Taking Up Space
Oh what a year.
The blog has become a little piece of my heart and voice. I always feel an itch to update and create for the blog. I haven’t been able to write at all lately. I owed myself that space to sit quietly with my thoughts- no pen and paper. My journal sits neglected on my nightstand next to books that I have every intention to finish. I have felt so stuck on chapters lately; books and life. My writing is stagnant with the grief that has washed over me with the death of my Dad. How do I write about that? Do I write honestly, or with honeycomb words that sweeten up the reality of this profound loss? I process life through writing, and I hope the process of this writing is felt by someone.
I am on the edge of 24. SO much has happened this past year, that I sit back and think what will 25 bring me? My birthday is in April. The same season that crocus bloom through frosted earth, and I certainly try to carry that energy in life. Bloom through the fucking frost, baby! When I was born my parents described me as tiny but not fragile. I exude that energy. My parents always looked at me as though I was a pixie who runs her hands along life. Their eyes sparkled as though the way I picked up old smelly books & babies & mascara wands was real life magic. I feel like an almost 25-year-old woman who can’t walk in a straight line or sit still, but maybe I can be both. It is gentle to be both. My parents gave me the freedom to be a clumsy pixie thing who is loved authentically. I am this vibrating energy of chaos and good intentions, and I can’t quite get anything just right. In part, that is because I don’t care to follow through on most things. I am self-destructive life that. I am indeed the girl who tried to pick up smoking cigarettes but couldn’t be bothered to even see that through. In my almost 25 years of life I have been conditioned to cringe inward, but uncontrollably laugh outward. I am still this tiny thing that is not fragile. If I keep my eyes down and shut up, you could walk through a room without noticing me. But I rarely keep my eyes and voice down, because I am incapable. You may walk into that room and catch eyes on the extraordinary people, but then you will hear my loud-deep voice and side glance me and think “She’s loud and obnoxious”. And I’ll wink at you and say, “Oh fancy that, you noticed me taking up space!”. And we will both be reminded how different people can be. The biggest lie in that scenario is that I would ever be the kind of gal who would say something dainty like “fancy that”- but the scenario was indeed made up, so I will boost my gentle wordiness and digress from truths like the fact that I would be more inclined to get panicky and word vomit casual swear words at a perfect stranger. My parents raised me to take up space, and now that my Dad is gone… I feel floaty and misplaced, not like this pixie thing that runs her hands along life.
On October 14th 2020 I lost my dad to alcoholism. I don’t write this as a spiteful sentence. I lost my dad to an addiction that rolled through his life. I watched it pull him under. My heart breaks a million times over for him- because he was my dad, and he deserved better. I truly believe the world is lesser without his genuine heart. I feel lesser without him looking at me with sparkling eyes. I relay this fact of our lives with compassion. My dad was amazing. As I typed out the word “amazing” my mind swirled with all the accompanying qualities he possessed. He was giving and empathetic in ways that I will learn from for the rest of my time on earth. As I move through the grieving process, I recognize that I possess so many complex feelings about losing my dad, but I want to continue to learn from him.
My dad taught me how to ride my bike when I was four. My only motivation to learn was the fact that on that very day, my brother had learned to ride his bike. I was not about to let Dillon leave me in the dust… My childhood home was located next to the town’s old high school, which was the best place to learn to ride bikes, because it had so much parking lot space to peddle around. Dillon and my dad shared a Hallmark Card worthy son and father moment. His boy learned how to ride his bike! I can see my brother with his dark hair and missing-tooth-grin; beaming at my dad with pride in himself. I can see my dad beaming with pride at Dillon… And I can see myself dragging a pink bike down the driveway with determination and jealousy, ready to become my brothers equal. Dillon and I were close enough in age that we hit milestones separately- but very close together. My mom calls us her “Irish twins” because we were about 18 months apart. I was always the annoying little sister who endlessly wanted to be her big brothers equal. My parents gave me the nick name “Taga”, which was short for tag-a-long. I am twenty-four years old, and my mother will still yell “Taga!” across the grocery store to get my attention. I always followed Dillon’s lead, and practically refused to be anywhere other than beside him. He did not appreciate that little-sisterness until I was about 16. I learned to ride my bike that day out of sheer will power and stubborn anger that propelled me forward. Perhaps the most illuminating part of my success was my Dad, who refused to leave my side- even when I refused to let him help me. That sentence makes my head pound with unshed tears that ache in the back of my skull- because he never left me alone, and now he is gone.
The day I learned to ride my bike I pushed off the ground only to fall and scab my knees and arms. Repeatedly. My dad would tentatively walk over to help steady me on my little pink bicycle, but I would swat at him to stay away. My dad still beamed with pride. He loved that I was stubborn enough to rise from the pavement with dirty scabbed knees, and tears rolling down my rosy cheeks, because that is who I am. That is who he was. He stayed with me until sunset that warm, learn to ride your bike, kind of day. We walked home accomplished- together. I don’t think I will ever stop looking for him in those good moments of my life.
This season feels like I can’t bloom through the frost. I am simply trying to wrap my head around life without my dad’s goofy grins, and hugs that were wrapped up in Carhart jackets. I fucking miss the feeling of taking in his well-worn-black-Carhart, that smelled like cigarettes and clean soap. Tears roll down my cheeks when I think too long about his smell. I think about what I would do to feel his hug again. I imagine myself wrapped up by a fire, in a thick flannel quilt smoking his Marlboro cigarettes. I think that could feel like his hug. Some people hate the smell of smoke, but I seek it out now. I seek for a glimpse of anything that resembles my dad. I know moving forward that as I pack up his white t-shirts and clothes that were sprinkled throughout my life but resigned to a corner of his dresser- I will see less and less of him.
The hardest part of grieving someone who lost their battle with addiction is knowing that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I ache for everyone who was robbed of time with my dad. We all deserved better, too. I know how close he was to death when the ambulance took him to the hospital. I am indebted to his friends that held him and kept him stable long enough that his family could get into the hospital, to hold his hand and love him here on earth- one last time. I can’t imagine life ahead without my dad. I can’t imagine 25 without him. I feel incredulous about the position his addiction left me, and everyone who loved him in. This past year was the most despair I have ever felt, and I wouldn’t wish watching a parent withdrawal from alcoholism in their last moments, on anyone. It was both tragic and gratitude that I felt in those final moments. Tragic in the loss, but gratitude that his children, sister, and wife could be the love he deserved in those final moments. Life is just heavy right now. I know I will sort through this complex grief, and I will take up space again. I like to imagine that my grief is not a final moment of being completely healed, but instead a day to day practice of expanding on my joy and being the pixie thing- that my dad loved. Sending love to everyone who is achy in this world! -Libs
Libby Anne Groseclose