This video is much better enjoyed having watched the Stromae music video first:
Weeks after the death of my mother, I fled the country. I laughed, I smiled. I enjoyed Innsbruck, Austria. I drank, enjoyed time with friends, studied and improved myself.
Weeks later, I would have an emotional breakdown in an Italian cemetery while draped over the bust of a long dead Italian general. I was grieving during the entire thing but I may not have looked like I was grieving. I never said much about missing my mom, rarely complained about my sadness or depression and to the untrained eye, I was just a young woman out enjoying her college years.
I watch a lot of true crime, like…too much true crime; and one common thread I keep noticing is that there is a lot of attention paid to how someone grieves. Especially in shows focused on female murderers like Deadly Women. Cases where women are involved are particularly rife with commentary about women moving on with their lives too quickly, or remarrying too quickly or trying for another baby too quickly or even just appearing to be normal too quickly.
Not to defend women who have murdered their families but…what that even means puzzles me to this day. Even when my father died 20 years ago I went back to school as soon as possible, continued in extracurricular activities as soon as possible, sought routine as soon as possible. Hell, the day of, my aunts took me to the zoo as no one was quite sure how to break the news to me yet that my father had passed on. I remember that morning being one of the happiest of my life coated in fun safari animals, sweets and laughter until I came home to see my mother crying and surrounded by all of her friends. After that I don’t think I truly processed any of his passing until months later as I was literally 11 years old. What was my grief meant to look like?
Was I supposed to throw myself into the grave with my father? Was I supposed to weep? Was I supposed to skip months of school and put my young life on hold? Better yet, let’s compare to my mother because at least by then I was a 20 year old college student. I was told frequently that I was brave for going back to school and possibly even a little reckless for studying abroad. I was told that I should take more time but I never understood what I should be doing with that time. I apparently wasn’t meant to be spending that time out or with friends, I shouldn’t have gone to school, I wasn’t supposed to like going shopping or enjoy pancake soup in Innsbruck.
I was supposed to sit and grieve I suppose in the most dramatic sense of the word. I should have been ripping my hair out and sobbing and building semi-pagan altars to my dead mother and wearing a locket with a piece of her shorn hair in it.
Not to say I didn’t cry, sure I did. I cried a lot. I was catatonic one day in college because I just hadn’t processed anything but one thing that I kept thinking of day to day as I missed my mom, arranged funeral plans, called family and kept friends in the loop was that I missed my routine and was desperate to return to it. Sometimes grieving was laughing at jokes that only my family understood or eating peach cobbler in the kitchen and demanding that it was to only be served with Bluebell ice cream. Sometimes grieving was telling my friend that he couldn’t cry during the service knowing that I’d lose it if he did. Sometimes grieving was picking the song list for my mother’s service with my grandfather’s in mind and choosing to bury her catholic despite what would likely be her wishes. Grieving was deciding to donate her organs moments after her death knowing that it would be the one decent thing my mother could do after having died in the most dramatic way possible.
My grief didn’t look normal because normal for grief doesn’t exist. Everyone processes things differently and everyone moves on differently. Some never truly move on at all.
Yes, we’re talking about ER again. No, I have no regrets.
Rachel Greene, daughter of Mark Greene and his first wife, Jen, is a brat. That’s all I have to say. I know she’s a fictional character but she’s a brat. But watching Rachel grow up, at times, with me during my own childhood and seeing how she reacted to stressful situations as both a child and an adult with my own heavy emotional burden and doing my best to work through my trauma: mostly thanks to the assistance of medication and therapy. But looking at Rachel’s character made me feel something I haven’t felt for a fictional character in a while: resentment.
Rachel Greene is first seen in ER as a child in the middle of a less than kind divorce between her parents. Jen is tired of Mark working too hard being a literal damn doctor and Jen wants to be a lawyer for some reason. Of course their daughter is caught in the middle of the messy divorce as Jen moves to Milwaukee and uproots her daughter’s whole life so she can go be independent, I guess. Rachel doesn’t take the divorce well, no kid can, really. She misses her dad, her school and her life in Chicago.
Mark isn’t guiltless; he’s forgetful, scattered and constantly overworked being a literal damn doctor. He forgets her engagements, doesn’t know her new friends and is fairly out of touch in her life due to the divorce and trying to move on with his life. Rachel feigns illness once saying that her dad’s patients were the only ones that got his full attention. It’s a biting line but also, very true: Mark’s attention never fully belongs to anyone but his patients; it makes him a fantastic doctor but a less than great lover and parent.
By the time we see Rachel again, she’s a teenager and she is horrible. I guess because my teen years were relatively quiet and I never went through a seriously outward rebellious stage thanks to being clever enough to hide my indiscretions on internet forums and LiveJournal posts. She was hanging out with the wrong kind of boys, doing drugs, listening to obnoxious music (okay, same but not the point) and was back in Chicago with her dad, his new wife: Elizabeth (played by the badass Alex Kingston) and their new daughter, Ella. Mark finally found love and is dealing with the last parts of having brain cancer and has most of his family together. Nope, Rachel ruins a lot of that by just being an impudent teen. Her rebellion ends up with her baby half-sister nearly dying when the toddler finds Rachel’s drugs and is poisoned.
She gets what is effectively a slap on the wrist for nearly killing a baby and almost ruining her father’s second marriage because…you know…baby almost died. She continues to be a brat and gets her normal life as much as possible while everyone else has to deal with the fallout of her actions.
Fast forward and Mark’s cancer is back and he has precious little time. Rachel deals with it the way I’m assuming most normal teenagers would and she continues to be selfish until she is spirited away to Hawaii, where her father is from, to spend his final days together learning about their family history and legacy. And how does Rachel respond to this? By ignoring her father, stealing his medication that may I remind you he needs for his brain cancer, drinking, listening to more obnoxious emo music and sulking. The episode is called On the Beach and it’s a masterclass in making you hate a character. Towards the end, Elizabeth, who by this point in the series has no reason to even acknowledge that Rachel exists after almost killing her child, finally sits down with her and says she has to grow up and that it’s unfair her father is dying but to take the time she has.
That’s where the resentment came into play. You see, I didn’t get the chance to watch my father go quietly into that good sweet night. My father died alone, unceremoniously in the middle of the night patiently waiting for an ambulance outside of our apartment door as to not wake his family when he started feeling funny. I was woken up by my aunts who already knew the news but didn’t want to shatter my 12 year old world just yet. I was allowed to do something fun, to play the game like this was just a slightly less than normal day and then later I would be filled in properly on the events. I was told by my grieving mother that my father died and that my life was never going to be the same. I didn’t get the luxury of watching my father fade away on his own terms with dignity like Rachel did. And if I had the chance, I’d do anything to get the time she did with her father, knowing that he was dying, to tell stories, make memories and spend more time together than they ever would be able to if both were to go about their normal lives.
Watching that episode, watching Rachel waste time left me seething with hatred: if only I had that chance, if only I could, what I’d give and before I knew it I was angry at a fictional character. When at the end of the day, there’s no promise of what I’d do if I did have that time with my father. I can’t promise that at 12 I’d have the maturity to spend the time I so wish I had now at 30. I don’t know if I’d be better than Rachel; my resentment comes with the luxury of having decades of hindsight.
We see Rachel again a few times in the series before the end, she’s older and heading towards college. She’s still alternative in some ways, making all the choices a young adult with a less than stellar childhood does but she’s mellowed out and matured.
I’ve made my mistakes during my teen years, my young adults years and even now; I’m still learning and growing. My resentment and anger at Rachel is really resentment at myself and others. There’s a joke in my friend group that if trauma and having a less than great childhood is an excuse for bad behavior that we all deserve a Purge-style hunt once a year. I’ve been very strict in my approach to separate my bad behavior from my trauma. If I am excessively flirtatious or bad with men, I don’t blame my father’s death: that’s on me. If I am sullen and weepy: I don’t blame that on the insecure attachment of a child that had to parent their parents; I blame the current flavor of depression that day. And the way Rachel Greene is written, constantly using her less than great circumstances as an excuse for poor behavior; I just can’t stand it. Maybe it’s the white privilege that allows her to openly rebel and feel so outwardly when I was never given that chance; maybe it’s just jealousy, maybe it’s just grief but I learned so much about myself and how much I still have grow when I began to examine my feelings about the very fictional Rachel Greene.
I’ll end this post with Dr. Greene’s final coherent words to his daughter, words I hold in my heart since I couldn’t get meaningful last words from my father: be generous; be generous with your time and your love and your life. Just be generous.
Jim Henson passed away when I was a child. And by child I mean I was actually not even born yet, though he did pass away in the same year I was born. Needless to say, I didn’t have a cultural memory of Jim Henson as a person. I had/have memories of his work (of course I do) but I have no memory of Henson the man. Some of my friends that are older than me seemed all to think that his death was sudden and tragic and I did my best to empathize with that feeling. At the time, I had not really lost a cultural icon that felt similar. Most of the celebrities that passed away while I was in high school or college were sudden, sure, but not shocking or surprising. Hell, some of them were memetic like Billy Mays’ sudden passing. It wasn’t until adulthood that I started to lose figures that truly meant something to me culturally, while Monkey Punch’s death comes to mind, really the big one is probably Stan Lee.
But Stan Lee was old. Every time I saw his name in the headlines that weren’t attached to a Marvel movie cameo, I assumed it was Uncle Stan’s time to go. It didn’t hit me until I saw Into the Spiderverse and his cameo featured him selling the costume of his favorite character to young Miles Morales saying that the costume always fits, eventually; dear reader, I cried then. Stan Lee helped give form to some of my favorite characters, concepts and ideas. Stan Lee was my childhood and his death, though somewhat expected, was trying. I couldn’t imagine losing him at the height of his power and suddenly. Which brings us back to Henson.
It was actually an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History that pitted the two (Stan Lee and Jim Henson) together that made me really think about his passing. A lot of Lee’s verses to Henson are about his sudden death and the impact it left on young minds everywhere (at the time of the episode’s release, Stan Lee was still alive) and while I could continue to accept that logic for the sake of the rap battle, I still didn’t give much thought to the death of Jim Henson.
I mostly knew of Henson’s work from The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth and of course Sesame Street and the Muppets but my relationship with those works mostly fled me as I entered my teen years. Shockingly, the show I most recall of his from my childhood was Fraggle Rock, a show I was convinced I made up in a 90s based fever dream only to be reminded that many children watched that show during its television reign. I remembered the show for its heart, desire to teach children to not be little trash goblins and its fun view of the world which by the 1990s felt already nearly too absurdist to be real. But I rarely thought of the man behind the puppets. I did for some of Henson’s contemporaries like Frank Oz and his work in bringing Yoda to life but I had no memory or attachment to Henson. He was just the guy whose name appeared in the credits of some of the shows I watched as a kid. He was a man, he was an important man but during my childhood, he was mostly a name or a vague myth.
But one day, while scrolling through my Youtube feed, I came across a mini-series done by a channel I already have an immense amount of respect: DefunctLand. DefunctLand mostly covered the history of theme parks, amusement parks and more but also covers the shows we (mostly millennials) loved as children and didn’t realize ended terribly or due to awful reasons. The very popular Youtube channel decided to do an entire mini-series on Jim Henson’s life, work and impact which would, inevitably, end with his death. The series was well-researched and well-thought and I found myself loving Henson’s work in a way I didn’t know was possible. Seeing how much time he spent caring for the puppets and those he chose to work with and their immense talent, I was able to gain a whole new respect for this man not just as a myth but as a genius. I got to re-learn my love of his puppetry and his insistence that this was not just for children, and even more so, learn about some of his failures. Getting to hear about his successes, his influences, his family and history; I’m not giving the mini-series justice so literally just watch it. But there was a looming sort of dread as the series progressed: the series would end and that would mean Henson would die. I found myself on sort of pins and needles as episodes ticked down. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t emotionally ready. I spent weeks learning about this cultural monolith and I would have to bury him as so many did already decades ago.
The last episode of the mini-series was Henson’s funeral and his death. The editing of the episode was heartfelt and the video snippets from the funeral which was a televised event made me feel like I was there. The fact that so many of the puppets he made and pioneered were there and their actors were present doing their best to be there despite their grief was moving. Big Bird was there and the actor inside this almost impossible looking suit was clearly straining to sing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” through sadness and tears just broke me because I had never given thought to Big Bird crying, yet alone, the actor inside that costume crying. The service was moving and having it intercut with some of the final moments of Henson’s private and public life made for an experience that left me crying on my sofa.
I felt those feelings of those who were kids and watched their hero die. I felt those emotions, the sadness, the loss of potential, all of it. I lamented what work we could have seen from him. I missed him. I felt for him as a person for the first time. I felt for his family on a personal level since I also lost my father young. I wondered about how he would feel about a whole generation of people loving his work the way we do. I wondered about all of those things. How he changed our media landscape, taught children to empathize, encouraged us all to be kind and did so with such humor.
I knew of Jim Henson as a ghost, a legend, I never had to grieve him as a man.
The mini-series DefunctLand did was marvelous, heartfelt and spectacular. I learned a lot, cried a lot and appreciated felt puppets more than I thought was possible. I never thought I would have to mourn the loss of someone I knew really knew or never met, but it is possible.
I never thought my Mother was pretty when I was growing up. She was a big woman who needed oxygen to survive and I was resentful of her weight, her mostly sour attitude as she battled the demons of mental illness and of her oxygen tanks that brought her all the unnecessary attention that later drove her to agoraphobia.
I never thought my Mother was attractive and I spent most of my childhood wanting nothing more than to distance myself from her. I relished in being compared to my Father while shuddered at being compared to her. My earliest memories of her were comparing her to Ursula from The Little Mermaid as the two in my mind had a similar haircut, built and attitude.
But my Father was not the only one who took a lot of photographs. By nature of who my Mother was, she was photographed. And it took nearly a decade of her being committed to her eternal rest for me to realize something: my Mother was beautiful, but that doesn’t mean she was perfect.
Mother was, from what my family has told me, always someone who cared deeply about her appearance. She was the first of five children and being the oldest had its perks and responsibilities. I never got to hear many stories of the woman she was before she married my Father but from what I knew, she wanted not for men or for male attention. Most of the photos I have of my Mother from the time that existed before my Father and well before I was even a concept were her with one of the many male callers that dotted her life experience.
I never understood what my Father saw in my Mother in all those strange Electra complex ways a young girl does when she thinks about her parents.
My Mother wore a ton of makeup. Personally, as a child, I resented such a thing. She was always so heavily painted that it angered me. It was like mask she wore to hide something, she was invincible because of eyeshadow or she was omnipotent because of blush. I always wondered what she was hiding or why she felt the need to wear so much makeup. The photos I have of her only seem to remind me that she had always been that way.
When I was in middle school and was getting ready for Halloween that year dressed as Maid Marion she gave me such aggressive blue eyeshadow that went from the bottom of my small lash line to the top of my eyebrow and that couldn’t have been appropriate for a ten year old. And it wasn’t I remember being scolded some at the school function I was attending for such heavy makeup on a child.
But almost all of my Mother’s photos had such heavy eyeshadow. And it was either an electric blue color or it was done to echo whatever color she was wearing. I used to think such a display was garish. Why call so much attention to yourself? Men should want to give you attention without makeup. It didn’t enhance the woman; it was a mask, a sham, a lie, a deceit.
I seldom wore makeup when I was younger. I carried much of that resentment through my life. My Mother was no saint, especially after my Father died and the way she fell reliant to male attention after her husband’s death made me resent my own femininity. She spent so much time on her hair and makeup while she dated men to fill the void that her husband’s sudden death left behind. I didn’t recognize that I carried that much hatred for makeup that was mostly rooted in a projection of angst over my Mother’s shallowness.
My Mother was dedicated to making sure she always left the house looking her best. Even when she didn’t feel good, she still did her best to look good. When planning for her funeral, my aunts and I made sure to bury her in a dress that she would feel proud of being seen in. My Mother was vain in all the ways most Southern women were. Her vanity oftentimes meant we were late for church or for appointments and I’ve always been a stickler for punctuality. It was irksome to have to wait for her to look just right when I never saw her as looking better for doing so.
But that dedication to her looks was none of my business. It was no one’s business but my Mother’s. Her doing so didn’t hurt anyone and honestly, doing so her made happy.
It took me many years to be mature enough to say that.
I started wearing makeup a few years ago and more importantly, I started wearing eye makeup last year. And recently, I’ve been going quite heavy on the eye makeup. Beauty trends tend to go in a cycle and heavier eye makeup is back in style just like the casual racism of the 1950s is still en vogue. And each time I find myself placing not one but at times two or three colors of eyeshadow onto my eyes or the delight I get now by collecting pallets of eyeshadow like a painter hoards paint; I’m reminded of the complicated woman whose strewn makeup cluttered many a childhood homes’ bathroom. I’m reminded of the woman who so dedicated to her personal level of beauty that she was willing to run late for work lest she be seen without blush. I am reminded of my Mother every time I open up a palette of eyeshadow and am delighted about what I can do with all the colors.
My Mother was not perfect. Our relationship was not perfect. My Mother was a complicated woman to love and to be accepted by. But there’s a reason that we managed to get closer after I had finished high school and was mature enough to realize that holding a grudge wouldn’t solve any issues. Time does not heal all wounds but it certainly does increase one’s propensity to simply not waste new tears on old griefs.
And when I finish doing my makeup now for a convention, a costume, a date, a special occasion or even just because I feel like doing so, I find myself wondering if my Mother would think I was doing a good job. I find myself wondering if my Mother would think I was beautiful. I find myself wondering if my Mother would still be so committed to her personal style if she was still here.
My Mother was no saint. But seeing her through the eyes of her sisters, cousins and friends who describe her so vividly, lovingly and with such a genuine heartfelt grief that she is no longer here with us helped me finally realize that she was in her own complicated way beautiful.
I’m finally glad to have my Mother’s old photographs.
2018 has been a pretty heavy blog year, hasn’t it? I’ll blame Mercury’s Retrograde or something. But I wanted to tell a personal story and it all relates to Adventure Time and the struggle it is to grapple with the legacy of someone who is no longer with us.
For the record, I love Adventure Time. It was one of the first cartoons I started watching after college and it hit me at a perfect time and place in my life. I was emotionally vulnerable, had far too much time on my hands and was easily swept into a light-hearted yet incredibly emotional adventure with a boy and his dog. I had no idea that this show would emotionally gut me over and over again. Famously, there was one night after the episode Simon and Marcy aired that I remember messaging Carlos and telling him “Be prepared to hate the theme song from Cheers.” to which then an hour or so later I got another message from him saying that he hated me, hated the song and that he was mad a show for kids made him emotional at all.
Truthfully, it wasn’t even when this particular episode aired that it made me emotional, though I did cry a little as I learned the lyrics to the song. I was because the narrative demanded I be so but it was more recent that it brought a more thoughtful tear to my eye in an entirely different context. It was after re-adding a few of the songs I lost after the tragic death of my Zune to my current musical cloud and I found a song that I had downloaded years ago from Adventure Time. It was I Remember You, sung by Marceline and the Ice King. Narratively, it’s about a lost relationship due to the crippling loss of one’s mind and a preemptive apology for all the things one does as they lose their mind.
You may know where I’m going with this.
My grandma passed away a few years ago. She was diagnosed with dementia when I was in the first half of my college career. Grandma was always sort of flighty and scatterbrained; her chronic forgetfulness was easy to write off. But medicine proved that she was losing her memory and we had little precious time with her as we knew her. I was fortunate that she was very aware for a majority of her later years in life. I didn’t notice a serious decline until after I graduated from college. Hell, we even casually joked that once she didn’t remember who I was that it was done. That would be the end of our relationship as granddaughter and grandmother. Though it was a joke, it was also a clear line in the sand for my sanity and for hers. It didn’t mean I’d ever stop loving and respecting her but I had to set that hard and fast line. Because the spiral of losing her was something that I would not wish on anyone.
My grandma said some nasty things as she began to lose herself. She was usually sweet but when she was combative it was scary. It was difficult watching the woman who helped raise me during my early years decline in such a way. I never thought she meant the mean things she said but it was always difficult to deal with when my grandmother berated me for denying her iced tea at lunch (she had a heart condition that forced us to seriously limit her caffeine intake).. It wasn’t always bad. The bad times came in bursts. Most days were quiet but the beast did creep up in moments. Grandma would get paranoid after watching hours of crime procedurals. She’d ask about her husband who had passed away over a decade ago. She’d ask about plenty of people who were no longer with us. It is disingenuous to make it sound like it was all violent outbursts; it was in fact their scarcity that made them so powerful. And in her moments of lucidity, it was like you could see the flashes of the person my grandmother used to be. After saying something horrible, she’d apologize a day or two later or she’d just simply forget: it’s hard to hold a grudge against someone who doesn’t remember the argument.
And talking to my aunts about it seemed to do very little. I mostly dealt with it by simply shutting down and not dealing with it. All of us were processing this thing at the same time and that left very little room to help each other cope with the thought of losing our family’s matriarch. So for the longest time I mostly just internalized the pain of watching her slip away by ignoring it, keeping my head down and remembering the better times. I was working in a mall at a job I hated, I had a routine, an all be it terrible one, but it was a routine.. And my routine often revolved around my grandmother. I worked so that I could be with her in the morning and I seldom stayed out late with friends: someone had to be there with her. We did our best to work together as a family and I know my grandmother received the best care we could give her. But once I moved away, I finally had time to realize that I had kept those feelings of loss and longing bottled up. I did my best to call but the physical distance of moving away makes it difficult to maintain even the most important of relationships.
There was one day that I called and my aunt went to hand over the phone. My aunt said “It’s Amanda on the phone.” and I could hear my grandmother say “Who is that?” and my aunt had to remind her that I was her grandchild.
I don’t think I told anyone how much that bothered me. I don’t think I even told myself how much it really bothered me. And I stopped calling for a while. When I heard that she wasn’t doing well, I came back home to visit and she passed away while I was making my way home. I stayed the night and returned home long enough to pack and prepare for the funeral.
That was 2 years ago.
So when I was sitting in my car listening to the lyrics of I Remember You which says so clearly:
Please forgive me for whatever I do, when I don’t remember you.
I sat there for a moment or two and just sort of let it happen. It was far from a dramatic anime cry but one of those small tears you barely notice until the headache of emotional weakness kicks in.
I had always thought I had forgiven my grandmother for the things she said in anger. I realized then that not only had I not but I had barely reconciled the person who passed and the person I looked up to so much. I handled her passing about as well as I did my mother’s, in that I didn’t. I accepted it and moved on. I kept moving forward but it was while stopped at a stoplight and listening to my cursed musical cloud on shuffle that I had to pause and take stock in the feelings that I had buried for my own protection.
I’m working towards forgiving her for the things that she did I’m working on forgiving myself for not always being an enlightened saint during that time.
So thank you, Adventure Time for being one of many songs that can bring a tear to my eyes. Maybe, just maybe, catharsis isn’t so bad after all.
I talk a lot about Fullmetal Alchemist, don’t I? I’ve gone on record and said it’s probably one of my favorite series and it has some of my favorite characters of all time within it. I think the major reason it means so much to be is because of when this series hit for me. Like a comic book main male, I have to say again: this series hit me right after my father passed away. When FMA started its run, my dad’s death was a very recent memory. So having a main cast that all dealt with the loss of a parent and what it meant to be human in a world of loss was important to me, formative for me. I suddenly had someone on TV that understood my grief. I didn’t grieve in the way that all the books I got from my family and teachers did. I skipped sadness and moved straight to cynicism and trying to find logic to replace the hole in my heart. As far as series that are important to me, you can look to FMA as one of the most. Because I’ll say it again for those in the back, you don’t need a character to look like you to feel represented.
This post is coming out during a special time of the year for me (I’m pretty good about scheduling things out far in advance. Don’t judge me.). October 1st is my Mom’s birthday and she would have been 58. October 11th is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 54 today. My Dad was a complicated man and I’ve talked about my Father, his legacy and his memory plenty of times. I don’t talk about my Mother as much maybe because that grief is still such a recent memory for me. I don’t like talking about it because that’s a wound that hasn’t closed up all the way yet.
October really is a strange month for me.
My family (both sides,really, if I have to think about it) usually looks to me and then checks on me on these days in particular. And in the past, these days have been difficult. My friends knew to take special care of me and to get me out of the house on these days so I could keep my mind off the negative thoughts that tend to creep in on significant dates surrounding those you’ve lost. My family wants to look to me as some effigy to my parent’s memory.
But really, after all of these years: I’d love to reclaim these days.
October 3rd for FMA fans is a very important day. It’s the day Edward and his brother Alphonse burned their house down. They made this choice after committing the ultimate sin and paying the price as a knee-jerk reaction to the loss of their beloved mother. They will for the rest of their foreseeable days carry the weight of their sin and the weight of the grief that clouds their hearts. They had lost their beloved mother and their father as far as they were concerned was gone forever. They had no reason to stay in their family home that had been so corrupted by sin and death, so they burned it down. But they didn’t just turn away from their past and ignore it, no. Edward upon receiving the pocket watch that marks him as a State Alchemist scratches the date into his watch.
Don’t forget 3 Oct. 11
It’s probably one of the most important dates in the series and Edward carries it with him everywhere he goes.
I also carry that date with me because like the good State Alchemist that I am, I also have my pocket watch. Travis gave me that watch when we took over our college’s anime club. And even though I had cosplayed as Mustang and as Edward before, I never had my own watch. It was a great irony that Travis gave me the watch that I am now so proud of. In our friend group I was always Col. Mustang, the charismatic leader and he was my loyal Hughes. He was there to keep me grounded and help me move up the ranks and make our club the best we could.
I’m a fully functioning adult and I still wear my pocket watch on occasion (and I still get plenty of compliments on it). And that weight in my pocket, that date in my pocket is a reminder of the date that means so much to an anime I love and so much to my family and my actual family.
So today after 15 years since my father passed and just a little over 5 years since mother joined him; I want to reclaim 10-1, 10-11 and hell, the entire month of October while I’m at it. My family still looks to me a bit to do something grand. To post something inspirational. To show that I still remember. To show that I’ll never forget. To show that I’m doing okay. And trust me, with no sense of irony I can proudly say that I’m fine. I will be fine. And even on the days I’m not, I have more than enough coping skills and loving support to quickly pull myself back up after a rough day.
Today, I burn down the emotional house. And what a perfect day to do so? It just so happens that days after the Elrics burned their house down and the dates of my parent’s birthdays coincide.
If I post something that honors my parents, fantastic and I have posted for them a few times. If I don’t, also fine and despite my blog postings there have been years that I choose not to memorialize the day. A big step in the grieving process is just moving on and I think after so many years, I’m ready to treat these days like they are any other day. The weight will always be with me. I will never forget this day. But I’d also like to move on and try and forge my own path. That’s what my Dad would have wanted and I can hope that it’s what my Mom would have wanted, as well.
Happy Fullmetal Alchemist Day, to my fellow otakus. Remember to keep moving forward and never let your past dictate who you are.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I didn’t forget.
And Happy Birthday, Dad. I’m a little bit early but now you know that I didn’t forget you, either.
My father died when I was 12 years old. I was a little girl and I spent most of my young life dealing with the emotions that come along with the loss of my father.
That was 15 years ago today.
I like to think I’ve grown up a bit from the apathetic pre-teen who had to put on a brave face at a funeral; so here are some of the thoughts I have on the meditations of grief and what it means to hold the specter of Death at arm’s length for most of your life.
- There’s no solid way to mention that you lack parents. Especially when it was just my father who had passed, I struggled with being able to articulate that I didn’t exactly do Father’s Day anymore or anything. I’ve gotten better about just being honest and even talk about it here.
- I do find that especially with my dad, the days do get easier. Time does heal some wounds. It was a long time ago, there have been many more memories made in the time between me having my father and not.
- But I do still hear a lot that I have several of my father’s mannerisms and traits. We apparently share the same wit, humor and sarcastic attitude. We both have larger than life personalities. We both can apparently light up a room. I think those parts of my father’s legacy I am most proud of. When I can effortlessly feel more connected to him because we aren’t so different.
- I feel a fair amount of guilt over the fact that my mom and dad are buried in different cemeteries on different sides of town. Mom is buried with her parents and her brother. Dad is buried in another city with his parents and his cousin. I regret they aren’t together and the fact that dad is so far away means I don’t get to visit him as often. That wears on me more than I like to admit sometimes.
- I’m always surprised by my friends and how supportive they can be. I can tell them anything. I can openly say I’m having a rough day today and without question, they’re willing to do whatever they can to help ease some of my angst. I’m so lucky to have that kind of support in my life.
- My family is very supportive as well but being my father’s daughter means a great deal of weight on me. They look to me as the effigy. As the legacy and sometimes, I just want to get off the altar and grieve, too.
- I am entirely enamored by pictures of my father. My aunts have found old photo albums recently and seeing my dad even before I was born warms my heart. On lucid days, I can still remember his voice and I’m always happy to see his face in a photo.
- I’m very aware of how much I look like my dad and the older I get I look like my mom. That’s a heavy burden in itself. When I was little I was always compared to my father’s mom (my grandma: Annette) who I never got to meet. So we’d visit my dad’s family out in country and all I heard as a little girl was how much I looked like Annette. That’s a heavy burden for a child and even now as a young woman, I still don’t know how to feel about bearing apparently such a strong resemblance to these people who are now practically deified due to death.
- I’m surprised that I still have so many of my dad’s old CDs and movies. That’s not really good or bad, but interesting.
- I’m very fascinated by the fact that as I get older I use “father” more than “dad” now. I guess I’m just dramatic or a bad Damien Wayne cosplayer-in-training.
- I’m also curious as someone who does social media professionally what rights the dead have to those who own their images. I wonder if my dad would be okay with me sharing his pictures. I wonder if my mom would be okay with it. They can’t tell me they don’t consent to having their images online but it vastly helps me and my family cope sometimes sharing images of them online.
- I’m always troubled when people use “death of the father” as an excuse to rationalize poor behavior in men but especially in women. I watch a lot of crime dramas and a number one “cause” of bad murdering women is apparently having no father. I dislike that argument because: well, what the hell does that mean for me? I’m not a terrible person (well, depends on who you ask). I work hard. I do my best and I happened to lose my father when I was young. So what does that mean for me and the other people I know who grew up without parents? Not to say that losing a parent does not PROFOUNDLY affect how a child grows up and learns how to love, trust and feel secure BUT I certainly hope my destiny isn’t headed towards of a path of a future Law and Order: SVU episode. I was raised admirably by my aunts and they did their best. I certainly hope I am destined for more.
- There’s a certain sardonic nature my friends and I have about me and my parents. When we go over character quizzes and such no one is ever surprised that I often get sorted as the angsty playboy with no parents. There’s a reason the last two posts like this one were labeled with names like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark: two characters that I empathize and relate to quite a bit.
- As I get older and in theory start thinking about grandchildren, children and marriage: I’m worried about what narrative of my parents (especially my father) that I’ll tell. My dad died when I was a kid. He was one of the most important parts of my life BUT he was a human man who was in many ways very flawed. So which legacy do I capture? The flawed but compassionate family man who would do anything for his wife and daughter? Or this Christ-like redemptive father who peacefully faded from this Earth after deciding that disease was not the most dignified way to live on this imperfect world? I hope that I’ll tell the right story. It’s important to those around me and most important to me.
This one isn’t going to be very long and I may work on another one for my mom who faces another anniversary later on this year.
I love you, Dad. I love you now more that you’re not here and that I don’t have the luxury of calling you every day. I miss the person you were. The man you did your best to be and the person you wanted ME to be. I hope I’m doing okay in your eyes.
Rest well, Father.
June 7, 2010 was a normal day. And even the years before on that day were normal: some even joyous. I graduated from High School on June 7, 2008.
My aunt got married on June 7, 2001. But June 7, 2011 was not a normal day. It was by no means a normal day.
June 7, 2011 my mother died.
On that day I lost the one remaining of my parents and became the very last of my already terribly small nuclear family.
Today: June 8, 2016 for the first time in nearly 5 years it was just a normal day. I got up. Got dressed for work. Drove to work. Talked with friends. Was excited to post something about A-Kon (which got shelved until tomorrow.). I had gotten a message from my Godmother last night and I simply shook it off. She sent prayers and it wasn’t for any lack of gratitude that I shook it off: it was for am immense desire to return to being normal. I wanted today to be any other day and I thought it was going to be. In fact, for a brief moment I almost forgot. I even flubbed the dates. She had in fact passed yesterday the 7th but I had switched the dates from the day she died to the day I had posted about it after midnight that evening: the 8th. It was actually Facebook that reminded me that 5 years ago today I lost my Mother. (Thanks, Facebook.)
I felt absolutely normal up until that point and for the first time in a while I was reminded of that feeling that today was in fact not a normal day and despite my efforts to make it a normal day for many of my friends and family members it can never return to that normalcy that I desperately crave. And I say “normal” over fine and happy because I do not wish to worry those closest to me. I am not sad. I am not broken. I am actually quite content and calm enough to crank out a blog post, obviously.
So today: after 5 years of being officially an orphan I’d like to say a few things.
I do miss my parents immensely. I do love my parents. But I have no choice but to move on. I have to keep going. My sadness and my grief do not negate the right that I have to a life. And my parents would not ever want me to waste a single moment of my very finite breath on grieving them incessantly. So if I come off as callous or cold; if I seem detached from the date. If I seem unaware of its significance: do not assume my normalcy is out of rudeness. It is in fact the highest honor I can pay to my fallen parents. I will move on. I will keep going. I will live.
You have to keep moving forward.