Thomm Quackenbush, author

I somehow thought I wouldn't miss him. I guess sometimes I just don't think things through clearly enough. I thought that the hard stuff ended after he died, that things would only get easier, because they tell me that time heals all wounds. Maybe my wounds are simply impatient. Little things remind me of him… Netflix accounts, kids on scooters, carrot cake, baby powder, breathing… It's hard to begin to tell people how much this still hurts, like I've used up my pity points for all of eternity and I don't have any right to keep harping on the things that hurt me. Like its time to make room for everyone else's drama, and their troubles. Everyday I miss him. I miss him in ways in which I never even really knew him. I wonder how I could have known him more, or if in fact its only death and hindsight that make me think I could have known him. I don't really think anyone knew my father, least of all my father.

I had this fantasy today that I would write a book. A best selling novel with some wonderful title and a subtitle that read "A girl's journey to finding her father." A real heart wrenching tale of how through death and my rebirth I was better able to know him and thus myself. It's a crock of shit, I think. I don't see how learning to say "parent" instead of "parents" could ever teach me a lesson I want to learn.

Did I watch enough movies with him? Have enough patience with him while he was sick? Did I go to my room when we could have watched Monk together? How often did I blow him off because I was so incapable of getting close and I learned it from him? (I'm sitting on my porch and staring at my fig tree that was given to me when he died. I've kept it alive so far but I worry that if I kill it, I kill him again) I promised myself I wouldn't ever regret the last time we had together. That I would bathe him, turn him, clean him up, love his rambling and support his head when he drank root beer. I would make him my life for the time we had left because I wouldn't be the one who regrets. I wouldn't be the one who says, "I wish I could have held his hand." No- I would be the one holding on. I did it. I don't regret a moment I had over the course of the last several months, not anything… Except this one time. Oh, and that other time. And did I handle all of that the right way? Should I have done that one thing differently?

I thought I did it all the right way and now I'm learning that despite my best efforts there was no right way. I regret every moment, every second I didn't spend there, every time I got impatient, I regret all my actions that maybe made it seem that I was selfish. I regret all my wants and needs, because what should have been more important to me than the needs of a dying man. I regret putting myself first, even though I repeatedly told myself that "I'm not the one dying." I think I was wrong on that account too. I am the one who died, only my heart beats and the bills still come in the mail.

It feels as if I've been forgotten in a way. That my differences, my stench of death makes me isolated. I feel as if it's me and them. Like I'm the member of this club- this death club… "Have you ever watched someone die?" "No? Oh, well then have a nice day." "Yes, yes you have? Thank god because I thought I would lose my mind alone." It's us and them now… those of us who have seen breath leave the body and have had to close their father's eyes for the last time and you- you who cannot imagine what its like to see your protector gasp his last breath and not recognize your face. They tell you death is peaceful. Death is not peaceful, my children. It is not a respite after a long life of toil. It's not the sight of the angels hovering over your bed, it's not a body finally at peace, it's painful and awful and terrifying and you start to breath like a fish. Like a body out of its environment, and you scare your children and the cats hide. This is death, it's not glorious and comforting. It's lonely no matter who is there and it's final. It's not grandpa going to sleep or Fido in doggie heaven, it's gasping and the look of horror as your brain stem ceases to function and I would rather die alone than let others see me that way. I would rather die alone.

I couldn't afford to buy my father carrot cake. I took him to a street fair, wheeled him up and down and looked at the craft vendors. He wanted carrot cake from the church's bake sale, and I had no money and he forgot his wallet. They looked at us with such pity, this child and her dying father. Instead of giving him a slice of cake we wheeled away without it, and I never forgave myself for not going back and getting it for him. I never forgave them for not giving it to the dying for free. My heart feels like it's breaking and it's because I couldn't protect him. I couldn't give him the things he wanted and I couldn't make the world treat him with love, or tenderness. I wanted to dare someone to say something about us- to point and laugh to run past us and startle him, just so I could hit them. Just so I could rub their faces in the fact that he was dying, so I could get angry at someone other than myself, so I could protect him from something since I couldn't protect him from the disease. I don't know if I will ever eat carrot cake again, its sweetness will not be the balm for my bitterness.


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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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
On Amazon
On B&N
At Double Dragon