I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

27 Oct

I’ve never been a huge Wilco fan, mostly because I was doing other things when they were big. I like their music, in that abstract “Oh, that’s a good song. What’s that band called again?” sense.

This morning, I woke up with the opening track of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in my head on loop. As I looked for the pieces of my coffee pot, let the dog out (then clipped his leash on for a proper pee), found and set up the coffeepot (then let him out again to bark at something in the compost while the coffee boiled), the lyric “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” kept playing over and over.

Coffee beside me, I opened Spotify and started the album. I’m typing at 6:02a.m. as Jeff Tweedy sings over some lush keyboards & complicated background noise. My dad is dead.

He died last night around 9. My Aunt Ilene called first, then was immediately mortified that she knew before me. Groggy and more than a little stoned, I waited for the next call before joining my 8 year old in bed. My sister didn’t make me wait long. She called to tell me that she’d be at the house with our cousin and Dad’s wife for “them” to take him away. She was calm, and professional, and compassionate. I mumbled some words and went back to bed.

We’d been at the house the evening before, after hospice administered pain relief and gave us an estimate our patriarch’s life was measured in hours, not days. Cousins and siblings stood in the back yard joking, drinking beer, and talking about how glad we are pot is legal. (Except for one brother, who doesn’t agree. His lack of open disapproval was proof this was a Serious Occasion.) I left early to collect my kid and give my dad the privacy he seemed to want.

This morning, I woke to a text from my sister-in-law offering to come be with my daughter while I went over to say goodbye. I’m touched–it was a genuine offer, and I love this woman. I’m also confused. Didn’t we say goodbye? Did I miss yet another social cue? Lacking a religious foundation or specific cultural background, I don’t understand the protocols around death. I know what to do with birth and illness, but death…I don’t know.

My dad sent me away when I came to visit, both when he was lucid and when he was fighting to die. He asked that the grandkids not see him as he deteriorated. We had no lingering deaths in our family when I was young. We never talked about or practiced what he believed/wanted/expected about dying.

I tell my daughter her Papa loved her so much it hurt him to worry she’d be scared. It distracted him from his efforts to die. I tell her this because it’s true, and because the possibility that we were explicitly excluded because is too painful to think about thinking. I tell her that we come together when someone dies to celebrate that individual and to care for those still living. We do what needs to be done, practically and emotionally. I tell her these things because it’s all I know, and we have to do something.

Right now I’m putting Jeff Tweedy on loop about breaking my heart. Radio Cure is downright annoying. I can’t listen to the album. It’s 6:24. The kid is up. I’ve made her tea, distracted the dog, and refreshed Jeff Tweedy three times. It’s time to stop typing.

Later (soon), when other people are awake, I’ll check in to see what I can do for them. We have to do something.


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