Lost a mirror

For a brief moment, let me put into writing here the dumpster fire of a year that has passed since my last blog entry. My dad died, with virtually no warning on my parents’ anniversary. Then, we went into COVID lockdown less than two months later. Meanwhile, still reeling, I was recruited to a new job which was an exciting change, but not without its struggles. I started once we had all moved to virtual and still – over a year later – have only been in my office building twice and never met most of my coworkers in person. We have endured no school for our kids, then virtual school, then complete lack of any structure going into summer. Then come fall, there was homeschooling and the race to find pods or tutors to help our kindergartner navigate online learning. There was fear about both my husband and kids being in classes and the exposure that could come with that. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, my mom feel and tore her rotator cuff and needed surgery in the spring, then she was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall and needed two more surgeries. All this time, raging around us was a global pandemic that left us masked, washing our groceries, putting police tape around playgrounds, and seeing deaths by the thousands reported each day. We couldn’t travel to support her.

All this to say, this year has been one giant triage of cascading shit. And, yet I have been holed up with my husband and kids for a year without more than a long weekend of separation and I love them all more than ever. So, there has been a real silver lining.

That doesn’t mean this shit wasn’t all real. And at times the gravity of all of it has hit me in various ways, but today I felt a real pang when I was driving away from school drop off and hit my mirror on a parked car as I tried to make space for another car to pass by me. My passenger mirror is now dangling by a cord. Oh, but let’s not kid ourselves. This ain’t my first rodeo. Let’s flash back to my 17-year old self driving a white Chrystler Lebaron, with a broken passenger mirror. I have no idea how I did it back then (20 years ago…) but I do remember my dad duct-taping the mirror back on and me driving that car around like a bird with a broken wing for several weeks while he scheduled an appointment to fix it. And today, when my mirror was flap, flap, flapping like a broken wing yet again I wanted to call my dad and laugh about what an idiot I am and have him tell me who I should call and what I need to think about. I looked at my list of contacts, “Dad” still is featured in my “Close Contacts” list though my mom long ago cancelled his phone service. I felt a tightness in my chest. I came home and booked an appointment for the mirror repair promptly. I had nobody to laugh at me and tell me I’m an idiot and say my name in the pronounced way my dad did, swallowing the K and mingling it with a G and drawing out the A like a true Wisconsinite, before shutting down the end abruptly. Kgaathyrn. Sometimes when he would do voice to text, it came through as “gathering.” But, that’s all in my head. An echoing voice now. It makes my heart hurt. Of all the things to set you in to a tailspin.

Next week, now that I’m vaccinated, I head home to Wisconsin to help my sisters move my mom out of her house. It’s sad. They lived in an old hunting chalet on the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. It is the most special and amazing house. But, it’s also a beast to contend with. So much maintenance – so my mom made the choice to sell. And, thus, we need to help her downsize and clear out this huge home that they have been in for over two decades. But, without my dad in the mix there’s too much estrogen. Too much tension and nobody to just be… my dad. Without him around you realize what a unique creature he was. So progressive, so cool, but so gruff. So fair and balanced, yet free-wheeling. And most of all, it’s clear how his role for all of us is defined in his absence maybe more than it was for me when he was alive. This abruptly masculine and mischievous balance to house full of women with strong opinions that are amplified by wine and tears – which have been in abundance over the last year. His stabilizing force on all of us, but especially my mom, was something I just never saw until is was gone.

I’m full of emotions. I miss him.

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