Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Weaving The Tapestry

"love",  when spoken of by poets, romantics, or even twitterpated teenagers is never described in the same way. Perhaps because no two 'love' s are alike. The greatest love brings the highest kinds of emotion, as well as the deepest of despairs. Its the way we learn what love really is.
The first man I "fell-in-love- with was my father. I adored him, wanted to always be with him, hated disappointing him and believed in him. I suppose I share that with a lot of women who were close to their dads. The difference...
I didn't learn to love, trust, and give my heart to a man I could spend my life with while learning to let go of my Dad. I had my first and most devastating heartbreak of my entire life when I was 17 years old and I found my father dead.
My Dad was diagnosed with Diabetes when he was 14 years old. Back in the early 1950's treating and fighting the disease consisted of guessing at how much insulin you needed and trying not to eat sugar. My Dad didn't know that all food contains carbohydrates that convert to sugar in your blood stream. He couldn't take his blood to see how much insulin he needed, there was no technology for that. When he was in his early 30's his heart began to give out. over the next 15 years he had a series of heart attacks, coupled with stomach problems, bronchitis, liver problems, and eventually kidney problems too. On the morning of May 2, 1989, he awoke throwing up, weak and very sick. Three days earlier I'd been so worried about him, I'd gone to the principal of the High School where I attended and he worked, to beg his boss to make him go home.
By Tuesday, no one had to tell him to go home. My mom went to work and the rest of us went to school while Dad wrote up some lesson plans and made a doctor's appointment. I'd been going to and from School with my Dad for most of my High School Career. I walked back and forth to lunch with him every day, did my homework in his classroom after school, and I traveled with the wrestling team for which he was the assistant coach. He was my world. On this day, I didn't go home at lunch to check on him. Instead, I went to lunch with my friends and went to work after school to pick up my paycheck. When I arrived home that afternoon, I walked through the back door of my house and asked my 9 year old brother where Dad was.
"He's cleaning out the van," my brother said. "He wanted me to help him, but I'm sick."
A comment which has haunted my brother his entire life.
I held my pay check in one hand and headed for the door. "I need to borrow the car to cash my check. I'll be right back," i told him.
Rushing out the door and down the steps I headed for our 16 passenger van, parked in the driveway and my Dad  who was lying on the grass looking up at the clouds.
"hey Dad? Can I borrow the car for a second?"
He didn't answer. I could see that he wasn't asleep, his eyes were open. His fingers were laced behind his head, in the way they always were when he laid down to bask in his favorite activity...nature.
"Dad?" He didn't even turn his head to look at me.
Instincts kicked in. When my Dad's blood sugar was too low he'd become nearly paralyzed, only able to move his eyes. It must have gotten too low while he worked on the car and now he needed sugar. I started down the dirt path that connected my house to my paternal grandparents. Grandma would have a bottle of honey I could squirt into his mouth and bring him out of it. I explained it to my grandma, she gave me the bottle and I hurtled back up the path to his side.
Kneeling on the grass beside him, I took the bottle in one hand and grasped his chin in my other hand.
Before I could squeeze his cheeks and open his mouth, everything in the universe stopped. His skin was cold, waxen, an empty mass of flesh beneath my fingers. He wasn't there. His body lay before me, his hazel eyes an eerie shade of grey/brown, but he was gone.
I don't remember the details after that. My older brother came out of the basement and began CPR. My younger brother who was 14 ended up outside as well, but I don't recall how he got there. I do remember he started crying and screaming and my grandmother who was there now, took him to the clinic for tranquilizers. My two younger sisters were in the yard but I was oblivious to who was taking care of them or how they were doing. An empty blankness had opened up inside of me. It started as a quiet numbness that sucked in time, movement, colors and light. It didn't hurt, I didn't cry. I just stopped existing in this plane.
I went inside the house after my cousin Chris stopped and helped my brother do CPR and an ambulance showed up. I don't know who called them. My older brother disappeared at that point. I found out later he'd run 4 miles to the next town to sit on his friends grave.
When I went inside the house I called the school where my Mom worked and asked for her. In my memory I was very calm, but something in my voice must have told the secretary to be alarmed because my mom was frantic when she got on the phone.
"Traci, What's wrong?"
"Dad's dead. They just took him to the hospital in an ambulance."
By now our yard and house were filled with neighbors, kids from the high school, the wrestling team, and three quarters of town. That's the kind of wonderful place I grew up. They were all telling me to breathe and pray. That they'd taken him to the hospital and he'd be okay.
I remember looking at all of their tear stained features and being confused. He wasn't going to be Okay. He was dead. I touched him, I held his body in my hands. No one could bring him back. Why did they keep saying that?
When I called my best friend, her mom told me she was asleep, she had a migraine.
"Okay," i said in a flat tone. "Could you ask her to come over here when she wakes up. My Dad just died." I hung up without waiting for a response. Five minutes later she was beside me, holding me together, the way she always did and always has.

The next few days were a blur of pain, numbness, robotic movements and complete confusion. I'd wake up and for a moment everything felt normal. Then the crushing darkness, emptiness and black hole of despair would take over. I was angry with God for needing him more than I did. I hurt so much I couldn't remember what anything else felt like. The first time I had to go back into his classroom, I fell apart. It wasn't his room anymore. Another teacher had taken over, new bulletin voards were up, a new seating arrangement, and my Dad's old worn desk was gone. A brutal reminder that he was gone too.
When I thought of broken hearts before this I imagined them being made of glass, and shattering into tiny irreparable shards. This wasn't like that though. My heart was a tapestry. a thousand loose threads that with the slice of the largest one, the unraveling began.
I didn't think about what was best for him or anyone else, All I knew was I was falling apart. He'd found out at the doctor on his last day that his liver and kidneys would both be gone in six months. If the heart attack hadn't killed him, being bedridden and helpless would have taken him, anyway. After 25 years this information is comforting, but at the time no one cared. All of us, my mom, my brothers, my sisters, my grandparents, friends, neighbors, students, fellow teachers, and every person whose life he touched was left with a piece of themselves tattered and torn
I felt like a tangled skein of yarn. Twisted, ugly, unmanageable and a lost cause.  Unwinding that mess to find the beautiful picture again has been like learning to weave with wet tissue paper. More mess than artistery. .
Most of us, though a bit ragged, have rewoven our lives and made beautiful works of art. I thank my father for that.He is the true love who gave me the silken threads of faith and hope. The heavy strings of determination, stubbornness and passion for life. And the golden flax of beauty, gratitude and love. I couldn't have relied on my Savior, My Heavenly Father and my loved ones if he hadn't spent the first seventeen years of my life carding the wool, spinning the fibers and creating the tapestry of my heart.
Thank you Daddy! I miss you!

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