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Something for my dad
Frisbee at the hospital, Costco runs, and the grief we carry
A note of context: I played ultimate competitively for a long time, and this newsletter began as an effort to examine life through the lens of the sport.
It’s November, and I’ve been thinking about how this time last year my dad was in the hospital almost the entire month, and his doctor of 20-something years told me he’d probably have a “life-ending event” in the not-too-distant future.
Frisbee and Dad being in the hospital go way back. The summer after my first year of college, he had one stay that lasted two weeks and included a night when a doctor said my mom and sister may want to fly out because tomorrow could be goodbye. I’d go sit with him most days, and unless he wanted me to run out and get him a Coke or whatever else the nurses wouldn’t let him have, the first thing I’d do was plug my laptop into the ethernet cable and read RSD and Hector’s blog. I was enthralled this whole thing existing beyond the B-team tournaments I had been to in the year prior.
During this stretch, my brother and I would go out and toss in the field across from the hospital when we wanted to breathe real air. Our dad was threatening to die, again, and throwing helped us forget that.
Another time, during my last season in DC, Dad was back in for some reason or other when the Breeze were about to play our season opener. I sent out a tweet asking whether someone in Seattle could somehow get the livestream in front of him, and a guy named Michael, who I barely know, took a laptop to my dad’s hospital room and sat and watched with him. When ultimate players talk about how much they love “the community,” it’s not all trite.
Dad died in February, and the most important things I could possibly say are that I love him and I miss him. The daily churn can make it so easy to forget that.
In the spirit of making space for what we’re all carrying, and to somehow salute last November and it being over, I want to tell you a bit about him.
When I started writing this, I was on the last inch of a fruit smoothie from Costco, where I had gone to get a new pair of glasses. I hadn’t stopped to think about Dad and how he’d be there.
Dad loved Costco. No, that’s not quite right, even. Dad lived and breathed Costco. Dad was intoxicated by Costco. The place sang a siren song written for his ears only.
I strolled the aisles, knowing I’d find him. 10-packs of underwear and socks; boxes of coconut-covered almonds that, if he got them today, would sit in the pantry until 2030, when I’d stuff as many as I could into my bag before heading to the airport and think of him when I ate them at home.
The man used to send us to Costco to buy milk and only milk because two gallons came in a pack and each was a dollar cheaper than anywhere else. That battling the Costco parking lot and dropping by the grocery store are two very different things was immaterial to him.
What really took me there was looking up and realizing I was standing near the return counter. He kind of lived there. The people who worked it knew him personally. He had charmed them all while returning everything from half-eaten pumpkin pies to 5-year old space heaters. I’m not kidding.
Piles of receipts bigger than a lot of books. Going out, just to buy stuff. Going back out, just to return stuff. My mom has allowed herself a few jokes since he died, and she landed a good one early on when she said we should spread some ashes at the Costco return counter. Even he would have laughed.
Some people drink, some get high, some work to death. Dad shopped, and Costco was where everybody knew his name.
Nobody ever really taught me to grieve. I don’t think anyone taught the people who could have taught me, either. It’s not something we as a society make much of a thing of. Even with our deepest hurts, say a few words and keep it moving, right?
But the yielding. Getting out of its way and just sitting there, hurting. Putting memories out there and doing nothing more— letting them float. Grief can break you wide open, to the point of seeing: this is part of who I am, too. I’m not whole without it. It’s the only way to feel whole.
Can you imagine what we’d be if we let ourselves feel the grief we’re carrying?
I try to cry anytime I get the chance—any time that energy comes to me. There’s nothing more precious than tears. Fall into grief, keep falling, and you’ll eventually land on love.
Without grieving, we miss so much.
Let’s write together
This coming week, I’m hosting two writing groups: one on Wednesday from 6-8 EST, and one on Friday from 1-3 EST. Both are one-off, drop-in-if-you’d-like-to-be-there things. I’d love to have you join, so email me back or fill this out if you think this is for you!
I hear from people all the time that they’d like to journal more, and there’s a very good reason for that. Sitting down and letting your thoughts flow feels really good.
If you’d like a little help with getting going, these groups will help. The format is simple: I’ll provide a loose prompt, we’ll write for 10 minutes, and we’ll all share what we wrote. Then we’ll repeat until we run out of time.
If the sound of writing and sharing with others is a little scary, I definitely feel you. One thing I’ll say is that when participating in similar groups, I’ve found there’s a sweet spot, where I write and say things I may not have expected myself to be open but also where I refrain from sharing what I want to keep personal.
The other is that Katharine, my partner, joined a one-day class with me with the caveat that she’d write but may not feel comfortable reading. Once she wrote and heard a few others share, she felt ok taking that next step, and she came away surprised by how good it felt to do it. She’s now looking for her own class to join.
Keep in touch, and tell a friend
The emails I get from readers are always a highlight of the time in between newsletters. Whatever’s on your mind after you’ve read this, feel free to reply directly to this email. It’d be nice to chat.
Also, if what I’ve written has resonated, I encourage you to share it with anyone you think would like it. Twitter, reddit, your team Slack or a text to a friend. I’m grateful for any and all efforts to help get this out into the world.