DECEMBER: HOW I LOST MY DAD AROUND THE HOLIDAYS AND HOW I CHOOSE TO DEAL WITH IT

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My Dad and I were really close. I used to have long conversations on the phone with him, and shared a lot of my life with him. He was really special and important to me, and I am a lot like him in many ways. We both were artists and played music when we were young, we both went to college and got Communications degrees, we’re both Gemini’s, with birthdays exactly one week apart. We both love decorating and are creative, organized and handy around the house. We’re both great storytellers, funny, charismatic, outgoing people. We both re-invent ourselves in different parts of our lives in surprising ways. He went from being a Radio DJ, to a TV Weatherman, to the Vice President and Motivational Speaker-Master of Ceremonies for Mary Kay Cosmetics. His job was to give speeches and motivate women to achieve their goals, and when they won cars and trips around the world, he presented them with their awards, and he and Mary Kay traveled all over the world together with the company’s top achievers. He was truly a jet setter, who flew on the concord, met famous people, and had a very interesting life. I couldn’t help but look up to him.

He re-invented himself again in a way, when he left my mom after 20 years of marriage and adopted a gay lifestyle. His entire world changed. In the last year of his life, 2006, he all of a sudden bought a gay bar. That same year, I had quit my office job to become a bartender. So, coincidentally, we were both in the bar business and had a new thing to talk about. It was kind of bizarre actually. Throughout college, I had a fantasy of quitting school and being a bartender. I never did it because I wanted my parents to be proud of me and I knew that finishing college was important to them (although I didn’t care about it personally, I did it for them.) It was truly a weird coincidence, the timing of my finally doing it, and my dad buying a bar in the same year. He all of a sudden did have respect for my decision, where as he would not have been crazy about my choice at another point in time.

My path has been different, but with many reinventions along the way, and more to come. I went to Art School, worked in Art a few years, was a hip hop go-go dancer, waitress, taught ballroom dance, went to college for PR, worked in PR for years, both for other companies, and running my own business. I wrote for and edited a music/ lifestyle website for 12 years. I worked a real ordinary office job as an Assistant Project Manager in Commercial Construction. I did that just long enough to prove to myself what I already knew—I could never be happy in a soul crushing regular office job. I then decided to be a bartender and start a hair extension business. I was just starting to follow my dream when my father suddenly and tragically died, and it tore my world apart and set me off course for many years.

He had been getting dizzy from time to time, possibly having a problem with his equilibrium. He was always a bit of a sucker for helping other people, and I felt he got taken advantage of in a way, always having guys around him who asked him for money. He had this young kind of messy, but sweet and charming younger gay guy that he hired to clean and help out around the bar and for odd jobs. He was basically finding jobs for this guy to do for money because he was too big of a mess to bartend. My Dad hired this guy to put up his Christmas decorations for him in December of 2006. There were gold plastic snowflakes stapled hanging by strings, and one must have fallen or was out of place, so my Dad went to fix it. He must have lost his balance on the stepladder, and he fell off his 3rd story balcony, and died instantly.

His cigarette was left in a nearby ashtray, his shoes were sitting next to the patio door, and it appeared that one fleeting moment just unexpectedly ended his life. I will never forget getting the phone call. Although my Dad lived alone, he had an ex boyfriend that for some odd reason, he was still supporting. My Dad was paying for this guy’s car, car insurance and apartment, among other things. I was always nice to him, but wasn’t crazy about this person. When I received a call from his number, I knew something was wrong.

I don’t really remember what he said, but I remember getting the call. It began the hardest period of my life. My Dad was a great storyteller, with a hilarious sense of humor. I can picture him telling the story in the after-life, to a captive audience, laughing at himself that his very last thought on earth was “Oh, shit!” I can almost hear him telling it, with his great laugh, making others laugh about it. I really try to see the humor in things, even something terrible like this.

I learned humor and resilience from my Father, and because I grew up with a Dad who was a motivational speaker, telling women things like “If you can believe it, you can achieve it;” I have always been a dreamer who thinks I can do anything I set my mind to. It’s really hard to believe that he’s been gone now for 8 years.

Obviously, the holidays could be a very difficult time for me, but I make it my part time job to make sure I always have a great Christmas with friends, no matter how hard it might be. Sometimes you have to “fake it till you make it”. Each year is becoming a little easier for me. I won’t let Christmas be ruined forever, but it will never be the same. At first when this happened, I was mad at Christmas decorations. They are everywhere like a glaring reminder that a snowflake killed my Dad! I knew after a few days of that, that if I continued to let myself think that way, I would drive myself crazy. Instead of giving in to sadness or negativity, I bought a snowflake light and hung it in my window. It means something to me. It is a symbol of my own strength. I will never forget everything I had to go through, but the snowflake is a reminder of beauty and resilience, and that I am still here and I am okay. It’s also a tribute to my Dad.

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