The title of this blog is something that keeps repeating in my head, though it has a hell of a lot of other profanities in it. Well...this fucking sucks.
This weekend I was heading away to have a solo staycation to start celebrating my birthday. I love celebrating my birthday, I’m now 37 but my childlike wonder only gets stronger with age so the pride in my birthday only gets bigger every year. I usually feel it out and don't often do anything big, I just do whatever the hell I want to do which being so introverted usually means a lot of solo activities. But as I started out my Cori focused Friday morning, I received the news that my Dad not only had COVID (again) but had had a stroke and was in the ICU - as you’ve all read about a few posts ago.
To say the wind got knocked out of me was putting it lightly, and the sense of deja vu was overwhelming. The plans of the day/night and weekend obviously changed as it was a waiting on the edge of your seat situation. My husband joined me at the hotel I booked and we went through a few waves of confusing feelings and ordered a ridiculous amount of pizza (my Dad LOVES pizza). We talked through all of the scenarios, the what ifs, the logistics… I mean I am literally on a nearly deserted island, across the entire world, while there is a global pandemic still raging. If I go home, it would have to be a full move home. If I stay, I wouldn’t be able to hold my stepmom Nancy close and hug her in the back breaking, tight way my Dad hugs.
As the days of the weekend rolled on, I continued to have a confusing and heavy time. A whole lot of anger, a whole lot of worry, and a whole laundry list of other feelings and emotions I couldn’t even put words to. Then, on Sunday night at 7:30 pm, while Jake was busy cooking me an epic steak dinner to celebrate the coming of my birthday I got the update that it wasn’t looking good and that Nancy had been able to spend 5 minutes with Dad. I took a few minutes to have the wave of dizziness and the vice on my chest go away and called my brother. He was driving, pulled over the car and I broke out in tears giving him the update that he hadn’t had a chance to read. What a blessing that I was able to do that in person on the call because by 7:45 pm Nancy asked if we could do a video call together, and we both knew what that meant.
We held each other virtually as Nancy said the worst sentence that she will ever have to say and we will ever have to hear. My Dad passed away.
Even typing that right now I call bullshit on that fact and still do not accept it. My heart, and my husband's heart immediately broke for Nancy - I couldn't digest the fact that she was home alone, I couldn’t comprehend that she was in an empty house filled with my father while having to share this news over and over again to others. I offered to make a few calls myself. Telling my aunt and uncle and his close friends was surreal. By that point I was numb so it was strange, painful and heavy to say the sentence myself to others and hear their heart break through the phone.
As the hours passed it slowly became my birthday. Nancy and I were just talking about how angry my Dad would be at the timing of this. He’s so pissed off right now about this whole situation I know it, but he’s even more mad at it affecting my special day. Sleep came for about an hour and I went online and saw that the news had broken across social media - and at that moment, it was 3:04 am, the exact time of my birth. So I shared my first post about him.
What I’ve seen through Nancy’s post, through my post, through all of the radio stations posts, through his friends, family and coworkers posts is a common thread that brings me so much comfort. The words class act, bright, helpful, supportive, (to name a few) run through every thread. The element of “Oh NO” is felt universally. How cool it is to see just how many lives he touched in so many ways?
As some of you might know, I’ve had a rocky road with my Dad in my adult life. So many different things factor into this and none of it is made any easier by the fact that I have lived abroad since 2006. No matter what was happening between us, the love was never absent. Taking time for myself when we were struggling in our relationship was the only way I could protect myself and my heart as I worked through my own life and my life with him.
Last year when I went home to him, I called him after the immediate scary times had passed and charged through the difficult conversation of both of us sharing our truths of ourselves and our relationship. We both cried, we both listened, we both were honest with ourselves and each other and we were able to fully see each other's perspectives on the relationship.
Even writing this now, I have ZERO regrets. There isn’t a single thing good or bad I didn’t say to him. I never ended a call or text chain without telling him I loved him and I never gave up. When he was going through his stem cell transplant and the worst of the treatment I sent him messages when I went to bed and when I woke up. The time difference and distance made everything harder - and throw in a fucking global pandemic to make it extra interesting. I was always afraid to fall asleep knowing all the things that would happen during his day time I would be missing.
What's really infuriating is how I spent over a year losing sleep, in full anxiety worrying about my Dad and Nancy - only to have I’ve finally seen him healthy, happy and being himself again. I loosened up and let my guard down. That’s a catch 22 in itself. How lucky I was to see him be him and do the things he loves and have that be my last memory, while at the same time it didn’t prepare me for this.
The last time my brother and I spoke to my Dad was on February 12th. My brother had just arrived in England that day where he and his family moved while he works on his masters degree. We got to talk and laugh and show off our houses. My Dad got to see his two children living international lives, being successful and continuing to learn and grow ourselves.
Last week I had bought a brand new microphone, one that I knew he would say “That’s sharp” if I showed him and recorded my first ever solo/self promotion podcast interview talking about Mental Health in business and announcing that I’m starting to freelance as a consultant. It airs either this week or next week and I couldn’t wait for him to listen. I was so proud of myself, having used all his tips and tricks to be clear and confident. I know he would have been proud of me too.
This isn’t real. It can’t be real…. But it is.
Seeing the outpouring of love across Minnesota (literally from head to toe of the state, I just heard a clip from KQDS the Duluth radio station he worked on before I was even born) and hearing the various stations share memories about him is so beyond helpful though it really hurts because it makes it real. The amount of people and the amount of lives he impacted gives me strength to carry on the "Dan Culhane way of life".
I look like him, I have the dry and often confusing sense of humor he does, and I will continue to “learn something” as he often ended his calls and conversations from childhood until just a few weeks ago, every day for the rest of my life.
Thank you all for being this huge community of love that I can feel all the way here in Indonesia. Thank you Patty for setting up this blog so we could all hold him and Nancy during this difficult journey. And thank you Nancy - I can’t even begin to list all the ways I want to thank you. I love you.
This is my favorite photo of us. It’s from when we were both younger, happier and had just come back from a road trip that was filled with sharing memories and scattering the ashes of his father.
I can’t wait to take that trip again knowing he’s with me.