Posted in Family, Life

Conversations with my Dad

At this time, exactly one year ago, I returned to my apartment after work and sat down to call my parents, a daily ritual since I moved to Los Angeles. With my parents in Detroit, I knew I had to catch them before they went to bed. On this particular day, my parents had been in Ann Arbor. My mother was having some medical tests done at U of M. I had talked to them on the phone earlier but I looked forward to my nightly tradition.

When I called, my Dad picked up. We had our usual “Hi Daddy,” “Hi Daughter” exchange. My mom was already in bed and he was in the living room watching television. He was watching the western Silverado. So I talked to him about the cinematographer John Bailey, ASC and stories he told me about the making of the film. Then we segued into a discussion about Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, a guy I dated who was a former child actor and then he started giving me advice on my love life. This was typical for us. We talked movies, my job, his job, family stuff, my cats, their cat & dog and whatever other random subjects popped into our heads. I wish I could remember every single detail of that conversation but I didn’t really pay that close attention because we talked every night and I assumed I would talk to him again the next night. I do remember telling him I was suddenly feeling so tired and I wondered if I was getting sick. He told me he was really tired too and that his leg was really hurting lately. He told me it sucks to get old. I got on his case about getting his back looked at again and the new developments made with back surgery. I had done some research for him. We talked for about an hour. This was a little longer than usual. We averaged half hour conversations unless we had some interesting stories to share or some veterans thing to talk about. And the conversation ended the same as always, “I love you,” “I love you too,” “Talk to you tomorrow,” “K, good night,” “good night.”

If I had known that was the last conversation I was ever going to have with my Dad, I would have paid attention. I would have memorized every detail. I would have recorded it if I could. I would have asked him so many questions and told him so much more. And I never would have let him hang up.

The next day, I was not feeling well at all and I kept wanting to call him. But I waited. I knew I would call him when I got home. I would continue our nightly ritual. I knew he was working and he had my nephew’s baseball game. Plus, I wasn’t feeling well and I was considering going to Urgent Care and I didn’t want to worry him.

I wish I would have called him. I wish I would have listened to my instincts and the repeating record in my head telling me to call him. When I got home that night, I sat on my couch, getting ready to call my parents but my phone was ringing instead. It was my brother. He was calling to tell me that at my nephew’s baseball game, Dad collapsed in the stands. He had sat down, told the guy next to him that it sucks to get old and then he fell backwards. He had a massive heart attack, a result of Agent Orange disease, and he was gone. Just like that. They tried everything they could–one of the coaches was a cardiologist. They got him to the hospital but he had been without oxygen for too long and there was nothing else that could be done.

So exactly one year ago, at this exact time (6:30pm) I called and talked to my Dad for the last time.

I can’t believe that it has really been a year. I still talk to my Mom every day–OK, I think we actually talk several times a day. But it is not the same as hearing his voice, his laugh, his pep talks, his advice and his jokes. I got him for 36 years–though I didn’t do all that much talking in the first year. I also know how lucky I was to have that kind of relationship with my Dad. I was blessed to have this amazing man as my father. Now as we are approaching the official one-year anniversary of his passing, I am still in shock that he is gone. I would give anything to have him back for just one more nightly conversation.

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Posted in Family, Life, Relationships, Spirituality

Something Strange Happened: Signs From My Dad

I spent most of yesterday bedridden, recovering from an allergic reaction to food contaminated with black pepper (yes, I am allergic to black pepper), and I opted to binge watch shows on Netflix. At some point in the evening a close friend texted me asking for advice. During our text conversation, I opted to pull a tarot card for her. I grabbed the deck I use most often and took out the major arcana cards, leaving the minor arcana in their pouch. I proceeded with a one card reading for her then placed them face d20160407_210740.jpgown on my bed. After a few minutes, I decided I should make myself some tummy tea and headed into the kitchen. I noticed that both my cats were in the living room, fast asleep with one on the couch and the other on a cat bed (resting up for their nightly 3am crazy house run). When I returned to my bedroom with my cup of tea in hand, I noticed that the minor arcana cards had slipped out of their pouch, perhaps when I climbed out of bed, and only one card was flipped over. I set my tea on the night stand and leaned over to see that it was the Ace of Cups trying to get my attention. I sat down on the bed just in time for my youngest cat, Elvira, to spring onto the bed, landing amongst the tarot cards before jumping to the top of her cat tree. Another tarot card flipped over, this time it was the Three of Pentacles. From previous tarot classes, I know that the Ace of Cups represents a new relationship and that the Three of Pentacles represents two lovers coming together to design/plan their future (often a marriage card). Considering I am single, the obvious conclusion is that someone is trying to tell me it is time to stop focusing on my career and start focusing on my love life. That someone would be my father.

Back in September, I went to my clairvoyance teacher, mentor and friend Adela Lavine for a medium reading with my Dad. Usually my Dad wants to talk about my brother, sister and my Mom. For the first time, he focused on his plans for me. “I raised you to be independent but not that independent.” He said that he was gifting me a man. He wanted me to have a family. He said that I had the career, now I needed the love.

My reaction to the reading…I pitched my first article to the magazine. I decided to continue working on my career. But my article just hit news stands this month so I guess my Dad is finding ways of reminding me of his plans for me. So my reaction to these strange new signs…I am heading to a production studio for a set visit for a possible story idea to pitch for my second article.

Posted in Family, Life, Universe, Writing

A Gift From My Dad

2016-03-03 14.33.17Nine months ago today, my Dad passed away. I won’t say he died. I can’t say it because it isn’t true, at least for me. His body died but his soul did not. He is still here. I feel him every day. And if I ever doubt that his energy is not present, he gives me a sign, a gift to remind me that he is still here.

I recently wrote a post about how I felt lost without him. I did not know who I was without him. Hours after I wrote that blog entry, I was given several clear signs of who I am and where I am headed. My article for our April issue was now a bullet on our cover. My managing editor told me how much he loved my article and that I should feel free to pitch additional stories in the future. So I pitched an idea in that moment (an idea that has a tie in to my father) and was told we could reach out to the studio/network in regards to making that my next story. I immediately called my Mom and we both agreed this had to be Dad guiding me. And if there were any doubts, events last night further proved to me that my Dad is guiding me back to my goals and dreams.

Last night, I decided to make a trip up to my storage space and finally put away my Christmas decorations. Normally I would just drop off my Christmas storage containers and leave but a gut feeling told me to reorganize some of the boxes I had piled in the back corner. I pulled out some boxes and noticed a file container on the second shelf way in the back corner of the storage unit. It looked like one of the containers I used for storing my tax information. I just had a feeling it was important so I made my way back there to retrieve it. To my surprise, it was filled with all my writing samples from high school, college and my years working as a publicist. I even found my acting headshots from college. I cleared a space and sat down on the floor, reminiscing about my past and a time when I considered myself a writer.

I flipped through the different files and stopped when I spotted a blue folder labeled “Grandpa.” I knew it contained a story I wrote in high school about the day my grandfather died of a sudden heart attack. I pulled out the folder and immediately started crying when I saw my father’s handwriting. For months I had been searching for the letters I received from my Dad my freshman year of college. I thought they were at my parents’ house. I had no clue that I had them with me the entire time, in my storage space and with a story about the death of my Dad’s Dad. There they were, in this folder with the story and two writing awards I received—one for the “Grandpa” story and another for all the articles I wrote for my college newspaper “The Daily Trojan.” What a coincidence to find them all together.

So I read the letters, struggling through the tears. My Dad wrote these letters during my first few months at college. I had moved to thIMG_20160302_171925e other side of the country to follow my dreams and attend USC. The funny thing is that his advice in these letters applies to what I am struggling with today. He tells me he is proud of me and he misses me (but not to get cocky about it—my Dad was Han Solo). “I truly believe you know what you want to do.” And when it comes to my dreams and goals, his advice: “You just hang in there and go for what you want.”

He wrote me these letters almost 20 years ago. And for anyone who knew my Dad, writing was not his strong suit. One letter he wrote over a course of a week—adding the date each time he started writing again. It meant a great deal to me back then that he would take the time to write to me and it was like winning the lottery to find these letters now. I am once again at a point in my life where I need his advice and guidance. He found a way to give me the exact pep talk that I needed by putting these letters back into my hands. (Thanks, Daddy!)

Posted in Family, Life, Relationships

Who Am I Now?

On June 3rd, 2015, my life forever changed. The most important man in my life left his earthly body and took a huge part of me with him. I no longer view the world the same. I am no longer the happy-go-lucky optimistic and often naive girl who only wanted to see the good in people. My rose-colored glasses are gone as I have had to face the harsh realities that my guiding light, my role model, my father was never coming back.

I know now that my relationship with my parents is not “normal.” Even though I have lived on the other side of the country for almost 20 years (with a few roaming years in other states), I remained close to my parents, talking to both of them several times a day, every day. I still expect my Dad to answer the phone when I call.

The last eight, almost nine months, have been beyond difficult and I have lost a lot of friends along the way. It is funny how I was raised to be a loyal person, always there for the people I care about when they need me. But when I hit a difficult road, the majority disappear. “Oh, I am going to take you out to lunch every day.” Haven’t seen or talked to that so-called friend since June. “Why are you still so sad?” That was said to me weeks after my father’s passing. I even found out that someone who claimed to be my best friend since college was asked to be by my side when my family called to give me the news and she told my sister that she just couldn’t do that. She couldn’t be there for me during a moment that she knew would be the worst moment of my life.

So my life has changed. I cherish the friends who have been there for me–they are my extended family. They understand that every day is a struggle. I just want to go to work and go home. I want to talk to my Mom all the time. I talk about my Dad all the time. I cry all the time. I want to be alone more. I am confused about my life goals. I am lost. I hate being asked, “How are you?” No one wants the real answer to that question. I will lie and say that I am fine when I really am not fine. I am far from fine. I am simply surviving. I am going through the motions. Everything is an effort as I try to figure out my life without my father.

I know many don’t understand my attachment to my father. I am his mini-me. He taught me how to install a garbage disposal when I was 3. He loved movies and cameras. He would project 8mm movies and cartoons on a large screen for us when we were kids. And every time he bought a new camera, I would get his old camera. I became a Star Wars fan because of my Dad. I went to film school because of my Dad. I became a photographer because of my Dad. I worked with veterans and General Motors because of my Dad. When I was in college he wrote me letters about how I was living out his dreams. Now that he is gone, I feel lost. I don’t know who I am without him.

Posted in Family, Life

Daddy

Since this is my first Father’s Day without my Daddy, I wanted to share a poem I wrote for him when I was in college. I read this same poem at his funeral on June 9th, 2015.

     DADDY

Sitting in your family room chair,

Your remote control in one hand,

A feisty little puppy attacking the other.

Glancing in my direction and smiling

As the mirror image of you sits on the couch.

Instead of watching TV, I watch you,

Sitting there in your sweatpants,

Relaxing in a room built by your own hands.

You, content just watching TV with your faithful dog at your side,

And your youngest daughter home from California.

I notice your gray roots, dyed since the age of nineteen, now taking over

Normally a sign of old age, but on you, a sign of endurance,

A six foot three pillar of strength that holds our family together

With your Popeye arms and legs and the belly of a Buddha.

You are the superglue that fixes even the smallest broken pieces

Bonding us all together for a lifetime, no warranty needed.

I notice the orange ring around your chest

A daily reminder of your days of water patrol in Vietnam,

Agent Orange seeping through your camouflage.

A memory you fail to discuss

But a memory that drives you to fight and protect

No soldier left behind, no veteran left behind.

Your hands, covered with scars and calluses,

Reminders of your hard work, starting at the age of 14

When your parents concentrated on raising your seven brothers and sisters.

Hands that could repair anything.

(Except the stupid, you can’t fix stupid)

Hands that picked us up when we fell down.

Suddenly you burst into laughter, watching a Bruce Willis flick on TV.

I watch your eyes as you laugh, your crystal blue eyes.

I can see a blue ocean of emotions reflected in your eyes.

The memories of surviving a devastating war zone.

The sadness caused by the loss of your parents.

The joy of renewing a lifelong love with your soulmate.

The contentment of a stable career after years of struggle.

And most of all, there is the love for three children.

I stare at your chest and watch your heart pound.

Three attacks to that very heart and it still

Continues to pound deep within your chest

Filled with the love you have for family and friends

Filled with passion for justice and a desire to help those in need

Filled with compassion for all walks of life

Even the damn cat who always wants to go outside

But not for the stupid, “you can’t fix stupid.”

My amazing father, you have been through so much

And you continue to see the world as you do.

You are my role model, my inspiration

I strive to make you proud, your mini-me.

You taught me the importance of standing up for my beliefs,

To always follow my dreams and never give up

Fight the good fight and help when you can

And no matter what happens, you can still find joy.

You can fight through the pain—take a Motrin if you need it.

So I sit here and I look at you, the man

Content, sitting in your chair, watching TV, playing with your dog

And you have your daughter home from California.

In Memory of Robert “Bob” Brinker

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July 14, 1949 – June 3, 2015