I never really thought about what I looked like when I stared at myself in the mirror. I generally would just groom and move on. It is just a station to stop at and fix up as best I can what I see in the mirror.
It is strange now that I have lost more than 105lbs, I am under 200lbs for the first time since I was 18. That combined with the fact that I am growing my beard out for electrolysis and causing a huge influx of dysphoria (which I will talk about more later) and the final touch realizing that most of the brown in my beard is gone due to laser hair removal means it is mostly a glint of silvery white.
Combine that with my longer thinner face and my hair is still brown means I am looking at myself in the mirror and realize I once again look vaguely like my father around this age. Especially when I catch it in the corner of my eyes, it catches me off guard. Not in a bad way, he wasn’t an unattractive man. I don’t hate the sight of him. I loved him dearly even with the alcoholism and other issues. It just wasn’t something I expected to see again.
When I was 18-19 and I first started dating the hubby I looked similar to now (just 30 years younger of course). I had more than one occasion where I would walk the hubby down the street (he was a tiny, very very attractive punk rock girl at the time, since this was 24 years before his transition) and people would comment back to my mom that they saw “John” down on Railroad (the local bar road) with a younger girl.
It got my dad in trouble a couple of times for stuff he hadn’t done, and I never understood it. I never really thought we looked alike (although looking at a photo album I can see what people were saying). We even had one person step out of a bar and start calling my dad’s name when I had walked by with my hand around Wolsey’s waist. Of course when they got outside and got closer they realized I was his older kid and apologized, but it was funny now (and I was a bit horrified back then).
I grew older and within a couple of years I had put on a lot of weight. I still think I looked hot (well, I didn’t, but W always thought I did) and I looked a lot more like my mother’s side of the family, the viking norseman bloodline was a lot more evident and similarities to my father disappeared under my bulk.
Now that thirty years have gone by and I have recently lost all that weight I look different and my body has morphed closer to my father (except far taller, my dad was always shorter than me) and my grandfather on my mom’s side similarity has receded.
So now sometimes, with the beard coming out and the silver white coloring glinting in the light of the bathroom mirror I see memories of my dad. Part of it makes me smile, I loved him dearly. Part of me misses him terribly. I haven’t yet really talked about the horror of him passing away and the total fucked up situation my siblings put the whole thing through. Maybe I am at a point I can do that.
Then part of me panics for a moment. Shame that I might “destroy” what is left looking like him living here in the world. It is a stupid thought. A fear that I am going to fuck something up. I realize this is more about fear of the unknown when it comes to the FFS, but that is how it comes out. That I might destroy the last remnants of my father that still live and look like him.
The worst part is that is quickly overridden by the gut sick feeling I see of myself when I see that facial hair coming through. I never understood up until coming out and transitioning what it meant that I hated facial hair. I tried it a lot, I come from biker stock and it is part of the uniform, especially the mutton chops. I think a lot of the time it looked really good on me, better than without it. It didn’t matter though, I always hated it.
I hate it more now that I know FFS is coming up and there it is mocking me while I wait for the electrolysis to make it go away forever over a very long period of time. That however doesn’t stop the weird guilt and shame I feel over intentionally changing my bone structure and removing that beard forever. Don’t worry, that guilt and shame only last momentarily and then my desire for my true self to come out is stronger, but its there.
I know part of it is I just miss my dad a lot. He had a lot of problems, way more than most dads. In other ways he showed love a lot stronger than any dad I have met. It is complicated thing, but I think the transition is forcing me to deal with feelings. The fact that I see parts of him when I look in the mirror has made it harder. It doesn’t help we are coming up to the anniversary of his passing and I think with the anxiety of the surgery.
Sometimes I can’t even clearly define why I am upset about it, I am still working on it, trying to understand. I don’t know if all this will be is random emotions about my history, my life and experiences and complicated relationships, but that is why I write it down. Maybe in 20 years when I am closing in on 70 it will make more sense why I felt this way… or maybe I will still have no clue.
For now it brings out some sadness, a lot of dysphoria, but also a little smile when I catch my father in the mirror.
MY FATHER’S PASSING, PART 1 – THE BEGINNING
I have been circling this writing for more than a year. It was by far the most horrendous event I have been witness to in my personal life. More so then when strange men came into our home when I was a teen with guns, threatened us and caused us to have to live in a car for over a year with an actual contract out on our family. Worse then being evicted from multiple places to live. Worse then not having enough food so that I would get stretch marks that didn’t go away until I was in my 20s from losing weight by the end of of the month. Even worse then horrible nights when there is an alcoholic rampage in the house.
It bothers me enough I still haven’t sat down and cried, instead I am so very angry at so many other people that I haven’t really talked to anyone about this but my husband Wolsey. I have found that trying to unpack it is a large undertaking and to be honest I don’t know if this even covers everything. This is about the circumstances before, during and shortly after my father passed away. I know I will miss details as I go. Hopefully Wolsey will point them out and I can update this post over time.
My father was a very complicated man. He loved his children very much, he had been in trouble with the system for most of his life, and he ended his life in poverty. He had an endless supply of love and acceptance for me and Wolsey. He would support us no matter what. However, his decision making had been damaged due to PTSD, mental health and most impactful was alcoholism.
We tried to help as much as we could, but he was proud, and he also knew we had our own bills so the best we could do was help out with some bills, some food and some extra stuff I knew they would like (below is a video of 60th birthday from March 24th, 2008, he always liked carrot cake).
That video is four years after he was diagnosed as terminal. He had been terminal for close to a decade. The spots on his lungs kept growing, but he kept trudging on. We didn’t realize how bad his health was, he kept it to himself, but even with as bad as it was, he still might have made it a couple more years.
I think about it now though; I think I knew he was closer subconsciously. One day in March the year before he passed I had traveled up to Bellingham by myself, in a rare non-Wolsey trip. For some reason a song came on my iPhone on the way home and I had to pull over and cry, I was worried about my dad and mom’s health out of the blue and I realize now I was already grieving.
He survived much longer than anyone had expected. He had gone back into the pulmonologist that had originally diagnosed him six years before and they all came out to visit. None of the staff thought he would have made it a year, let alone six. My dad just smiled and told them he was immortal, no one could kill him.
There was a saying all my friends and family joked about since I was 18. No mere mortal could kill John Bradley. He was tough, resourceful, and just enough luck that everyone believed he would survive just about any situation. In the past he had taken on multiple cops, Vietcong, members of other outlaw clubs and abusive family members when he was a child. This saying changed as he got sick though. Our saying didn’t change much, but it went to “He has one more good fight in him”, even his last year where he couldn’t walk very far from his chair we said he still had a good thirty seconds in him, and to be honest thirty seconds would still be enough for most circumstances.
I tell you all of this to give you some background on him. In the future, I will probably have a lot of amazing (and some terrible) stories about him.
It started in January of 2016. His health was fairly poor, and like usual he went in and out of the hospital as his lungs were getting worse. He had gotten out and was recovering. We had been up there a lot to look over him and my mom. Things seemed to be getting out of the weeds and back to normal.
It was then that we started preparing for the hubby’s top surgery. He was ready to go, and the night before my dad received news that an old friend of his Joe had passed away and this was a huge blow to my dad.
Most of my dad’s friends were gone. They were hard living outlaw motorcycle club members and he was on the other side of sixty. This meant those that didn’t go to prison and die there already were all in bad shape. Joe was the third to last friend my dad had (Jimbo and Dennis were his last friends). This is out of literally dozens of hardened men I grew up with and called family. It set my dad into a tailspin of depression.
I should have picked it up earlier. He had mentioned to me once in passing that lately he was missing my grandmother. She had passed away 30 years ago and I now realize he was probably feeling depression, lost and just not in a good headspace. It didn’t help that he was bipolar, and had severe depression/mania episodes.
He called me one night, and I could hear the exhaustion and depression in his voice that night. I talked with him, reassured him and reminded him that the hubby and I would be up the next weekend. He perked up a bit and was excited about the surgery and the results. I hung up thinking everything would be fine. Things weren’t fine, and wouldn’t be fine for the next year.
The next day Wolsey went into surgery and while it was a successful surgery it was inundated with a lot of complications. No one had told us how bad he would leak from liposuction portion of the surgery would suck. The actual mastectomy went well, healed quickly, etc. The doctor’s office messed up though, they sent him home long before they should have and it left me by myself to take care of him. He couldn’t move well; he couldn’t clean up after his wounds and he was just hurting too much.
At no point in time did I begrudge that. I am here for him, just like he was here for me for everything. It didn’t bother me to have to put in that effort of getting up every 20 minutes, help him to the bathroom, while he was in there clean up the bed, change bedding and then put him back to bed and give him more pain pills. He is my life, and it was the least I could give to him.
It was also at this time I got a call from my mom. My dad had gone back to the ER and his O2 wouldn’t stop falling. They had him on positive air and he could talk. They were discussing options about how to handle it.
Something snapped in him, or maybe it’s better to say a decision was made by him. He took the positive air off his face, got up and while the doctors were talking he went downstairs and had a cigarette. When he came back up, they told him he couldn’t do that anymore and that he would have to use the positive air for a large part of his life, or at least until they could get the O2 under control. I was told he just shrugged and told them to fuck off. He was done.
He checked himself out of the hospital, meanwhile they were telling him he would die. He wasn’t going to let himself loose anymore of his freedom. I also think he had hit a depressive point again, his closest friends had passed, they weren’t ever going to make it back down to Lake Tahoe, or pretty much anywhere out of their apartment except for when I could take them places.
He decided to do this on his terms and he took their info for hospice and went home and determined that is where he would pass. My mom told me this over the phone and in my head, I was freaking out. My dad was dying, probably wouldn’t be longer than a week or so and I couldn’t leave that night at all since Wolsey couldn’t take care of himself.
The worst part is Wolsey couldn’t take care of himself at all for the next few days. It was unlikely he could get up to Bellingham before my father passed. Meanwhile I knew I would have to drive up there daily (a 250+ mile roundtrip) that I would have to fit around being home to take care of Wolsey. I couldn’t imagine it ever being worse.
I was wrong, a thousand times wrong once the hospice situation happened. However, that part of the story is still coming up and I think I have mulled about it enough for today.
Here I am up at 1:30am thinking about Greeting Cards.
Lately I have been working on a project to scan all of our hardcopy photos and then getting storage containers to hold the photos themselves. The old photo albums are falling apart and are destroying the photos. This was spurred on by receiving my parents photos after their passing last year.
It was tough to scan old family photos, I won’t deny that at all. A lot of emotional baggage came up, especially since I haven’t dealt with their passing. Wolsey says it has set me off into a depression. While I want to say that isn’t true, I am not looking from the outside so maybe it is.
I had finished the scanning of hardcopy photos (I still have hundreds of negatives, but those I have in one storage book so they can be done as I go) so I switched to combining and setting up storage for greeting cards.
Greeting cards are always a weird thing for me. They have always held a weird place in my family, compared to other families I have known. No matter what was happening each event, my parents would get us a card with a handwritten message inside them for each birthday, anniversary, promotion, holiday or end of quarter (and a dozen other special holidays). No matter how poor they were at the time. There would always be in quotation marks the last two digits of the year as well.
Wolsey and I would always smile, thank them and get home joking about the cards. No one else I know of received cards on this level (a lot of times with flowers) for even random small events in our life. I have some cards from other family members, but our receiving them varied on if they were mad at us, if we had drifted away in talking, whereas my parents would have one every event, no matter what.
Yesterday I got my greeting cards storage box and went through the cards. I was surprised it was the hardest thing I have done. It was harder then going through the photos, harder then going through the remnants of their personal belongings in storage, harder then anything except maybe the letters my dad would sometimes write.
It was a quick process, and all the more sadder because it was quick. I had over the years kept most of the stuff they gave us, but we have moved so often, downsized and in general would lose some of them. Now I can see the holes in the different holidays because the cards are missing and it makes me sad. There were important events to Wolsey and I, that I realized the only people that commented/congratulated/consoled us were my parents. I think that is probably the worst part of it, knowing those will be the last cards I will receive from them.
I am glad though that something as small and eccentric like that was a habit they had. It reminds me how much they did care about the little things that happened with us. In that light, I am very fortunate to have the cards, and to have parents that cared about me and my husband so much.
I woke up a little confused this morning, dreams of my mom and dad. Then when I sat down I realized she had passed away a year ago today, on their 46th wedding anniversary (today would be their 47th anniversary). Of course it happened that way, my parents loved each other too much to go long without seeing one another. My mom liked holidays so this seems perfectly in her style to pick one of her favorite holidays to pass.
She didn’t do well after my dad passed away in February of 2016. She was lonely a lot, and I couldn’t be with her daily (but at least weekly I was). I did call her multiple times a day, every day and she seemed buoyed by it. Then my brother stayed with her. She tried hard to keep things going, but in the end her body couldn’t hold up to her grief.
Although she was incredibly brave, and remarkably at peace as things failed her. She didn’t want to be here anymore. As her heart was giving out, we talked with her and she went into hospice. By this time we were driving up daily to see her. So many things happened I will talk about later. I remember her asking me for the days in hospice what day it was. She wanted to make it so badly to their anniversary. It was important to her.
I kept telling her it wasn’t “today” yet. Eventually that day did come, no matter how much I wished it wouldn’t. Their anniversary arrived quietly on a hot summer day, and as we went up to see her in the hospice house I knew it would be for the last time.
We arrived there, met with family, drama and a desire that I could whisk her away somewhere she could get true peace. We sat with her for hours, she was slowly fading, but would occasionally stir and say something garbled.
I was holding her hand most of the day, she was less responsive then the previous days. I leaned over and whispered to her that it was ok, today was her anniversary she had been waiting for and it was ok to go. She was mostly unconscious but she still squeezed my hand.
We stayed a few more hours, and I thought I had been wrong. Not more than 30 minutes later, while we were still driving through Mount Vernon on our way home, I got a call from my sister. She had passed away. I was numb for the rest of the car ride, but that will be talked about in a future post (along with everything else that happened around her passing).
I love you mom. I still miss you and I hope you are in a better place. Even with all the issues our family had, I am grateful you were my mother. I know you loved all of us deeply.
It is funny, I still remember you more towards the way you looked in the 1970s.
Oh, and my mom was a stickler about holidays, ALL OF THE HOLIDAYS, so I know she expects me to wish her and my dad a happy anniversary, 47 years ago today. So HAPPY 47th ANNIVERSARY MOM AND DAD!
I love you, just wanted you to know that we love you, and we miss you and dad.
I was in some sort of apartment that was second floor or higher. I was standing in the living room and somebody was talking to me as I was staring out into the dark night. My eyes rested on a building that was almost kitty corner to me. Instead of it facing towards me though, it was facing 90 degrees, which made the two buildings form an L shape, with a sort of courtyard in the middle.
This was late at night, I could see flashes of light in the distance, and I could see fairly well into an apartment in that building, one story above my level. As if it was the third level of an almost identical building compared to my second level. Both the other apartment, and mine had patio doors that led to nowhere. These were glass like doors that weren’t open at the time, but seemed to open out to a fall of two or three stories.
While I was watching that other door, I started putting on some sort of coat. I think now that it was some sort of rain poncho/rain coat. As I was doing that I saw my dad in that window. He was in his late 40s/early 50s with longer hair. He turned and looked at me from that patio door when all of sudden his face had this look of terror on it as he watched me and he started slamming on the patio door, almost knocking it out. I could see him screaming in horror, rendering himself hoarse.
I was panicking, worrying that he was going to fall out the window and get hurt or die. I could hear muffled screams as his fists slammed harder and harder into the glass (never breaking it). I was trying to figure out a way to get over behind his building and get up to him (because for some reason that was what my mind thought, the only way to get there is to run behind the building). That was when I realized he was trying to warn me, he was looking at something behind me, screaming at me about something.
The moment the realization that he wasn’t scared for himself, but for me and he was looking behind me was when I woke up.
I got up Saturday morning around 2am, didn’t go back to bed and this dream has been bothering me ever since. I hope writing it out helps like my other dreams and it fades.
Over the last couple of weeks my anxiety has been kicked up to an 11 due to Wolsey’s surgery, work and just a lot of stuff in my head. Last night I took some meds to go to sleep and ended up having dreams I mostly remember.
The first dream is we were in a house, a real place (sort of in the dream) that I lived at as a child. It mostly consisted of my dad talking to us, giving us shit. We were talking about a girl named Brie Larson who my dad had a fling with in the house (the reality is there was a drunken one night thing in the place I don’t think the girl was named Brie though). My dad was being huge and giving us shit about the place.
For some reason I turned around annoyed when he brought up the place and I said “Well, this is the place where you died too” and everything stopped. It wasn’t of course, he died in a place 30 years later. He just looked at me and I realized he was gone in the real world. He just gave me a small smile and said he loved me.
I woke up and found it was about 1am. I didn’t want to get up and I must have fallen asleep fairly soon after.
The second dream was more intense and longer, but I remember less of it as I am sitting here. I remember it was a hospital and there were many people there. My mom was in the hospital again to get surgery on her heart. In the real world I think I did this with her four times before she had the final problems she died from eventually.
We waited for her to come out and several others that went in for surgery around the same time she did had passed away. there was a lot of stress about her results. After some drama with the nurses and with my sister (which is too close to what happened in real life with my father) I was freaking out. Finally they brought her back out and she was ok. All I could focus on though was how thin her skin felt when I was hugging her. Thats when I woke up.
So there it is, the depressing dreams of the day :).
Normally the holidays are a bit stressful from me. Usually my parents would be behind a rock and a hard place cash wise. I would have screaming nephews and nieces who need presents and my siblings are doing whatever they are doing. This doesn’t even include the hubby and I’s personal holiday celebrations. So stress during the holidays was normal (along with a huge cash hit).
Fast forward to this year and I found that it has been stressful last couple of weeks. My sleep pattern has shifted negatively (common during this time of year), and I know I have been raw emotionally in reacting to people. However it is different then previous years.
Today we went shopping for Thanksgiving for the first time after my parents passing. It’s funny I will go for a bit of time without thinking about them now, but the shopping for Thanksgiving specifically brings back the awkward holidays. Fortunately the drinking ended years ago, but there was always a need for us to spend about $100 extra to feed the rest of the family. I didn’t begrudge my parents, but the rest of the family was a little harder.
Combine this with the last minute requests from my mom was definitely always a stressful time in the holidays. Don’t take it as something I hated, I loved holidays with my parents, even if we constantly threatened we weren’t going to do it the next year. Last year we followed through on our threat and did something different. We had catered thanksgiving with just the hubby, myself and both parents and it was fantastic. Even dad said it was probably the best thanksgiving in a decade. Funny enough, it was also cheaper to cater it for four people than to provide just our portion of the overall homemade Thanksgiving dinner.
The hubby and I have always talked about what it would be like when the holidays were ours. It was always a far off thing, and even at the start of this year we assumed at least another four or five years before things happened. Well that wasn’t how it progressed at and with both parents gone in six months we went from full family to a hard off. We have no intention on meeting with siblings and extended family (the deaths of both parents, but especially dad really tore some holes in those relationships).
The idea of just staying home, enjoying the hubby’s food (and my baking of course) and just watching tv/playing video games was so entrancing. Especially during those years when we did both families and the nightmare of hubby’s parents then to my parents.
So we were wandering around Winco shopping and I was struck with a weird sense of anxiety mixed with sadness. For the first time in a month I had stepped into the grocery store and pulled out my phone automatically as if I was going to call my parents and ask them what they needed for thanksgiving. I caught myself and went back to wandering the aisles with the hubby.
We wandered through the place, picked up a whole lot of groceries for thanksgiving. I wasn’t necessarily sad, just more nostalgic that I wasn’t picking up stuff for our old trip to Bellingham. We got to the cash register and it was almost $100 cheaper than we normally expect for holidays.
So we came away from Winco and I feel a little bad. I miss my parents and I assume my anxiety will get worse before it gets better. But I am really looking forward to just spending time with the hubby as well.
It has been a rough month since my dad passed. The funeral, the family issues, the constant driving to Bellingham. However, I am a very very lucky person, I got to speak to my dad as he was passing away.
There are no real lost words or expressions of love. We have always told each other that we love each other. While my childhood had a lot of problems with poverty and alcoholism, there was never a lack of love. That includes actually saying it and showing it, not just an “unacknowledged” understanding.
Jello and I were fortunate though. Jello was able to talk with him on the phone before my dad lost the ability to talk that way. I know Jello wished he could have made it up to see dad, but the surgery results wouldn’t let him travel that far.
I was fortunate as well. While I was up visiting my mom as she and the rest of my family watched over him in the last week. I went into the bedroom, hugged him, kissed his forehead and told him that Jello and I loved him.
As if from a zombie movie, his eyes shot open and focused on me. There was a bit of shock on my part, he had been unconscious all day, hadn’t really even responded to me earlier. He grabbed my head and lifted himself up to kiss me, hug me and tell me how much he loved Jello and myself and how proud he was of us.
We talked for a few minutes more, but he was so tired and exerting so much effort that I just laid beside him for a minute and told him it was ok. I was there. He went back to sleep.
That was the last time I talked to him. I know he woke up and talked a bit with the rest of my family, and when I came up the day before he passed I sat with him for hours holding his hand as he slept. He would respond if I told him I loved him by squeezing my hand. I probably could have pushed him to come up again, but he was finally resting, no pain, no trouble breathing and he was calm. So I just held his hand.
Today was a little rough and down. Missing my dad, stress with work, Jello’s health (surgery) and my mom. I was thinking about my dad and it struck me today that one of his favorite things to say when I was anxious or panicky was the phrase.
“What will it matter in a hundred years?”
Meaning I shouldn’t worry, whatever it was, it wasn’t a big deal.
He would then laugh and usually hug me and say he loved me. This happened without fail, even if he was drunk, sick, or busy. I even have used that line when I quit a job when I was younger when the person I told to shove off said I would regret it. Even now saying that helps reduce the anxiety.
However, it isn’t quite the same as hearing it from him. I am kind of missing hearing that today.