One

My father, Gregory John Entwistle, was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer in September 2013. Five months later, on February 12, 2014, he was gone.

Today is the one year anniversary of his passing and I have waited for this day with such dread. I asked friends for support and prayers. I anxiously tried to write a post that would honor him and the past year we’ve spent without him. I drank a little too much wine. I cried a little (or a lot). And then this morning, I woke up.

And it was just another day.

I’m not sure what I expected. I guess I thought I would wake up to a giant wave of grief, a new and sudden avalanche of feelings because ONE YEAR. ONE. It feels like such a big milestone, but if you get down to the heart of the matter, things are still the same now as they were right after he passed. Six months after he passed. Yesterday. I still miss him. I still feel like something so big is missing from our lives. I still think about him every day. I still teeter on the edge of anger. Still look for reason or meaning behind the early passing of such a good, kind man. I still wish that things were different.

But they are not. They are not different and he is not here.

One year hasn’t changed anything. It’s just another day.

Another day that I miss you, Daddy. So, so much.

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That thin, thin line

Lately I’m walking a pretty thin line between keeping it all together, and completely, totally, losing my shit. It’s pretty super.

Just ask my kids.

While they are (mostly) innocent bystanders, my poor children are usually the tipping point that takes me from a stressed out, slightly depressed momma to a raging maniac. You know what I DON’T need when I’m deep in thoughts of how to describe illness and loss to your sister? I don’t need you TO BE A TWO YEAR OLD. That’s right. You heard me. STOP THAT RIGHT THERE. The stomping and arguing and yelling and learning to be INDEPENDENT. I don’t NEED THAT RIGHT NOW. I need you to be sweet and pliable and still prefer snuggles to running into the street pell mell, like you have a teeny tiny death wish. THAT CAR ISN’T SCARED OF YOU. You are not actually a T-Rex. You also can’t wear underpants if you are going to poop in them constantly. Oh, and P.S., we AREN’T out of juice, I was just tired of arguing with you about it SO I LIED.

A few weeks ago when I was knee deep in self-pity and worry, I was in the office writing and researching some fun old CANCER stuff when B wandered in. He had been watching a show with Kate, but since he has the attention span of a gnat, he decided to come and see what I was up to. I was up to CODE RED emotional state, nearing tears or a nervous breakdown. When I didn’t pay him enough attention, B sidled up next to me in a quick snuggle fake-out and then with a mighty ‘WHACK!’ he slammed his hand down on the computer, effectively erasing everything I had just written. I let out a mighty sound. I’m not sure what exactly how to put this sound in words. Part primal shriek, part groan, part exasperation and part anger. I put my head on the desk in my hands and squeezed my eyes shut and pretty much started to hyperventilate.

Beckett of course hit the ground sobbing. I was too wrapped up in my own emotions to comfort him. Because, you know, thin line. I kept my head down on the desk and tried to keep from lashing out, because I knew it wasn’t really what B did that I was angry about. Without lifting my head I told him, very sternly, “You need to leave. Now.” He literally crawled out of the room and I couldn’t raise up out of my emotions enough to care.

Not my finest moment.

My head was still on the desk when I heard some shuffling at the office door. I raised my head, ready to let loose with my anger. Make myself somehow feel better by making him, a poor, tiny toddler, feel worse. I just had so much inside me and he was the tipping point.

But when I looked up, it was Kate in the door. With a slightly terrified expression on her face. The look on her face struck me, and I lost my anger immediately. It drained away as quickly as it had come and all that was left was sadness, shame and that hollow feeling that sits in your stomach when you know you’ve done something you can’t take back.

Kate stared at me for a second and then said to me, “Um, Mom? I don’t like it when you scream at me, and I don’t think you should scream at Beckett either. I tried to wipe all his tears and snot off, and I got him to stop crying. You should probably say sorry.”

Wow. My first thought was to quibble a bit, because her words put me in such an ugly light. I mean, I didn’t SCREAM per say. I mean, lets call a spade a spade. It was more a reaction than a scream. I mean, sometimes I YELL. Maybe that was a YELL?

No. Lets call a spade a spade. I screamed. I took my anger, fear and sadness and balled it up into a tight wad of emotion and threw it at my two-year old. And it hurt him. As much as if it were a physical thing. And my daughter. My little warrior. She cared for him. She helped him. And then SHE CAME TO ME and stood up for her brother. Even though she was afraid I was going to… SCREAM… at her next.

Oh my heart.

A friend of mine who has been faced with an unexpected and terrible loss recently, wrote to me with these wise words. “What I have learned (the hard way this last year) is the constant challenge of trying to be present and emotionally available when you are so emotionally raw and stripped. It’s such a backwards situation. How is any human supposed to deal with very real adult emotionally heavy and suffocating concerns and still have the emotional fortitude to crawl on the floor with your littles, parent with patience and not be a blubbering mess.”

I could not have put it into better words. What it feels like to have such a heavy weight of pain and sadness within while you try to parent. Her advice to handling this was to be honest. Instead of trying to hold it all in where the only option is to lash out when it all becomes to much, she let her children see her heart. Her hurt. Her sadness. And it seems to me, that has to be the way. Because I would rather my children grow up knowing and understanding emotions and how to deal with them in a healthy manner, than seeing mommy fall off that thin line, causing damage to their little hearts and sweet souls in the process.

How blessed I am to have such wise friends. Now if I can just be a little more like them. I think we might just all make it through.

Grief

I remember the first time I felt real grief. It was when my Nana died, and I was in high school. Since then, I’ve felt varying levels of loss, sadness and pain, but never again have I had to deal with the kind of grief that physically removes the air from your lungs and bends you to your knees.

Until last week. When I got the news that my Dad had a tumor in his esophagus. That the doctors were concerned enough to take a biopsy. That we would know something in a week. I hung up the phone and bent over and felt the heaviness of all the “what ifs” wash over me as I imagined saying goodbye, having my KIDS say goodbye, to someone so big and so important to us all. And for a week, I grieved over what could be. I alternated between hopeful and hopeless. I wore big sunglasses so my kids couldn’t see the silent tears that would slide down my face while I drove them to school. I canceled social engagements so I wouldn’t have to keep up a brave face.

Sometimes I would get caught up in my children, in our lives, and I would forget. For a moment, I would forget my grief. But then, a word, a song, a thought, would trigger it and my stomach would tighten, my heart would seize and I would hurt. Physically hurt from it all. And, I would feel guilty. Because when something so big is looming over you, it feels like it should take over life, like there can’t be room for anything else. But life does continue, and so I waded through, feeling removed from it all while I waited for the answers to all the “what ifs.”

And then we got our answer. It IS cancer. It HAS spread. There are spots on his liver. They said “small” spots, but all I heard was, SPREAD. My parents reacted positively. They rejoiced that it hadn’t permeated his body. I felt small, and mean, and ungrateful because I couldn’t rejoice. I could only rail against the universe that this was happening to such a GOOD MAN.

And so we move forward. We ATTACK. Dad meets with doctors. They create a treatment plan. They treat. We see how Dad responds. They treat more. We pray.

We pray.

I don’t even really know how to put into words how I feel. I think at this point I feel numb. I feel tired. WEARY. I think that is the word. I feel weary and I’ve only been dealing with this grief for a little over a week. How long will this take? How long will I feel scared, and uncertain and worried and WEARY?

I’m not ready to say goodbye to my Dad. And I know for a fact he isn’t ready to say goodbye to our family. That is the silver lining. That no matter what the tests say, or the doctors say, or the Internet or the statistics say, my Dad is a force of nature. He is single minded. Focused. Dedicated. Determined. Positive. I have to believe that if anyone was going to beat this thing, it will be my father. I have to believe it because the alternative is unacceptable.

Love you daddy.

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