This Time of Year

Dad,

You’ve been gone for about a year and a half now. I still cannot fathom that. It’s too weird. I can still hear your laugh, your voice, and remember your smell.

This time of year is especially difficult. Three years ago, you found out you had inoperable pancreatic cancer. They found it early, so there was a good chance you could have lived through it. The plan was to shrink the tumor with chemo, then surgically remove it. So chemo it was, for a year.

Starting in December of 2011, you had chemo treatments twice a month? I don’t remember now. You would go to Mayo with Sindy and come home to Omaha. Back and forth, for months.

Little by little, I saw the treatment take its toll on you. You had less and less of an appetite, and you lost a lot of weight. But you sounded totally fine on the phone. I think that’s why it surprised me so much when I saw you. Nevertheless, it was always good to see you.

It was good to see you even when you were confined to a hospital bed for four months. I came to visit you in December 2012, when you were hospitalized due to some viral infection. Funny, though, that the team of doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center seemed to have no idea what it was that was affecting you so much.

I remember getting a call from Sindy, who was hysterical after speaking to the asshole doctor in charge of the AICU. The doctor had said that he didn’t think you were “going to make it” right in front of you, while you were awake. For the record, I met that guy, and I fucking hate him. I know it’s not his fault that you were sick or that you passed, but he’s an asshole and should not be a doctor of anything.

Anyway, I was in Wisconsin with Nick on Christmas day, and Sindy called to tell me that you were going to die. As soon as I hung up with her, I called Hank. He said, “you should probably go home. We’re on our way now.” So Nick and I left Fond du Lac, WI at midnight Christmas day (I guess it would have been the next day) to come see you. We drove eight hours to Omaha, and I remember having a completely asinine argument with my mother about how she wanted me to come see her on her birthday before going to see you in the hospital. Mom has some serious issues. But you know that.

Before we got to the hospital, we decided to stop for coffee (because, well, the drive). So I suggested we go to Delice to get some eclairs for you, too. I know how much you like sweets.

When we arrived in your room at the hospital, I remember being so happy to see you and so sad at the same time. It was so hard to see you suffer. But I handed you the bag of eclairs, and I had to chuckle when you said, “Oh God bless you.” It was hard for you to eat, though, because you had lost a lot of feeling in your fingers, and your heart was working really hard because of all the weight you had lost.

After we chatted with you, Hank, Carrie, and Sindy for a little while, Nick and I went to Mom’s to see her for her epic birthday. I don’t remember much else from that day, other than the fact that I didn’t really eat anything, so I got really lightheaded and almost blacked out at the hospital later in the afternoon. Carrie found some broth packets (the kind that you just add hot water to) and gave me that to sip on. I had to lie on the floor with my feet above my head until my blood sugar came up enough. I think we left the next day to go back to Wisconsin.

The next four months began a new chapter of a difficult part of a lot of people’s lives. I came to see you in January, and stayed for three weeks. I went home to my husband, worked at a coffee shop, and tried not to worry about you. I can’t even describe the constant worry and sense of impending doom I felt that entire time.

In April, Nick went TDY to Maryland for a few days. On Friday, April 19th, I had been watching tv on the couch after lighting Shabbat candles with Carlos. I had also made plans with my friend Erin and her boyfriend to go out later that night to a wine bar we all liked. At about 8:15 pm, I got a text from Sindy saying you were going into kidney failure. I stood up with my phone in hand, and was simply at a loss for what to do or say. I looked around, down at Carlos, at my phone for answers. But there were none. Not a single one. I called Hank. When he answered, I said, “What do we do?” But I didn’t ask it. I demanded it. I had to know right then and there, what the answer was. He said what I knew he was going to say, “I don’t know. I can’t tell you what to do. I don’t think we’ll make it there before it’s too late. But Carrie and I are leaving now.”

I just didn’t know what to do. Nick was still out of town, due back the next day or Sunday, and I had plans to go out with my friend. I texted her and told her I didn’t think I felt like going out. She called me and asked what was going on. I told her and she managed to get me to come stay with her that night. I needed that more than anything. She stayed up with me until two or three that morning, and we drank wine and ate chocolate from the Walgreens down the street.

At five o clock in the morning, so about two hours later, I woke up to go to the bathroom. When I came back to bed, I saw I had a text. It said, “Your father just passed.” I was in total disbelief. I just sat there. I didn’t wake anyone up, I didn’t call anyone. For four hours, I just sat there and on the couch. I spoke to Sindy on the phone around 8:30. Erin came downstairs around 9. She asked who I was talking to, and I told her. She asked how she was doing, and I said, “Well, my dad just died last night, so…” and before I could even finish my sentence, she lunged at me and wrapped me up in the strongest hug I had ever felt. I almost spilled my coffee on her.

She held me for several minutes and was just there for me.

That day, we did nothing but walk around downtown and drink. We did the same thing later that night. We got wasted and walked home, and it started raining. I was beyond sad and she told how proud of me she was and that you were.

A few days later, I flew home for your memorial service and to be with Hank, Carrie, Sindy, and Mom. We buried your ashes in a plot at a cemetery in Millard.

There’s more that follows, of course, but it doesn’t matter. I mean, it does, but the point is that you’re gone, and you can’t come back, and I miss you more than I could ever express in words. It’s just too hard sometimes. It means no more holidays with you, no more birthdays. No more sharing big events with you. I know it’s a selfish way to look at it, but it’s how I feel. You won’t get to see my kids, if I ever have any. You won’t get to see me graduate college, or start my first real job. I know you’re proud of me, but that’s just not enough. I miss you. That’s all. Life is less without you. Just less. Not as good. Not as bright. Not as sweet. Not as fun.

There were so many people at your memorial service, Dad. Every single one of them had nothing but good things to say about you. That doesn’t surprise me at all. You are wonderful. And the world is less without you.

I love you forever. My heart is broken. I hope I get to see you again someday.

Love,

Kathryn

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All That White Privilege

I get it. I’m white, so why should my opinion on “white privilege” matter? Well I’ll tell you.

I’m a human being. I am white, but I did not choose that. And here’s the thing: just because I’m sick of hearing about “white privilege” and how everybody else has it so bad, does not make me lesser or greater. I am just sick of hearing the whining and feeling the scornful glare.

There were a couple of articles written a while back on the issue. One was written by a white male at Princeton and then a rebuttal by a woman who writes for Jezebel. The problem with these is that they only offer fodder for the fire. They don’t identify what I feel like is the true issue: that instead of being a gentle reminder to white people, who supposedly feel entitled, “Check Your Privilege” has become a disdainful attack. As Julia Fisher puts it, the phrase is now used as weapon.

Here’s the thing. Race isn’t a real thing, biologically speaking, anyway. Of course, culturally, we as humans find distinction in our groups and I guess it’s most convenient to group ourselves by outer physical appearance. Makes sense. However, humans share more than 99% of the same DNA. So race is literally only skin-deep. It’s the difference between a white horse and a brown horse. Or a bluebird and a cardinal. It’s really not that serious.

But it’s this huge deal with humans. Supposedly, we’re more intelligent than other animals. So why are we so caught up with something so trivial as skin color or facial features? It makes zero sense. And we’re all guilty of it- white people, black people, Asian people, Middle Eastern people, whomever.

It’s funny- whatever we are, we want to be something else. White people want to be tan. Darker skinned people want to be lighter. I have blonde hair and blue eyes (because of course she does), but growing up I wanted dark brown hair and green eyes. I have really light skin, and I always want to be more tan. A good friend of mine who grew up in Kolkata told me that it’s very popular in India to use skin lightening treatments. I was really surprised by that. Here I am, wanting to look more “healthy”, and yet people on the other side of the world apparently want the skin color I have now. Curiouser and curiouser.

Who’s to blame for “white privilege”? Is it even real? I guess so. If everyone’s so mad about it, it must be real. I think there’s a shift happening, though. A privilege paradigm shift. I don’t know where or to whom it is shifting, but it’s moving away from us white people. Probably ‘cuz we’re so entitled.

What I wish would happen is this: I wish affirmative action would go away and to be honest, I wish all “privilege” would go away too. My hope for the world is that every person is judged by his or her merits, not by the color of his or her skin. Like Martin Luther King Jr. said.

I know it’s a little cheesy to end on that note, but I feel like I’ve expressed all my feelings on this subject. To sum up: “Check Your Privilege” is bullshit, affirmative action is bullshit, and why can’t we all just get along?

Your life might be awesome, but mine is still better.

The great majority of things you do in your life, you do alone. Think about it. You’re born alone – I mean, there are people there with you, you’re coming out of one, even – but you go through the experience alone. Even if you’re a twin.

You learn how to do things alone – walk, talk, how to abide by social norms and mores. You go to school and learn alone. You make friends alone. You grow up and are shaped by your relationships with others, and those relationships, whether you choose to keep them or not, make you who you are.

It’s an interesting dichotomy, I think. To me, it would seem then that the relationships we keep with others are that much more important. We have so much time to ourselves – waiting at red lights, running errands, sleeping, working, studying, not working, whatever – that there is little time left for the ones we love. And as we all know, life is just not that long. We never know when we’re going to bite the big one. Why shouldn’t we try to be with the people who make us the happiest, as opposed to people who bring us down?

This is why my life is awesome. Your life might be awesome, too. You might have a great job, or a fun hobby, or a fantastic relationship with your mom. And all of those things are wonderful.

I don’t have a great job right now, but I do have the one thing in life that will make me happy for the rest of my indeterminate-length life:

I have a best friend who I am madly, irretrievably in love with, and he loves me back just as much. I don’t care if that’s cheesy, cliche, or boring. I am incredibly happy, and I just have to tell everyone.

I’m like one of those crazed people on the street warning people about how the world is coming to and end or whatever; I feel like telling literally everyone I see how much I love my boyfriend. It doesn’t even matter if they speak English, can hear me, or even know I’m talking to them. I am nuts about him.

I spend a lot of time alone (as you may have guessed by now). I don’t mind it; I’m a pretty introverted person. I like myself. I like thinking about the world and daydreaming and whatnot. I’m good company. Actually, spending time around lots of people can be extremely draining to me. So it’s nice to know that there is one person in the world who I can spend inordinate amounts of time with and never tire of it. It’s like having a sleepover marathon with your best friend every night, including school nights. It’s pretty great. Also he cooks a lot, so, bonus.

Ok so I’m basically just bragging, but this is the internet and also America, so I’m allowed. No one MADE you read this sappy post, did they?*

I’m just happy. Don’t we need a little more happiness in the world? If you say no, you’re just being argumentative.

 

 

*To all those forced to read this sappy blogpost and were bored out of their minds, I truly apologize.

Dear Dad

Image

Dear Dad, 

This is the second Father’s Day I’ve had to spend without you. The second year I haven’t had to buy a card, write “I love you, Dad!”, sign it, and send it. I really liked doing that. 

I liked getting to talk to you on the phone whenever I wanted, but mostly on Father’s Day or your birthday. I liked hearing about what your plans were for the day, how the weather has been, and anything else you might think of to tell me. I liked telling you about what I was up to, too. 

If I could talk to you today, Dad, this is what I would tell you:

Today is a lovely summer Sunday morning in Annapolis, Maryland. As you know, I moved here about three months ago, and I love it so far. This weekend, Brent and I have Rowan, so I got up early with Rowan so Brent could sleep in a little bit. I made coffee, cleaned up the kitchen, and hung out with Rowan until Brent came downstairs. Then we made vegan chorizo and potato breakfast tacos, fixed another pot of French press coffee, and watched Rescue Bots. 

It was recently Rowan’s birthday, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, we weren’t able to have his party, and he still hasn’t received some of his gifts. Brent got him a bike this year, so he’ll be putting it together while I “distract” Rowan. (He’s pretty well distracting himself at the moment, playing a video game.) After the bike is put together, Brent will show Rowan how to ride it. Maybe we’ll go to the park. 

What might you be doing today? You might wake up late, have coffee that Sindy made, read the paper, and watch some sport on tv this morning. Then you might go out to lunch – somewhere you like to go – a Father’s Day buffet, maybe. (Is that a thing?) After lunch, you might go look around open houses in Omaha. You’ll discuss what you liked and didn’t like about this one or that one. You’ll like the ranch style, but not the one with lots of steps. 

Then you might take a drive. I remember how much you liked to do that. You might go look at cars. It would be a nice, clear summer day.

Later, Sindy would make dinner, steak, maybe. With mashed potatoes and green beans. No garlic – I know how you don’t like garlic. 

I really miss you, Dad. I can’t overstate that. I miss you every day. I’m not over it, even though it’s been over a year. I don’t think it will matter how many years go by, though. I don’t think I’ll ever be “over it”. You’re my Dad. You’ll always be my one and only Dad, and you’re not around anymore. It just sucks. The upside though, is that I believe you’re in a much better place. I hope so, anyway. My hope for you is that you’re safe, at peace, and not suffering in any way. 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you and I miss you. I hope you’re doing well. 

Love, 

Kathryn

I Will Remember You and Ancient Grains

Why is it so hard to unfriend our friends on Facebook? I don’t think I’m the only one who suffers with this problem. On an episode of HIMYM (How I Met Your Mother, for the uninitiated), this phenomenon, dubbed “Graduation Goggles”, comes up and is discussed in detail.

To explain: Every normal person hated high school, or at least doesn’t want to repeat the experience. (I’m with Stephen King on this one; anyone who claims to have “loved” high school is not to be trusted.) It’s horrible. You have no idea who you are, what you want to be when you “grow up”, your friends are flakes, and there are bullies in some form or another. After four years, it’s finally over, and you can move on to something supposedly bigger and better.

But then why does everyone get all weepy on graduation day? Graduation Goggles. When you look at all the people with whom you endured the last four years (or however long it took you…), they look the same, of course, but with hazy, vignette-y instagram-type borders around the edges. You think, “I might never see these people (schmucks, assholes, bitches, what-have-you) again.” Maybe you remember that one time that guy handed you your pen that you dropped on the floor, or the time that one normally pretty bitchy girl gave you a compliment. You think, “we had something in common once!”, and then start to get all nostalgic. And you haven’t even graduated yet.

This is what happens (at least to me) whenever I try to do a “friend scrub” on Facebook. I see people’s inane posts about whatever filling my Newsfeed and every time, without fail think, “Why the fuck do I give a shit about this?” I don’t. I could go on, living my life happily and ignorantly blissful, unknowing of the boeuf bourguignon a la roasted quinoa or whatever other ancient grain you made for dinner although truly, it was a delight. It would be the same if you told me in person, though it might seem like I give a crap. I would nod along, politely, inserting poignant eyebrow raises and making “yummy” noises all the while thinking, “first of all, I’m a vegetarian. Second of all, did you cook this for me? No? Do you plan to make it for me one day? No again? Well what the fuck are we doing here then? I have some names of ancient grains to mispronounce.”

So I go to unfriend this selfish supposed culinary genius from my friends list only to hesitate upon hovering my cursor over the “unfriend” option. We had some good times, didn’t we? You posted that thing about quinoa and chia oatmeal (seriously, what is your problem with oats? Jump on the gluten-free bandwagon much?), I rolled my eyes and scrolled down my Newsfeed… those were the days. I might really miss your asinine posts about eating paleo or playing ultimate frisbee every Sunday. What would life be like without that information?? Ooh, and you had this interesting thought about why it keeps raining so much! And that time you were like, so hungover omg. (Ok, that was a bunch of times, you’re right.)

Ok, yes, let’s address the point that I have Facebook in the first place. Clever you- you caught me. Why should I get to complain about stupid Facebook posts if I have one myself and therefore, probably post stupid stuff from time to time as well? Good question. The answer, dear reader, is simple yet elegant. Because this is America, I have freedom of speech, and because I am entitled like the rest of my generation. That’s why. So there. Unfriend me if you want. Go ahead! You have the right! That’s why this country is wonderful! Ok, enough with patriotism. Yikes.

 

Yes, I have been hungover. I have cooked a meal that I was proud of. I have preached about some “totes amazeballs fad diet that I am so totally into”. All on Facebook or other social media channels. I’m not proud of it. You, reader, are the real victim here.

I guess the moral of this rambling, glorified status update is that we’re not going to stop posting useless crap about ourselves on the internet. Why should we? It’s there for us to post our paleo/GF/vegan/gourmet food porn and regretful, forlorn self-actualizations on! Let’s fill the internet with absurd crap until its browsers runneth over! We can always “unsubscribe” from our friends’ posts if they truly are annoying. That way, we can still be friends. Oh, why can’t we all just get along?!

Maybe we can.

(Perhaps ironically, I plan to post this on Facebook. Maybe my friendlist scrub will do itself?)