I LOST MY FATHER YESTERDAY


June 9th is always a bump in the road for me. Sometimes the bump is a gentle reminder; it passes with quiet acknowledgement and private thoughts. Other times it throws me akimbo––my arms invisibly flailing, my legs shaky, my thoughts tangled and unpredictable. But June 9th never goes unnoticed.

My father was killed in a car accident on June 9th, 1973. I was ten and half years old. Ask me where I was, when it happened and I can tell you in absolute detail, though I would only later circle back in time and know where I stood, when the person I loved most died. Ask me the moment I was told, and that is forever seared in my memory. It changed me forever; it changed my life––the trajectory, the narrative, the outcome. I am who I am, for better or worse, because of June 9th.

I think that most people feel the same way when it comes to traumatic loss. None of us get out unscathed. Some are “luckier,” and experience loss in a timely, natural way. But at Hospice I’ve seen seventy-year-old “children” sit beside ninety-year-old parents, bereft. There’s no age limit on loss.

But, children process loss so very differently than adults––I got my Masters in Social Work, and studied childhood grief, to validate my experience. To make sense of my wiring. I excelled in graduate school to dig deeper and understand how one day, June 9th, could so enormously change me. I studied hard, not always realizing how much of my determination was to save my own life. It wasn’t just that trauma, I’ve written about this before, so I won’t today, but it was big enough to be the predominant life event that my internal compass turns toward. Again, for better or worse.

I’m working on a novel. True to cliché, this first book (if it becomes one) will be recognizable to some. It’s not a memoir. But it’s not entirely fiction either. There will be those who nod and say “I remember this…” This is my friend’s story. This is Dawn’s story. It is and it isn’t. In reality, there are so many things I will never really know. There are very few people who knew my father, who are willing to dig in and fill in blanks that every child searches for.

As children, we are predestined to make sense of our parents and our families. We leave. We fly out of the metaphorical nest, realer than any metaphor I know, and we seek ourselves. We strive to be like or different from our parents. To repeat or avoid. We see our mother’s eyes, our father’s smile, in the mirror. We hear his anger, her scorn, her laugh, his compassion. We seek to figure out who we are, by examining from whence we came.

To lose a parent at an early age, that opportunity is changed forever. But like the salmon returning to the stream where it was born, we still seek answers. I don’t really know what kind of jokes my dad liked. Would I chide him for Dad Jokes? I don’t know if he was short-tempered or patient. I don’t know if sang along to songs. Would he protest in the streets, or would we be at odds over politics? Is my laughter like his? Do my eyes echo his expression? I have only a few photos to examine––I have studied them all: his hand is on my leg here; my hand is on his. He is happy in this one; pensive in this other. There are no more than ten photos; he died before we recorded every moment. He is frozen as a young teenager, skiing; as a high school graduate; a young man in the military; a young man getting married; a young father; a daddy with three small children. He is frozen as a thirty-three year old man, who was killed on June 9th.

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Someone who loves me told me that they believe we should focus on how someone lived, not how they died. We should celebrate their birthday, not fixate on the day they died. It stuck with me. Honestly, it stung, not the intention. I can move beyond the words, well, because I know they love me. I could argue that I didn’t have enough birthdays to remember those moments of celebration. As children, we are reminded to make cards and say happy birthday. I notice my father’s birthday each year, but June 9th comes back vividly, because it shook my insides and forced me to walk differently, talk differently, laugh, cry, and answer differently. As a child, that stays with you.

I am struck by people who really don’t get it. Childhood trauma changes wiring. What I understood then, is not what I know now. Of course, we heal. I believe that above all else. I believe in healing. I would not be as strong and resilient if I hadn’t lost my father the way I did. I believe that. I might not be as insecure and anxious either. I might not worry so much about saying the wrong thing, or losing affections. I get it. I have a Masters in this. I have worked at hospice and connected with others, because grief is something I understand on a molecular level.

On June 9th, each year, I lose my father again. If the bump is gentle, I say a quiet I love you, still––and go about my day. If it’s a tougher year––hello, 2020––I might find myself crying, very suddenly. I don’t sit and wallow. I don’t will myself to remember. My father is ever-present. He is here with me. I know this, regardless of what others believe. But sometimes, on June 9th, I look in the mirror and feel a sharper pang that there is so much I don’t know. That the face that stares back at me may or may not be like his. I lost my father forty-seven years ago.
I lost my father, again, yesterday.

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©2011-2020 All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

 

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
Aside | This entry was posted in Aging, Childhood trauma, Death, Death of parent, Grief, Honest observations on many things, Love, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to I LOST MY FATHER YESTERDAY

  1. Sending hugs.

    Warm regards,

    James Oliver, Jr. Founder 347-277-4039

    MarthaStewart.com said, ”WeMontage is a decor idea all home owners should know.”

    >

    Like

  2. Sally Andrews says:

    So difficult for a child to lose a parent. It isn’t the order we believed in, parents were supposed to live into old age. Why did the universe pick us out for this to happen to? You are never the same and part of your childhood is just gone. Never to be found. The trauma follows and lingers. It is always there to remind us…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is nothing more hurtful than to tell someone how they should feel or how they should grieve. I absolutely loved how you honored your inner child, who is still in pain, while describing how your father’s death has shaped your life. Funny thing, I’ve rarely thought about what my life would be if I hadn’t suffered childhood trauma – probably because for so long I both blamed myself for it and blocked so much out. I’m so very sorry you lost your father so young, and all of the “stuff” you’ve written about before that came after.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that often people don’t intend to tell us how to feel, they want to help. But yes, it’s a glitch in connections. I too blocked much of this trauma, but that’s another story. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Sue. I always value your input. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I know the pain of a close loss. My loss was my Identical twin brother. !4 years ago. Could have been yesterday. I enjoyed your post. Made me think of my =twinMatt… That is a good thing. A good memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robin Anne says:

    Dawn, I just read your story about your Dad, good looking fella BTW.
    I tried to post on WordPress, yada yada, still waiting for a reply to update my password, so, here’s my response:

    Grrr… it’s lost in cyberspace so here’s something akin:

    I love that you feel your father near you. He’ll never stop being your dad, you’ll never stop being his daughter, love never dies.

    I hope you have some sweet memories of him. Has your mom told you about what he was like?

    Thank you for sharing your well told story of your loss of one of the most VIPs in one’s life.

    Like

  6. Robin Anne says:

    Dawn, I just read your story about your Dad, good looking fella BTW.
    I tried to post on WordPress, yada yada, still waiting for a reply to update my password, so, here’s my response:

    Grrr… it’s lost in cyberspace so here’s something akin:

    I love that you feel your father near you. He’ll never stop being your dad, you’ll never stop being his daughter, love never dies.

    I hope you have some sweet memories of him. Has your mom told you about what he was like?

    Thank you for sharing your well told story of your loss of one of the most VIPs in one’s life.

    Love 💗 to you

    Like

    • Robin, looks like it worked! I left you a lengthier response on the FB page, but you and I are crossing lines in cyber space, apparently. The short story: our mother took us from our father, and he was killed in an accident, shortly thereafter. She did not talk about him much. She told me little things, but rarely talked about him. I’m sure she carried a lot of pain and guilt… but she died of Huntington’s 10 years ago, at 68, so many things go unanswered.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment; it’s much appreciated. Your compassion means so much. ♥

      Like

  7. Lovely tribute – and I’m sure you’ve passed on his good qualities to your own children.
    Much hugs to you.

    Like

    • Thanks so much, Lisa. Admittedly, I often think about what he would have thought of my kids, my grandchildren–– I believe they would have all really enjoyed each other. I’ve raised my children in his memory: connected to nature, adventurous, loving. I think they would have loved each other. As always, thanks for being here, friend. xo

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just seeing this. Trying to redo my blog… so reading around wordpress… stay well. So often I selfishly feel this f… covid is all about me– when can I go to Israel? Lots of news there– a phone call — next week busy w/ Jacob and the grands (yay), but let’s toss around a few dates to chat. xoox

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Valery says:

    Dearest Dawn,
    As always, beautifully written. Each time you write about your father I notice something new; this time you brought a new lens to my own mother. She, too, lost her father at a tender age (just before her 4th birthday). Your words help me see her a little more clearly. And again, I wonder about how different life could have been for us… if only. 143💗

    Like

  9. Jackie Weber says:

    Loss is hard regardless of time or age.

    As always so eloquently written. I find a lot of my own answers to my own thoughts in your writing.

    Glad to see you back even for just this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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