Thomm Quackenbush, author

I cancelled my afternoon classes today, for the first time. No, let me rephrase, I have numerous times cancelled classes because of things like competitions, but today for the first time I just emotionally couldn't do it. I was just so sad, and I can't get the weight of my tears to stop sitting on my face. I can't cry. It's just that overwhelming weight right behind my eyes.

I wanted to call someone. To just make contact and tell them how much this hurts, but what do you say? "No- nothing has really changed per se, but my father lost his glasses and now I'm completely wrecked." What kind of sense does that make? I feel like a little kid, who for lack of anything else to say will just cry the same words over and over again, hoping this time they will go away. I don't want my father to die, I don't want to say goodbye to him, or to think about my wedding, knowing he won't be there to see me married. I don't want to think about the fact that he'll never see any of his grandchildren, or that if and when I go to India, I will have to say goodbye to him (if he's still alive) and walk out the door of his apartment knowing its likely I will never see him again. How do you walk away from someone with the knowledge that you will not have another chance to say the things you need to?

Most days, most minutes, don't feel like this. Usually I'm the one who can tell relatives, and tell friends that "this is part of life" and no-"don't feel bad, of course I can handle this on my own." I told my cousin that I wanted him to lean on me, that this must be so hard for him, and of course I was there to help him. I sat on cold slate stairs on the front porch of a home within which lived a complete family, a mother, father and children. Parents who would still be there the next day, and children who would grow up and not remember their uncle. I sat on the steps to that perfect life and held my adult cousin's hand and told him I wanted his grief in addition to my own. I said he could lean on me, I said all the right things and voiced all the right platitudes.

My phone just rang- my friend Sara, who no doubt would have listened as I picked up crying... Instead I let it go to voice mail, because again I have to ask myself- "What would I say?" I cannot verbalise at all the ups and downs of this; the guilt of not being with him every moment, every day, not cooking for him, or bringing the dog to see him, or even planning lunches. I am held down by this ideal of the perfect way to act around the dying, while still maintaining my own sense of aliveness and I don't always know how to do it. I keep reminding myself that I'm not the one dying and not to live like it, the only issue is, that he IS the one dying and I don't know how to make him not live like it. (I want a cup of tea)

I vacillate between wanting all this attention and not wanted anyone to know about this. I don't want their pity or their words, or the ideas that death is natural- I know all the books, I've felt all the mantras, I can look at all the greeting card platitudes with their pastel letters and endless beaches and it doesn't help. I want to scream- "Why aren't you worried everyday about me? Why don't you call just to see how I'm doing, please don't make me come to you because I will never do it... And afterwards, could you please leave me alone and lets pretend none of it ever happened?"

My heart is so lonely, and it feels like no one else could ever feel the way I do at this point. That for all the words, no one really could get the fear, the bile in the back of my throat, the need for all this to be over, and the guilt, Goddess Bless! The guilt is the worst part of it all. The need to still have my life, to still go to grad school and have Thomm and explore the Mountains, the need to still have important adolescent issues while still managing to acknowledge that in the scheme of this none of my little life things make any difference in the big world. Each day I can wake up and think "Hey if I get rejected from school and least I'm not dying" or "So what if I have to cancel my trip to India at least I'm not dying." But then, sneaking in is the question: "Why didn't you go see your father yesterday instead of having fun with your friends? You can always see them" or better yet "How dare you be so concerned about training and competition when your father is at home dying? Why aren't you with him, making the most of these last of days?" I am striving to find this balance in a situation in which balance is unfathomable and if I'm lucky standing on one foot on a rope, on a boulder, balanced on the back of turtle will be stable at least for this afternoon. (I want a cup of tea)


Emily is a strong woman fighting against her body and soul to earn her wings. She is or has been a nationally ranked blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do, a two time inducteee to the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, an animal control officer, a graduate student, and a groovy person.


Stars in the Daytime
Stars in the Daytime


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