For the first time since my dad died in 2013, his birthday falls on a Wednesday. To say I’m obsessed with anything but his memory today would be absurd.
I’m grateful to have an understanding boss and team so I could work from home and sort my feelings away from a cubicle. I had plenty of meetings to keep my mind occupied, but it inevitably drifted many times today to how he would be celebrating.
Slick Rick was larger than life in many ways. He was not the most patient or affectionate father, but the values he instilled in us were exactly what we needed (even if we didn’t know it then). My brother and I inherited his work ethic, commitment to community, quick temper and affinity for wrestling. Our mom loved him throughout 33 years of marriage and countless ups and downs.
Dad’s stroke in 1995 changed our world overnight. He wasn’t expected to live, let alone recover. He took that prognosis head-on and regained his ability to talk, walk, write and drive — while being permanently paralyzed on his dominant right side.
Growing up with a handicapped father taught me a lot about how cruel the world can be and how much life can change in an instant. We didn’t always get along, but I’ve lived every day of adulthood trying to make him proud and see the result of his parental guidance.
It hasn’t gotten easier to keep his memory alive these past 5.5 years but I’ll keep honoring him in big and small ways as long as I can.
143 always, Big Guy ❤️
At my brother’s wedding, November 2012
Better late than never, right? I’m nothing if not great on a deadline, so let’s get right to it.
- Dad’s Birthday: I’ve learned in the last 4.5 years without my dad that the milestones and anniversaries don’t get any easier. Instead, they become this new normal you adjust to, and you find ways to get some semblance of peace among the pain. I raised a few glasses to Slick Rick last night, on what would have been his 68th birthday. Cheers and 143 always, Dad.
- St. Paddy’s Day: In true Irish form, we mourn a loss the same way we celebrate. This year, I’ll be at a wedding, but I have no doubt it’ll be a holiday to remember. It doesn’t matter how old I get, I still love spending St. Paddy’s with good friends, good music and good beer. Slainte!
- Minneapolis: The wedding I’m attending is in the fair metropolis of Minneapolis, which I’m excited to explore for the very first time. The weather forecast isn’t ideal, but there are tons of breweries and local (inside!) hot spots to hit. If nothing else, this giant cherry and spoon sculpture is bound to give me some fascinating photos.
- “Meet Me in the Middle” – Zedd, Maren Morris + Grey: This earworm has been in my head nonstop for a few weeks now. If you recognize it from the Target commercials, you can blame them instead of me. (Fun fact: Target’s HQ is in Minneapolis!) Maren Morris’s voice is killer, and the hook gets me every damn time. I’m losing my mind just a little… if that doesn’t sum it all up, I don’t know what does.
As you already know, my family has been at the forefront of my mind while Hurricane Irma whipped her way across the state. On top of that, September brings a slew of family birthdays (we’re already through three of the five!), and today itself marks four years since my dad’s death. Oh, and I’m due to be back in Florida next week to celebrate a friend’s birthday and cancer-free diagnosis with a cruise around the Keys and Cozumel.
Shall I state the obvious? My emotions are on overdrive. I’m exhausted, while ever-grateful for the people who’ve shown constant love, support and thoughtfulness. Particularly today, as I think about the four years we’ve had without my dad, I am humbled by outreach from others.
I don’t always post or share how I’m feeling about that loss. It’s not because I’ve forgotten or because I’m “over it” or because I’m not hurting. Quite the opposite. I think about him multiple times a day and fear I’ll always be hurting. And oh, how I hate people to feel sorry for me.
Just this morning, I struggled with the way someone responded to my mom’s sentiments about my dad. We’re told there’s nothing wrong you can say when someone is grieving, but in the past four years, I’ve learned there are absolutely insensitive and thoughtless comments, which turn my grief into anger and take my energy away from what’s important.
And what’s important, to me, is reflecting on the many years we had him here. Looking back through our shared emails, texts and Facebook posts. Doing what Slick Rick loved to do: Cracking open a cold beer and watching The Weather Channel (because he loved it, with or without a hurricane to track). Listening to golden oldies and complaining about kids today. Typing in ALL CAPS and caring for others any way I can.
This beer and post are for you, Big Guy. I hope you’re getting a kick out of watching over us each day.
Images courtesy of family archives
If you’ve read Wittyburg since the very beginning, you know I used to have a lot more to say beyond these Weekly Obsessions. And I love these WOs — more than I ever expected I would. But I lost my way three years ago, when my dad died and I had trouble finding inspiration beyond weekly posts. Hell, I had trouble getting out of bed.
All that to say, I’m so appreciative of those who’ve stuck with me, checking in each week. I absolutely hope to bring you more varied content soon … and I want you to hold me to it this time!
This week’s obsessions are focused on my dad, as we honored his angelversary yesterday. 3 years doesn’t feel like long in the grand scheme of things, but a thousand days without hearing his voice have truly taken a toll. Combine that with an ER trip for my older niece — she’ll be OK, thank God — and yesterday sure was a doozy.
- “M*A*S*H”: There is no other show to evoke memories of my dad than this. He watched reruns religiously, we bought him the boxed sets of DVDs over the years, and I can’t hear the theme song without immediately thinking of him. Even now, if I’m mindlessly flipping through channels, I’ll land on a rerun to follow Hawkeye and crew.
- Boy Scouts of America: My dad donated countless hours to various organizations, but the BSA held a particularly special place in his heart. From helping Brother’s troop to eventually becoming Scoutmaster, dedicating summers and weekends to Camp La-No-Che in Central Florida, and selling popcorn like no other, Mr. Rick lived its mission to the fullest — scout’s honor.
- Brother’s Birthday: I’m such a selfless little sister, aren’t I? Dad wouldn’t be who he was without his first-born, who turns 33 on Friday. Despite spending our tumultuous childhoods tormenting each other, Brother has since become one of my best friends, closest confidants and biggest supporters. 143, Bud.
- “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” – Creedence Clearwater Revival: CCR is so quintessential Slick Rick, without a doubt. Among the songs we chose to play for his services, this one lifts me to another place, puts a smile on our faces, and reminds us of all the good times we had with him.
It’s been an emotional week for my home state, particularly for the city of Orlando. I woke up Sunday to my family and friends there marked as “Safe” on Facebook, but there are more than 50 families who weren’t as fortunate. I’m still collecting my thoughts into coherent sentences for a separate post, but until then, here are some things to help us smile through the pain:
- Hallee’s Birthday: Hallee Sorenson is a vibrant young woman, who happens to be autistic and celebrated her 18th birthday alone last year after invited guests failed to show. Her cousin Becky has now invited all of Facebook to send Hallee birthday wishes via mail. If you can take a few minutes to brighten this young lady’s day, cards can be mailed to:
34 Wellesley Way
Bangor, ME 04401
- Magz Retires: The mother of all teachers — my mother — retired last week after 32 years of teaching foreign languages and life lessons. She spent 22 years at the same high school and has inspired countless students throughout her tenure. True to form, she’s still working hard this week and grading AP tests in Cincinnati. There’s a large margarita on the rocks (no salt) with her name on it when I see her next month.
- T-Rex Competes on “America Ninja Warrior”: The T-Rex costume has provided plenty of laughs in various viral videos, but this one might just take the cake. I don’t think I could complete any of these obstacles in regular clothes, let alone an inflatable costume. Spoiler alert: T-Rex’s tiny arms may be his downfall.
- NYC Gay Men’s Chorus on “GMA”: Driving out the darkness with a message of positivity, my friend Marc and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus shone brightly on Monday’s broadcast of “Good Morning America.” Their message of pride and joy to comfort the grieving Orlando and LGTBQ communities is truly mesmerizing.
On a final note, as Father’s Day approaches: If you’re fortunate enough to have a relationship with your dad, please call or spend time with him — anything you can — on Sunday. A close friend of mine just lost her father to cancer, 50+ children in Orlando won’t be celebrating and there are things so much bigger in this world than our stubborn differences and disputes.
I woke up thinking it was Friday, if that’s any indication of where my head’s at this week. After a fantastic weekend visiting a friend in San Jose, I’m positively pooped and can’t wait to kick back and relax this weekend. Here’s what’s getting me through the next few days:
- Dad’s Birthday: I’ve always loved the number 13 and been superstitious (in a good way) about this day. But then my dad passed on a Friday the 13th … and this month it also happens to be his birthday and exactly a year and a half since his death. I still struggle with grief and loss, but I know he’s at peace so I’ll be raising a glass in his memory.
- Zoolander & Hansel Walk the Runway: It’s officially official — “Zoolander 2” is happening! Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson reprised their roles and stomped to the death at Paris Fashion Week for Valentino. It could have only been topped if they’d duked it out in a breakdance fight.
- Sea Lions in Santa Cruz: Speaking of models, look at this little ham posing for the paparazzi. My friend and I made the quick trip from San Jose to Santa Cruz last weekend, and these sea lions were just the cutest and best part of the day.
- “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – WHAM!: I just can’t help myself. The announcement of Zoolander and Hansel’s return means more ridiculous montages like this one. February 2016 can’t come fast enough.
OK. I’m ready to talk about it.
I’ve dreaded today pretty much since my dad died last year. Well, to be fair … I’ve dreaded many days since then.
And our family is uniquely challenged: Each milestone is not only our first without him, but our first with my niece, who was born 13 days after his death.
So here we are, another first. And as hard as it is sometimes to get up and face the day, I have my dad’s voice echoing in my head, pushing me to remember:
- Check the forecast: It’s not always accurate, but you’ll be better prepared knowing what storms are out there.
- Learn from mistakes: If you make the same one twice, it’s no longer a mistake. It’s a choice.
- Respect the past: The work ethic, loyalty and discipline defined elder generations for a reason and should be revered.
- Biology doesn’t make you a father: Uncles, grandpas, brothers, cousins, neighbors … every man who’s contributed to your growth has been a dad to you.
- Keep on cruising: Life might deal you some shit circumstances, but they won’t define you. What you do with those circumstances, does define you.
These little nuggets of Slick Rick’s wisdom have helped carry me through the hardest of times, even helping me to smile today.
Especially for Brother, who celebrates his first Father’s Day with his beautiful baby girl. He — among others — may not realize it, but being a father figure in my life has truly saved and shaped me.
Wishing you and yours a happy Father’s Day. God bless.