My Father, The Iron Man of Chicago

I started crying before I wrote this sentence, because writing about my mother is always hard. As I get older, my frustrations and failures just make me want her here with me. Then I think of my dad, the person who spent a longer time with her. Although he’s had many great loves in his life, obviously she’s the significant one.

I don’t know why I don’t think the man doesn’t go through pain. It’s painful to have a depressed, lethargic, nutty daughter. It’s frustrating and draining. But, the reason why I say this is because he has an authoritative personality. He doesn’t really go around showing obvious weakness. He might bring it up, he might weave it into conversation, but dad has been hard-wired from his job. He eventually told me this one day. I know he feels pain.

He doesn’t show it, but he has suffered. He obviously had to stay strong and not let everything dismantle him. Still, the way he recalls such pain will rip you apart. He was so calm telling me about the week mom died. I mean, we were sitting at Chili’s, drinking, eating Oktoberfest finger foods and he’s telling me all these things. I didn’t come apart like I am now, but deep inside I’m like…”how the hell does he live day to day with all this shit in his head?!”

I started aching deep in my soul listening to him tell me how he remembered everything in that hospital room–the smells, the sounds, the sights. He’s sitting there not looking pained at all, telling me about how he could remember the sounds of the monitor, the smells of the hospital and the room, and how things looked as mom got worse and worse. “Fresh in my mind after all these years, like it happened yesterday”, he says to me.

I’m sitting there drinking my margarita, trying to be this big ol adult, still wondering how this man doesn’t lose his mind daily. Has he lost his mind? I couldn’t understand his bravery or the fact that he was able to live each day with such lucid memories in his brain.

I wanted to ask him about my brother, but I left well enough alone. I know he and mom really ached and went through it, losing their first child. It didn’t seem right to pry into his life like that, despite being a part of it. He and I are always at odds, but when he opens up I feel closer to him. I feel like I understand him a little better. Still, a part of me just really hurts for him.

He has all these memories of mom, right down to the way she used to smell. He says they’re singed into his mind forever. I think at one point, I did ask him how he lived with all that stuff going on in his head. I don’t remember if he ever gave me a direct answer. Knowing that he never forgets, knowing that it plays in his head without skipping a beat hurts me a lot. Maybe in those moments where he’s silent and just sits, that’s when it hits him. That’s when he thinks of the life he could have had…if his wife hadn’t passed away.

I think about her a lot, but I don’t have memories of her at all. She died when I was very young. That in itself has always bothered me, and I simply and honestly feel robbed of it. I mean hey, she gave me life and blessed me with some kind of artistic talent, so my complaints are few and in-between. I just think of my father and wonder–

How does he do it…

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