Thursday, June 23, 2011

Teri was here. (Dad, this one's for you)

The mini family reunion.     
Existing in a state of surreality seems to be my new way of life.  Moving down here (to San Diego)  Meeting my dad after 27 years of silence, working through and hoping one day...Meeting the love of my life...and everything in between.  But no amount of surrealism could have braced me for the news I received one week ago tomorrow.  On Tuesday of last week my dad, his wife Teri and my half brother (who have only known about since August) came for a visit.  I met Teri and Devon at a family reunion on Tuesday and spent a bit of time with them Wednesday before they began their journey home to Idaho.  Friday night at work I received a call from My Aunt Cheryl.  Teri had suffered an anurism in the air somewhere between Los Angele and Oakland.  She was in a hospital in Oakland, but things did not look good. Aunt Cheryl was about to board a flight to Oakland to be with my dad, but would call me once she arrived and had more details. That night I got the second call.  Teri was on life support.  She was completely brain dead and unable to breath on her own.  The doctors were waiting for the words from my dad  to let her go. 

It took a while for me to grasp the reality that Teri was gone.  I had only just met her.  I hadn't even made it through my bratty 'step daughter' phase of thinking.  I was working on it.  I genuinely liked Teri, I was instantly thankful for the love she's shown my dad and the life they had together.  I know he would have made it through the last decade or so without her, but having her there beside him supporting him, encouraging, probably telling him when he behaved stuipidly, that I know was invaluable for my dad.  Not to mention the encouragement she gave him to seek out his family.  We needed Teri in his life as much as he did.  But even knowing that, knowing all she had done, I still could not escape the "I already have a mother" voice that whispered in the back of my mind, so quietly that I barely even noticed it, except for the way I watched her and listened to her, hoping something would happen to validate those unwanted thoughts...When  I got the news, deep sorrow for my dad and deep guilt for my stupidity were the foremost emotions...Anthony has this brilliant gift of often saying more than he should in a certain frame of time, but still being right.  He had called me out on the bratty child voice and the guilty feelings.  He told me I'm a human with human emotions and thoughts and reactions like that are pretty normal, but it's not normal to have such a huge event followed by tragedy. 

The next morning Dad called.  If I live a million years I don't think there will ever be a voice that breaks my heart as much as his did in that moment.  I wish that I could have put my arms around his neck and held him for a while.  I wish I could have found some beautiful words to let him know that it would all be okay...isn't that so us?  To want to somehow have this super power that takes away all of the pain and makes it all if these feelings, these hurts we suffer were unnecessary. As if my dad didn't NEED the time to cry and hurt and feel it all...My dad is a very sweet, tender man.  He's had enough pain and hurt in his heart.  He had a lifetime of living in a self made hell, separated from the ones he loved, unable to pick himself up and seek freedom.  But through it he gained strength, he gained an ability to fight on, to survive, to love completely, because he understands better than most that love and grace is not something we have the ability to earn...we are good at self destruction, even unknowingly...and through our self destruction we lose sight of the havoc we wreck on others...but to survive such a thing, to come out the other side alive and liberated, the depth of understanding we gain is that love is such a precious thing...that kindness stretches further than we can ever fathom...that a whisper of grace can echo for eternity and touch the lives of thousands...From what I've experienced of my father he understands this truth...Teri was a living example in his life of that kind of love and grace.  She didn't care about his past, but she wanted him to find the peace it needed to live on...

My dad has a long road ahead of him, but at the beginning of this new journey he has hope.  He has his family.  He has the knowledge that the life of his wife was not limited by her death.  He knows that she is home and where she wants to be.  And he knows that through her death pieces of her have gone to save the lives of others.  The tears have not stopped, they won't for a while, but every tear cried over the life and the loss of such a beautiful person lends its self to remembering the love and the attitude with which she lived;  Life is fleeting and we will make mistakes, some of us will make terrible ones that seem unforgivable, but love is stronger.  Thank you Teri for the gift you gave my family, bringing my dad back, encouraging all of us to face our fears and find  way to mend the past.  I love you dad.