Posts Tagged ‘papa’

Emotional Attachment

June 12, 2018

I woke up a tiny bit off.

Not a lot, but just enough to notice.

I felt a little flat.

Sometimes when I feel this way it’s because I am trying to avoid feeling anything.

So I disassociate a little, go about my day, do my things, make my bed, get dressed and do my hair, make breakfast, get lunch ready for work, look at my calendar, make coffee.

You know.

Routine.

I can check out a little in my routine.

But.

It all came clear when I peeped social media.

Oh hi there.

I wasn’t expecting to see that.

But.

I should have.

I have been sensing it in the air.

I thought about it a couple of days ago.

There’s a birthday coming up, isn’t there?

And yes.

Thanks social media.

There it was on Facebook.

Hi papa.

Happy birthday.

Today you turned 69.

Sigh.

I haven’t seen my father since he was in a coma over four years ago.

I ceded responsibility for his health to the State of Alaska.

I sat by his side for four days and cried and talked and held his hand.

I wrote him a long card that I had bought at a gift shop in the Anchorage Museum a friend had taken me to one afternoon.

“Enough, you’ve had enough time in the hospital, come out, get some air, let’s do something not related to the hospital and the ICU.”

I found a really cool card with raven totems on it.

I bought it for my dad.

I left all my information in it.

My phone number.

My address.

My email.

I said I loved him and hoped he was going to get better and be safe and be happy and get healthy.

I told him I forgave him.

I’m actually not sure I wrote that in the letter, but I told him that.

And I asked him to forgive me.

He wasn’t always the best dad.

I wasn’t always the best daughter.

And I let him go.

My last  night there before getting on the plane the nurses encouraged me to talk to him more, that thought that he might wake up to my voice.

He never did.

I waited until I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to come back to San Francisco, I had to go back to work.

I had to take care of myself.

I kissed him on the cheek.

I was surprised by the warmth of his face and the softness of his skin under my lips.

My eyes welled up with tears and I left.

He woke up about a week later.

On my birthday of all days.

I saw it was the number of the hospital in Anchorage.

I answered.

It was one of my dad’s nurses, “your father’s awake and he wants to talk to you.”

“Hi ___________________ I said softly, I call my father by his first name.  A psychological defense of distancing that I learned at a very young age.  My father ceased being papa when I was six although there were a few scattered times in my adolescence that my father reclaimed the moniker, he’s always been known to me by his first name.

He said, “my balls itch and the nurse won’t let me scratch them.”

Sigh.

Happy birthday.

That really wasn’t what I wanted to hear from my dad, but then again he was awake and that was something else.

He’d been in the coma for two weeks.

Then he cawed at me.

“Caw! Caw!”

Like a crow.

Like a raven.

I teared up.

He’d gotten my letter and either he’d read it or someone read it to him.

He understood and he was letting me know that he’d gotten the message.

I felt big crashing waves of emotions.

And then.

The nurse had to get him off the phone, for he kept trying to take off the bandages around his skull where the craniotomy had happened to relieve the brain swelling he’d had as a result of the accident he was in.

And accident that was propelled and fueled by his alcoholism.

Those were the last words I got from my dad.

I wondered about him today.

I felt a similar feeling last year around this time.

An urge to reach out.

An urge to connect.

I tried a cell phone number that I thought might work.

It was disconnected.

Just like I was.

Detached.

Removed.

Far, far, far away.

I checked in with my person today, I told on myself about my father’s birthday and some guilt and shame that was coming up.

I got lovely perspective and calm soothing words and an invitation instead to get a candle for my father and light it and that it be a scented candle, a smell that I like.

And when I smelled it I would send a little prayer up to God for my father.

I lit that candle tonight when I got home.

Kona coffee scented.

Seems apropos.

My father was born in Hawaii.

I miss you papa and I hope you are well and happy and content.

I won’t reach out further.

There is too much illness and disease and dysfunction there for me to get involved in an emotional imbroglio.

Rather.

Today.

I reached out to those who are my chosen family, friends that have seen me through rough stuff with my parents, friends who love me.

I called an old friend from Wisconsin from my undergrad days.

I got a hold of a friend of mine from high school.

And I reached out to my two best girlfriends from my graduated school program.

Then I loved hard at work.

“I think we are all emotionally attached to you,” the mom said, so sweet, with such tenderness and vulnerability.

I am a soothing presence in their lives and that was sweet to hear and much appreciated.

I got to help put the baby down for a nap when he was super upset.

I got to hug the little lady and make her all sorts of her favorite foods.

And.

Oh.

The oldest boy just crawled right up into my lap today at the dinner table.

He wasn’t feeling well and he just wanted me to hold him and scratch his back.

He put his head on my chest and asked me to sing him a lullaby.

It was the most heartbreakingly sweet thing ever.

Having this eight year old boy curled up on me listening to me sing “Hush Little Baby.”

My family of origin may not be the family I wanted to have in my life.

And I’m ok with that.

They did the best they could.

Besides

I have such amazing family in my life.

My family of choice.

And for that I am beyond grateful.

Luckiest girl in the world.

 

 

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Sometimes People Die

December 14, 2014

I should rephrase that.

We all die.

Sometimes people die and then, well, they don’t.

I expected the worst when I got the phone call this week about my father, the surgery, the injury, the coma, the low quality of life he has had over the last few years (in and out of homeless shelters), rampant alcoholism.

Hell, the last few decades.

However, he’s tough.

Like me.

I get my toughness from him.

And my mouth and my hair and I hate to say it, my big old Hawaiian flat-footed feet, I mean, really, those are my feet.

And my nose.

And my hands.

And my hand in his.

It’s just a slightly smaller version.

Watching him struggle, watching the tubes tumbling out of every single limb on his body, was like watching a version of myself and what it could be like, well, if it weren’t like what it is, which is that–

I have recovered.

From a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body.

My father has not.

Maybe.

Maybe he will.

Maybe he’s still digging that bottom of his.

Maybe he’ll die.

Maybe he won’t.

Well, he will, I will, you will, we all will, but maybe there might be some juice left, some special spark, some tremolo of love that sings out, come walk with me longer, look at the mountains, see the sunrise over the snow-covered trees and breathe the air–crisp, cold, bracing–let it fill your lungs and soul and heart.

Whenever it got to be too much I would walk the sky bridge between the ICU and the wing adjoining the Cancer Center.

It’s a skywalk with views of the mountains and it commands attention.

Nature.

God.

Great.

Out.

Doors.

What ever you want to call it; that which is a power greater than myself.

That tree, yes, that one, over there, its older than me, it was here before me and it will be here after me.

I am just a blink.

A particle of time and space and love.

But oh.

Such love.

How many times did I tell my father I loved him today?

A lot.

More than a few.

I told him, I told friends, I told my sister, and my mother, my grandmother, my uncle, my great-aunt in New York.

You know who I didn’t?

My boyfriend.

Not because I didn’t want to.

That’s another blog.

But out of fear.

And perhaps that lesson is the greatest one here.

Tell them all, tell them you love them, smother them with love, and tell yourself you love you.

“I have to go papa,” I said and squeezed his hand again.

It’s disconcerting, he’s so lively, so responsive, but it’s not cognitive response, it’s nerve response, it’s like watching a fish with electrodes moving it’s tail back and forth.  I don’t know how much is real, and I don’t want to give myself false hope or for that matter, anyone else.

He twitches and jerks and occasionally an eye opens and it rolls and I don’t see much there and I am afraid to not see it and afraid to see it all at the same time and then I think, he hears me, his head it turned, but then it turns back.

I squeeze his hand, my hand, that is my hand, there and stroke the pad of flesh with my thumb and rub it and touch it and warm the skin.

I lean in and find a place in between the maze of wires and find a spot I can kiss goodbye.

But not yet.

Not goodbye for good.

Just good-bye for a meal and a hot shower.

I stay as long as I can, then I go.

Twice today I went out, out into the world and then in and down into a church basement.

The great thing about where ever I go, there’s a church basement with a pot of coffee and some big styrofoam cups and some principles in red ink hanging from the wall and someone to offer me a suggestion.

“Pray and breathe,” she said to me.

Yes.

Pray and breathe.

It’s that simple.

And say I love you.

Again and again and again.

I love you for your brown eyes and your dark hair, and your big hands and strong legs, those legs, you gave me those, I recognize those knees and thighs–I use them every day on my bicycle or to walk or to kneel down and pray–for being so smart, “you got your intelligence from your dad” so my mom says (although I suspect I got my heart from my mom), and you gave me stories and you told me I was a writer.

“I always knew you’d grow up to be a writer,” my father said to me on the front porch of Patty’s house on Monroe Street in Madison.

We had just gotten a couple of cans of Barq’s (Famous Olde Tyme) root beer from the soda machine at the market–when it was still 35 cents a can and we’re drinking the cold pop on the steps smoking cigarettes and (watching Captain Kangaroo) watching the cars go by.

“You’re a story-teller, just like me,” he said and sipped on the pop and dragged off the cigarette.

The sun was warm, my feet were bare.

I was nineteen.

I was lost, pretty much a college drop out and my dad was basically couch surfing and dating the daughter (18 years old and therefore younger than me) of the woman who lived in the house whose porch we were sitting on (I ended up sleeping with her son, so I think we’re even on that score), living on food stamps and borrowed time.

But in that moment.

Exquisitely happy to be hanging with my pops on a porch, shooting the shit, telling stories, remembering when I was  little girl and he would ride me around on his motorcycle.

Not all my memories of my dad are so golden and shimmering and flecked with creamy root beer spiced carbonation.

I don’t know that I would cast the memories that I am creating here in this hospital as golden either.

But they are a gift.

It is a gift of immensity that I expect to be exploring with new and different eyes for some time to come.

And maybe my papa will come out of the coma while I am here.

And maybe he will not.

But I am here.

I showed up.

I grew up.

And in my heart, I’m still sitting on that porch listening to my father spin yarns and drink root beer in the dusk of a summer evening.

I love you Michael Martines.

I am your daughter.

You are my father.

And whatever happens.

Nothing will change that.

Love never dies.

Or grows older or fades.

It always stays.

So stay a little longer.

There are so many stories I haven’t told you yet.

 

 

 

The Kindness of Strangers

December 13, 2014

And those not so strange.

Perhaps I should just entitle this blog, “The Kindness.”

It has been a strange run of hours, surreal, be-spattered with rain and heavy tears.

Sorrow and grief and shock and then sleep and more tears and more rain.

My father is in the ICU at a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska.

A hospital I am on the way to.

I’m writing this blog from 10,000 plus feet on my connecting flight from Seattle to Anchorage. A flight, the kindness of strangers, that I should not be on.

“Stop, you don’t need to say more,” Rebecca at Alaska Airlines said to me, as I struggled to get out the words.

I had gotten off the plane from San Francisco and used the bathroom in the Seattle airport and figured I would find a snack or some dinner in the airport before connecting to my Anchorage flight.

However, the flight I was supposed to be on was showing a delayed boarding of more than two hours, add that to the two-hour layover and I was suddenly stranded in Seattle for four hours.

I’m only going to be in Alaska through Sunday night, I thought to myself and I walked in circles with my mom on the phone nattering about this and that and trying in her way to be supportive of me and my actions.

It’s not everyday a girl packs up her suitcase to see her father who she hasn’t seen in twelve years.

I finally saw a free agent at the airline and asked him for suggestions, he told me to head to gate 16, tell them that I needed to fly standby and see what they could do.

“My maiden name, Martines,” the woman at the airline counter said, followed by, “I just lost my father last month.”

We both teared up.

I had nothing in common with this woman, yet I had everything in common.

“I’ll get you on.” Rebecca said, “Go stand over there.”

And she did.

In effect saving me not only the two-hour delay on my flight, but gaining me an additional two hours to be in Alaska.

It’s not as dire as my blog sounds.

And it is.

I received a message from my uncle, as I was, irony? Heading into General Hospital, the locked down psych ward, with my boyfriend who does service there once a month.

I was going to assist and be sharing that evening.

As I reached for my phone as we headed into the doors, I heard a little ping.

Normal behavior?

Ignore it, turn off the phone, I have things to do, places to be, experience to share.

But as the doors locked behind us and we headed to the secured elevator, something prompted me to check the message.

“Emergency, call now.”

Followed by two numbers.

I called my uncle.

My father was in surgery, it didn’t look good.

Fact is.

My father hasn’t looked good in a while.

“Where’s my sister?” I asked him as he stood leaned against her apartment door building the winter of 2002, I had come back to surprise my friends and family in Madison from a recent move to San Francisco.

“I’m babysitting for her, she’s out,” my father said, sheepish in the light coming from behind him. My heels crunched in the snow, I felt the slip of ice under my feet, I had already lost my “snow legs” after just a few months in California, the ground wasn’t holding firm.

He smelt.

Beer.

Sweat.

Cigarettes.

Pot.

Fear.

And under the rank and file odor, he smelled like home, like my papa, like my dad, but I hadn’t called him either of those monikers in a long time.

He was Michael and he became that to me at an age when most kids are fostering a relationship with their fathers, not wondering where their dad was.

I have since grown up a lot.

However.

I have not sustained a relationship with my father.

He has been too active in his disease, that of alcoholism, and whatever else that has served to numb out the pain of existence.

I stopped engaging a long time ago.

I cut him out.

I cut him out with a machete.

I dropped a wall.

I said, I don’t ever want to see you again or speak to you unless you are sober.

He has not ever gotten sober.

But I did.

And in those moments of clarity when I look back I can see I was protecting myself, but maybe, just a little too fiercely.

Maybe just a little too hard.

“He thinks the world of you,” my sister said last night, sobbing when I told her the news that I was going.

Insert the kindness of those not so strange.

My employers.

They gifted me their frequent flyer miles.

I did not pay for this airplane ride.

I am still in shock at the largess of the gift.

“What! You have to take it,” she said to me over the phone as I sat numbed out (but warm—oh the loveliness of a car seat warmer) in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car.

“They want you to have it, they really do.” She continued.

And I realized, right then, right there, she was right.

And I wanted, no, I needed, to go.

I also decided, at that moment to grow up.

I called my grandmother, I got the name of the hospital, I called the hospital, I talked to the nursing staff, and I got the news.

The doctor was smiling, but the news wasn’t good.

He was alive.

But they don’t know, they wouldn’t know the extent of the brain damage for a few more days, he suffered blunt head trauma, they had removed a large clot and stopped several other bleeders, but “your dad’s a very sick man, he has a very sick brain,” the nurse said.

I think he may have been referring to more than just the trauma he had suffered.

I don’t know how the injury happened.

I have some suspicions.

Suffice to say, that’s not important now.

My dad came out of the surgery alive, with the brain swelling alleviated, they took off part of his skull to let the pressure go down, he was in a coma that from what I understand was medically induced to help with pain (but folks, I may be wrong about the details, the fog of grief makes distortions, it does).

He can track with his eyes; he can squeeze the doctor’s fingers.

I don’t know what to expect.

My heart aches.

I have hope.

One small sliver of hope.

He’ll recognize me and know I forgave him a long, long time ago.

That I love him.

Always have.

Always will.

And maybe

Just maybe.

He’ll squeeze my hand too.


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