Any of you who’ve followed this blog for a while know that the past year has been rough for my family. When my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in May, 2012, on his birthday, our world was turned upside down. He fought hard, because that’s what Dad did, but we lost him on December 11, 2012. It was fast, which for him was a merciful thing, but for us it was an exercise in accepting that we control nothing.
Since December I think most of my family has felt like we’ve been moving around under water. Every triumph is shadowed by the fact that he’s not here to share it. Every joy is marred by the fact that his laughter isn’t joining ours. Every heartbreak is a little more painful because we already grieve over his absence. It’s sucked basically.
Despite this, we’ve been given so many things to be grateful for this year. My oldest brother and his girlfriend welcomed a baby boy, Angus, in January. A grandchild Dad hoped he could hang on long enough to see, but couldn’t.
My youngest brother and his girlfriend are FINALLY expecting a baby, something he vowed would never happen. We’re all very excited. “Our” baby is having a baby and we couldn’t be happier. (Don’t worry, he’s since revised his views on fatherhood and is very excited) I think of Dad and smile because he’d be laughing his ass off at how Mother Nature basically said “Screw you guys, you’re having a baby.”
I’ve also had some success with my books. IN THE BONES and THE LEGEND OF JACKSON MURPHY are selling better than I expected and Crescent Moon Press offered me a contract for LUCKY, the first in my For the Love of Gods series. I’m ecstatic, but the happiness feels a little hollow. I know Dad was proud of me no matter what I did, but I’d have liked for him to “see” that I’m achieving all the things I’ve worked so hard to achieve.
But every time I smile, my heart aches, because I wish Dad was here.
I don’t want pity. I’ve got it pretty good. My mom, on the other hand, feels all of these things much more intensely. She feels his absence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s constant for her. I have kids and work and all that to help me forget from time to time. Mom doesn’t have that luxury. She feels guilty for any bit of happiness she feels, but wants to desperately to swim to the top of this watery grave we’re all in and begin living her life again.
Her birthday was on Friday, and we decided “Fuck it” we’re going out. Mom and I have avoided going out or drinking alcohol for the most part because we were worried we’d end up a snotty mess on the floor of some bar. That’s embarrassing. I don’t care who you are. I think my mom was afraid there was something wrong with doing such a thing when you’d just buried your husband a few months before. But we did it anyway, because that’s how we roll.
And I’m so glad we did.
This weekend was also the Tweed Elvis Festival. The entire town is decorated in Elvis memorabilia and the impersonators have invaded.
We began the night by getting married at the Bank of Montreal.
I had to wear the pants, but Holly made a beautiful bride, yes? That’s me, with my big head that wouldn’t fit the damn hole.
And then we hit the Tweedsmuir, aka: The Heartbreak Hotel (yes, it’s spelled wrong).
And then my mom started dancing.
And she didn’t stop for much.
“Young Elvis” even danced with her.
Then we made her do the required birthday shooter, affectionately called “The Muff-Diver” which my mom refused to participate in until we reassured her it was a shot and not at all related to vaginas.
Me and Holly made out with an Elvis too. We figure the alcohol sterilized the face sweat on our mouths. Right? Right?!
And my mom kept dancing. She danced so much and smiled so widely that strangers were taking pictures of her with their camera phones. Of course, we had to join in, because it’s dancing! The DJ’s equipment fucked up, leaving us in silence for a few minutes, but Holly saved the day with a fantastic rendition of “The Gambler.” She even found a few fans.
A really drunk young man, whom we’ll call “The Golfer,” danced with my mom all night, after informing me that I had Cleveland hair and Cleveland is forbidden. I don’t know.
The next day, I realized that my body hurt, and I’m too old for this shit, but also that I REALLY needed that. Not the booze. I needed to see my mom smiling like she used to. I needed to see her let go and enjoy being alive. I needed to get up and dance with her like we used to do. Something about dancing like a fool is just so… healing. How can you be miserable when you’re dancing? You can’t. Not even if you suck, which we pretty much do.
We still miss my dad and we’re still sad, but my mom needed to give herself permission to move on; to live her life. I think this night of drinking, Elvises and dancing was the first step in that journey. I’m grateful I was there to take it with her. She needed to dance, but I needed to see that joy in her face again.
I’ve also unleashed a fountain of creative energy as a result. I was a little…I don’t want to call it blocked… perhaps stunted, with my writing. I could write and I have lots of ideas, but getting it out was really difficult. It’s flowing freely now and that’s awesome.
So, if you’re ever feeling down, for whatever reason, I highly recommend dancing like a fool, even if EVERYONE is watching. Also, a muff-dive or two brings a smile to everyone’s face. The shot you pervs, not the other one. But you can do whatever floats your boat.