27 August 2008

Ten Years Gone

"The measure of a man's character is what he would do 
if he knew he would never be found out."
- Thomas B. Macaulay, British writer/poet/historian/politician (1800-1859)


I wrote the following ten years ago, in November 1998:

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The last nine months or so have been a juxtaposition of emotional highs and lows and a fierce test of my intestinal fortitude. I've experienced some of the most intense satori followed by the deepest depression and confusion in my life. In between these monumental peaks and valleys have been periods of happiness and wonder, terror and loneliness. My mental stability and emotional constitution have been stressed farther than I ever dreamt they would be, and I'm not out of the tunnel yet. At least now it appears that I can see a light at the end. Maybe...

On August 27, 1998 my father died of pancreatic cancer. He was not quite 61. It came suddenly and was wholly unexpected. During the first part of April he was running five miles a day and playing handball weekly. He caught what he thought was a flu bug that he couldn't shake. A couple weeks later it was diagnosed and four and a half months after that he was dead. My stress was immense and brutal and I can barely fathom what my mother and sister must be going through.

My father, not surprisingly, was quite Zen about the whole process. He did not want to die, and fought hard, but it was too far gone. I'm thankful that there seemed to be less pain than some cancers that I've read about. The cancer had spread so thoroughly that no surgery or chemotherapy could be attempted. Alternative and holistic methods that he tried seemed to help, or at least slow the advance (even to the degree of surprising his western doctors). Unfortunately it had become too pervasive. One estimate said he possibly could have had it for over a year, and it would not have been detected by a 'normal' course of bloodwork or tests.

He stoically planned the funeral, down to the last detail - even interviewing the morticians to determine which one he liked best. This took much of the burden off my mother and the rest of the family. One of the great things about my mother and father is that they are extreme realists. They understand that you do as much for yourself as you can in life, but some is left to chance and destiny. They accept that and deal with it. That attitude and their incredible strength through the whole bizarre and terrible event helped both my sister and I deal with it as best we could.

I'm still trying to come to terms with it, and I still in many ways don't realize what has happened. Days seems to drift by without me really being connected. It oftentimes feels like everything else is moving just a shade faster than I am and I have to squint and concentrate to catch up. Sleep has become somewhat of a joke and drifting in and out of consciousness throughout the night would be a more accurate description. Depression and insomnia have become unwelcome staples in my diet.
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And so now, here I am ten years on. The depression and insomnia have finally been left behind like worn out shoes that were no longer needed. The anxiety attacks and agoraphobia have all but ceased. It's been quite some time since I woke up not remembering he was gone, and then having the crashing realization all over again. The ache is still there, but it's now an old wound that I've become familiar with - I worry it and pick at it, but it doesn't hurt the way it once did. I still miss talking to him, especially after I've read a really good book, seen an interesting movie, or just caught a particularly beautiful sunset. I don't discuss it with anyone hardly at all. Not my wife, not my mother or sister, not my friends. I think that's my defense mechanism. Shove it down inside, tamp it down, hide it, cover it up, but keep it there like a precious stone to selfishly polish in the dark of the night. I am sorry I couldn't or didn't talk about it more with my family, I'm sure that didn't help them, but I had to figure out the journey the best way I could. It wasn't, and isn't, easy.

R.I.P. Gene Timmermans, a man of good character, I miss you dad. 
(4 September 1937 - 27 August 1998)
KJT - Seattle (2008) (Not sure when the picture was taken, maybe in the early 90's)

1 comment:

bubba said...

Nice tribute...