Help me see myself
Cause I can no longer tell
Looking out from the inside
Of the bottom of a well…
—The End (Pearl Jam)
Commercial flights were never glamorous during in my lifetime… well, at least not like they were the 1960s. Yet from my first flight at around 6 weeks of age, I’ve spent a lot of time in airports. I romanticized it early on, being able to pack my Pan Am satchel with cookies, books, a notebook, and a pen. I’m thinking of those early days now, as I sit curled up and cozy in the bulkhead of a commercial Delta jet that’s just left LAX.
Despite the dim cabin and black night outside my window, my face is hidden behind a gigantic pair of ancient Dior sunnies. Over the course of a decade, they’ve remained my fashion must-have, my unconventional security blanket. They’ve seen me through at least 5 funerals, numerous awkward situations, a failed engagement, and more tears than I can remember. And most recently, they’ve been with me through the past 10 days, the aftermath of the near death of my father.
We think we know how we’ll react when we’re forced to face the death (or potential death) of someone we love. I always figured it would be hard and I knew it would hurt, but I’d be okay because I had my mum. I had no idea. I never even considered the possibility that a strong person, someone with my survivor attitude, would be, could be, utterly derailed and so… shattered.
I remember the night I learned of his collapse, I hung up the phone with my mother and immediately dialed X. I cringe thinking about it now, what I must have said; I truly don’t have any recollection. I know I was hysterical, out of control, terrified… unable to recognize myself. More than that, I couldn’t pull myself out. The harder I struggled, the quicker I fell.
A text message followed. Every vivid detail, what is said, the race of my pulse, the short, heaving breathes, whimpering sounds I didn’t know I was capable of… it’s so real to me, it feels as if it happened moments ago.
I need you. Check your messages.
I keep going back to those three little words; the first three, rather than the last. I need you. I need you. I need you. I’ve never said it as an adult. Ever. It’s never been my mentality, it’s not in my wheelhouse, and yet it was suddenly all I could say. It’s surreal for me now; thinking about it immediately puts that lump, the one that feels as if it’s choking me, right back in my throat. Nope, I never saw it… any of it… coming.
I’ve been trying to write about that day, days following, but I’ve never been able to scrawl anything other than an opening sentence. The simple fact is, I cannot write about my dad directly. His health is still precarious at best, while everything else that’s unfolded remains too fresh, too real, and too painful to expose in such public way. Suffice to say, my world, my life as it was only a few short weeks ago, has been shaken to its core.
Now after days of after nursing a heavy heart, wounds running deeper than I’d ever imagined, with the help of an amazing group of friends, here I am, typing from 36,000 feet over what I believe to be Nevada. I can’t say I’m ready to go back to Utah, back to the aftermath of everything I have yet to wrap my head around.
If I’ve learned anything over the last few weeks, it’s that you can’t bury emotions, the messes they cause, forever. I know this. I accept it. And yet if I’m honest with you, honest with myself, I really, really wish I could.