Memories

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    “White or pumpernickel?” My dad died by suicide over 40 years ago and all I’ve got are these 3 words on an old cassette tape to remember his voice.

    “White or pumpernickel?” It’s a short and ridiculous-sounding sentence, I know, but those are the only audible words that exist of my dad Jim’s voice. There is nothing else.

    It was the summer of 1978 when my dad swallowed a bottle of pills and took his life, two weeks after my tenth birthday. There was no drawn-out illness. No warning. And no explanation. He just disappeared from our life. Just. Like. That. And because his death was so unexpected, we had no chance to think ahead and to create more keepsakes like videos or recordings or letters to help preserve his memory and our connection to him. The suddenness of his suicide wouldn’t allow for that. So, all we had was what we had. Three little words. And I’ve always begged the universe for more.

    And until recently, those words lived on an old cassette tape that I’d used to record family and friends the summer my dad died. Now, over four decades later, I’ve been struggling to decide whether that simple sentence is just a big fat tease, or, if it’s one of my greatest possessions.

    See, my dad died back when capturing something as intimate as someone’s voice wasn’t easy for the average person. Not like today, when most of us have that technology in the palm of our hands. And I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t jealous of how easy it’s become to protect that one-of-a-kind sound of someone we love.

    Sadly, in my case, the rise of consumer camcorders didn’t happen until the mid-80s so all we had to document our life together as a family was this brand-new technology called a Polaroid and a basic 35 mm camera. Even my parent’s wedding video from 1960 was more or less a silent film because sound just wasn’t an option in those days. And since my dad was almost always the guy behind the camera, he was only actually in a small handful of pictures, making the recording of his voice even more valuable to me.

    The truth is, I’ve beaten myself up over the decades for not being more purposeful with my little Panasonic cassette recorder from Radio Shack. My rational mind knows I was only ten years old and I had no idea his death was so imminent. My irrational mind, on the other hand, well, it continues to kick me in the throat that I didn’t record more of him when I had the chance. I have tons of footage of my mom and of the neighborhood kids, but next to nothing of my dad—just three choppy words on a frail old tape. And it sometimes just doesn’t seem fair. More than sometimes if I’m being really honest.

    It’s been almost 45 years since my dad suddenly ended his life. And since that day, when my world was ripped out from under me, I’ve often fantasized about discovering some long-lost steam trunk filled with more dad artifacts—things like letters addressed just to me or videos or oversized sweaters I could wrap myself in on snowy days. But my logical brain knows there is nothing else. Because there isn’t.

    I remember sitting on my bedroom floor in those early days after he died, surrounded by the small stash of things he left behind, just praying I’d uncover more. Even then, I remember feeling like I was stranded on an island and I was going to have to ration out what little I had to make it last forever. I also remember how sickening that feeling was.

    The strange thing is, the older I get, and the longer I’ve been without my dad, the more my heart and mind ache to have more. Growing up as a child of the 70s and missing the technology curve left me with mostly one-dimensional photos or letters, with the exception of a handful of tangible things like his comfy orange sweatshirt, his wallet, and a few solid-colored cotton t-shirts. And I just can’t help but wish more of him existed. More for me. More for my husband, Dave. And more for our daughters. Because layering my dad’s voice on top of my small archive of his things would just help to deepen their connection to him—especially my girls—and give them another way to help them know the beautiful man he was.

    Ever since Anderson Cooper launched his new podcast earlier this year called "All There Is," an exploration on grief and loss, I’ve become acutely aware of how little I have of my dad to share with my girls and with the rest of the world. I mean, sure, I’ve got his old hiking backpack and denim bucket hat and an envelope of grainy photos, but what I don’t have—and what I truly crave in the absence of his physical self—is the sound of him. For my sake and for the sake of my family. And I often find myself in a sad headspace because my husband and girls will never know the sound or inflection or tone or nuances of his voice in the way I do. And all I wish is that they could.

    For a while now, I’ve been toggling between a place of gratitude and a place of deep longing, living in a space of wanting to be satisfied with what I have while also aching for what I’ll never have again. And it’s only recently, though, thanks to my friend Anderson, that I’ve come to realize that I actually don’t have to choose after all. I can be both of those things as often and for as long as I need to be. Because there are zero rules attached to grief. In fact, grief is one of the only emotional states where anything goes, and everything is valid. And it’s taken me over forty years to figure that out. Better late than never, as far as I’m concerned.

    My daughters have grown up in a world where everything is captured on film. Every milestone in their life has been chronicled. Every big moment lives in the Cloud and can be retrieved with a click whenever they’re feeling nostalgic. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a little envious of that because I don’t have the same ability to re-live the big moments from my life, like birthdays or hikes or moments that my dad was a part of, because those memories live only in my mind. But I’m realizing now, the longer I sit here reflecting (and writing), that it’s wasted energy to covet what I don’t have. So, instead, I’m choosing to be grateful that my girls will have such a rich stockpile of videos and I love yous and handwritten letters and notes from both of their parents. Actually, it’s a strange kind of comfort to me to know that they have such a deep footprint from the people they love most.

    What I’ve come to appreciate is that I have the ability to choose how I value those three little words my dad left behind. And it’s a matter of whether I choose to consider them a gift or a tease. That’s why I’m choosing to be grateful that I have something at all. And grief affords us that choice because anything goes when you’re dealing with loss. Also, thanks to a gentle reminder from Anderson about the importance of preserving the mementos we do have, I made it a priority to digitize the recording of my dad’s voice so there’s no chance of losing it over time. And it felt good, really good, to take control of that. I guess you could say that I’m learning the art of making more out of less.

    So, here I am, making the intentional choice to keep myself in a place of gratitude for what I do have instead of growing bitter and angry that I don’t have more. I’m choosing to accept that I can be both sad and grateful all at the same time, which I think is the real essence of grief right there. Because, when we lose someone we love, we need to give ourselves permission to let our sadness and gratitude co-exist. We just have to because that’s how we find balance.

    Now, the sound of my dad’s voice lives on my phone and in cyberspace and I listen to it almost every day. And I think that makes me pretty damn lucky. Because even though that’s all there is of his voice, it’s not all there is of him. I know that now. The best parts of him are in me and in my girls and with my mom. He lives in all of us now. So as long as we’re here, he’s here too. And I can live with that.

    #Suicide #Grief #Loss #allthereis #AndersonCooper #Gratitude #Memories #recordingalovedonesvoice

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    creeps

    Things could have turned out completely differently and this makes me so dizzy.

    So many stuff my mind's showing me at the moment.

    I am here by chance.

    I did nothing to come here; just went with the flow; I built nothing to come where I am now.

    If it wasn't for all the people I would have been still eleven.

    I feel like my youth years just went without me really living them. Now I should be an adult, but I haven't lived what was supposed to come before (or - I lived it while being tossed around).

    There's so many stuff I can't do now.

    I just wish I had more friends and more stability.

    I really wish I had the time between one people and the other to take a break and find my balance and myself within all the confusion.

    I am consistenceless; I'm based on void.

    [makes me a bit scared]

    Wondering what I'm doing next. Let's see.

    🌚

    #Photography #landscape #Autumn #Memories #past #Present #future #Life

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    Beautiful Children

    Does anyone else, who finds it difficult to make memories 'the traditional way' with their children (eg too unwell to run around with, go on holidays or go on days out) find it really upsetting to watch them grow up?
    when you haven't been able to make the same memories as everybody else?

    Or feel like you have been robbed of being a traditional parent, and being able to enjoy their preschool years at home together, because as you were too ill to fully embrace this special time?

    My youngest has just started school properly after reception (kindergarten) and the past 3 years I've not been able to make memories with him in the way that I did with my elder son (12) before i fell ill 3 years ago.

    He was my little man and we did everything together.

    Now I realise 3 years has been lost and wasted to bedbound illness and suddenly my baby is no longer a baby like before, he is almost 6. Though we cuddle and play quietly often, I feel heartbroken and sad ill never be able to 'redo' those special times.

    Can anyone relate? As im struggling to move on from this

    Any advice very much appreciated, love Grace

    #Children #Family #Love #Memories #sad #mummy #ChronicIllness #CFS #ME #UCTD #longcovid #Parents

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    Nightmares

    I have always had very vivid dreams and nightmares. They wake me up and usually I am replaying something that happened in the past. An event. A person from past times. I sometimes can look back on the previous day and find a link, but most of the time the memories are there for no reason I can figure out. #PTSD #dreams #Memories #Dementia

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    Miss you Daddy

    #Grief #FamilyAndFriends #Memories #Love #Death

    My 36th Birthday! It was 2 years ago he passed away and I'm thankful that he was/is my dad!

    4 comments
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    I have been struggling today because I remembered something I suppressed during an early morning flashback on the way to work. Any advice on how to process this new memory of the trauma? #PTSDSupportAndRecovery #MentalHealth #Memories #AssaultSurvivors #SexualAbuseSurvivors

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    My daughter punished herself

    When she was 2 years old and time outs didn't work, she was born with attitude and bless her heart I'm so glad , cause she can handle herself being a single mom. Any who, I would put her in the corner for 2 minutes (pure hell for me, lol) One afternoon I ran down to the cellar to grab the laundry and I couldn't find her. I was gone not even 2 minutes. I'm freaking out yelling her name and calmly I hear her faint voice say to me "Momma, Sarah was BAD" she had put herself in the corner! To this day I have no idea what she did cause I had to run out of the room before I burst out laughing!#MakeMeLaugh #funny #Children #Memories #smile #smile

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    Out of the mouths of babes #Children #MakeMeLaugh #laughter #Singing

    When my daughter was 2 (she still drank a bottle at bedtime) I would put her in her bed and sing to her. One night she pulled the bottle out of her mouth (suction noise) and looked me in the face and said "If you STOP singing I'll go to sleep" 😂 #Memories

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    What is one of your fondest memories?

    Living with PTSD can be exhausting. Sometimes it's nice to reflect back on memories that make us happy, those moments where time feels suspended and we felt like we were floating on a cloud.

    For me, one of those moments was when I got the opportunity to meet Céline Dion after a show in Las Vegas. She was in her car about to leave the theater when she stopped to take photos and sign autographs for the 40 or so people who had congregated outside of the theater. I happened to be one of them. She wished me a happy birthday, signed the poster I had made and then I reached in to the car to put my arm around her and got an amazing photo. She was kind, generous and absolutely lovely. Whenever I need a pick me up or a reminder of a time that didn't suck, this is the memory I conjure in my mind.

    What is your fondest memory?

    #Trauma #PTSD #Memory #Memories

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    Then and now. 17 vrs 40. Crazy!

    Found some old pictures of me a couple days ago.
    It was for a model contest in our town I was living in!
    My dad let me have his credit card and went shopping till I dropped. They hired a salon to do all of the contestants hair and makeup. It was so fun!
    Sure miss my 17 year old self!
    #Fibromyalgia #ChronicIllness #ChronicPain #Memories

    11 comments