I have always been a deeply emotional person. I was a quiet child who was frightened and intimidated by my loud family, and much preferred to be alone and read or play with my dolls. After my parents divorced when I was a toddler, I lived with my father, step-mother, and sister five hours away from the rest of the family. I had friends in elementary school, only a few mild cases of bullying bitchy girls, but felt completely invisible. Unspecial. Bland. Boring. Unworthy.
However, as I watched my father, mother, and sister interact with the world, I discovered that I could emulate their flamboyant, outgoing, and outrageous behavior, and people loved it! Not boring at all!!! People would listen and people liked me! I was good at it and it came naturally.
Usually this behavior was tempered with the other aspects of my personality – kindness, thoughtfulness, attention to others, talent at making people feel loved and special themselves, and other qualities that helped balance my egotism and need for attention.
But since my father died, I have done everything in my power to create drama. Not just in my own life, but in the lives of the people who loved me and whom I loved. I protested that “I did not want this” or “How do these things keep happening to me” but as my sister said recently, I am not as naive as I pretend.
So why? Why would someone do this? Why would a fairly average attention whore turn into a a gaping maw of need and energy from others? Why did I keep doing things that were clearly driving people away? Why did I want to stir up the drama that hurt others and myself?
And once again, the wise words of my sister showed my why – because the opposite of drama, emotion, and feeling is numbness. Feeling dead inside. Feeling completely drained and empty.
I have been doing everything in my power to keep feeling. Anything. Positive OR negative. Just feeling instead of dealing with the boring, monotonous work of grieving.
Death is not as exciting as it is in the movies, where someone dies in front of you in a dramatic fashion and you drop to the ground screaming and yelling “Dear GOD!! NO!! NO!! Don’t take them from me!!!” And then you attend the funeral, hug your family, and feel grounded that at least he was loved, and life goes on, and metaphorically hold your cub up in the air and sing “The Circle of Life”.
Sometimes death is boring. Sometimes death is waiting . . . waiting for days for the person to die. Feeling guilty that you are waiting for the person to die. Watching someone be unable to get comfortable standing because they are so tired and unable to lie down because their lungs fill up with fluid and then for the first time in your life following your instincts and climbing into bed with him so that he can nap and breathe for hours while propped up on your chest despite the pain it causes in your back. Feeling that time spent with him in the past hating him for not “getting you” was wasted because not understanding someone does not mean you don’t love them. And then watching the man who raised you go from being incoherent and forgetting who you are to bedridden and absent from his body. Hearing the “death rattle” and then mentally placing bets on how long it will be. Then discussing these horrible thoughts with your siblings and finding out they are doing the same thing in their heads as well. Sitting beside your sister, both of you on your laptops, chatting with each other on gchat about how the grim reaper better “bring it” because he has not had a man like Ray Ray before.
When my brother came and woke me up at 4am on Sunday, March 7, 2010 to tell me dad was about to die, I put on my glasses ( I guess to see the event better??) and ran downstairs. When I got down there, he was exhaling his last breathe. It was not dramatic, it was not beautiful, it was not an event. Death had been a process, not an act. There was no light exiting his body, no peaceful look on his face, no feeling of his “spirit” in the room. He was gone, and what was left was the shell of the man he had been.
But I loved that shell, and so did my family. We sat in his room with his body for a couple of hours until first the hospice nurse and then the funeral home people came. We did not close his eyes, because it was not like he looked alive with them open. He was dead. Gone. Elvis had left the building and a big Cadillac* was coming to take him to the sky.
Since that day, I have been numb inside. What is worse than feeling pain? Feeling nothing. Fearing that you will never be able to feel again. Knowing that despite the love, and joy, and time we have here on Earth, that Cadillac* will roll up for all of us, and we have to live as if that does not scare the shit out of us.
I remember when my grandmother Agnes died in 1993. One of my first thoughts at her funeral was “The rest of my life is going to be spent watching the people I love die.” And it has been. I have seen my friends and family die, and in horribly cruel situations, children of friends die. It is not fair and it sucks. I don’t like it and it brings me to my knees emotionally.
So to the people who have gotten to know me in the past 8 months, I am so sorry that this is who you think I am. I am normally a joyful, loving, arrogant, fun, dramatic, friendly, selfish person.
But right now I just miss my dad and feel numb.
*It was technically a minivan – and I think that is bullshit. I want a big black Cadillac. FYI