not so fun.

here’s the thing: while yesterday’s post was somewhat humorous for me to write, and i really do believe that time in my life was nothing short of fairly innocent experimentation, i always drank alcoholically.

what i mean is, there was never a time i drank ever that it wasn’t for the purpose of getting drunk. in order to escape, i realize now. i could go for days and weeks -during that particular span of time, i could go for years- without drinking at all. but i would binge when i drank. as in, i would drink a whole lot for several months at a time and then just stop all together. (most women are bingers, by the way.)

the thing is, i never even liked the way alcohol tasted, though i certainly acquired the taste for it. so the stronger the drink, the quicker the drunk. and the drunker i got, the more i couldn’t taste the alcohol, anyway, so BRING IT ON.

i’ve told you before that i fell into one of two of the deepest points of my depression when i moved home from new york in 2004. i reconnected with some friends, two sisters, i had started getting close to shortly before i moved to new york and we would go out frequently, i’d say, starting that summer. we had our favorite bar in raleigh and we would have our most spiritual and deep conversations there on ‘bloody mary sundays’ (which also included martinis). ‘bloody mary sundays’ would be followed by live music later that night and then again on wednesday nights and, of course, everyone knows that the weekend really begins on thursday. so, basically, i may or may not have been drinking only on monday and/or tuesday nights. anything with vodka in it would have been my drink of choice. and lemon drops! ooo…we looooved lemon drop shots! and big, tall jaegerbombs. this still remains one of my funnest times in life.

have i told you that this is the also the time that i was working for my dad, who was also an active alcoholic? and living next door to him? on the same property where we worked? we were each other’s best enablers. not because we drank together -no, couldn’t do that; couldn’t let on to him that i had a problem- but because what was he going to do? fire me?

i started seeing karen that fall. after addressing the spiritual abuse issues and getting me out of that church, she would ask me to go for 30 days without drinking so we could address certain other issues. i, of course, told her i could and would and then i didn’t. conveniently, i lived in chapel hill and karen was in raleigh, which is also where the sisters and our favorite bar held residence. after my very difficult and painful sessions with karen, i would swing by and get the girls and we would head into town where we would drink and i could decompress. somehow, when i was set free from that church, i realized it was up to me to figure out where my own boundaries fell and how far my freedom extended, which included making up for the wild partying days that i missed in college.

if i’m going to be this open with you, then i may as well go on and lay it out there for you, albeit hesitantly and with a knot in my stomach: it was during this time that i gave up my virginity. the thing that i had held sacred for all of my life was gone in a one-night stand shortly after my 27th birthday. literally, i remember thinking (which means i wasn’t thinking because i was drunk), ‘eff it’ and woke up the next morning devastated that i had been so callous. see, when an alcoholic drinks, we give away our power of choice. sadly, it took away my power of choice time and again after that night. there were many mornings i woke up with a stranger in my bed and other times when i had no idea where i had left my car the night before. in certain settings, this puts me in good company. this is not uncommon for anyone in aa. but, really…this grieves my heart.

our nights of going out carried on for about a year before one of the sisters, who is still one of my best friends in the world, moved back north. around this time, i joined a well-known philanthropic group of ladies and made fast and quick friends with my orientation group. we called ourselves the chapel hill social club. i still love these girls with all my heart. we loooved wine and i knew i could drink some before i would go out to dinner with them and then safely drink two glasses of wine in order to get home ‘safely’. i often said to them, ‘you are the only people i give permission to ever do an intervention if ever one needs to be done.’ WHO SAYS THAT TO THEIR FRIENDS!?

p.s. chapel hill is the town where i grew up and where i was currently living. because i was so important there, i had previously gone out in raleigh so that no one would see me out in chapel hill and tell my family. which is why, when i made friends with these girls, i felt very mature only drinking wine but i still had to manage to get home and not end up in the police blotter the next day. (i’m kidding about being important. the truth is, even though it’s a college town, chapel hill proper is very small and everyone knew each other, including siblings and parents, back when there was only one high school.)

you see, i had always known i had a problem. i knew my drinking looked different from theirs and most everyone else i knew. they could drink half a glass and not feel sad not to finish it. it didn’t make them feel sorry to see other people leave the

last

sip

of wine

in their glass.

{i drank because i was uncomfortable in my own skin. i drank because i didn’t feel like i fit in. i thought i was a little bit socially awkward and when i drank, i was suddenly comfortable and confident and i could flirt and turn on the charm. (it helped to be cute and confident when i was poor and couldn’t afford my own habit. :)i drank because i wanted to escape my life and the issues i was covering in my therapy. i wanted out. does this sound familiar to you at all?}

my bottom started to hit summer of 2006. one of the girls in the chsc was getting married in the mountains, so the rest of us went up for it together. that was such a fun weekend. however, it was not so fun on sunday morning when i had to do a walk of shame from the groomsman’s cabin down the hill to my hotel in my dress from the night before.

and it was not so fun the morning after my next birthday party hearing my mom say in a quiet and desperate voice i had never heard before and haven’t heard since after i asked her to get in bed with me, ‘i never want to see you drink like that again.’

it was not so fun when, that fall, i went on a personal retreat to prepare to speak at a women’s retreat the next weekend and i spent an entire night not preparing for anything at all, only looking for the corkscrew i just knew i packed.

it happens quickly, bottoming out. the thing is, it just takes what it takes for all of us. (and by ‘all of us’, i mean fellow alcoholics.) we all have our own story. some folks hit what normies would consider a bottom…and then their bottom just keeps getting further and further because they don’t realize they’ve already hit it (which means it’s not really their bottom, i don’t guess.)

for some of us, it takes one final bad night at a wedding with an open bar to realize that we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and to hear the voice of our heart, say so tenderly, ‘it’s okay! i love you! now let’s just take care of this before it gets any worse.’

i’m going to take a break from this story tomorrow…since, you know, all the christians will be in church and all ;)…but i’ll finish it (finally!) on monday.

if you’re waking up now, or just getting in, from one of those nights, then i want to again offer you hope. there is help.

thanks for listening.

love you guys.

xo

what it was like, part a.

{before i get started…if you sent an email to me yesterday, would you please re-send it? it ended up in my junkmail and i deleted the box before i could catch your email. (i have a name, just want to protect your identity if you don’t want everyone to know you sent me an email.) i promise to look more carefully for it. :)}

part one of this series, an actual problem, was featured on monday. it tells the story of how i got sober.

i was in the third grade the first time i ever had anything to drink. it was at my best friend’s mom’s wedding and they were indiscriminantly handing out plastic wine glasses of champagne. i felt it burn and explode in my chest, but it didn’t mean anything to me at the time.

the next time i remember having anything to drink was in my playroom when i was a freshman in high school. i had some girlfriends spend the night and had planned to sneak the two budweiser’s from the fridge that had been leftover from a party my parents’ had. my dad’s drink-of-choice forever was jack & coke, or margarita(s) on the rocks when we went out to dinner. he was never a beer drinker, and my mom hardly ever drank at all- so i knew it would go unnoticed. we also had three small wine bottles in the laundry room which, again, no one would even realize had gone missing. i think there were three or four of us, and we all planned to get wasted.

i mean, d-RUNK.

in my playroom.

off of 2 beers and 3 (miniature) wine bottles.

i know.

you don’t have to say it.

we. were. WILD.

after that, i made a decision not to drink. not as a result of that experience because, honestly, that was just an innocent night. at least we were safe. (hello, how much trouble could 4 14-year olds get into in my family’s home with my parents on the other side of the house?)

i just decided it wasn’t for me. in fact, i was afraid of it. by that time, we were pretty aware of my dad’s problem. i knew that, between my sisters and myself, i would be the one to end up becoming an alcoholic if i ever started drinking (which would be good foreshadowing if my life were a sitcom movie). so i just didn’t.

plus, i was very self-righteous and religious and judgmental toward everyone who drank or had sex or did anything else remotely sinful or just plain “bad”.

{and if i ever judged you ‘in the name of jesus’, please know how sorry i am. i was a poor representation of his grace at that time. and i was socially awkward. i have been humbled. and i love you. and i’m sorry.}

i prided myself on never having attended a high school party. really, this only made me appear prudish and weird. couldn’t i have attended a party without drinking or doing anything else? i guess i just didn’t think so. or i thought i was too special to hang out with that crowd. (the honest truth is, i just didn’t think i was cool enough and didn’t fit in, which would come into play later. again with the foreshadowing…)

then somehow, during the second semester of my senior year in high school, my best friends and i made the decision that this would be the weekend i would Get Drunk for the First Time. officially, i mean. (many of my fellow members of the god-squad had graduated the year before me, so i started hanging out more frequently with my other friends.)

it was the perfect set-up: my parents were going out-of-town for the weekend and i was supposed to watch my little sister at home. {omg, seriously…i was The Worst Sister Ever to do this to her, not realizing i wouldn’t be coming home that night. i am so, so sorry, sarah.} some of the college students that worked at the same retirement home where i worked were having a party that night. (you see where this is going, don’t you? very classic ’80′s slumber party movie. except for the part that this was 1994.) not having any idea what my tolerance level was, my best friend and i shared a quart of jack daniels. straight.

not bad for my first time.

needless to say, i ended up hugging a toilet that night near some broken glass and not being able to see or think clearly the next day.

and i had left my little sister home alone.

it’s true. there really isn’t a box large enough to contain my awesomeness.

after that, i would show up to fca on monday nights with my ‘christian’ friends and then showed up on the weekends where those friends would not be. i was such a good christian, don’t you think? really. i could give lessons. let’s not even talk about spring break that year. let’s not talk about it because i don’t remember it.

as a matter-of-fact, and funnily enough (funny, strange-funny; not funny, haha-funny) -and fortunately for you- i don’t remember many stories after that of my wild drunken escapades. basically, the pattern in my life for a while is that i would go for years at a time without drinking or doing anything troublesome at all, for reasons i’ve already mentioned (ie, fear & religion). at my small women’s college where there were strict rules, in addition to being a resident assistant (heeey single room!), i was either in the theatre or the art studio or on the road with the ensemble choir at any given time, so i just didn’t have room in my life for wild partying. plus, my parents were going through their divorce during those years, so i really clung closely to the lord as best i could. plus, again, i was just sort of uncomfortable in my own skin and felt insecure around the girls who went to frat parties, even though we were all friendly. i hit a patch of wildness my freshman year and then again my senior year, and that was really it. but to talk about it would really be desperately trying to make something interesting of my life during that time and it just wasn’t.

in the big picture of the life of a college student, i was pretty boring. and i was kind of fat.

which is why i decided to make up for it a few years later.

{i would be remiss not to point out that, though i can make fun of myself now, i was really a hypocrite of the worst kind. i am not very proud to admit that i preached one thing with my mouth and acted out an entirely different way, judging other people who were doing the same thing. i was the kind of christian that the lord said he spits out of his mouth (revelation 3:16). and that is why i am so, so thankful for his grace. not because it’s a license to get buckwild but because it covers us when we are too young to know better or when we misplace our energy or focus even when our hearts are good. which, once again, has nothing at all to do with me and everything to do with him. mm, grace…}

now. i realize ending this story here is really making a long story longer and now we’re spilling into next week, which i hadn’t planned on doing.

but i’m going to.

because the other stories that were told this week point straight to jesus and are far more important than me dragging out my tales of stupidity and make it worth any amount of rearranging my very important stories about me.

tomorrow i’ll tell you of the days i was (ahem) a more mature drinker. i’ll close on monday with ‘what it’s like now’, or ‘what it’s been like since i got sober’.

i know you’re on the edge of your seat. sit tight. i’ll see you tomorrow.

love you.

xo

an actual problem.

today i have been sober for 1400 days. or 46 months and a day. or 3 years, 10 months + 1 day. perhaps someone you know and love is currently or has battled in the past with the disease of alcoholism. i’m sorry. it sucks. i grew up in it, i was it – it sucks for you and it sucks for the alcoholic in your life. the disease makes us selfish. we drink because we are angry and/or depressed; in short, we drink because we want to escape something. we may only be bingers; some may be living under a bridge. as the big book says, it’s a cunning, baffling and powerful disease that affects the whole family and i’m just sorry if you’re going through it. there is help, there is hope.

i am going to try and veer away from telling you about the disease of alcoholism itself and simply want to offer you experience, strength & hope through my own story, as we say in aa. i also don’t want to talk about my experience as an adult child of an alcoholic because, like any good acoa, i still want to protect my dad, even though -and perhaps especially because- i don’t have him anymore. sadly, his disease compromised the rest of his health and, therefore, i would venture to say the disease of alcoholism was mostly responsible for his death when it comes right down to it. i do not judge him for this, even though it would be easy to if i didn’t have an understanding of the disease. instead, it makes me mad at the disease for robbing him, and me, of his life. i inherited his disease. we are fellow members of the same club.

here is my story:

i woke up on a cot in a hotel room on sunday, november 5, 2006, still wearing my dress from the night before, covered in my own vomit. my friend laura and her husband chris, who truly are saints of god because i could have ended up anywhere or with anyone and would not have known it, brought me up to their room after our friends heba and ed’s wedding the night before. an open bar at her wedding was the best gift anyone could have ever given me.

when i woke up, still drunk and hungover, laura helped me into the shower. she hadn’t slept very much because she wanted to make sure i was still breathing, that i hadn’t choked on my vomit. she told me later she just thought it was ‘one of those nights’ for me that everyone has once in a while. she didn’t realize i had an actual problem. she didn’t know that, while this was among the worst of ‘one of those nights’ for me, i was prone to drinking too much and often and that i was actually strategic about how many times a month i would go out with which friends so that no one really knew i had an actual problem. she certainly hadn’t set out to do an intervention, but that’s exactly what was about to happen.

laura stood outside the shower and lovingly told me story after story about what an ass i had made of myself the night before. i have no memory after a certain point because i blacked out. {‘black-outs’ aren’t the same as ‘passing out’. you are still ‘awake’, so to speak, in a black-out but it is likely you have no control over yourself and will have no memory of your actions later. there are otherwise good people in jail, for example, for killing people during a black-out.} by the way, that ‘certain point’? the last thing i remember was talking to my friend kelly’s husband seth while we were eating -i think- either peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or chicken biscuits and the reason i can’t recall is because i passed out in the middle of our conversation. i don’t remember very much before that and definitely not one thing after that. the next sort of ‘memory’ i have of the evening was watching myself (i know, weird) throw up everywhere in the hotel lobby in front of the bride, the groom and all of their guests. and then that’s all i can tell you about that.

as laura was filling in the blanks, i could only cry. in fact, i sat down in the shower and sobbed. i had huge dark bruises up and down one side of my body and a big scratch across the opposite side of my face and have no idea how i achieved either, except that laura said they had to carry me out and because i kept falling over. i. was. miserable. – literally, i felt miserable. but i was miserable inside, too. just…unhappy. and i knew i really did have an actual problem. i repented to jesus like i had done the morning after every other drunken night, and then i heard so sweetly in my spirit…

mary kathryn, it’s okay! i LOVE you! let’s just get a hold of this before it gets worse.

if i had never known the tenderness of my sweet jesus before that moment, i knew it then. he was not condemning or even upset with me. at all. he did not judge me or give me the silent treatment. he simply loved me. i didn’t feel his disappointment in me; instead, i knew his delight over me. and that night i responded.

{an aside: this is sort of funny. not really, but sort of. so, the wedding had been out-of-town, about an hour away from where we all lived. i drove home that morning and i really don’t think i realized then that i was still a little bit drunk. (please, please don’t judge me for this. i know there is no excuse for this. i did this often; i was very selfish.) i called every alcoholic i could think of, save for members of my immediately family. i called brennan manning’s office and at home and left messages for him at both, bawling my eyes out the entire time. (i got an email the next day from his assistant who said she could not understand a word of what i said, she just knew something was really wrong.) i called friends who knew and loved me and left messages everywhere i could, weeping and wanting to talk about my ‘problem’. god bless those sweet people.}

i walked into my first aa meeting that night. i will always remember big ed*, a santa claus of a man, being out in front of the clubhouse as if he was waiting there just for me. (really, he was just out there smoking with everyone else.)

it was a speaker meeting and, even though i was a little familiar with the program due to my experience with my dad, i really thought the speaker and the leader of the meeting were professionals. (‘professional drunks‘, i can hear them say.) i would, of course, come to find out that they were drunks just like me and might have been there a few months or a few years before me, but together we all only had that day by the grace of god.

i cried through the entire meeting. and then proceeded to cry at every meeting after that for the next month, maybe longer. i was definitely, definitely a newcomer. and i was definitely, definitely in the right place. i felt relieved and overwhelmed, but i knew i was safe and that i never had to drink again.

after i took my first (and only) white chip at the end of that meeting, a sweet friend, who i would learn later had only gotten sober a few days earlier, told me it had been suggested to him to do a ’90 in 90′. i had no idea what that meant but i agreed (it means 90 meetings in 90 days). the women swarmed over me that night, each one saying ‘get a sponsor…here’s my phone number…here’s a list of meetings…’ i felt like i was in a psychedelic, slow-motion swirl of love, from these people who did not know me but they definitely knew me.

i went to bed that night both exhausted and relieved and had the best night’s sleep i had had in a really long time. and for the first time in a long time, i had hope.

tomorrow, i’ll tell you what it was like before i got sober and then later this week, what my life is like now.

in the meantime, if you think you might have a problem with alcohol or another addiction, there is help available. you are not alone.

*names have been changed to protect anonymity.

no fear lives here?

you’ve heard me talk about karen, my therapist, as the singlemost person god has used in my life. also on my Top Ten List of People Who Have Influenced Me Most: my theatre director from college, kenny gannon.

particularly when i feel afraid, i can hear him emphatically yell, ‘do it afraid!’ or ‘walk right up to the cannon’s mouth!’

last october, The Thing I’ve Feared Most in this World happened when my dad died suddenly.

as a result, one gift i’ve been given through his death has been a freedom from fear (for the most part). and i’m reminded of john 4:18, which says in the niv,

there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. the one who fears is not made perfect in love.

for all the water that was under the bridge between us, the love between us now is unfiltered and unconditional and pure. my dad’s and my relationship is now perfect in his death, which leads me to a deeper understanding of the cross. when god’s love is truly perfected in me, i don’t have to be -i won’t be- afraid of him.

you don’t have to be afraid of him.

because his love is perfect.

and he is not out to punish us.

i walked through, and continue to walk through, the worst, most painful thing i was ever afraid i would have to walk through in my entire life. ever.

now that that’s happened, there’s not much else for me to be afraid of. i made it.

 i am making it.

some days i still get afraid. of a lot of things. mostly things that haven’t happened.

but, when it comes down to it, i realize there really is nothing i have to be afraid of anymore.

the worst is over.

i no longer wait for the other shoe to drop.

i don’t have to be afraid anymore.

fear can’t be my secret excuse that holds me back anymore. and if i find that it is holding me back, then i have to wonder if the deeper issue for me is that i need to go to jesus again and let him perfect his love in me. the love that says, ‘do no be afraid, mary kathryn. i’m with you.’

and in those moments when my fear is shouting louder than the still, small voice, i have to, like kenny said, do it afraid (even if i don’t have my lines memorized).

have you walked up to the cannon’s mouth lately?

do you need to?

the lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (deuteronomy 31:8)

 

the onion: layers two and three revisited.

i talked to karen the other day. you know, my therapist?

can i just tell you…i immediately feel better after speaking to her. always. always. i don’t even see her on a regular basis anymore, i just check in with her every few months to make sure i’m still not crazy. we only spoke on the phone yesterday for about 20 minutes and my world changed. ah…therapy. i think i’ve already told you that, for the last six years, karen has been the singlemost person that god has used to change my life.

i recommend therapy for everyone. everyone. karen is licensed, has a degree and is a christian but not a christian counselor (big difference), which i would also recommend (especially if you yourself are not one). but…oh. therapy. wow. yeh. highly recommend it. do yourself that favor. you deserve it. (just be sure you find the one that fits for you – and make sure they have a degree and not just a certificate they bought at some camp or on-line. just saying.) you know how i said yesterday i can’t endorse anything in which i don’t strongly believe? yeh. therapy. wow. get yourself some. you’ll love it.

thank you for joining me for that public service announcement. now on to my regularly scheduled blog.

when i last left you, as you may remember, i was worried that i had built up walls since my dad died about going to church and getting married. blah, blah, blah.

in a word: i haven’t.

karen reminded me that my dad’s never died before. and everything -everything- i do in my life now is filtered through that lens now. it hasn’t even been a year since he just up and left us out of the clear blue. and even if it’s been ten years, it takes as long as it takes to get through it.

the bottom line is: i’m just not ready. for either. and that’s okay.

{read here for a list of stupid things people say to single people, lest you try to ‘encourage’ me}

i spent last sunday afternoon with my amazing friend dar, who talked about seeing life through the lens of an eternal perspective. as soon as my dad died, it’s like the dial on my camera through which i look at my life shifted to a different perspective without my knowing.

it’s not that i’m opposed to either church or marriage. i promise i’m not. i love the institution of both because god made them. i’m not suggesting they are not valuable because i know that they are. there’s not a rebellion in my heart about either, which is why i’ve had such a hard time accepting where i am right now - like, it was bothering me that i haven’t been more bothered that i’m not compelled toward either right now the way a good christian should be. (i really, really hope you know when i’m being facetious by now.)

the real truth is, i’m not willing to spend my time doing things that are not of lasting value anymore. my church? my small group. i would not trade the time i spend with the girls in my wednesday night group for anything in the world. that is more ‘church’ for me than anything i could do on sunday morning because all we do is show up, just as we are (some of us just a few minutes late and usually smelling like stank because we have just come from the gym), in all of our guts and glory and just ask questions and hug & encourage each other and get to know god better together. leslie is an incredible leader of that group. right now, conventional church is just not for me. and that’s okay.

and marriage? i think i’m just worn out. in the last eight years or so, i’ve danced through my ‘parade of fools’, as my bff-karen says, and it’s just not worth it anymore to date just to date – or ‘to date with the potential for marriage’ (blech, christian cliche…sorry) someone who…well, i guess let’s just say anyone…with whom i’m not on the same page, if i’m going to be diplomatic about it. and that’s okay. paul said in 1 corinthians that it is good for us to stay unmarried if we can (7:8). right now, i can. and i wouldn’t trade that for anything. i’d rather be single for the rest of my life than to be married to the wrong person.

and right now, my abundant life means i get to go visit all my married friends with kids and move in with my co-spouses of sunday funday fame, the cobb’s, once our baby is born and i get to drive up to new jersey this weekend to marry off my heterosexual life partner & bff-amy to her wonderful jabazz, and go see my sister and brother-in-law in the city…or i can just go sit on the beach and feel the sand in my feet. alone. i realize that between marriage and singleness, marriage is the least reversible of the two. one day -maybe- the door to the other may open up. (maybe.) but for now, i’m okay with my lot in life as is.

and so, i’m okay. you’re okay. we’re all okay.

okay?

love you guys.

is there anything you’re wrestling with that makes you uncomfortable? have you considered that maybe -just maybe- you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be? that perhaps you’re okay exactly as you are?

wreck.

i love you enough,

mary kathryn,

to take your dad away…

to free you from the

pain & worry of loving him

to set you free from the

path of addiction…

i love you enough,

mary kathryn,

that i want you

fully

and completely

and wholly

for myself.

not easy words to hear, yet i am not creative enough to speak them to myself.

i have had glimpses of the lengths god has gone to in order to demonstrate this to me time after time.

today, my precious friend kimberly led “how he loves” at her church.

during worship, i just…worshiped.

and then…

at the end of the song (but not until then)…

i heard those above words inside my heart

and i was undone.

when i first came to lindsey nobles blog, she was in the middle of a series where a different guest blogger would write a reflection about the same song (by john mark mcmillan).

i dare you to listen to it and not be moved by god.

go here to hear the story behind the song.

 

 

(but you may want to do it in private in case you have an ugly cry-face like i have.)

love.  xo

 

 

 

 

 

something.

I need you to know something. It’s about my dad. He died last fall. Suddenly, unexpectedly. He was only 59. My uncle found him slumped over his chair in his home in Nashville within about ten minutes of my dad’s  heart stopping and he couldn’t be revived. He had been writing an email to my older sister and, at the point when the email cuts off, we realized he literally must have died laughing, which is perfect.

Among a myriad of other health issues, he had congestive heart failure. He went just as we were told he would, which is that his heart would just stop one day. Cardiac arrest. And that’s exactly what happened, we just weren’t given a timeframe. I was at work when I got the call that he had been rushed to the hospital. I was told he had been unconscious but it didn’t register with me that meant he was already dead. He was like a cat and had been in the hospital on numerous occasions and I just wasn’t going to panic this time. Only the next call I got was that “the doctors did everything the could” like you hear in movies. Everything was suddenly in slow-motion. I was in my then-boyfriend’s car because he didn’t think I should drive myself home from work that day, not knowing when the next call would come or from whom. He took me to my mom’s house where I met my little sister and we just started calling everyone we could think of to call.

There aren’t any instructions for what to do when a parent dies. You don’t know what to do until you have to do it. And you don’t know how to walk through grief, either, until you have to do it. I’m still not over it -I’ve been told you never “get over it”- and it will hit me at random times how  much I miss him.

I need for you to know he is the best and most challenging parts of me. You will hear of him again. Probably a lot. But I need for you to know him in order to know me better. People used to say to me, “You are just like your dad” and it would mean one thing to me and something entirely different to them. But, it’s true. I am so much like my dad, and I am proud if it means I am loving and kind and gentle and creative the way that he was.

My dad was an alcoholic for over half of his life. For all of mine. He was an artist and a musician and wrote the best songs of anyone I know. My favorite sound in the world (is) falling asleep to the sound of him playing the piano downstairs late at night. He had a heart like Jesus. Anyone would feel comfortable next to him, princes and paupers alike. To know him was to love him, and everyone was loved by him. EVERYONE. He just loved being with folks. Not even doing anything. After we (and by “we”, I mean our non-profit, which is vastly different from being family-owned) sold our conference center, the new owners honored him by placing a nameplate on his bench on the side porch (which I dubbed his “office”), where he would sit and smoke and listen and laugh and dole out either hilarious jokes or simple nuggets of hard-earned wisdom if it was asked of him. Everyone loved my dad. He was precious and tender and sad and joyful.

We had a strained relationship, especially in the last several years for reasons I’m sure will come out as I tell my own story on these pages. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of water under the bridge between us brought on by years of living next door to one another, both in active alcoholism, where he was my boss (also on the property in the country where we both lived) and I was the daughter who lived the closest to him.

But in the last year or so before he died, there began a healing between us that was precious and tender and raw and unfiltered. He wasn’t well and, while I wasn’t hoping for or expecting it and didn’t know, I knew I didn’t want to spend whatever time he had left punishing him.

The last time I saw him was last summer. My then-boyfriend and I drove out to Nashville for a long weekend. And it was the first time in a long time when the pauses weren’t awkward. And I really enjoyed being with him. There was never a time when he didn’t enjoy being with me, even when I was abusive and angry at him. While there was no proper indication that he would die not three months later, I knew in my heart it would be the last time I would see him. And we had a good talk and he prayed for me before I left and we cried together.

He loved me more than anyone ever has or ever will on this earth. And I know it sounds crazy but…while we couldn’t get it right on this side of life, we have it right now. Now, I sense his presence and we can love each other without any filter and it doesn’t hurt to love him now.

I just need you to know.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 547 other followers