4/6/17 As we sang happy birthday to our baby girl who was turning 4 and recorded the memory on my iPhone 6plus, I couldn’t help but think about how hard and sad and hurtful it would be to look back on this very moment in a few years when she’s gone. Only a week before had we lost our beloved 14 year old dog Snow so forgive me for my pessimistic mindset. She was a fluffy white Bichon whose spirit animal could have easily been a bear. I had only known snow for five years. My partner and her mother already had a dog when I moved in. Snow was courageous and protective and so loving. If you asked her to dance she would get up on her hind legs… for the right treat of course. And, if you asked for a hug she would tilt her head to the side and lay it across your chest. Snow was amazing. My partner has taken the loss hard. When snow fell ill it took all of us by surprise. We’re dealing. She will truly be missed. We now have one dog. She’s a 4 year old Akita mix. As we celebrate her birthday we also celebrate the life of her playmate, our friend, and companion. I wallow in thoughts of loss and for that reason we celebrate life.
My hope for his survival hid behind my knowing of his death like a knight shielded behind a Great Wall. Clutching his truth like the shiny sword that he carried for the battle. Gripped tightly like the cold steel doorknob on his hospital door. The stench of death on the battlefield. And the war almost over. He lay there defeated. And I stand over him. All hope lost for my soon to be fallen comrad. My dad. My pop. Later he would be no longer be and I, the would be knight would quiver behind the Great Wall. Protected only by the thought that the war has finished. And the suffering be over. For him.
As a person of Muslim faith there are plenty of holidays that I don’t receive gifts or don’t celebrate. So as an adult I have come to appreciate the symbolism behind the gathering of family for good conversation and good food, not as a celebration but as appreciation for one another and our lives. I’ve come to accept that we as human beings need these times and holidays as reminders. We use them as reminders of love and thankfulness, and strength. I see them as somewhat of a re-boost to continue on with jobs, work, school and families that have been weighing on us.
For many of us the hardest part about the holiday season is opening gifts and smiling without one or maybe more than one person whom you’ve lost. Not always does is have to be a person because as many of us know pets are family too. But sometimes these joyous occasions of cheer and happiness become nothing more than a constant painful reminder that someone you love and miss is no longer present to share these moments. Sometimes we find ourselves in a bubble of reminiscent solitude while we play back memories of our loved ones. We harbor anger at their lack of presence. We dread the holidays.
My dislike for the holiday season is for that reason alone. For starters, he (my father) was diagnosed a year ago during thanksgiving break and his passing occurred on a Sunday almost exactly one year later during thanksgiving break. So, not only do I dislike the thought of gathering for these holidays but I dislike the pain and discomfort I feel. A discomfort knowing that I should be happy and jolly and enjoy the company of those whom are still here but I can’t. I am burdened with thoughts and reminders of sickness, illness, chemo, radiation, surgery, and now death.
Yesterday has been one month since his passing and I would like to share with everyone and anyone that holidays, traditions, and special occasions are hard when someone you’re missing is missing. Be kind and understanding to those of us who find comfort in lonely corners. Be patient with those of us who seem to not want to participate but instead stay home. Refrain from anger when phone conversations have become shorter and shorter. But more importantly be conscious of us. Be mindful that we do not face our struggles alone. Offer comfort and a listening ear when the time is right. We are learning how to be and how to function without this person and that takes time. Some longer and more painful than others, but painful nonetheless. Help us to help ourselves.
To those of you who are like me and may be suffering through the holidays and new year while missing a special someone, be strong. Be faithful. January 2nd is coming and the holidays will take a short hiatus so that we may breathe just a little bit more.
My Papa went to heaven a week ago today. Before anyone chooses to question whether I truly believe that, the answer is yes! I am and always will be a daddy’s girl. My fondest memories are walking across parking lots holding his hand at the ages of 5 or 6 or long talks about life for hours on the phone at age 25 or 26.
My father had a series of illness and disease in his life but the latest being cancer. He lived about exactly one year past his diagnosis of stage 4. But I’m not here to talk about that. I would much rather run off a list of things I have to reconsider in my life now that he is gone. I accept his death and I accept the grief that is to come with it. What I am having trouble coming to terms with are the simple things.
I often told myself that when I brought my first house it had to have private parking or an immense amount of parking on the block. I knew how protective my father was of his car and if he couldn’t see if from the door or top floor window he may not have come visit me often. Now, he’s gone and I have no idea what I’ll look for in a house.
I used to fantasize about having children and smiling at the fact that he would of course, as the head of our family recite the ATHAN in the ears of my children after birth. Now, I can hardly picture myself having children.
Some of the simple things I think about now that he’s gone become even more far fetched. I hated the strong aroma of the massive amount of Muslim oils that he would splash across his beard, face, and neck. Now, I want to visit my mother’s house and take them all with me. I want to smell him each day I wake and sleep.
I know that all of these things are a part of my grieving process but I find them somewhat humorous. Not realizing at the time when these thoughts were created just how crazy I was and am about him. I think about the accomplishments that I will have and the ones that I won’t. And my brain becomes tangled and puzzled. I have grown accustomed to having two people celebrate for me or two people tell me that a better try is yet to come. Those two people being my mother and father. Now, I question whether or not I will truly learn to celebrate without him.
I had a dream about him last night. I knew that it was him even though his figure was dark and shadowy. He was there and it was clear to me.
At this point I am a wandering child looking for my father’s image in every waking moment, every phrase, every tv show and all things in my daily life. I do miss my Papa dearly. But, I am proud of the man he was. I am proud of the person he helped me become.
To Papa Haqq himself: I know you see me. I know you will read this. You were always the first to read my post and tell me how good my writing is. People are surprised at how quickly I went back to work. Or how much I’m not crying. That’s because I’m too busy smiling at the great memories you’ve given me. I love you.
If you can’t tell, I grew up Black. I grew up with 7 siblings. I spent my entire childhood sharing a room with my older sister in a cotton candy pink room. I didn’t get my own room until I was 18 during winter break and I was home from college. I only got the room because three of my older brothers had moved out. Even then, I felt like I was sharing my room because my niece was born and one of my nephews moved in and he refused to stay out of my room. But, that was family so who’s complaining? My nickname was Bighead. My cousins, aunts and uncles all gathered for holidays and pretended like it wasn’t awkward at some point. I was an honor student and a band geek. I went to neighborhood schools and was a neighborhood kid. A daddy’s girl and a brat. Sometimes we ate syrup sandwiches and sometimes we ate steak. My mom worked every single day and still cooked on her days off. She would come home yelling at us about how we tore up her house. On Sunday mornings our house smelled like bleach and incense. Oldies music or Quran blasting through the speakers. And as kids we all used to wonder “who’s coming over?” To which my parents would reply “somebody gotta be coming for you to clean?” In the winter we ate oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast.
Growing up Black for me meant hearing things like “pass me the remote, get me a glass with ice, go get my slippers, don’t be rippin’ and running through my house.” All phrases that we knew meant “this the last time I’m gone say it.” Growing up Black for me was being in the house before the street lights come on and taking your sibling with you to your friend’s house or the park because otherwise, you can’t go!
Growing up Black for me meant school shopping, layaway, and hand me downs. “You get what I give you or nothing, don’t touch nothing in this store, I brought y’all some so you bet not touch mine!” It meant “come outside and help me with these bags, wash the dishes and you better do the silverware.” A lot of my friends had Black childhoods similar to mine and many did not.
Words could never summarize the greatness that was my Black childhood but that’s why I have memories. Growing up young and Black taught me struggle, love, discipline, kindness, courage and everything that makes me who I am today. It was never a bad thing. We weren’t poor but by some measures we weren’t rich. But it damn sure taught me life lessons I’ll never forget.
Black and Blessed
The lump in his throat has become the cause for the lump of tears in mine. Family history? No. Smoking, drinking? No and no. Yet that demon chose to reveal its ugly presence in the first man who could ever love me. It had taken him from a once strong, stern voiced, red beard, cool walking Pops to a broken, afraid and frail man. He was not someone I recognized or wanted to become familiar with. All images of him in this limp and sick state I blocked from my mind. But with blocking the images I would at times block his feelings and concerns. Blocking myself from dealing with the reality that this situation is beyond our control. The dynamic duo who never let anyone or anything tell us a belief contrary to our own. We were struggling. Struggling to see eye to eye. You were struggling to believe that God would see you through and I struggled to convince you of the same. Faith had been tested and limits had been pushed. Talk of giving up but actions that did not follow, thankfully. I distanced myself from you afraid to see you bend and you were hurt. Asking questions like ” I thought you would visit?” I know what I said and I came once and that was enough because I stared into your sunken eyes and outlined your slim jawline with mine. I saw the same concern and fear that trickled within my conscious each night when I prayed for you. For your wife, my mother, for our family. And that fear pumped deep within you ten times stronger than I could ever imagine. Because this was your fight, no it was ours! No this is not a battle that we asked to partake in but here we are. Staring the possibility of death in its grim and ugly face. It will not win because you are still fighting. We are still fighting. Perhaps an easier fight this time but God willing, we will win.