in the candy store zipping through the play. Hard to top that off this year but I would have tried. The Alchemist in Spanish would have been nice since you said you wanted to improve yours through reading.                 

No card this year and no gift. No way I’m okay with this. How can I be?

One bright side is I’m going with my mom to the Happiest Place on Earth in your honor and in Pop’s. Of all the ways my mom and I are alike, now we share that we have lost our fathers and that sucks. Like I have written, it isn’t the first time a daughter has lost her father nor will it be the last. It is, however, the only time your daughter has lost you and therein lies the singularity.  
 In my chest is a void—an emptiness that only you can fill. It seems like all of the memories of you and the time we shared have a finality about them. As though the universe said Only thirty-four years for us and then done.

I’ve heard the term that death gives life meaning but I believe it’s love. Love is what gives life meaning. That is the only salvage point in all of this.

I have good days and I have bad days. On the good days, I crack up at how you danced or sang or something ridiculously stubborn you did. I remember the last time I saw you and how you argued with Brian over Kobe, lol. We’re on the beach in Florida taking pictures and you’re smiling because you’re happy to see us. I’m smiling because my husband and father are pretending to tackle each other and spending time together. The man who gave me away is bonding with the man who received me.

On the bad days, I hear In My Life, the song we danced to at my wedding. It comes on randomly in the car and my face gets hot. Tears run down my face. Or I’m at home alone, finding a card you sent me and I suddenly feel compelled to call or text you. I realize I can’t so I go to your picture in the kitchen and talk to you. I tell you I miss you, I love you and that I’m sad. I bury my face in my hands and sob until finally I can breathe again. On the really bad days, I think about your last days and that is when my chest aches and I feel like I can’t think or do much of anything. That is when I have to talk to Brian, my mom, Josie, Rashied or Naje. Those are the times I feel extremely lost and alone. Those are the dark days, the ones that no one else sees because I just want to hide in the shadows. This is when I feel I like I’m drowning and no one can bring me back except time or laughter.

If I laugh, the shadows fade as a light beam comes through. Invisible pieces of a bandage decorate my chest and I know that in order for me to see you again, I must go on. You would want me to live, to live my life and be happy. That is the third piece of advice I think you would give me. To find you again, I must navigate through the forest of life as I continue making memories with our family and someday with my own children. 

So this Father’s Day, the first one without you, I will try my best to live. I’ll remember the times I teased you when your accent came through and you tried so hard to catch yourself but it was too late. I was already making fun of how you pronounced that particular word and all we could do was laugh. I’ll have fun with my mom like there is no tomorrow and I’ll find the journal (besides this blog of course) that I’ll write especially to you in. I will let the tears fall but I promise to smile and to laugh. I’ll think of those times when I was little and you picked me up and carried me and I’ll let your memory carry me through. I’ll be thankful that I had a father and had you as my father. 

I’ll picture you soaring through the universe as an infinite beam of light. I'll imagine your old self with only the black hair and mustache (before the salt and pepper) sitting down with Buddha and Jesus saying, “You might not know this but...”

I love you Daddy.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Photo by Brian Chism

These months are "focus" months. Last year ended in a blur with an arrow straight into my heart. That hole is where the memory of my dad lives and is still raw and healing. When I expect too much of myself - to be in control of the tears or the longing, I remember it's only been almost four months and I let myself grieve. Grief is definitely an ebb and flow of emotions, disappearing into the quiet abyss of everyday life and then flowing back with memories and realizations I swim through. It is the elephant in the room that is invisible to everyone else but me. In between the conversations and laughter, I wonder if I'll ever be okay again. I think I'll be okay again. Right?

So this elephant that keeps chasing me, I've decided to mount. The repetitive things that an adult must do to function in this world, I have decided to squeeze into the work week. Groceries on Wednesdays, laundry on Thursdays, cleaning on Friday and the like. On weekends, I'm using the elephant to explore the fields of my imagination, happiness and creativity - That Hans Zimmer's Masterclass I got for Christmas, working on another album, puzzling which calms me in a way I never expected, quality time with my husband, family and friends - those are all destinations on this ride. Less stress, less working seven days, more time, more healing of my soul and more smiles.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Good Night Papa Bear Part II

**Photo by Brian Chism**

When I was a little girl, my dad and I spent many summer days at Silver Strand Beach. He packed sandwiches and chips for us in a blue backpack and I brought my little pail and shovel in a little bag. It was us versus the ocean. I didn't realize until I was older that my love for the water comes from him. Landscapes and beautiful views connect us because we share a love of reveling in nature's greatness. On top of mountains overlooking valleys, the oranges and blues colliding in a sunset or gigantic trees that teach us patience and respect - all of those things are inside of me because of him. 

So when Brian and I ended up at Pismo Beach for my birthday weekend (where you can actually drive onto the sand with your car which still blows me away) I found comfort in the beauty of the ocean. I thought of my dad and moments with nature that we shared throughout our life together. I felt at peace knowing I wouldn't hear his birthday wish because somewhere in the rolling green hills, the ebb and flow of the ocean, the giant rocks of Morro Bay or in the love that my husband showered upon me - his spirit resonated within my soul. 

I was one with the ocean. One with him. 

The folder with my name on it that I found in my dad's room (Good Night Papa Bear Part I) after he passed was extremely important. Inside were the lyrics to two songs I wrote and most importantly, the collection of thoughts or journal entries that I made when my grandfather passed away in 2006. After my mom told me what happened with my grandfather, I called my dad to let him know. He was upset, got choked up and had to call me back. When we spoke again I was unsure whether or not I should go to the funeral because of work. My uncle and my mom planned to drive to Missouri so I knew it would take a couple of days to get there and back. 

My dad didn't hesitate to emphasize that this was a no-brainer. I had to be there and family was more important than work. Of course, now that I look back I hate to think that I could have almost let work get in the way of one of the most important experiences of my life but we are all young and naive at times in our lives. Sometimes, all we need are the words of the wise to show us the way. 

I can't remember if we left during the day or at night. I do know that the changing terrains, the changing skies, Radiohead's The Tourist on repeat and the purpose of our trip inspired me to write down almost every thought that came into my head. Watching my mother very closely, I realized that I was there...for her...a daughter and a son from the west driving east to say goodbye to their father. Here are a few excerpts from my journal during that trip:

May 17 - 22, 2006

The wheels are turning...he brought us grandpa...the bridge...the link between sunrise and sunset...the great tree in the forest. The tie between hermits. The creator of families. 

We are all humans first, people second. 
Come to me humble and I shall welcome you with kindness. 
Receive me with hostility and we shall dance with swords.

The light is the perfect light to leave against. It is warm and golden.

Everyone deals with pain differently. Although I am a sensitive creature, I cannot run. I prefer to face pain -- let it hit me like a train and the scattered pieces take form. Let it come and fly over me -- an eagle searching for the unknown.

The world I see right now is a blue that holds so much sadness. It is the calm after the storm...though not peaceful. Her face is one of thought, contemplation and reflection. My soul burns every time a tear drops from her eyes -- to live is to share her pain. I am here as a witness..another tree in the forest swaying to a familiar tune. Another set of eyes who appear at the scene observing, watching and remembering. My hand is a cloth for her to use through this unexpected and unexplainable circus. We are all players - all clowns hiding behind human faces. All hurting beneath concealed wounds. 
All soldiers in this battle of life - ill-equipped and unprepared. 

Looking through old pictures, just like my mom did as a girl, I've always felt odd. Like a crayon left outside the box. 
An alien among aliens. An anomaly. That is why it is vital for me to stand by her side. 
To be omnipresent in all she does and all I do...for us. 
Our story will always be one of enlightenment, tribulation, acknowledgement and most importantly love

(Somewhere in New Mexico) The sky is afire. My heart is restless. The mountains stare at me waiting for my breath. 
I belong there with my hands reaching for the sky beckoning the sun's kisses. 
The setting sun reminds me of the patience night holds for day. Darkness waits quietly for its turn. 
We are those rocks settled next to each other - linked by centuries, ages, eons, forever one with the earth's birth. 

Reading these words in my dad's room, time stopped. Finding comfort in my own words was surreal. Then knowing that he found comfort in them and left them there for me invokes a feeling in my chest that I can't truly express in words. Coping with the death of your father through the words you wrote to cope with the death of your grandfather. If you know my dad, then you know that anything he reads, prints out or has lying around is of the utmost importance to him. He was very meticulous about articles, books or any piece of information he found useful. 

When my dad passed away, a daughter and her mom from the west traveled east to say goodbye. With the weight of the world on our shoulders, we did not hesitate to take the soonest flight we could find to be there. There was nothing that would stop me from being with him. 

Daddy, if you can read this and hear my voice, here are a few excerpts from my journal during our trip:

Dec/Jan 2017

En route...LAX...with this a nightmare?

 The first Christmas I don't make the phone call. The fact that I can't access your voice right away unnerves me. Then I see the ocean and it calms me. Reminds me that where there is beauty - a beautiful landscape, there's our love. 
We both share a love of nature's magnificence and now that you are uncaged, unleashed, infinite - 
you're very much a part of that magnificence. 

Summarizing all of those things I couldn't do is like saying I couldn't save you. And the truth is no one could. I wish to God I could have but no one could. Even those who say they could - being saved is a two-way street when someone elects to be saved. I don't know if my presence would have made it easier or harder. Because I would have never wanted to let you go. I would have probably kept you lingering on in misery and pain and that would have been selfish of me and suffering for you.

Better your lion spirit break free with a force stronger than anything on this earth.
Better your lungs expand to hold an infinite supply of breath and ease.
Better you smile in the heaven's golden parachutes and watch your three kids come together to send you off.
Better you free than caged.
Better you infinite than mortal.

Your birthday was yesterday. I spoke with my mom, Naje, Josie, Rashied and Brian and felt some peace during the day. Then towards the night, the sadness set in again. I miss you. I miss knowing you were there. 
Like a light beacon on another plane that I knew could always reel me in. And now nothing. Silence. 
I know that's not completely true as all I need to do is use my heart and mind to feel you and remember. 
But I can't hear your voice and that hurts.

The solace is that your spirit was so strong. Your stubbornness is probably what kept you alive. What kept you going. 
Your strong spirit is what I felt inside your room...inside your house...inside the memories. I miss you so much Daddy. 
I can't even convey the depth of my longing. Especially the first day you left and I begged you to come back. 
I am looking for so many signs. I see them but then sometimes I slip into despair. Time, I know will makes things simpler and easier as I adjust my life to live without you physically in it. I must find a way to live with you spiritually in it. 

Going through our text messages and missing my text buddy. 
Your signature luvurdad which I actually found really neat and creative. 

I just listened to your voicemail greeting again. 

I hope you are laughing, smiling and waiting for us...
You are the oldest so you'll have to show us the ropes when we exit this play. 
When I am old and ready, I will call for you and you will help me adjust to the after life. 
You will give me an hour lecture on flying and soaring the heavens and 
there we will reside in the the sky. 

And now that you are one with the light I wonder if you'll be my guardian angel. 

I think you are...I know you'll want to protect and shield. 

After all, you are and always will be my father. 

**My mom and my grandfather**

**Me and my Papa Bear - 5.1.11**


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Good Night Papa Bear Part I

This isn't a post I wanted to write. I don't think anyone wants to write about the loss of a parent. However, since my dad loved my blog, I am posting this in his honor.

My dad passed away on Tuesday morning, December 20. It is a day I will never forget. He was sick for a couple of years but we didn't think it was going to happen as abruptly as it did. As his wife told us, one minute he was up and about and the next he was down and gone.

He lived in Florida. My mom and I flew there to join his wife, my brothers and family to say goodbye. When I entered his house, I could smell him. I could feel his energy and I could sense his presence. I had a hard time being in his room more than anything--even more than the service we had. Like a lost little puppy, I wandered around his place looking for anything that would pertain to me - whether it was a picture, a note, or a letter. When you don't live with your parents or have parents who have separated or remarried, there is that part of you that wonders how they fit you into their new home life. 

I knew my dad loved me. There is no question of that. I know he knew I loved him too. In every conversation we had and every text message, as stern as he was, he never hesitated to let me know that he loved me and I always made sure he knew too. The distance is what was hard. Me living in California and him in Florida. We didn't get to see each other as much as we would have liked to over the years. 

So back to the lost little puppy looking for signs around my dad's place - I found hints here and there - a picture on his desk of me, my brothers and a good friend's grandson when we were little in a frame. The lion stuffed animal I gave him that has a tie that says "I Love My Dad" was also on his desk. The lion has relocated to my purse so he can accompany me on all of my adventures and so I can also hug and kiss him when I think of my papa bear. 

My CD was in his player and he had this very special card I got him next to the stereo. Every year, I always went out of my way to find the perfect Father's Day, Christmas and Birthday card (Dec 28) for my dad. Very rarely did the cards have the right words but usually I got blank cards depicting nature or something quirky and interesting that I knew he would appreciate. The special card that I found was a black and white card with a black cat sitting in bed reading a book and next to him was another book titled "Le chat et nous". I wrote to my dad that he was that cool cat because he read profusely and spoke French. Finding that card touched my heart immensely. 

My mom, who also came, found things just for her. My brothers, found things pertaining to each of them too. My mom says my dad left things out so we could find them. She was right. I later found a folder with my name on it which I will get into in the Part II of this post. 

The one thing I wanted most wasn't there and that was just to kiss his cheek one last time. Or to feel his hands - which were soft in places and hard in others. His crooked pinky from an injury he never went to the doctor for. His furrowed brows which could convey more emotion than the words he spoke (which is saying a lot because my dad could TALK) - I wish I could touch them. His soft black hair and crooked mouth always decorated with a mustache. Hearing him call the nickname he gave me "Boo Bear" or sometimes "Boo Boo" or even hearing myself say "Daddy" and have him answer. 

Yes, even his stubbornness, I'll miss and the excessive talking and always thinking he knows more than everyone else or an unparalleled amount more than his kids. Yes, I'll miss that too because to be my father is to be all of those things - whether good or bad, happy or sad, stubborn or yielding - all of his characteristics that make him who he was and what he meant to me. 

I would never be who I am today without him and I will never be the same without him.