I’m not sure why we build these walls around ourselves, especially to keep out the people closest to us…our families. As we get older, more independent or whatever, these walls become longer or deeper or taller—layers and layers that stick together on their own somehow.
There are a lot of things we should protect ourselves from in this world. Family probably shouldn’t be one of them, right?
Then, something happens. Like a trip to the hospital. And we scramble over these walls—hell, we’ll do anything to get past them—because we’re not sure if we’ll ever see the person we love on the other side again.
Right before Thanksgiving I found out my dad had a heart attack. Because there’s no need to build suspense in a blog post, I’ll tell you now that it was a close call but he’s okay.
I felt pretty much the same way I fid when I found out my mom had breast cancer again a few years ago. Helpless. Stuck behind a wall. On the other side of the earth even though I was only a handful of states away.
And, on a deeper level. I felt like a part of me was fading away. When you come from a pair of humans, you can’t help but think that.
Both of these times I tore down a chunk of that damn wall with the most menacing imaginary object within reach. Otherwise known as…I bought a $300 plane ticket, because I was hell-bent on hugging them in person and never letting them go.
The crazy stupid thing is this…it wasn’t all that hard. And each time with both of my parents, I wondered: Why the fuck does it take something so scary to get me here?
And, like the last time I saw my family, I realized just how insanely lovely they all are. All of them. Those I talk to regularly, and those I don’t.
I think it takes a while to arrive here…for everyone. Because we have all built these walls.
Some walls were built out of disappointment, some out of loneliness—others were built during the years of forgetting the unique laughter of those we love. It’s like our very own fortress of stuck energy.
When I first saw my dad, I can’t even tell you how that felt. In my mind I kept replaying the first words he said to me on the phone at the hospital: “Hi, baby.”
Hi—how simple and beautiful that two-lettered greeting was. How my heart broke when his voice cracked as he called me “baby,” like I was still his little girl instead of a grown woman.
I didn’t care anymore about coming to terms with that whole “death is a part of life” bullshit. I wanted my dad to stay with me—to live forever, to live past me even. I would have traded my life for his if it was an option. No contest.
I’m still suffocated by my own emotions just thinking about a moment that almost didn’t happen. When my dad said “Hi.”
He’s my hero…my dad, ya know?
And, it was surreal and bittersweet to see so many poignant things tie together during that one trip to Texas a few weeks ago.
We went to an estate sale and I did this silly pose with a cardboard cutout of Indiana Jones. As a kid I was obsessed with Indy. I loved his clumsy, heroic nature—how he saved the day with intelligence and strength he didn’t know he had.
Strangely, before I got on the plane to come home, my mom gave me a pile of never before seen pictures. One was this old picture of Dad, dressed up like Indiana Jones for Halloween.
So, I guess what I’m getting at—especially with the holidays upon us—is a request. To break down some of the walls you’ve built. Right now.
None of the presents matter, the money you’ve spent to make this seemingly perfect experience with the plastic decorations you painstakingly hung to celebrate glittering togetherness. Your family is the gift. None of that other shit matters.
Love your family now as much as you can. Not when it’s too late and they don’t know how much you love them. Pick up the phone. Buy a plane ticket. Break down a chunk of the wall.
And love them.