Daily Reminders of Those We Lost

Lisa Virtual Painting 3Today I was reminded of just how close to the surface some feelings lie and how those feeling can be as raw and real as they were in the moment (maybe even more).

I was watching a show on TV in which a teen boy has been struggling with a terminal brain tumor. They tried everything to save him.  The boy struggled and pushed his loving girlfriend away because he did not want her to suffer when he passed away. She refused to go because she loved him and she stood by him till the very end, loving him every step of the way.

Today the writers took the story to a place where it looked like the boy would survive.  I was so happy (I know, it’s only a TV show). But then it became really apparent that the boy was dead and seeing life after he was gone.  OMG!!!!  I lost it.  I mean REALLY lost it.

You see, right before this happened the boy stood up and had a burst of energy, said he felt great and wanted to carry on as normal. Something similar happened to my dad. He had a burst of energy the day before he passed.

As I watched this part of the story, the boy was planning a future with his girlfriend, was hugging his family and friends, and carrying on AS IF…  As if he would survive.

The day before my dad passed, we sat in the hospital room listening to my dad frantically call all of his friends.  He would grab his phone and say he had to call (fill in the names). We sat there all day listening to him call everyone and tell them he was in the hospital and that he was not coming home.  It tore me up to listen to this all day, but I knew he had to do it.

He was happy and had a HUGE burst of energy (he was not well at all the day before). The hospital staff knew the drill.  They asked him what he wanted for dinner.  They knew it would be his last. My dad, being the character he was, wanted TWO meals!  I wish he could have had two, but they made him choose only one.

That night my dad took his last breath. Although we knew it was coming, it was hard.  Very hard. Hard for so many reasons that are part of my story.

So, today when the young boy on TV was going through a similar energy burst, this hit me. HARD. I burst into tears.  Not regular tears, but tears with heaving sobs. As I watched him tell his girlfriend the reasons he felt okay and watched him have flashes of his deceased grandparents walking away and drawing him in, I just lost it.

He explained to his girlfriend that he was given that time to say goodbye to everyone.  GOODBYE.  I lost it. It is a real thing. I have heard many stories like this.  But I never imagined watching something on TV could take me back to that very minute. I never imagined my response and reaction.  I did not expect it.  You see, my dad and I were never really close.  But there it was – all the emotions I don’t know that I ever went through IN the moment, bubbling to the surface today because I saw something similar to my story on TV.  Who knew.

The show ended with the girlfriend falling asleep and the boy passing and kissing her on the cheek as he left the earth. I was sobbing.  Who knew the daily reminders of those we loved and lost could throw our lives into a tailspin years after they pass? Those daily reminders are oh so bittersweet.

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My Earliest Memories

baby-1426631_1920Most experts say that adults cannot remember anything that happened before the age of about three.  For me, I would say this holds true. My early childhood memories are fleeting and I only remember specific times, and not the context or what else was happening in my little life. However, here is an account of where I lived, then and now.

My Community

Pennsylvania

To many, Pennsylvania is a sea of rolling hills and mountains, capped at each end by the cities of Philadelphia on the east and Pittsburgh on the west. The stat is sliced through the middle by the Appalachian Mountains and therefore, the Appalachian Trail. Much of rural Pennsylvania is dotted by rolling hills and farms, and small industrial towns and even smaller rural villages and communities.

I lived in an area of Pennsylvania called Berks County, which is situated at the foot of the Blue Mountains, which is part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Berks County is situated near the famous bucolic Lancaster County, which is known for its Amish population and streets dotted with horses and buggies. These were regular sights for me as a child, even if it was a foreign way of life.

Near my home town, we had communities of Amish, Mennonites, and other similar communities who dressed plainly, kept to themselves, and for most of the Amish at least, did not use electricity or drive cars. These folks were just part of our local community and we really did not think too much about how different our worlds were.  After all, living at the foot of the Blue Mountains felt much like being in a world that was not much connected to the world I saw on the television back then.

My Home Town

My home town was like many communities near where I grew up.  The town is an old rural industrial town. Back when I was a child, the town had thriving industries. We had Price Battery, Coca Cola, Hahn Motors, The Hamburg Broom Works, and The Plow Works foundry, to name a few. There were also a few knitting mills, Windsor Knitting Mill and Burkey Knitting Mill (and others),  where many of the women in town worked.

The town itself was a bustling small town where industry thrived and the streets were filled with activity. There were restaurants that supported all the workers in town and stores that supplied all the needs of those who lived in town and nearby.  Most people did not venture too far for their needs and the local stores had a thriving business that the community fully supported.

Life in my small home town was by all standards quaint and sheltered from most of the outside world. Everyone knew each other, many folks did not lock their front doors, and people looked out for their neighbors back then. We felt safe from crime and kids roamed the streets by day and parents never worried that something bad would happen to them.  It was a great place to be a kid!

How “Progress” Changed Things

During the 70’s, life in my home town remained fairly simple and not much changed.  It was not until I was in high school that things started to really change in my town, and not for the better, either.

Along with computers, trade agreements, and advances in industry came a lot of changes for this old industrial town. Many plants started to close. People started to be laid off and unemployed, and many of them were middle-aged or older and this is the only life they knew. They had no marketable skills in this new age of business and poverty started to set into the community and grow like a fungus.

Many older folks who never ventured too far from home were forced to commute to the closest city for work causing many of the restaurants to lose business and eventually close. The once thriving downtown with its quaint shops and stores that once supplied the community with its every need started to become a ghost town. Many mom and pop stores were forced to close businesses that had been in the family for generations.

Many of the homes came into disrepair because residents did not have the income to support repairing their homes anymore. This once thriving community was changed forever. For me, it was really sad to see my home town deteriorate into a has-been town with empty factories and foundries dotting the community like flies on flypaper.

What I remember as a teenager is just being really sad and not being able to wait to get out and into a world better than where I was. Technology advances and workforce changes changed the safe world I knew as a kid into one that had so many unknowns. Life in my home town would never be the same.

A Rebirth

Life changed. In the 90’s not much changed in my home town.  By then, I had moved to a different state, but I came home to visit my parents frequently.  Every time I drove through town, I felt the sadness of times long gone.  Things did not change much from year to year and the same buildings were closed and boarded up as they had been for years. Then one day, the things changed dramatically.

For years the town fought off allowing big box stores into the community for fear they would further deteriorate the small businesses that still remained after the town’s industrial devastation. But in 2003, Cabela’s opened just outside of town, bringing some jobs back to the community. In the years since Cabela’s opened, many other stores opened int he attached shopping community right on the edge of town. This brought a little life back to the Hamburg area and more recognition to the town itself. As a matter of fact, many people I meet in Philadelphia know of Hamburg simply because of Cabela’s.

Today, Hamburg has had a (sort of) comeback with busy shopping areas, anchored by Cabela’s and Walmart, and local events such as the Hamburg-er Festival that draw thousands of people each year to the community. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of fallout from the industrial age in my home town, but there is also more promise there than there has been for a few decades.

So why should you care where I am from? Well, maybe you don’t. But I am writing this book and blog from this place.  This is MY personal background.  We all carry things from our past into our futures.  We all have memories that we take with us for a lifetime. We all are shaped by where we live, what we saw, what we experienced, and feelings we have felt along the way.  These are the things that are ingrained in us and shape us and mold us into who we become. This is the place from which I write my account of MY story of my life in an addiction household.  These are things that shaped me. This is who I am.

It’s Still Complicated

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Healing is a process

It has been four years since my dad passed away from stage 4 lung cancer. I had fully anticipated having already written my book A Letter to My Father by now, but as I have learned, healing is a process.  Sometimes a long process.

Initially, I held off writing my book because I had a lot of anger in me and I did not want my words to be angry words, but rather I wanted to provide an account from my perspective from my childhood, all the way through the writing of the book. I want my book to resonate with others who have complicated relationships with the parents due to dysfunction and living in an alcoholic household. I want to be able to help those who suffer in silence from childhood trauma long after they should be, and I want to be able to help those who end up in co-dependent relationships because of this trauma.

But who am I?  I am not a medical doctor, nor am I a psychiatrist.  I am merely a person who lived through trauma and wants to help others through my story. If I can help one person, it will be worth the time in writing my story.

Getting through the Storm

The truth is, I am still not healed, but I am getting there.  I have worked hard to rid my life of the anger I felt and the pain and grief and abandonment.  I leaned hard on my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to get me through this.  He truly has been my rock and my shelter.  He has been my strength when I have been weak, and my friend when I have felt abandoned and alone.

Even though my dad has been gone for years now, I still feel a lot of pain over many things regarding my relationship with him.  I probably always will, but I am finding my peace with it. I still feel abandoned by him both in my childhood and as an adult, but I also know he probably did the best he could or knew how to do. To the child me, it is unforgivable. The adult me forgave him with the help of years of prayer. Yes, YEARS.

Moving Forward

After years of putting off writing my story, I finally feel like I am able to put my thoughts together and get words written in a way that can honor my dad, but can still tell the story of destruction, violence, abandonment, fear, terror, and a multitude of other feelings and experiences that come along with living in a home with addiction. I know many people have and still do live under these conditions, and you are the folks I want to reach.  You are wonderful special people.  You are loved, even though you may not feel loved in your current environment. You are complete and have everything you need to live a full productive life filled with love and happiness. It may not seem like you do right now, but I want to be that one who tells you that you are an awesome person just as you are!

If this resonates with you, and you have some healing to do or can help others heal from their trauma, I invite you to join my new Facebook community A Letter to My Father Community. 

Until next time, XOXO

Lisa

 

 

A Goodbye to Dad

Cardinal - a shot of red

Today is the day we say goodbye.

No one prepares us for this day.

No one is ever ready.

We have a lifetime of memories,

and yet a lifetime does not seem like enough.

There have been good times and bad,

Happy and sad.

Yet through it all we have come together as family.

As I watched you fight cancer

I stood there amazed.

At a man I call dad

Standing there so brave

Smiling and laughing

You stood there so strong

I was never so inspired

By a man on this earth

Until I saw how you handled

The hand you’ve been dealt

I stand here today

In awe and amazement

You have inspired so many

And touched many lives

This amazing man I call dad

Who had faith and is still alive

In the hearts of the loved ones

Who carry you near.

We will meet again someday.

I look forward to that day.

We will have time to talk, and laugh, and say

All the words left unspoken.

All the things we need to say.

Only then we will see

That a father and daughter

Have love for each other

That defies all time and distance.

Those words left unspoken

Will be no more

And together we will find peace

In eternity evermore.

Love,

Your daughter Lisa