Wednesday, August 31, 2011

As long as you keep your head to the sky...R.I.P. Tookie

I couldn't have known how prophetic my last post was when I said  "... there must be a higher purpose for the delay" in starting school because the unthinkable occurred on what would have been the first day of class.  My Dad (not biologically but in every other manner imaginable for the last 29 years) was felled by a massive brain hemorrhage from which he never regained consciousness and led to his death a mere 3 days later. As I type this, I know I have not fully absorbed the loss that is as devastating for my Mom, daughter and myself as that chasm was to his brain.

Even as I created a slide show in remembrance of him, shopped for his clothes - I insisted on a spiffy new tie - his flowers and coffin etc, I didn't cry but not because I held them back. I didn't cry because  I didn't feel the tears were there.  Now at half past 12 beginning day six, I feel a howl so deep it can't be heard.  For the first time in my life I truly understand what surreal means. He was always here and even when he was stationed overseas - he was never far from us, still taking care of "his girls" and we could look forward to his calls every Sunday morning or cards or a shipment of imitation designer purses.  He was always laughing - sometimes infuriatingly so. He even laughed when he was nervous but oh what I (we) wouldn't give to hear it again.

His viewing is scheduled for this Thursday, the funeral Friday and burial on the following Tuesday which unfortunately prolongs our closure of this episode and eventual progression through other stages of the grieving/healing process.  I find the whole American, rather African American funeral ritual extremely morbid and always have - a funeral so many days after death (not our fault in this case as he was a  veteran and that requires some additional processing), a procession viewing a corpse that NEVER EVER looks like your loved one as you knew them,  dressing them in clothes or a coffin finer than they warranted in life, the embalming and the purchase of a sealed casket to preserve the body  when nearly every funeral is accompanied by the words "ashes to ashes, dust to dust". Yet and still we do everything in our power to prevent that very natural process with our funeral rites. I have zero interest in seeing his body tomorrow but not because I am afraid as I was in the past, his death cured that for me. I was there when he died and the memory of how family and friends enveloped room 338 in the same warmth and love that so embodied him; how I felt his body after his last breath when it was calm and cooling no longer struggling for air. Those are the final memories, as bittersweet as they are - that are my choice for final remembrance of my Dad not a week old nearly frozen corpse.  But this is also family time and I fear it will cause my mother undue sorrow should I refuse to see him. My daughter Yasmine also does not want to see him but as she was not in the room with him last Thursday night and as hard as it will be for her - she needs to see for herself that he's not just away this time, he's not physically here anymore. Since my separation and subsequent divorce he has filled an immense void in her life - he was her Daddy too - her own cowardly father failed to man-up (despite numerous heartfelt requests from my Dad) preferring instead to avoid the woman who no longer wanted a future with him and making the child of our union his casualty.

As I type, my Mom sleeps in my bed, an uber-welcome guest since to add insult to injury we experienced a 5.9 earthquake on Tuesday and Hurricane Irene over the weekend which severed her electrical connection Saturday night. She has been a trooper but I am certain the next few weeks and impending seasonal changes will be hard for her - the first thing I hope she does though is get back to her daily exercise routine.  Exercise is one thing I believe with all my heart is a Godsend when facing crisis.

I will miss him most because he loved and put up with me - on my terms!!  I am a handful  - make no mistake about it. I wish I could be more easy going like my Mom and daughter but alas that is not my composition. I'm far and away more complex - a more acquired taste, I take up more space on the planet and God felt I needed a personality to match. I'm the proverbial middle child of the bunch. He indulged my feisty whims, whines and occasional rants like Daddies do for their girls. Regardless of that temperament, JAMES LEE McELVEEN, showed me what it looks like when a man really loves his woman and how a man shoulders responsibility whether it's of his own making or thrust on him - like a sassy new step-daughter. Lessons observed and noted, I can gratefully and proudly say I am forever more a Daddy's Girl. As cruel and untimely as his death seems I believe we have a bit more control over our entrance and exit to this earthly home than most of us would acknowledge.  I know my Dad and he would never have left us, most especially the love of his life and his Boobie (my daughter), if he hadn't felt his job here was done and that we could endure, grow and somehow propel ourselves forward through his passing. So I'll say what he would but can't- it can only get better from here...


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