When I talk about my parents dying, I tend to group them together. ‘My parents died’. Not as accurate, but its a lot quicker to say when anyone asks. The truth is, there was a fifteen day period where my Dad had passed and my Mom was still alive. I didn’t appreciate that at the time. I didn’t appreciate that my Mom fought for each and every day past August 31st. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be at peace with your impending passing, only to have that peace harshly and suddenly ripped away from you. My mom lived those two extra weeks for us, my brother and I. She lived as long as she could to make sure that her children were taken care of.
My Mom and I had a very complicated relationships, as most mothers and daughters do. We loved each other, but we didn’t understand each other. We were different people. I had always hoped that I would grow closer to Mom as I grew up. I pictured her cheering for me at college graduation, smiling through tears from the front row at my wedding, in the delivery room with me when I gave birth to my child. I saw all of that so clearly. I saw myself coming to understand her as I grew up and became a wife and mother. I imagined I would call her up for advice. I imagined my parents being frequent and willing babysitters to their grandchildren. All of that is gone now. I can still have those things, but I can’t have her with me like I always pictured.
That’s something they don’t tell you about losing a loved one. You don’t just lose them once. You lose them again and again every time something happens that they would have been there for.
There’s a quote from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone about Lily Potter dying to protect Harry. I had just reread the book and felt this quote came back to me at the right time. The quote is:
“… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”
My Mom’s gifts to me are still being discovered. I remember her saying, “I’m your biggest supporter”. I still feel that support, even five years after she’s been gone. But, a girl will always need her Mom. No one can make you feel loved like a mother. No love rivals a mother’s love. My Mom loved me enough to live fifteen days past death. I love her enough to make every year without her a year I make her proud.
Five years ago, August 31st was a Saturday. The weather was unremarkable, we were having a house party, and my life changed forever. This wasn’t the kind of change that I worked for. Nothing I did made it happen and nothing I could have done would have stopped it. I can’t put into words how powerless, how helpless I felt.
Five years ago, my father died. Quite unexpectedly, I might add. I was expecting my mother to die. She was coming to the end of her almost year long fight against cancer. She had just come home from a week in the hospital and was now in Hospice care. For anyone who doesn’t know, Hospice is a service for people at the end of their lives. So, it was a certainty that I was losing a parent.
But expectations can never prepare you for reality and I hadn’t even been expecting this. Who even could? Who would think that one parent would die while another parent was about to? There’s the saying, life is stranger than fiction. I could’ve lived without having my life be a perfect example of that.
I’ll never forget that day, the unmistakable worst day of my life. The combined total body numbness and overwhelming emotion that I felt once what happened had sunk in.
But that was five years ago and today should not be a day to remember my grief. Today, I remember my Dad. The last thing I remember him saying was, “I’m so glad you and your brother are home. I’m happy we’re all together.” I remember him being happy to be with the people he loved and those who loved him.
My Dad loved fully and openly, and he taught me to do so as well. Now, it’s one of my favorite parts of myself. Anyone who was important to my Dad knew they were important to him. He felt no shame or hesitation in expressing his feelings and emotions, a trait that is unfortunately less common in men than it should be.
My Dad was IS one of my favorite people in the world. We understood each other. We looked at the world in similar ways. He was the first person I went to when I wanted to talk. He taught me how to give advice, how to empathize, how to listen. The day after he died, I said, “The only person I want to talk to is the only person who’s not here.” This is one of the things I miss the most.
I lit five candles today. This is the first time I’ve consciously done something to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Perhaps that’s because this is the first year I haven’t had the start of a school year to worry about. It’s very confusing to be starting a new semester and also be thinking about death; the clash of a beginning and an ending. Hopefully I’ll adopt certain actions or dedications for these anniversaries in the future. I always have memories but it feels good to do something.
Hi. It’s me. Well, it’s you, ten years into the future. You’ve graduated high school and college. You’re done with school! I think that should make you happy. I barely remember being 16. I know you’re sad and worried about if your friends like you as much as you like them. They do. They love you. I’m sure you’re curious about what my life is like: where I live, what job I have, what my boyfriend is like.
But I’m really writing to warn you. I guess ‘warn’ isn’t the right word. I want to try to prepare you for something you can never be prepared for. Sounds ominous, huh? I want to tell you that halfway between you and me, something happens. You can’t change it, so I won’t tell you specifics. I will tell you that it will hurt. It will be the worst pain you’ve ever felt in your life and it will be with you in some form or other for the rest of your life. Yes, it’s a big deal. So, I want to give you time to appreciate what you have. I want you to stop fighting with your mom and dad because almost every fight will seem stupid in hindsight. Trust me. I want you to be unashamed in your love for your friends, your family, or any of your interests. That passion and love is what helps to heal you. I want you to not worry about your future. I’m not at the end but I’ve dealt with your biggest worries and conquered them. I want to tell you that it’s okay to try something and realize it’s not for you. You do not have to make one decision and stick with it. Making mistakes is how you learn and grow.
Part of me wishes I were you. I wish I could go back and worry about grades and parents. But I remember you were sad. You’re still sad. Sorry. I’m working on it, I promise. I think it’s going to be a lifelong issue. Sorry about that, too. But you are surrounded by people who love you, even if sometimes it feels like you are very alone. I can’t stop the bad things from coming. I can’t protect you. I can only tell you that I’ve come out the other side and I’m still up and fighting. And having fun too. I promise you have fun.
I’m proud of us. I’m proud of how you are going to handle what life throws at you. And you are going to handle it. You’re going to handle a lot more than a lot of people your age could. You are strong. You are brave. You are loved.
In the superhero world, and in our world, no one wants to watch someone pick up the pieces. Every story is set up so that it is steadily rolling to the climax, the most challenging moment. The hero faces his greatest foe, and whatever that entails… And then its over. The credits roll. The book runs out of pages. No one shows how the character reacts to all the shit that just happened.
That never used to bother me. I didn’t even notice it, until my parents passed away. Without a doubt, that was the worst moment of my, admittedly short, life. That was my challenge, the climax of my story. Except life went on. And it kept going on, even at times when I was convinced it couldn’t. My parents died when I was 21. That means, if I live as long as the average human, I will live without them longer than I lived with them.
Tony Stark has always seemed to me like a reactionary superhero. A lot of the choices he makes, he does so while influenced by a trauma or a fear or a situation out of his control. He built his first suit to escape a terrorist group who was holding him hostage and became Iron Man initially because he felt responsible for his weapons being in the hands of those same terrorists. The examples are there in every movie: forming the Avengers, building Ultron, agreeing to the Accords, his fight against Steve and Bucky.
A key part of Tony’s character is that he feels alone. This stems from his not-so-great relationship with his father and the shocking death of his parents at a young age (17, I think). That is certainly a feeling I can relate to. Your parents are the people who are supposed to love you the most, more than anyone else in the world. When they’re gone, you lose that love, and it leaves a hole that can never be filled, no matter how many people love you or how much they love you. My man Tony and I, we struggle to escape that loneliness, while, at the same time, we isolate ourselves because we know how the loss of love feels and don’t ever want to feel it again. Wow. That got sad. What I’m saying is I understand Tony simultaneously craving and fearing affection from others.
There are many instances in the Marvel Movies that I could point to that show Tony dealing with the loss of his parents, but I want to focus on one scene in Civil War.
Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing. An extremely costly method of hijacking the hippocampus to clear…traumatic memories. It doesn’t change the fact that they never made it to the airport, or all the things I did to avoid processing my grief.
I love this scene. I love it. I love it. I love it. I told my therapist about this scene. Tony spends millions of dollars to try to “fix” his last moment with his parents. 20+ years later, their deaths are obviously still bothering him and he’s trying to recover. Grief, and what comes along with it, is almost never accurately shown in movies. The existence of the trope Conveniently an Orphan is proof enough. So, either the person is seemingly unaffected, or the person is damaged forever and the loss ruins the rest of his life due to unresolved emotional issues, like Batman.
Tony is different. No, he isn’t a model of mental health either, but he is trying.
“I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them, and I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.”
“Pepper, it’s me. I’ve got a lot of apologies to make and not a lot of time. So first off, I’m so sorry I put you in harm’s way. That was selfish and stupid and it won’t happen again.”
Tony isn’t perfect; He’d be the first person to admit that. What makes him different is that he realizes he makes mistakes and tries to learn from them. He’s also the only superhero whose mental health is a major part of the narrative. One of the main storylines of Iron Man 3 was the fact that Tony was not mentally well, to the point he was having panic attacks.
Being an orphan is not unique in the superhero world, but spending time on mentally coping with the feelings that come along with being an orphan is. That scene from Civil War was, as I already said, very personally impactful. My mother’s death was a long time coming, so I was actually able to “say goodbye” and tell her how much she meant to me, but my father’s death was extremely sudden. Not being able to “say goodbye” to him still haunts me. I wonder what I’d say if I got the chance. Maybe the same as Tony.
“I love you, Dad, and I know you did the best you could.”
I used to work on a book review blog called Getting Lost In Words with a couple of friends. We worked so hard to come up with a review format and how to keep up with posting. We had a lot of fun, even got a couple of books sent to us. Obviously I’m not on that site anymore, but I don’t want all my hard work to be gone. So here is where I will link all of my book reviews from the old site in order from oldest to newest.
Hollywood’s new trend has been making movies with a mostly female cast. The newest Star Wars has a girl wielding Luke’s lightsaber. The all-female reboot of Ghostbusters has the women holding the big guns. The female superhero movie Wonder Woman gives Diana a broadsword. (Are you seeing the phallic imagery? Are you seeing it? I was worried it was too subtle.)
Hello, It’s me back from Siberia. Sorry I haven’t touched this site in a month. Capital S Stuff has been happening in my life. But that’s over now (I hope).
Anyway, I’ve decided to use this blog not only to talk about books, but also fashion. Specifically, I want to post about what I wear daily. I already do so on Instagram so I thought, why not make it legit.
So that’s where this blog is headed. I am currently reading a book (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell) and I should have a review up shortly. Sneak peek, I identify a little too much with the main character so I am very emotionally invested.