I recently posted about the year that had passed since finishing my Ph.D., and the journey that my career had taken since then. Almost completely overlapping that year, however, was another, grimmer anniversary.
My dad died one year ago today, on Friday the 13th of May, 2016. So I spent a little time going back through my blog and rereading everything I’d written about it, and pondering the important things that I deliberately didn’t write about at the time.
The first couple of months were a whirlwind of what-the-fuck, with a ridiculous amount of legal and real estate stuff, and virtually no work on my own emotional and psychological state. I was more upset, visibly at least, over selling homes that I’d lived in. Eventually, though, that damn burst, and I could barely stop myself from crying over the simplest of things. I chronicled the first hundred days after my dad’s death, noting just how overwhelming it all was.
This eventually took its toll, and about four months after his death, I recognized my own crippling anxiety and suicidal ideation, and I got some help. This wasn’t a petulant cry for attention; I was a mess, well and truly, and I wasn’t reacting or behaving like myself. It was scary, and it was dangerous, and I needed to have some time away from responsibilities and stress, with regular counseling, in order to get back to what passes for “normal” for me.
The next several months went by without much in the way of updates from Kevin, I admit. I didn’t really share much about the counseling, or my recovery. Long story short, it gave me an opportunity to focus on my grief and memories of a complicated relationship with my dad, rather than worrying about the houses or my job or my dad’s widow. I gave myself the opportunity to really focus on the things that I’d been avoiding, and it helped… until, after awhile, it didn’t. And so I stopped going.In November I managed to finish up most of the real estate stuff, having sold the last of the Florida houses and gotten my dad’s widow moved over to her new place. (There’s still a house in Tennessee that I’m working on getting sold, but that one had to go through probate, and it’s been a tedious process.) I even managed to avoid flying down to Florida for a few months, which was a stark contrast from the every-other-week that I’d been doing. I actually counted: I was in Brevard County, Florida for 63 days in 2016, over a series of 11 visits.
I used the time at home to focus on my marriage, and my friends here… and of course, on my new consulting gig, and my teaching responsibilities, and my research and writing. I kicked up the academic job search in earnest, and was predictably crushed when a really good opportunity fell through at the last minute. But then I got back up on the proverbial horse, and I’ve been steadily making progress (personally and professionally) ever since.
I’ve found a happy medium for my return trips to Florida: now I go once every quarter, do all the accounting and legal stuff that needs to be done, spend a little time with my dad’s widow and check on her house, and then get home after only being gone a couple of nights. It’s a nice way to fulfill my ongoing responsibilities without the constant or lengthy interruption to my regular life that was so prevalent in 2016.
Looking back, it’s astounding to me how much happened in the year since Dad’s death. So many roadblocks and obstacles, so many frustrations, so much grief and anxiety… but some really remarkable good things, too. I learned a lot about who is really there for me when I need them. (It was equally important to learn who will make a situation all about themselves, with little to no regard for my own struggles.) I learned how much I can handle on my own, and how to know when I have to step back and call in reinforcements. I learned better self-care. And I learned what’s really important to me, and the value of a legacy. (And hell, I learned a lot about taxes and real estate, too.)
If I sound grateful for the lessons learned, I am… but mostly, it was a bitch of a year, and I’m glad it’s behind me.