Relearning Who I Am 

Struggling to find myself after my father's passing

In the last four months, I went through a break-up, got laid off from my job, and was present for the death of my Dad. I think we can safely call that a triple travesty.

The good news is that the break-up was ultimately the best decision for both of us. And my job, which did afford me the opportunity to do some incredible work and make amazing friends, was, unfortunately, also a victim of our dicey economy.

The death of my Dad is not as easy to parse.

Intellectually, I can tell you that there's relief in my Dad's passing. He struggled with Alzheimer's for nearly 15 years, and his last two years were the most debilitating and brutal to witness. I can also tell you that my family and I were at his bedside for his final days. And though he was heavily medicated and unconscious, I spoke to him, read to him, and spent the night with him. During those sleepless nights, I alternately thanked and apologized to him — for the gifts he had given and all of the things I felt I had done wrong.

I will never know if he heard me, but I suppose that's not the point.

Writer Anne Lamott said, "After your father dies, defeat becomes pretty defeating. When he's still alive, there are setbacks and heartbreak, but you are still the apple of somebody's eye ... And right then ... I understood that the man I was calling for would never come back. Because I understood that the man I was calling for was dead."

The thing is, when my Dad died, I wasn't just calling out for him. I no longer knew who I was because, I thought, half of what made me me was no longer here.

Rather than continuing to fight against that notion, I gave into it. I will spare you the crying, wailing, keening, and insomnia because honestly, that still comes and goes. But what appeared after the universe took a wrecking ball to my life — as one friend so succinctly put it — was not what I was expecting: waves of support, in the shape of gay friends, straight friends, black friends, white friends, new friends, old friends, mere acquaintances, and professional colleagues. In e-mails and phone calls, text messages, glasses of wine, casserole dishes, and then, oddly, a drag show.

It's true. Two weekends ago, The Chart hosted the Alliance For Full Acceptance Drag King Show, a fundraiser for the GLBT advocacy and education organization. If you haven't witnessed a girl in drag, you are missing one of the wonders of the world. I worked the door for the event that night wearing my Dad's fedora (and his father's before that).

In the hoopla that was that evening — the laughter, fun, bravery, irreverence, pride, and performance all humming together in one giant bass line — I started relearning who I am: the daughter of my now-deceased Dad, a gay woman, friend, co-worker, social justice seeker, loud laugher, and writer.

My reason in telling you this is simple. Death is the great equalizer. It comes to us all no matter what party line we vote and no matter who you call your partner. I know my grieving has only just begun, and it will "take a village" to see me through. That means you.


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