My Husband The Mirror

Will is somebody who I’ve always been able to bring everything to.  Every crazy productive or insanely idiotic idea I’ve had, I know I can go to him and expect the truth - in love and without his judgment. I have never seen a man more supportive in every step I have taken, when it comes to the means of my creative/healing outlets - always telling me to go after my truth, however dirty or messy it is.  

Mostly I hear from him, “Fuck what people have to say or think.  What do you want to do?”  Then, I get up and I do it.  It’s that simple. It all is perpetuated by his insane ability to just look at me, which allows me to think about what I want - always pushing me to dive deeper or get more uncomfortable in my life and projects.  

Oh yes, we butt heads on progress sometimes and we get into the scuffles, mostly, about the speed of my growth.  Slow and steady wins the race with me, while he is a “balls to the wall” type. All I know is that after my dad’s death if I can just get out of bed and make a daily progression towards healing within myself and ensure that I’m feeding my husband, I feel like I’ve had a productive day.  Not to say that is how it has to stay forever. But, being in this country for all of ten days, I just want to revel in the fact that I feel like I am doing freaking great right now.

And by the way, he knows it too.  Maybe I just need to say that out loud so that I may have the permission to get up and do more.  Right now, Will’s just working on getting me back to the gym (my anti-anxiety drug) and pushing me to walk places by myself, without an Uber.

My dad wanted to make sure that I was with Will before I came to be with him in his last days.  He even kept it a secret from me that he had cancer so that I would deliver the animals and move to Bahrain - making our family complete.  It hurt like hell to know that people all knew my dad had this illness, for even just a few days before me. Once I was in the country, though, I really understood why Dad needed me to move, first (you can read about my first day in Bahrain, here).  

In the weeks to follow, my dad and I were on Facetime, sometimes five times a day.  It was the most precious moments that I had with him, and look back fondly on the conversations we held.  

In my father’s gasps for air, he would sometimes ask, “Is Will next to you?”, and I would hand the phone over.  

The conversations between them were short, and Will let him speak what he needed to - each time, my dad explaining how happy I was there with him, how much he appreciated him in his life, that he loved and appreciated him, and how much he needed him to be there for me when he dies.  

That still cuts me like a knife when I recall.  

Will would give him a smile, rubbing my knee, saying, “Absolutely Brian, I am and will be right here”.  And in the final twenty minutes of my dad’s life, it was Will who I called.

Within three minutes of me being in my dad’s room during his last moment, I smiled and told him, “I’m going to be right back, Dad. I love you”.  I walked right into my uncle's office, I closed the door, called my husband, and sobbed out, “This is it, babe”.
I could hear him straightening his body and clearing his mind as he said, “I love you. You got this”.  I replied, “I don’t know if I can. This is really hard, man. I am so scared”. His answer, “He needs you. You DO have this, and it’s okay that you’re scared”.  Pausing, he said, “I am so proud of you”.

God, those six words.  

The magic words of my father that gave me the strength to overcome anything that the world gave me.  Just the sheer fact that I had someone seeing my intentions through my weaknesses and tears, breathing into my soul, telling my that they were well-pleased in my decision to walk through a massive flame of future hurt.  And Will’s words was the part I needed to hear.
I remember sucking up my tears, and asking, “I’m not a little bitch, right?  This IS hard, right?” Will, being the relatable man he is said, “Absolutely you are not. This would be the hardest thing I would ever have to do, too.”
Not only did he have pride in his wife, he had an understanding of the ramifications that would come after - and still, proving to me that he would be making the same decisions as I would if the shoe was on his foot.  

In the weeks to follow, I have hidden from Will.  He was my first call after my dad died, and he was the one who just watched me when I was on Facetime, staring at a wall - almost rocking myself back and forth, just to whisper, “I love you. Everything is going to be alright.”  

He has picked me up off beds and walked me to brush my hair, after hearing my dad had no hope in his illness.  

He has been the one taking phones out of my hands and listened to diagnoses, so I could expel every last thing in my body - the magnitude of it all just being too much for even my physical body to handle.  

He has traveled 60 hours in a week and a half to stand with me in a funeral home, and shake the hands of my family who carried my father, promising the same promise to my father - he would be there to hold me when we came back to The Middle East.
He has been my strength when I couldn’t stand.  

...and yet, he has seen too much.

Will now knows everything about me - there is no hiding.  And still, after all of that, there is a part of me that wants to go to the craziest forms of myself - just to test his love. I want to know just where his crux is and what point he will say, “Okay! Too much!”.  Just proving that he’s not this amazing being that I know him to be.
All of that is indeed broken thinking, which I know to be true.  That thinking is what I brought into every single failed relationship before him, and in the first two years of our dating, where he almost left.  That woman, sneaking back in as I have waited for the shoe to drop with people in my life so that I may prove to myself that I am truly not worth sticking around for.  

Yes, I know in my good days that I’m worthy of all good and beautiful things.  But there is a point where I look and I think, ‘Fuck! Why?!. Why couldn’t I have just walked through this one alone, without this person to see how messy I was. Somedays, I didn’t know how long it’d been since I showered or if I’d even brushed my teeth in two days.  Why did someone have to see me at such lows?!’.

This, I know well, is my pride and my ego. It is what kept me in a perpetual hole for ten years before seeking counseling - my inability to want anyone, let alone myself, to see me in such a state of despair.  Every time I look into Will’s eyes now, I see that woman calling him at the moment before her dad died for a bit of strength to walk back into that room. I know he sees it too. And even after telling him all of this, in true Jack Pearson goodness, he says that he doesn’t judge me for it, or even see it when he looks at me.  But, I know it’s tucked away in his memory, and I want it gone.

What he sees strength. God, I can’t even see my own strength, at times.  I just see a hot mess express.
I try to put on his eyes and see - I am now in a foreign country.  I wake up each morning, and I choose to share my story with the world - a story, I might add, that he loves watching unfold and supports my writing in every single way possible.  
I am still walking, talking, breathing, eating, cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping.  
Last week, I couldn’t even go on base without having visual flashbacks of color leaving my father’s face.  Seven days later and I am at the same spot, writing for five hours straight, and when I was done, I left happy and Will was right there saying, “I am so proud of you for staying out of the house, today”.

So, I guess this is where I go deeper into my marriage.  I take the vale off, and I recognize that everything that has happened has made this man love me more.  That vulnerability, authentic place of pain, my ability to share without fear - that is where he met and loved me even further.  Truly, what more could I ever show him that I haven’t already in those terrifying moments?

Nothing 
So why hide?  
Why present myself to him as anything less than I already am.

He knows my past is being spewed up from the pits of my soul.  
He knew that would happen long before my father was sick, and probably the day in 2014 that I made my leap in healing.  
He knew from our first date that I had no resources for myself as a teen and supported my one day of writing until there was no more to write.  
He welcomed my truth, and sometimes even pushed it so hard out of me that I was crying to feel no more of it - just for him to say, “You can handle more”.

While I have done the hard work, this beautiful man has been my coach - pushing more shit from my abyss and telling me to look at it face first.  

God, I hate him for it sometimes.  But like this morning, I got to wake up with him telling me, “I am so proud of you.  You are doing remarkably well”.
And really, that’s all I need to continue forward.


Processing

I have neglected in writing this out of fear that I may appear selfish to those in my family, or close friends of ours; a personal narrative of topics that affect so many people within our community of loved ones.  Not only affecting them but heavily burdening the first man I ever loved - my father. I will just say it short and sweet - my dad has cancer.


Okay, I’ll let you process that.  

Lord knows I had to.


My platform is and always will be the world through my eyes - that is the only story that I can tell.  There is peace in knowing my story and working out my processes. When I think of how many hearts are breaking, I am immediately inclined to go pick up the falling pieces.  If I do find an ounce of peace that I can share, I run to share it with many who are involved.

Lately, most of my days have been spent calling and caring for members that I love, if I am not leaning on my support system in Washington. I say the following only so that I may give myself permission for unapologetic self-reflection; writing this and future posts regarding this topic for me alone.  

I pause.  I have not many words to say.  I have spent a week accepting my reality, my worst fear, and the one thing I knew would bring me flat on my face.  You see, I have felt this coming for most of my life. I stuffed it down through therapy, having professionals tell me that I am only grieving the loss of my mother and so worried about abandonment that I would deeply worry that Dad would receive this diagnosis.  I talked to friends about how I knew within the first year of mine and Will’s marriage, I would get that phone call. Even going as far to tell Will that I deeply felt like something terrible is going happen to one of our family members if/when we received international orders.  Do I put that guilt on myself that I willed my father’s illness? Absolutely not. All I know is that my mother and I share this insane gut feeling about things, and usually, they come true. If I could even get myself on Google to look at what that gut feeling is, I would - but, since the news...I have sworn myself off of the search engine.  That same desperate feeling that I would have to look through an ex’s phone to see if they were cheating on me - that is what drives my fingers to click the words I crave more information on. So, I don’t touch that app. Period.

I want to protect my father with his details of this, so that is another reason why I will not go into many topics regarding his private information.  I can only imagine being so out of control of things - I would also guard the one thing I could, which is information being released. To that, I ask your prayers and good thoughts for his peace and tranquility - not to mention good health and happiness (if I could take a shot of vodka and yell “L’Chaim”, I would).  

It’s times like these that I never thought I would call upon the strength of my ancestors - as dramatic as that sounds.  For some reason, I heard the words I dreaded, I processed through my emotions, and I acknowledge the Jewish blood that runs fast through mine and my dad’s veins.  I subconsciously called upon my cousins and great-uncle who survived the concentration camps and (like a true Jew) remembered the years that my family “sweated through the desert for forty years with Moses”.  LOL! Desperate times call for desperate measures, but that last part makes me laugh as I remember the over-dramatic and grandiose representations that my father would display when he talked about Jewish suffering.  I smile at the ridiculousness of his gestures as he would curl into a Yente position - actually looking like his grandmother, from photos. An entertainer through and through.

I feel like I have no tears left to cry, but your body has a way of reminding you that you always do.  My lips are chapped - maybe expelled tears are the reason? I would love one answer to life. I am literally days away from my move to Bahrain and found out this news the day before my husband left, ahead of me.  I dread writing this next part because I know the guilt that my dad has. But if I can normalize emotions for just one person, I know he will agree that it is worth it.

When I first heard, an immediate panic attack lasted for around ten minutes on the floor of our kitchen, while my husband gathered information for me on the phone.  I stared at the cabinet, rocking myself back and forth, yelling to the Navy (who definitely was not listening) “he can’t leave tomorrow”...over and over again. We sat together and the deeply voiced wails permeated the walls of our home - this was not my life...I was watching those “fucking cancer movies”.  

While the intentions on all parts were pure and I do not hold my father accountable for any decisions he was making in the state he was; I was left in the dark from Friday until Monday - his sole choice.  We were in the midst of our PCS as four days prior to the last bit of our goods were packed and shipped to a foreign land. I sat in what felt like the emptiest home, without my comfy bed to fall back on - returning to the words that will haunt me for years to come.  

This is the part of this story where I cannot tell you that I processed it all, stood up, and said: “LET’S KICK CANCER’S ASS”.  Nope! In the day before my husband left, I plopped myself on our last piece of furniture (that will be sold before I leave) and he laid on half of my body.  He knew exactly where to place himself after years of telling him “I have anxiety! Lay on top of me!!!”, just to feel the weight of someone nearly squishing the thoughts out of my mind.  Maybe I should buy a weighted blanket, but it took me half the day to actually realize that he had been doing just that. But, he knew all of the right steps, and he implemented them - like someone had given him a “Read This If Candice’s Dad Gets Cancer” book.  

Not only did I find out he had cancer, but I was told there would be major news regarding his cancer to come out at any point, that afternoon.  So, not only did I process...I waited for what felt like the fate of our family. I looked at Will and said, “I don’t think I can go to dinner with our friends tonight”.  He said I could and that I needed to, “life goes on, regardless if he has cancer or not”. I let out a few more wails as there was no part of me that wanted to accept this reality.

By no means had I received a death sentencing of my father’s condition in that phone call.  But, my reaction was years of worry and tears, telling my best friend at the moment, “I won’t have any parents left. My mom...that selfish bitch”.  And that is probably where the universe laughed and said, “let’s learn a little lesson about your mother.”

See, my mom spiraled out of control after her father died of……..wait for it……….cancer!  I have tried to wrack my head for years into understanding the psyche of someone who could not see that their children needed her - choosing her own pain and addiction over her family.  But, by day three when I looked down and saw that my sweet animals had no water (for probably three hours) and that they were staring at me - I realized in that moment that I had not truly looked at them since receiving the news.  I looked down at Tiki in sobs saying, “I’m so so sorry”. Hugging his deliciously soft neck, I realized, this is how she started. Right there, I promised myself no vices. I cut back my caffeine intake, as it hurts my anxiety on a good day, and swore off any sips of alcohol while my dad is going through treatment.  If I was going to do this, I would do it correctly. I promised myself that if there would be any addiction, it would be to something that fuels my body. So, fitness was introduced and a return back to a desire for consciousness and awareness. I was subconsciously bound to see this diagnosis for the love that I had heard many say presents itself in the valleys of pain.

While I have many stories throughout this past week, it is part of my process to admit to the world that my father has cancer.  It is also my duty to myself to tell everyone that I am more scared than I have ever been in my entire life. But, I am no longer afraid of anything.  No move, no material item; nothing in this world can affect me like the words I heard on Monday morning. To that, I now live in willingness to see and an openness to receive tiny miracles of tenderness.  I am so filled with love, understanding, and compassion. That type of awareness that can only come when you are brought back up from your deepest pain and fears. While I truly don’t know how long it’s been since I washed my hair, I do know that my dad is the strongest freaking Jew you will meet.  He is one of the most stubborn men I know, and dammit...I am so proud that he is. That trait will carry him through his success.

So, we march on as a family and I am fighting through loneliness.  But, pain is relative, I have been this lonely before, and I came back out of the pits of his diagnosis to feel the sunshine on my face - I just can’t wait to feel them with my dad by my side, again.

Travel will be put on hold, I will spend much time in Washington State, and I will honestly live in constant fear of the unknown.  But, I realize that there is a difference between fear and being afraid - for I have no doubts in my father, no doubts in the amazing medical treatment that my family will ensure for him, and no doubts that life brings so much beauty in the worst times of your life.

This man has an army of people that love him, and he requests only one thing from you all - prayers.  

So, THANK YOU - on his behalf.

P.s. My brothers have physically and emotionally held my dad this past week and a half.  In that, they are shocked and excited when anyone wants to share their pantry - they are men, they love food!  So, if you feel led to do more, we have a house full of people that have hungry bellies and feet that are staying ever close to my father - not thinking about their own stomachs, and no time to prepare meals.  Please, contact me if you have the ability or want to feed these guys! Lord knows I would be doing it if I could.