Monday, March 24, 2008

How strange is this...to be getting closer and closer to THE DAY that Daryl and I have eagerly been waiting for...and yet also be closing in on the sixth anniversary of my Daddy's death...and yet not to feel that familiar incredible emptiness in my heart that I always feel this time of year...

Is it becuz I'm looking forward to something so happy in my life and it's leaving less room for the intense grief that has clung to me like a fungus the past almost-six years? Or could it be that the ache, the loss, is just fading a bit as time goes by? I won't lie and say it doesn't hurt to think about Dad, and especially to know I won't have him here in the flesh with me, my arm hooked through his strong arm, his smile matching my own as he walks me--his chicky-babe, his first-born--down the aisle on May 17th.

But at the same time, I chose May to get married in for a reason...knowing the anniversary of his death is also in the same spring month. May, for the past six years, has been such a solemn time, and when my family should be eagerly anticipating spring and budding flowers and beauty all around us, that instead we are remembering that sunny and warm day six years ago, watching his chest rise and fall with the whir of the oxygen machine, seeing the paleness of his normally robust skin, and watching him slowly slip away from us on that gentle tide of life. And death. While we had been "preparing" for the past six months before that for just that moment in time, you can still never, truly prepare for death. Yes, we had said our goodbyes, and shared our hugs and tears and kisses with Dad, but to see him take that last breath is a moment in time that I don't think I will ever forget. It is still sharp and crystal-clear in my mind, like a photograph that will never dull. Seeing the last time his chest would rise. And fall. And then the silence broken only by my mother's wail of grief. I remember smelling his hair, his head, after he passed, hoping I could commit that smell of him to my memory forever.

But now instead of always reliving that same heart-breaking vision this time of year, I instead want to move forward. I want to see and enjoy spring as the month of May ushers it in in all it's colorful glory. I want to remember Daddy as he wanted to be remembered...not sick and dying in his and my mom's bed, but living and enjoying life. Eating his garlic bagels with strawberry cream cheese (interesting combo, right?) and the methodical way he dissected his lobster and enjoyed every morsel of it. Before Daryl came along, Dad was the original "fire-starter" for me on all of our camping trips and I can remember him getting those flames raging as we huddled around with our marshmallows on sticks. Dad taught me how to ride a bicycle...and I can still remember that sense of freedom and independence that came over me the moment I realized his hand was no longer holding onto my bike--scary but invigorating. Dad was the designated picture-taker so sadly he is not in a ton of pictures but I have such great memories of him photographing and videotaping me for numerous dance recitals, dressed to the nines in my costumes, and him always telling me to "Break a leg" with a smile. As an adult, a memory that sticks in my head was me at twenty-one years old after having my heart broken by my first love, sitting at the kitchen table with my head in my hands and Dad telling me in his deep-manly voice, "It's his loss, April. There are other fish in the sea." Such a silly phrase, something a man would say...but to think about it now it makes my breath squeeze in my chest becuz that was Dad's way of showing me he cared, by trying to get me to see the bright side of it.

I want to cry as I type this, but at the same time it's freeing, just like that moment on my bicycle when Dad let go. It's scary as hell to feel like I'm "letting him go" so to speak, but at the same time, it's opening up a space in my heart for more good memories. To think about all the great stories I'll get to share with my future children about their Pop-Pop (becuz yes, I plan on making my Dad, their Pop-Pop, a face in a picture that they will be able to recognize, despite having never met him). I will have Dad with me when I walk down the aisle, in a teeny picture frame that Keri is going to affix to my bouquet, but even more so, in my heart and in my mind and in all my memories.

I want to cry a little less; I want to smile a little more. I want spring to be beautiful again.


His Chicky-Babe
By: April Lynn Smith

I look up at him, adoringly, my strong Daddy, my knight-in-shining armor. No man will ever compare to him as I age. I am not quite aware of this at such a young age, but it’s true .


"Smile for the camera. Say cheese!" His authoritative, booming voice is like a down blanket, comforting to me in its warmth and substance. I grin, showing pearly white teeth, hoping I don’t blink as the camera shutter clicks.


The scratchy sequins irritate my sun-kissed skin, forming a flaming red rash. I pull the costume away from my body, to breathe, and to escape the itchiness. A wisp of brown hair falls into my eyes and I blow it away.


"Just a few more" My Daddy says. The sun is high in the sky and casts bright rays of gold down upon us. The balmy air blows, tickles my heavily rouged cheeks.


"Hurry up, Richie. We have to leave soon." That is Mommy, standing on the back porch, leaning on the railing, her arms crossed in front of her. She is smoking a cigarette and I can’t help but watch in fascination as she pulls in her cheeks, sucking in the gray, wispy smoke, than releases it in a foul puff.


"Are you excited?" He asks, interrupting my brief reverie. I think of the stage, the bright lights, the flowers I’ll surely get. Pangs, like butterflies, beat frantically in my belly.


"Yes!" But as I say it, prickles of unease form along my bare arms. I nervously dig the toe of my black tap shoe into the dirt. I can almost see all the blobs in the audience, their faces a blur of black with grinning lips. It’s too hard to make out features with those blaring lights shining on me.


"Don’t be nervous, Chicky Babe." Daddy says, as if sensing my apprehension. His nickname for me always makes me smile. Chicky Babe. I almost want to cluck in response. Instead I giggle. "Just smile and dance your heart out. We’ll all be watching."


It’s comforting, knowing my family will be out there, but especially my Daddy. I know my dance recitals aren’t the most exciting form of entertainment for him, but I couldn’t imagine one without him. I watch patiently as he slings the camera strap over his shoulder and turns to walk towards the car. He pauses then turns back with an inquiry in his eyes as I hesitate. Daddy holds out his hand and with a huge grin, I eagerly slip my small fingers into it. We walk hand in hand to the car.

11 comments:

Big D said...

goddamn it you made me well up again,
God why does your writing always do this to me?????Love you April

Melissa said...

It makes you well up because she's s great writer, D! I'm sitting over here tearing up myself. I think mostly because we all have someone we miss and can relate this writing to.

You are such a great tribute to your dad. And while you may be ready to let go a bit, you will never completely let go simply because your dad is a part of you. You couldn't be you without him.

I hope someday my daughter is as touched by me as you are by your dad...

~**Dawn**~ said...

Oh April. (((HUGS))) He *will* be with you. It's been a little over six years since my Gram passed away, and time makes it easier to release the grief & embrace to precious memories. I do think it's important to take a time associated with the grief of loss & give it a sunny new outlook. For me, it helps to look back on that time & remember the reasons your loved one gave you to smile & be happy -- as they would want most for you to be.

Dan Mega said...

Sorry to hear about your dad. And I still need to be told where I should buy my dress from.

Robyn said...

Great post. I think you picked the date for the right reasons. I'm glad this was freeing for you. It does make a huge difference in remembering the best of times instead of the last moments sometimes. Big hugs.

Zoe said...

i'm so glad that you have found d and that may will hold new memories for you. oh and thanks for making me cry!

Keri said...

What a beautiful sentiment. Your dad would and is so proud of you. He must have sent D to you for a reason and now in May it will be realized.

One time M and i had seperated... i remember sitting in my dad's office in the police station crying my eyes out to him... his comforting words - "his loss, there's lots of other fish in the sea".... I almost fell over when i read that... The funny ways daddies make us feel better, even when they can't physically be with us.

krissy said...

This was so sweet. I think it's because you are taking a bad time in your life and changing it into a postive, happy moment.

That was too sweet though and I cried when you spoke of your dad. It was so beautifully written.

I love you girl....

snowflake said...

It isn't nice to make me ball first thing in the morning! What a beautiful post! You aren't letting your dad go, he will always be with you. And you're right, you are remembering not the pain, but instead choosing to celebrate his life! What a wonderful gift! Congratulations on your upcoming marriage and I wish you and your Daryl all the happiness in the world!

ALF said...

wow - that is awesome.

I also was tearing up...

Flea said...

Oh! This May will be one of your happiest. And the tears of joy will reflect your Daddy in each tear drop.