Category: Blog


Normal.

I don’t know what “normal” is anymore. Some nights I wake up and I think I’m back at my dad’s house and he’ll be sleeping upstairs. Every single day, something will make me think of him and I’ll think I should give him a call, or I’ll expect a call from him. We’ve never gone this long without talking.

I still don’t believe this is real. I fully expect my dad to jump out from around a corner, moustache bristling as he yells “SURPRISE!”, laughing his head off.

I don’t know what I feel. One second I’m angry, the next I’m sad.. 99% of the time I’m just numb.
I haven’t really been able to work much since I got the news, although I have done some work every single day. I work out, but.. it’s just the motions. Muscle memory of what I think I should be doing. I have so much I want to do, so much I want to accomplish, to keep making my dad proud.. yet all I can do is sleep.

I know I’m not the first to lose a parent. I know the pain will fade in time. I know my dad would thoroughly kick my ass if he knew I was moping around like this. He’d tell me exactly what he did about getting my first car; “If you want it badly enough, you’ll earn it for yourself.” He knew about my goals; what I’ve sacrificed so far and how hard I’ve worked. He wouldn’t want me losing sight of that. In fact, if I listen, I can hear his great, big heavy sigh right now, telling me I should know better.

If I could talk to him right now, he’d probably tell me to go for a drive and clear my head.. but cars and driving make me think of him. I will always, always, always love the memory of revisiting the roads he taught me how to drive on, in his monster 1979 3/4 ton 4×4. After I got my license, I hit those roads over and over again in my first car, and then in my Talon. I took dad back out onto those roads in the Talon, to show him just what it and his son could do together. To see my V8, quarter miles for pink slips, straight-line loving dad actually grab the holy shit handle, reach with his foot for a brake pedal that wasn’t there and say “okay! okay! okay! JASE! OKAY!” – all with a (somewhat scared) smile on his face…

He wasn’t only my dad. He’s handled the role of being both parents to me for a long, long time. He was my best friend. A mentor. A safety net and a sounding board.

I don’t know how to say goodbye. I don’t know how to even comprehend the thought of goodbye. There’s no normal in my life that doesn’t include my Grumpy Dad texting me random things at 3am or going off about conspiracy theories. There’s no normal where dad isn’t back home, putting on his fake grumpy act and smiling when people saw right through it.

Anyway, it’s Friday, so here’s my Mama Cat and the happy cup. This was a normal thing I used to do. Now I have to find a way to get back to work, like normal.

Dad

My dad passed away on June 15, 2020.

I didn’t have time to fly home to say goodbye. I didn’t have time to even pack a suitcase. One minute his nurse was saying he was cracking jokes as always; the next.. he wasn’t.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way for him. He’d been through so much these last 3 years. The heart attack. Quadruple bypass surgery. He quit smoking. Changed his diet. Started exercising more. Made plans to return to work, and how he was going to enjoy his retirement. Then, the strokes hit. He was blind. Paralyzed. He fought back. Did the exercises his therapists gave him and asked for more. He wanted to get better. He would sneak in tiny steps when he thought no one was looking just so he could get that much closer to being himself again. He told me, over and over, that he knew he could walk, if only he could remember how to take that first step on his own again.

He never did.

I will always love my dad. I always knew I was loved, even when we fought like wolves going for the throat. I will value the memories. I will value the lessons he taught me, and I want to share two of the most important ones with you:

Be yourself.
My dad was absolutely set in his ways, and he taught me to always be true to myself and not care what anyone else thought. He taught me that anyone that truly loves me will understand, and if someone doesn’t love me, they don’t matter anyway. I’m grateful I learned this at a young age and kept it with me.

Don’t wait to live your life.
My entire life, I knew there was something up with my parents’ relationship. There were moments of happiness, but they weren’t happy. He sort of asked me once when I was really young how I’d feel if the two of them split, and I told him honestly that if it meant my parents were going to be happy, I’d be happy too. He changed the subject and I forgot all about it until over a decade later, after they’d gone through a horrible divorce and my dad told me that I was the only reason he stayed. This man sacrificed years of his own happiness to do what he thought was best for his son. I reminded him that I would have been okay with my parents splitting, and told him that I wished they would have – but I understood that he did what he did out of love. After the divorce, he kept reminding me how he’d always wanted to travel, but still wouldn’t do it. He always had reasons about why he shouldn’t, for years and years, until he finally did take a trip to Bali. In the weeks after his return, I don’t know if I’d ever heard him sound happier. He told me how he wished he’d gone long ago, but now he was going to go on a lot more trips. He would text me in the middle of the night the names of places we were going to go.

I will miss so many things about my dad. The conspiracy theories. The frustrated sighs he would give me when I’d tell him to eat better. The car talks. The race he never had against the Talon and I. His plans to move off grid in a geothermal setup. The safety I always felt knowing he was there looking out for me. The occasional dad wisdom in a random phone call or when he’d take me out for drinks and sinisterly watch his son get drunk and overly talkative. I’ll miss that feeling of calling my dad to tell him about achieving a new goal with my business or fitness. Any time I had a project that involved me designing a shirt, I had to get one made for him so that he could wear his son’s work too. He might not have always known what I was doing, but he knew that if I was achieving a goal, he was proud of me.

I am proud to be his son. I love you, dad.

Merry Christmas

Ever since I first moved out and went away to school, I’ve gone back to my old hometown for Christmas. I’ve driven through blizzards, worked 20 hour days, done whatever I needed to ensure I could get back, so that my dad wouldn’t wake up alone in his house on Christmas day. Last year, due to his strokes, I was the one waking up alone in his house.

Many years ago, the only coffee shop in dad’s town started opening up on Christmas for a few hours, with some nice people volunteering their time and the cafe donating coffee and cookies for free, all so anyone that didn’t have anywhere to go, would. Dad and I would go every year for a quick coffee after we’d exchanged presents and got the turkey in the oven. Last year I had no idea what to do alone in dad’s house on Christmas morning, so I put his dog in the car and drove down to the cafe, now being one of those people that didn’t have anywhere to go. I set an extra cup out for my dad and called him in the hospital, maintaining our tradition of going out for that coffee. For a moment it felt comforting, but as I hung up the phone I knew I felt lost, with no idea what was coming next, or where to go; so I did what I always do when I need to think – I went for a drive. I grabbed a treat for the dog and jumped into dad’s car. We drove for a bit, I let the dog out for a walk, we drove some more and before I knew it, I was where I guess I subconsciously knew I was going all along – to visit my brother.

That’s him in the picture.

I never had a chance to get to know him. To the best of my knowledge, I never even spoke to him while he was alive, but I ever since I moved away I try and go talk to him at least once every visit back to my old town. I wonder about him a lot – rarely a day goes by without a thought him. I wonder what he’d be like, who he’d have grown up to be. I wonder what I’d be like as an older brother? Would he be creative as well? What type of career would he have now? What sort of cars would he have been into, and would I have ever let him win a race?

I stood there for quite a while last year, coffee in my hand, freezing my behind off while dad’s dog sat comfortably in the warm car, patiently waiting. I knew I’d been through a lot and times were sure as hell really hard, but visiting him always reminds me to be grateful. I’m still here. I have the opportunity and the ability to go through these hard times, and I get to fight to make it better. My brother never got that chance. Whenever life tries to knock me down, I get back up for both him and me.

This year, for the first time ever, I am not spending Christmas in my old home town. It’s been probably the worst year of my life, and I had no desire to wake up alone on Christmas morning in my dad’s house again. By my choice, I’m spending the day alone (with my two cats, who are scarcely letting me out of their sight). I am choosing to take these days back, for myself, for my mental and spiritual health. Yesterday I got in as much of a workout as my ongoing injuries would allow, did some work and indulged some time with my sketchbook. Today I’ve done a bit of work, cranked up super seasonally inappropriate tunes, poured a healthy shot of Jack Daniel’s into my coffee and enjoyed the moment. I stood in my window, raised my glass and gave a Christmas cheer to my little bro. I hope that wherever he is, whatever he’s up to, he’s happy, healthy, and proud of me. I’m working hard so that one day we both will be.

One Year ago today.

1 Year ago today.

I thought it was a good day. I hit the gym, trained legs. Went to a client event, stayed late and had a great night. I was crushing my fitness goals, I was closer than I’d ever been to my Dream, and life was going well.

1 Year ago today, possibly right around now, my Dad turned off the food cooking on the stove and, while it was cooling, decided to take Molly for a walk. My insomnia woke me up around 3 or 4 am, and I saw that I had a missed call from a hometown phone number. Somehow, I knew it wasn’t good. I checked my voice mail. I called the hospital. My dad’s doctor repeated the news from the message he’d left – dad had had a stroke while he was out walking Molly, and I should probably get back there as soon as possible. He let me speak to my dad for a brief moment, and the voice that I heard terrified me.

I caught the first flight out a few hours later, heading straight to my dad’s side.

In this past year I have become infinitely closer to some family members that I am sorry I didn’t know better sooner – but am grateful for our connections now. Their strength and compassion helped me through moments where I didn’t know what to do.

Tonight, one year after his stroke, my dad called me from his hospital bed to have a talk. Nothing big, nothing important, nothing really to say other than to talk for a while, and it was great. We talked cars, he told me how his recovery is coming, some of his plans for when he does get out of the hospital, and he may have even let slip a little bit of good news that not many people know yet. Our phone call went on for maybe an hour, and if I closed my eyes and imagined hard enough I could ignore the background hospital sounds and think that maybe he was calling me from his house. He told me that he’s doing his best to make that happen.

In this past year, I’ve struggled. I did the best I could but I know I could and can be dealing with my dad’s situation better. I got hit by a truck, which I may have mentioned a couple times. I’m still in pain every day from that, but I’m fighting through. I yelled at my grandma for the first (and hopefully only) time in my life. One of my biggest clients, someone who told me I was “like family”, shut their doors while I was back home dealing with my dad, leaving me with many months of unpaid invoices and no answers. I didn’t go after contracts I knew I could have got, if I wasn’t dealing with post-concussion nonsense. I sacrificed a car for no good reason. Had the biggest fight of my life with my dad – even bigger than the time he kicked me out of his house at age 16. I haven’t been able to work out, or even work as much as I used to, nor as much as I’d like.

But, fuck it. There’s no complaining here. I’m still breathing, and my dad’s still kicking. We can make the best out of today, and an even better tomorrow. I realize now that maybe dealing with dad’s mental condition due to the stroke can help me as I approach my post-concussion brain fogs – when I remember it! (You know me – if I’m not joking about things, I’m probably going to punch holes in walls.)

It’s crazy how much life can change in a year, a day, or in the time it takes you to take your dog for a walk. I can promise every one of you though, that some things will never change: I’m stubborn, I’m determined, and I’ll bloody well achieve every goal I set my mind to. My goal right now? Better than I was a year ago. Better than I’ll be tomorrow. Always growing, always improving. And as for my Grumpy Dad? Well, we all know he’s a stubborn such and such – and he tells me he’s going to drive again. I told him that if he wants to do that, he’s got to get through me first, and he laughed, and said it’s on.

We’re Tomas. We’ve got this.

Not better yet.

I’d like to thank Spotify for recommending Emo playlists for me the last two nights. It’s fitting.

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