Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good Grief

Pema Teeter, the Story Charmer, is doing an amazing and beautiful series on her blogsite ( to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11. What she is doing is genius, and is breaking my heart daily. (I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.) This is a good thing.
My dad died when I was seven years old. He dropped dead of a massive heart attack when he was only 42, leaving a 33 year old widow with two young girls. It was 1951, and I lost not only my dad that day, but also my mom who then had to go out and work two jobs, and also our home to renters, while we moved into a 15 foot camping trailer. My sister was ten days away from being two years old, and we were days away from Thanksgiving. Christmas was a 15 cent coloring book and lots of sad faces. Tears were discouraged.
I spent the next two years praying every night to die and join my dad in heaven. If I hadn't been raised in church and taught that suicide was the only unforgivable sin, I would have killed myself. Instead, I spent a lot of time trying to trick God: staying out in the cold trying to get pneumonia, walking too close to Hwy 66 trying to get sucked under the wheels of semi-trucks, staying too long on the railroad tracks hoping I'd trip as I jumped out of the way of the freight trains that came by across the road from our house. None of it worked. Only time caused me to give up my quest for death at such a young age.
I think it was the death of my first step-father that shook me out of my deep depression, because my mom was already going out with the next man she would marry. And when she married him we were going to move into town. That was going to radically change my life.
I may have moved forward a lot sooner had grieving been encouraged in any fashion. Instead I was told not to cry, to forget about my dad. We severed all contact with my dad's family, all those aunts, uncles and cousins I had grown up with to that point. All were now erased from my life. Mom remarried only four months after Dad died. Today I realize she did it so we could move back into our house, and she could work only one job instead of two. Then I thought she was trying to replace my dad, and I hated my stepfather and withdrew from my mom.
Grieving is good, necessary even. When we repress those feelings, they do not go away, they just go deep. I believe I'm carrying about fifty pounds of tears in my body to this day. Will this be the year I let them go?
What are you holding on to?

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