Two Years

Dad Last Photo

Dad’s Last Photo

Two Years ago today we were moving Mom (and Dad) from their house to a trailer (mobile home) and waiting in vigil for Dad to die.

As soon as the last box was loaded, and we got some pizza in us, that’s exactly what he did. Died.

Timing. Dad had it.

We joke that he chose then to pass because he didn’t want to move to a trailer. But deep down, we know better. He was ready to go, and once he knew Mom was all set, he went.

Last year, on this day, I wrote him a letter.

This year is different. Something has shifted and I feel more at peace. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sad and shit, but I’m okay with it too. And I would love to have him back, hale and hearty and whole. (Not as a Zombie Dad.) But apparently someone(thing) had other plans for him. Maybe somebody needed something built in the otherworld. Or heaven needed a tinkerer. Dad was a worker, I can’t imagine him being idle in the afterlife.

A few days after Dad died, I was driving in my car and I had a wave of feeling come over me that the light had gone out of my world. How could I ever be happy again?

Someone changed the light bulb, and I have hope again. And sometimes: happies. It gets better all the time.

If you want to read through my journey with Dad’s illness, here are all the posts. Some of them are very good.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad

My DadDear Dad,

How’s it going?

A year ago you died. It was also the same day Mom moved into her new trailer at the Hamlet. Your timing, per usual, was impeccable.

The plan, of course, was for both of you to live at the Hamlet. I suppose that you (and God) had other plans.

We know you wanted to make sure Mom was settled okay; she is. We know you’d want Mom to do okay; she is – considering you’re gone. We’d all much rather have you back to your former smart-ass self, making us donuts out of canned biscuits, cooking weekend breakfasts, tinkering on one of your projects, baking real biscuits, and sharing a family meal with you smacking your lips and exclaiming “It don’t get no bettah!”

We miss you.

Life has gone on.

I’ve been dyeing my hair bright pink. I told Mom I wish you’d been alive to see it, because I thought you’d like it. Mom told me you wouldn’t like it. But I told her, even if you didn’t like it, you’d be amused by it. My pink hair. You would tease me about it. No worries on that front, by the way, both Mom and Edmund give me enough grief about the hair (and I give it right back.)

Bill is doing well. He spent almost every weekend last summer helping Mom out at Camp Cull. The floor is finally in the basement. This summer might see another bathroom and sleeping area so Edmund and I can stay over. He’s still working hard up in North Anson. Taking care of business.

Ed’s Dad Henry is not doing well, the Brain cancer came back and he had a major stroke. We are waiting for the other shoe to drop. I suppose you and Dot will have some company sooner than later.

Other than that, Edmund and I are doing okay. We’re working at the same jobs; I’m going to take up balloon twisting again. I’ll need to get up the gumption to find a regular gig so I can practice, as you always said “God hates a coward!” Working on it.

Mom is exercising regularly and spending time with friends. She gave Max up last fall, it was hard but he was getting to be too much for her. He was adopted out right away, so we feel good about that. Loki the cat is still a pain in the ass. Mom’s going to take him up to camp this summer instead of leaving him in Westbrook. We still meet almost every Friday for dinner. Today we’re going to have lunch at the Mall – just like old times with you.

I miss you, Dad. I miss your sly sense of humor. I miss that twinkle in your eye when I said something particularly clever or funny. I miss your insight. I miss your delight in good food and spending time with family.

I am grateful and I feel blessed to be your daughter. You always made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to. Your delight in my successes and my snark kept me going – keeps me going.

I love you.

Your daughter,

Lanna Lee

Black Hole

Black Hole

An artist's drawing shows a large stellar-mass black hole pulling gas away from a companion star. Image Credit: NASA E/PO, Sonoma State University, Aurore Simonnet

An artist’s drawing shows a large stellar-mass black hole pulling gas away from a companion star. Image Credit: NASA E/PO, Sonoma State University, Aurore Simonnet

I feel like there’s something behind me. Grey. Ominous. Hanging out there in my peripheral vision. I whip my head around and I don’t see it. But I know it’s there.

I’m doing fine, you see. Mostly cheerful. Not sure I’m even depressed anymore. If I am, it’s mildly, cheerfully depressed. I can live with that.

But then I think about stuff I’m doing and stuff I might do and whatever that stuff is, there is one person who is not here to enjoy it. To cheer me on. To be proud of me. And my heart breaks again.

Dad’s death is like a black hole, something that could suck me in, pulverize me if I let it. The black hole is behind me, always just out of sight. I acknowledge it, but I do not invite it to come forward. I’ll let it lurk, hoping that its stinky breath does not land on my shoulder.

I put my blinders on. If I don’t think about the black hole, it can’t be there, right?

Okay. It’s there.

I don’t think it can really hurt me.

Walter MaheuxOne night as I drifted off to sleep, Dad’s face popped up [looking young and handsome and impish like the photo to the right], like he was saying “Hellew.”

I won’t lie, it FREAKED me out. It made me wake right up. And made me laugh.

Maybe the Black Hole is a wave of laughter that’s trying to catch up with me.

Maybe it’s joy.

That seems to be a bit much to ask.

Let’s say it’s joy.

It’s joy. And when I’m ready for it, all I have to do is stay still. It will wash over me, like a warm bath.

Bittersweet Independence

Bittersweet Independence

Dad the Chef

Dad the Chef [Photo by Betty-Jean Bennett]

July 4th. This was one of Dad’s days. He was also a big fan of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Anything that would get the family together.

For 30 years, on the 4th we’d gather at Dot Mithee’s family camp on First Davis Pond in North Guilford.

Mom says he’d ask people six months ahead of time, “You coming up to camp on the 4th?” Everybody was invited. Both sides of the family (Mom’s and Dad’s), friends, and even their dogs were welcome. Mom and Dad would provide chicken, hot dogs and hamburg. Mom would make some potato salad, three bean salad, spaghetti casserole and maybe a (booger) broccoli casserole. After that there was pot luck. Aunt Rose would bring her famous biscuits. Others would bring macaroni salads and sweets. If you went hungry, that was your own fault. People brought their own beverages.

Dad and Bill would attach a huge tarp to the side of the camp, plus a couple of pop-up tents, for shade and for a place to sit if it rains. Years ago, Dad made several wooden benches that were placed around the property.

In the past couple of years, Mom and Dad kept telling me and Bill that they were going to stop the 4th of July celebration. It was too much for them to handle anymore, the camp had no running water and the stove was a bit tetchy. Since Dad got their own Camp Cull ready last year, we were glad to hear that the celebration was going to move there (just a mile away) instead of disappearing entirely.

Then Dad died and we couldn’t do it. Too much too soon.

In the 1990’s I missed a couple of the 4th celebrations, I was living in Boston without a car. Some years I’d make great strides to get there. I haven’t missed a 4th celebration since then. So it’s a bit weird to not be trucking my ass up the highway toward Guilford, Maine. Instead I’m still in my pajamas in Westbrook, with no plans. I’m okay with that. I am sure we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas together as a family, that’s soon enough to experience long-held family rituals without Dad.

As far as me, I’m doing well. I am feeling much better. Better than I’ve felt for a few months. The trip we took last week was truly restorative, just what I needed. So I face today with sadness, but still with hope.

Depressed Lanna is Depressed

I don’t like to keep complaining, but I guess I have a reason to. So I’m going to just up and say it, depressed Lanna is depressed.

Now, this doesn’t mean that depressed Lanna doesn’t have fun. I had a good weekend hanging out with Trisha. I enjoyed going to Southern Maine Pride. I can have a conversation without bursting into tears. In fact, I can have a conversation and laugh and have a relatively good time.

But.

My temper is much shorter. I take things more personally. Sometimes I might over-react about something. (Might.) (Okay, will.) And having fun takes so much more effort.

And really, it’s only been 3 months since Dad died. It seems like forever ago. But I don’t even think it’s been 90 days.

I just want to snap out of it.

I can’t.

And I’m afraid that I haven’t even come to grips with what Dad’s death means. Every time I think of the implications – no 4th of July party, his absence at Thanksgiving and Christmas: I start panicking.

No Dad trying to get out of wearing his teeth, “I didn’t forget them, I know exactly where they are.” No Dad teasing Mom about how “It must be that Guilford Education.” Or eating a delicious meal and smacking, “It don’t get no better.”

So be it.

It really fucking sucks.

I suppose it will get better.

Tapping my foot.

Dot

Dot

Dot MitheeLast night, Dot Mithee passed away peacefully after a long bout with cancer.

I’ve known Dot Mithee my whole life. She grew up down the road from my mother, in North Guilford Maine. As a child, I looked forward to her visits. The house would ring with sass and laughter.

My parents rented the Mithee camp on First Davis Pond every July for close to thirty years. Dot would come and stay in her “Shanty”, a small cabin on the same property, and she and Mom would stay up talking into the night.

Camp
After her Mom passed, Dot started spending holidays with my family. She’d come for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner, this year she stayed over on Christmas eve last year. (Here is Edmund helping her shave her head.)

I don’t know what else to say without dissolving into a bunch of unseemly curse words. It was too soon. Too much. Mom and I went to see Dot on Friday, and when we left we felt like there was more time. That we’d see her again. That she’d get to go to camp again. And whatever pain I am feeling, I can only imagine what my Mom is going through. She lost both of her best friends, my father and Dot, within a space of a couple of months. I am so glad that Mom and I visited her last Friday night.

Another glorious day in suck city.

So I will do what we always do when someone we love passes. I will remember the good times. Dad and Bill teasing Dot unmercifully – and her giving it right back to them, or cackling merrily. Quiet nights on the pond, with Dot and Mom catching up after not seeing each other for a couple of months.

What I will remember most is her glorious sense of humor and positive attitude. She was a ray of light, put out too soon.

CampMom, Tom, Dot and Me

A Day for Lilacs

A Day for Lilacs

It would have been my parents’ 46th Wedding anniversary today.

Their wedding flowers were lilacs. This was for two reasons: they were in bloom and they were free for the taking. Every year since then, my father would find some way to get my mother lilacs when they bloomed. Here in Southern Maine they were blooming at the beginning of May, when we had my father’s funeral.

Pictured is the bouquet of lilacs my pal Trisha made up for us, refreshed with new lilacs stolen from the senior housing development next to my house. Lilacs have gone by now, but they’re forever immortalized in picture form, saying a thousand words and the like.

I love you Dad. You should be here right now.

I love you Mom. Happy Anniversary.

Welcome to “The Club”

Welcome to “The Club”

I’m coming up on a tough week. Tomorrow, Monday June 11th, would have been my parents’ 46th wedding anniversary. Friday, June 15th, is my birthday. And Sunday, June 17th is Father’s Day.

If this is your first time here, my Dad, Walter Maheux, passed away this spring. So to be hit with three “firsts” in one week is a bit daunting. And it brings me back to a private Facebook message my friend Bill Cook sent me a few days after my Dad died. Welcoming me to “The Club”.

Here it is in it’s entirety:

Hey Lanna,
I was just reading through your blog about your dad and crying and smiling.
I lost my dad October 27th, 2001.
He officially passed from complications with diabetes, but he’d slipped away to Alzheimer’s years prior.
When he was sick, everyone had advice, but one friend…who’d lost her Mom & Dad already…said you never “get it” until you’ve experienced the death of a parent.
She was right.

Welcome to “The Club”.

My unsolicited advice?
Never expect a “right way” for anything to unfold in your grieving.
Your writings for “The Last Picture Show” hit home on so many levels.
Talking about thinking there would be more time…
The last time I saw my dad was in The Barron Center. I’d visited, and he’d had a good day. “Can we go to “The Deli” (The Full Belly Deli)?”, he asked?
“Next time”, I said… thinking there would be. He passed 2 days later.

Next “The Firsts”. Those were hard. Especially with my family. He died in October, and that Thanksgiving there was a big elephant in the room that everyone tip-toed around, until I said, “Remember when Dad would…?” or “Remember that time that Dad…?”
Talk about him.
Include him.
I have a feeling that won’t be a problem with your family.

And finally, “I don’t see this getting better for a long time.”
It doesn’t.
It just gets different.
At least for me.
The images of him sick get replaced by images of him healthy.
The wishing you could talk to him gets replaced with the knowledge that , well, you can.
The missing him though? That doesn’t change.
Honestly, not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.
Some days are better than others, even after 10+ years. And even now, there are some times I have a melt down.
I’d like to think that the more you love someone, the more it hurts when they leave.
So Cry.
Get Mad!
Curl up in bed.
Feel justified thinking, “DON’T YOU PEOPLE KNOW MY DAD HAS DIED?!?!?! F*CK YOU ALL!!!!!”

It’s a sobering thing, the death of a parent.
And life changing.

But I think the humor and love in your family will help out a lot.
And I think I know where you got both.
If you ever want to talk to a fellow club member, let me know.
xo

I asked Bill if I could share his message on my blag because it came to me just at the right moment. It’s a club that nobody wants to be in, but whenever I’m feeling down I think of The Club and know that I’m not alone.

Sis

Sis

Mom, Tom, Dot and Me

Dottie, Tom, Dot (seated), Me

Mom, who’s name is Dottie, has four brothers and no sisters. However, she calls her childhood friend, who’s name is Dot, “Sis.” I talked about Dot on Christmas Eve last year, when Edmund shaved Dot’s head.

Dot has lung cancer. She is my mother’s best friend. We lost my father very recently to the same disease. Well, he had a different type of cancer cell than she does, but both had origins from the lungs.

This is where I curse cancer and whatnot. Because it really f*ck*ing sucks.

Dot has been in the hospital off and on over the past few weeks. She is now in hospice care at home and is surrounded by fantastic people who are taking care of her and making sure she is okay. Most of these people are volunteering their time. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week.

We were just informed this week that she was feeling well enough for visitors. Mom and I decided to drive up Friday night (tonight) to visit. I called to let Cindy (the fantastic woman coordinating the care) know and we found out that Dot’s brother Tom was visiting from Missouri. Great! It was a date.

I worked from home and left work early. I picked up Mom at her house. We drove to Hallowell (where Dot lives). We had a lovely time. I hadn’t seen Tom since I was a kid. While he and I went to get some takeout, the two Dotties got some alone time. And we talked and laughed and joked all night. Then we had Archie, one of Dot’s angels, take our picture together on the camera Cindy left behind just for that purpose. Archie was also nice enough to take a couple with my camera (above).

And we talked about Dad.

Sometimes it’s just too much, too soon.

I am grateful for the good times, for the laughter we shared tonight. The teasing. The family stories. The love.

How many times can your heart break?

…everything’s tinged with a miasma of suck.

…everything’s tinged with a miasma of suck.

Goodnight BalloonLet’s see if I can do this. Talk about how I’m really doing. [If you didn’t know, my Dad, Walter Marshall Maheux, died on March 24th, a little over a month after we found out he had stage 4 lung cancer.]

I mentioned in the most recent Bureau of Awesome Podcast that I was cheerfully depressed.

I’m functioning. I’m going to work. I’m doing side projects. I’m keeping busy. I laugh at jokes. I smile. I feel happy. I find things beautiful. But as I said on twitter today, everything’s tinged with a miasma of suck.

I drive to and from work on I-95: Westbrook to Kennebunk, Kennebunk to Westbrook every day. It’s spring and the green forest on either side of the highway is very vibrant green. And on a sunny day, the blue of the sky is bluer than blue, and the combination takes my breath away. That is so beautiful, I think. And then I’m crying, because how can anything be beautiful any more?

When Dad died it felt like someone or something sucked the light out of the world. How can life be fun without him, I thought?

So I pretend I didn’t think that.

It’s easy.

I just push it to the back of my head. But it’s really still there. Sending out suck-waves everywhere.

On his blog, blurbomat.com, Jon Armstrong talks about his experience when his father died:

I was talking about grief with my family over the holiday weekend and I was struck by the time it took me to feel normal after my dad died. I figure it was around 3 years.

Great.

Balloon at Westbrook Together DaysTonight Mom and I went to the Westbrook together days. They have live music, a carnival, lots of vendors from local businesses and non-profits. Edmund and I live very close to the park, so I picked up Mom, parked at our house and we walked over with our camp chairs.

I bought some fried dough and a soda. Mom helped me eat it.

As we sat there listening to the Bob Charest Band cover Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and Gnarls Barkley, I remembered that last year it was me, Mom and Dad hanging out at Westbrook Together Days. They drove over separately, and parked near our house and we all walked over together. In fact, I took a picture of my parents that day, from which I cropped out my Mom (with her permission), that I’ve used several times when talking about Dad in this blag. Here it is in its entirety:
Dad and Mom, Westbrook Together Days 2011Last year my parents got up to dance a couple of times. This year Mom and I did some chair dancing. Without Dad there to drag one of us (Mom) to the dance floor, we weren’t going.

Without Dad.

I haven’t had a melt-down yet. Will I have one? I’m not sure. Maybe I should have one. Every time I start getting really worked up, I stamp that shit down.

Yet. Life has lost some of its awesome. Or said awesome is obscured by a funk cloud the size of Texas.

So yes. I’m doing okay. Because to do otherwise would be paralyzing.

Just wait until I accept I’ll never see him again.

Check back in three years, why don’t ya.

Friday Dinner – Originally posted 11/18/2011

In honor of my Dad, I’m reposting this from last fall. Still having Friday dinners with Mom, but I sure do miss having Dad around.

Friday Dinner

It’s Friday. On Fridays I have dinner with my parents. Ever since Edmund and I moved to Westbrook in 2005, I have spent almost every Friday at my parents house for dinner. This was great help for us when we first moved, because we didn’t get jobs right away, so a guaranteed meal once a week was helpful. Nowadays Edmund often works later on Fridays, and I go to dinner by myself.

What happens at a Friday dinner at the Maheux’s? First comes the call:

“You coming over?” says Dad

“Planning on it,” I say.

“Good. ’bout 5:30?” he asks.

“Yup, thereabouts,” I answer.

Sometimes I’m earlier or later, but I am usually there at 5:30. When we first moved here, Dad had Fridays off and he usually cook. When Mom was still working but Dad wasn’t, he’d always cook. Now that they are both retired, they take turns, well, mostly Mom cooks.

I am not told what we are having for dinner. Especially when Dad cooks. He likes to surprise us.

During nice weather we eat outside, Mom loves the sun.

If Edmund can’t make it, he gets a “to go” meal of whatever we’re having. Sometimes it’s enough to make him two meals. He works on Saturdays, so it’s usually very appreciated.

Dinna out
A rare dinner at a real restaurant.

We don’t always eat at my parent’s house. Sometimes we meet at the Mall and eat at the food court. Sometimes we eat at a restaurant. But most of the time we eat at their house in Westbrook. Sometimes we do something else.

Westbrook together days with Mom & Dad.
At Westbrook Together Days last June.

And this photo makes up for the dork photo I posted last week (sorry Mom!):

Mom and Dad

——————–
Do you have any family rituals?

In which I talk about my Dad. In video. In color.

Tears may have been shed.

I tell you how I’m doing and give you some advice. And make jokes.

Catharsis on Social Media FTW!

And whatnot.

I don’t know

I don’t know what to write. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Tonight Mom and I went out to dinner to celebrate the sale of her house in Westbrook. Hallelujah. She and Dad have talked about selling that house for three or four years now. And it’s done. And Dad’s not here to see it. He’s the one who put the whole sale into action when he went into the hospital. So I’m sure he’s up there in heaven, smiling down on Mom.

I’m a little depressed. I cry every day; several times a day. Little short jags. But I’m okay. It’s weird.

I’m cheerfully depressed. I miss Dad so much. Last Friday on my way to the car in the morning I thought, “It’s Friday, I get to see Dad tonight.” And then I realized I wouldn’t. But I can laugh and joke about it. And have fun, even if sometimes I descend into the melancholy.

I suppose I’m doing so well because Dad had no regrets. None. We got a chance to say good-bye. He passed on so gently; his was a good death.

While I am grieving along with my family, I’m trying to honor my father by getting on with it. Life. Living it and such.

It’s effing hard sometimes.

Suzy and Company

Suzy and Company

Mom and SuzyWhat a weekend we had. All last week we were gearing up for a move, Mom and Dad were moving to a smaller home and selling their large house. The big move was on Saturday. Bill took work off last week and helped Mom move smaller boxes and set up the new digs. I stuck around the house and hung out with Dad – fortunately I was able to work at the same time too.

I’m still not ready to detail exactly how the weekend panned out. But I wanted to point out some people outside our small circle (Me, Mom, Bill and Edmund) who helped enormously throughout the move and Dad’s vigil. Aunt Barbara Robinson spent the week helping Mom pack and keeping us in line. Cousin Jim Morin and his wife Tracy came down on Saturday to help us move and eventually to sit with Dad as he passed. Bill’s friends Timmy, Carl and Peter helped Jimmy and Billy move stuff from the house to the new mobile home or tractor trailer (for the stuff going up north to Camp Cull.) We wouldn’t have been able to make it through the weekend without these folks.

And then there was Suzy. Who arrived on Friday to help Mom and Aunt Barbara finish packing and set up the new home. When Dad saw her, he told her “I’m going to die today.” And, when it was clear that Dad was on his way out, she took a day off work to stay in vigil with us. Suzy helped us keep Dad comfortable, and orchestrated everything so we didn’t miss a thing. And we laughed. And we cried. And Suzy knew what to do. I am not sure if it was because she’s been there before or because she has some sort of gift for it, my suspicion is that it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. It was Suzy who gathered us together to hear Dad’s final words on Friday night and Suzy who gathered us on Saturday at the end, when Dad’s breathing changed. If it weren’t for Suzy, Dad would not have been as comfortable as he was. And I bless her for it.

And she kept us laughing – which is what Dad would’ve wanted. The hospice nurse was in on Friday and after hearing what was happening with Dad, she ordered a bunch of drugs and gave us some instruction. If there was a fever, the hospice care kit had Tylenol we could give as a suppository.

Since Dad was doing so poorly Friday, we decided, Me, Mom, Aunt Barbara and Suzy, to sleep in the living room with Dad. It was a regular slumber party. We all tried to fall asleep, but Dad was having difficulty breathing. So Suzy and I sat next to him for a while to make sure he was okay.

Every few minutes, Suzy was checked/felt Dad’s forehead. I didn’t realize what she was doing until she said, “The nurse said to watch for a fever, but I’ve never heard of a cancer patient getting a fever.”

I look at her. “You just want to give him a suppository.”

“You’re right,” she says.

And we burst into laughter.

What I guess I want to say is that because of Suzy, we were free to give Dad a beautiful send off. With laughter and tears. And a feeling of rightness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather have my Dad alive and kicking. Driving my Mom nuts because he refuses to wear his teeth. But if he had to go, this was as it should have been.

Last Picture Show

Last Picture Show

Dad Last PhotoThis is the last picture taken of Dad. It was taken on February 28th, while he was still in the hospital. There was no opportunity to take another one. Funny how that happens. You always think there is more time, until it slips away.

And now we are left behind to figure out how we can live without him. Life seems a bit duller. He was supposed to live forever. Didn’t God get the Memo?

I suppose we’ll survive. We’ll get by on firsts. The first Easter, first Mother’s Day, the first Father’s Day, the first 4th of July, the first Thanksgiving, and the first Christmas without him. We’ll have some practice. Right now I’m working my way through the first Tuesday without him. So far, so good.

I miss him.

I don’t see this getting better for a long time.