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.
Since my dad’s death in September 2013, plenty of tears, questions and confusion has poured out of me. This wasn’t my first big loss in life, but it has absolutely hit the hardest. Yesterday, for example, wasn’t just Father’s Day — it was also my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary — and it was brutal.
I’ve read eons of articles about coping with grief, learning how to get by, and the like. I’ve had nightmares about all the milestones my dad will miss, including career successes, a walk down the aisle, starting a family, my own anniversaries, and so on. I’ve felt a gamut of emotions, ranging from anger to emptiness.
It wasn’t until earlier this month, when I read Sheryl Sandberg’s essay about the loss of her husband, that a new feeling emerged: hope.
In it, Sandberg explains the lessons she’s learned in the 30 days since her husband’s death. The emotions. The questions. The confusion. I read through blurry eyes with tear-stained cheeks and big, ugly sobs. This passage, in particular, spoke to me:
“I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was ‘It is going to be okay.’ That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, ‘You and your children will find happiness again,’ my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, ‘You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good’ comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple ‘How are you?’—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with ‘How are you today?’ When I am asked ‘How are you?’ I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear ‘How are you today?’ I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.”
I highly recommend you take some time to read the entire essay — even if you haven’t dealt directly with grief, Sandberg provides excellent context for helping others deal with death.
Since September 2013, I’ve actively said that we as humans are not well-equipped to deal with loss. There is no manual, but Sandberg’s words are certainly a start.
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.
Father’s Day is right around the corner, and if your dad is anything like mine, buying a gift for him proves more challenging with each passing year. Fret not, dear friends: Here are some guy-friendly gifts that will please your papa.
- Apple iPad or other tablet
- GPS for his ride
- nook, Kindle or other eReader
- Jersey and framed magazine from his favorite team’s big win
- Autographed memorabilia from an online auction
- Tailgating snacks, face paint and tickets for the next home game
- Gear for his next big hike
- Supplies for the campsite, such as a new tent
- Map an unexplored destination where he can go rappelling or white-water rafting
- Personalized tool kit
- Gift card to home-improvement store and subscription to “This Old House”
- A season or two of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on DVD
If your dad doesn’t fall within just one of the hard-defined categories, try mixing a few of the items above to create something truly unique.
The important thing, of course, is to spend time with Dad and thinking of him. He likely doesn’t need anything fancy, but it’s nice to show him your appreciation for all that he does.
Slick Rick, Brother and I on base: Savannah, Ga.; Christmas 1990