For this year’s final episode, let’s hear from a son’s perspective of his father’s life and death. Alexander Fornwald recounts his memory with his father, Mark Fornwald, and his experience after he passed. Tina explains how helpful it is to have trusting relatives and friends to help you through the grief process, and Alexander shares his perspective about asking friends to be at the funeral. He describes how his father was a man of the community and a man’s man. Let’s join Tina and Alexander in this beautiful mother-and-son conversation.
Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach. I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others. Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide
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The Life And Death Of A Father From A Son’s Perspective With Alexander Fornwald
This is our last episode for 2023. Whether this is your first episode of watching the show or you have been with me for this entire 2023, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life, and thank you for taking value in what it is that we have to share. The conversation is with my son, Alexander Fornwald, talking about his grief journey, his experiences with his dad, and where life is for him now. Let’s get into the conversation.
Alex, thank you for doing this with me. This is my son, Alexander, and this is our last episode for 2023. I thought it was a good opportunity because, in 2024, I want to have more conversations with children whose parents have passed. I appreciate Alexander’s willingness to do this. I’m going to go to the day that your dad passed. Was I the first person to talk to you or did you receive a message from USO or somebody?
Ms. Bloom was the first one to call me. I remember I was out with my friends or I was going to go out with my friends. You had said that he had a heart attack or somebody. It was a text message at first. It was between you, me, and Katherine. It was like, “Your dad had a heart attack,” or something. I might’ve called you and I was like, “I was going to go out with my friends. Should I still go out?” Somehow, I got on the phone with Ms. Bloom. I feel like she was the first one I contacted. I don’t know. I can’t remember exactly who I was talking to at the time, but I think it was Ms. Bloom.
What were you doing in your life at that point in time?
I was in the Navy. At the time, I was in a school, which is the school that you go to before you get your actual job where they teach you how to do your real job.
Where were you stationed?
I was in Pensacola, Florida. That day, I and my friends had planned to go out to see a movie and then go to this Brazilian steakhouse.
That’s something your dad would like, a Brazilian steakhouse.
That’s where I was when I got the call.
Do you remember the day before when I was sending you pictures that your dad wasn’t feeling well and he was having gas? I sent you and your sister a picture. In one picture, we were in a restaurant eating. Do you remember that picture?
Yes, I remember that picture.
I sent you a picture of your dad sleeping and sitting up in a chair because he was saying that he had gas. He wouldn’t lay down in the bed. Do you remember that picture?
The Chinese food, you remember?
Do you recall the conversation with Ms. Bloom?
I remember I was in my dorm room and I was contemplating if I still wanted to go out or not because you guys had told me that he had a heart attack and that he was in the hospital. Things were still happening and everyone was like, “It should be fine. He’ll be okay. Don’t worry about it. Go out and have fun with your friends.” I was like, “I’ll go have fun with my friends.” That’s what we were talking about. It was like, “He’ll be okay. Go ahead and go out,” so I did.
That was the conversation with Ms. Bloom. Who is Ms. Bloom to you?
Ms. Bloom is the first lady of our pastor’s wife of the church that we went to growing up. It’s the church that I went to for my entire life that I can remember growing up until I left high school. She’s a pastor’s wife. My mom was a part of the leadership at the church so we had a very close relationship. She was also a disciplinarian at the school that I went to as well until fifth grade.
She’s sweet to you. She may have been a disciplinarian.
She wasn’t much of a disciplinarian to me.
For you. Let’s be clear about that part. That’s why. You had the conversation with Ms. Bloom about going out and that your dad’s going to be fine. Do you recall the next conversation after that you had with anybody?
As far as I can remember, I’m pretty sure it was you who called me. We were at the steakhouse. I was sitting there eating dinner with my friends, and then I got the call that he had passed away and it was final. I was eating dinner with my friends at the steakhouse.
What happened after that call?
I went outside and started crying. I sat on the sidewalk and started losing it.
Have you ever lost it like that before?
That level of emotion was only achieved when Tabi cheated on me. Besides that, I don’t think I had that much emotion over anything.
You leave the restaurant. You’re on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant losing it all. What happens after that?
My friends came out to check on me because I hadn’t come back in for a while. I said I was going out for a call. Time went by and I hadn’t come back so they came out to check on me. I told them what happened. Most things, it was all a blur after that point. I remember getting in the cab, going back to base, getting to my room, and losing it more. I was punching walls, throwing things around, and being mad. My roommate came and annoyed me or something. I blew up on him and told him to get out of the room, and he did. He left.
Do you remember what happened after that?
I was mad until I finally fell asleep. It was sometime between me going to sleep and getting home. We had made plans for me to go back home. I don’t know if that night, I went down and talked to the chief of the barracks to get everything ready for me to leave and go back home for the funeral. Either that day or the day after, that all got done. I remember leaving very soon after. It was either the next day or two days after.
Priscilla helped get your plane ticket.
I’m pretty sure that she did. She coordinated that part.
I remember talking to her.
Priscilla is Ruselle’s daughter, but a family friend. Having a community is so important. Sometimes, the people in your life, you have them there and you appreciate them being there, but when you’re in a crisis mode, you can’t catch everything. You cannot pick everything up. I could not coordinate Alexander getting home. My middle sister who is a retired senior chief, Ulanka, coordinated the USO to contact the Military installation to let him know there was a family emergency.
If you have trusted family members who can take some of that weight off for you and leverage that, it is important. It’s a fog. You’re so devastated. The emotions are raw. You’re trying to put together what has taken place and what that looks like. Thank you for recounting that. Do you recall coming home or what happened when you got there?
Not specifically. I got off the airplane.
Do you remember who picked you up?
Priscilla and my girlfriend at the time.
Let me ask you this. The circumstances around this time are foggy. Are there other things in your life that happened that are this foggy or do you think that’s entrapped around the grief?
In my adult life, not really. I can remember anything that I want to. Earlier in childhood, things were foggy from that. In my adult life, I can recount anything.
How old were you when your dad passed?
That’s part of your adult life. I want to share that because Alexander does have a really good memory. There are things that he can remember a lot of stuff that he tells me about. A lot of times, we talk about how that first year was a fog or different things that happened as he’s trying to recount something that was a pivotal part of his life. That grief fog has impacted your ability to recall all of that. I wanted to share that because I know you have a good memory and you recall a lot of things, but they may feel, “Who knows if he recalls that?” This is unique to this situation. Do you recall dealing with your friends during that time or them coming over to the house? The Wolf Pack, is it called?Grief can impact your ability to recall. Click To Tweet
That’s what you call them.
What do you call yourselves?
We don’t have a name.
I thought you called yourself that.
We went to Great Wolf one time and you started calling us the Wolf Pack.
You let it go?
Do they know I call them that?
I don’t think so.
They may know. Who’s the Wolf Pack?
I haven’t really hung out with any of these guys in a while because I don’t live in the same state as them, but we still talk and stuff. The Wolf Pack that she’s mentioning is my friends Tristan, Johnny, and Gabe. There are a lot of other people who could also be Wolf Pack material.
Those were some of your closest friends when you were in high school?
Do you recall any involvement with them during that time?
I don’t think any of them came over to the house or anything like that. If they did, I don’t remember. I asked a few of them to go to the funeral, like my closest friends, and they did show up. I remember a couple of my friends couldn’t handle the situation. They grew up with me knowing my dad through summer soccer or seeing him in soccer games. I remember my one friend, Zac, who showed up to the funeral but he couldn’t stay. He said hi to me and that he was there for me, but he told me that they were going to leave because he said it was too much for him.
Not particularly Zach, but what were your thoughts when people were saying that they could or could not come because it was too much for them? You didn’t care?
Yes. None of that. It meant enough that they had shown up. That was all that mattered. They gave me a hug. That’s as much as they could give to me. No words that they could have provided at the time were going to really mean much of anything. It would all be about the same to me. Them being there for five seconds was more than enough.It meant enough that friends had shown up. That was all that mattered. Click To Tweet
I wanted to talk about that. Thank you. What I hear you saying is you accepted what your friends could give you at that moment. A lot of times, people dealing with grief really get hung up on what people didn’t do. They get hung up on having this expectation that this person should have done this and they didn’t do that. What about you that made you not want to get hung up on what they couldn’t do and you focused on what they could do?
I would never get hung up on what someone couldn’t do or whatever for me. At least the relationship me and my friends have with each other, we are there for each other when we need each other. It doesn’t matter. That’s not even a thought that would cross my mind, like what they didn’t do for me. They were there. They were present. That’s more than enough for me. That’s an odd way of thinking, in my opinion.
For them to be thinking the other way?
Yes, exactly. It makes sense because you’re in grief here and mourning. I’m happy that they were there.
That’s something that somebody can leverage. Grief is exhausting. You’re being pulled in a lot of different directions. If you’re able to focus on what people can do, then it probably would serve you better than being wrapped up in what they can’t do. The relationship existed before your dad died. You knew that the death of your dad impacted them. You had to accept what they could bring and you knew a place they were coming from based on that relationship.
Everybody deals with grief differently. I didn’t want a bunch of people smothering me at that time. At that place in time, if 5 of my friends had all been around me for 1 hour-plus, I probably would’ve told them to go home because I wouldn’t have much to talk about or stuff at the time. I was in a fog and shut down mode. Them showing their presence was enough. To see a face that I know makes me happy. That’s all I needed.
Let me roll back a little bit before your dad’s funeral. You come home from the Military. I’m going to share something I remember when we were going to the funeral home to make plans for your dad. I want to say up until that point, I knew your dad had died and I knew that was your dad. Up until this moment, it was really about, “My husband had passed.” It was about this man that I had spent 32 years with. We were getting ready to leave the house. Uncle Jesse was driving. We were going to the funeral home. You walked into the bedroom and said, “Mom, can I have Dad’s watch?” Do you remember that?
At that moment, I was like, “His dad has died.” It was another level of that reality of what that meant. I said something about, “Don’t lose it or break it, or do something.” It was something like that. I was like, “You can wear your dad’s watch.” After that, I started thinking, “Everything that I’m doing, I have to let these adult children of mine be part of this process.”
You asking me to wear your dad’s watch made me realize as we were going to the funeral home that every decision that I had been making had been your dad and me. We worked as a unit. I needed to allow our children to show up and be part of a decision-making process that was impacting us all. You may have never realized that asking me for the watch made that much of an impact on me. I don’t know if I ever shared that with you.
What did you think about putting on your dad’s watch? What did that mean to you?
I don’t know the word to describe it. It was a sense of feeling closer to him. I’m not really sure. I don’t know. It feels good. It feels warm like it should be mine.
Do you remember being at the funeral home and making plans for your dad’s funeral?
I remember being at the funeral home. I don’t remember the plans. I don’t remember any specific plans other than I know Dad wanted to be cremated.
If I recall correctly, Katherine was responsible for purchasing and designing your dad’s urn. I thought you were responsible for the spray on the flower arrangement that went on top of his casket. I’m pretty sure that I gave that piece to you when we were at the funeral home. You worked with the funeral director to pick out something that you liked. There are a lot of details.
If I did, I have no memory of it.
Isn’t it crazy to think of something like that? Do you have no memory of any of that?
Yes. I never thought about it until now. If I picked out the flowers, I don’t remember.
Do you remember anything about all the family and friends being in the house?
I spent most of my time with my girlfriend at the time. I hadn’t seen her for months as well because I was in the Navy. I remember everybody walking around and stuff and everybody being there.
How did that make you feel?
It made me feel good seeing the support that we have and knowing that everybody’s there for me.To see a support system and know everybody's there for us feels good. Click To Tweet
We have your dad’s funeral. What I recall the most about Mark’s funeral was how adamant you and Katherine were about wanting to be in the receiving line when people were coming through. Do you remember that?
Are you talking about where we were standing near Dad’s casket and people went to see him and then they came up to us?
Yes. Why wouldn’t we?
I had no desire. You don’t remember that conversation at all?
My desire to want to stand there is more so I’ve been to enough funerals that I’ve seen that’s where the family stands. That’s where we were standing. It seemed normal.
You and Katherine were very adamant about wanting to do that and I did not. I remember when Mark’s dad died. I remember sitting there watching his mother stand feet away from this man that she had loved her entire life and watching all these people walk through and give their condolences. I thought it was torture to be watching from that perspective. It was torture to be sitting there and watching this woman.
Most of the people I don’t even think she knew because they may have been somebody that knew Myron, but they were giving their respects. I remember telling your dad, “I don’t think I would want to do that.” I’m close to the body of the man I spent my life with. To have all these people saying whatever I could probably care less about, I didn’t know if I had the capacity to do that.
At the same time, I could not allow you and your sister to stand there by yourself. I was in this room in the back losing my whole shiggity and trying to get myself souped up to come stand next to you guys and do that. That was so hard. I remember my siblings being behind me and there were a couple of times that I thought I was going to faint. There were so many people there. Did you think there would be that many people there?
I don’t know if I ever thought about how many people would show up to my dad’s funeral, but it wasn’t surprising.
Why is that?
He was a man of the community and a man’s man. He worked for the school. He knew a lot of people. He got around a lot. He drove around. He would walk into your front yard, knock on your door, and be like, “Would you mind if I hunt back here?” He would start a conversation with you. He would talk to people all the time. He’d stop and have a two-hour conversation with somebody in the grocery store for no reason. He talked to people all the time.
What do you mean your dad was a man’s man?
He hunted. He was an outdoorsman. He would do anything he had to do to take care of the family or the house in any way.
Let’s sit right here for a moment. What are some things that you remember most about your dad?
Things like that?
There are a couple, but something in our plumbing system was messed up.
In the bathroom downstairs.
Something was messed up. Instead of calling a plumber or whoever to come fix it, my dad had these lights sitting under our back porch that were the giant lights that you would put in a gym. There was someone down the road a little bit who was building a barn, a shed, or something. It was really big. He figured that they would need those lights, so he went down there and bartered with them. He traded the lights for the use of their excavation equipment and stuff.
I didn’t know any of this, but I came home and saw him in the backyard with one of those digger things, digging up the ground. I was like, “What is happening back here?” He told me how he did that. He bartered it. He traded. He didn’t go get someone else to do it. The fact that he even knows how to do that, put it all back together, and make it all work, he’s the man’s man.
The roots from the tree went into the piping for the bathroom downstairs and poop exploded everywhere. It was covered in poo-poo everywhere. We cleaned that down. He was not going to pay somebody. He knew how to do it himself. He bartered for the excavation equipment. The only thing he purchased was material. He had to go purchase the new piping to put down and to do that. He replaced all of that and put it back. He was so proud of himself that he had taken care of all of that.
That was a lot.
It was, but it was pretty cool to see him do all that.
He was back there for days doing that.
When he was done, he had talked about how crazy it would’ve been to pay somebody.
I can’t imagine. He was doing it for days. The amount of dirt that was moved, I was like, “Whoa.”
What are some other stories you think about your dad?
He could catch bees out of thin air.
Tell me about that.
We would be in the front yard doing whatever. We’re raking leaves, cleaning up sticks, or doing whatever and bee flies by.
With two fingers?
Yes. Like Mr. Miyagi with the chopsticks, he would catch a bee, hold it, and then let it go.
What were you thinking?
I was like, “What the heck? How are you doing that?”
Did he show you how? Have you ever done it yourself?
I have not caught any bees myself. It is a skill that has been lost a time.
What about your dad playing pool on Christmas Eve?
There we go. Tell me about that.
We used to go to Uncle Rolly’s house. Every Christmas Eve, we did the same thing. He had a ping pong table there. That was the only time we would ever play ping pong. My dad was really good at ping pong. He would beat me every single time. Every single year, he would beat me. He knew how to play ping pong and I played once a year. It’s not like it was too much of a competition.
Did he not beat everybody else in the whole thing?
Yes. He also would beat everybody else including me, my older cousin who would always be trying to beat him, and anyone else. He would never lose in ping pong. I remember I got a decent amount of ping pong practice because I started going into this one country club with Tristan, one of the Wolf Pack friends. They had a four-way ping pong table there. We would play a lot of ping pong so I got better naturally playing over time. The last Christmas Eve that we went to Uncle Rolly’s house, I beat him in ping pong finally. He wouldn’t let me win. He was a little upset about it. He was a little shady, but I beat him. I ran upstairs screaming, yelling, and everything. I was triumphant.
That was the last Christmas.
Do you know how old I was when he won on that Bluegreen?
That was a Christmas before I left to go to Iraq. I can’t remember.
12 or 14 or something like that?
Yes. It was twelve because when I came back, we went to Hawaii. You turned thirteen there.
When I was twelve years old, we were in Virginia somewhere.
We were Massanutten at the ski lodge where we have a timeshare.
We were at our timeshare. I don’t know where we saw it. There was an advertisement for a ping pong tournament. There was an adult bracket and then a child bracket. We went to the rec center and applied. I won the first couple of rounds and my dad won all the rounds that he was in. The kid who I was going up against in the last round, I remember he had the ping pong table sat up halfway. He had 2 or 3 ping pong balls. He was hitting them off the wall and back onto the table. I was like, “This guy’s really serious. I don’t know if I am nice enough to beat him like that.”
We went into the match. That dude did put up a good fight but I did end up beating him as well. I remember after my match ended, there were still a couple of matches for the adults because they had a bigger bracket. I remember I was watching my dad’s match and then he won as well. We both won the ping pong tournament, but the prize was a rent-a-movie or something like that. It wasn’t anything special, but it was the fact that we did that and it was fun.
Katherine and I stayed at the resort. You two came back with an orange ping pong ball. There was a picture you two took, smiling about the ball. You looked so happy and everything.
Were we both touching it?
I’ve seen it.
That is pretty cool. Do you have any other memories that come to mind about your dad?
I could go for days.
Give me one more.
An anime that I watch called Attack on Titan completely ended. They completely ended the series and it’s been going on for a while. It made me sad because when I first started watching Attack on Titan, I was in the basement chilling watching a show. Right when I started the show, Dad came downstairs. He grabbed his laundry out of the dryer and came and sat down next to me. He was folding his laundry. He was also watching the show as well.
Usually, he doesn’t watch whatever I’m watching unless it’s Dragon Ball or Naruto. He would watch those two. Anything else, he would do what he was doing and then take off. He would go back upstairs and watch his own thing. He stayed down there after he finished folding the clothes because he was locked into the show with me. We watched 3 or 5 episodes together. That was all that was out at the time. This was close to when I was getting ready to leave the house as well. I was getting ready to go to the Navy. I left before we were able to watch more episodes together but he enjoyed the show.
I thought that was really cool that he enjoyed it as well because it’s anime. I don’t know how many kids’ parents watch anime with them but I don’t think it’s that many. I thought that was cool. It saddened me because Attack on Titan ended and he wasn’t able to see the end of it and everything. He was able to start it, but it made me think about him a little bit.
Thank you. What is it about you that you know is from your dad? It could be things that you do, the way you look at life, the type of father you would want to be, or the man you want to be.
How I respect and treat people. He is old-fashioned. He was very quiet, more stoic. I’m stoic like my dad is. He only talks when there’s something to say, but not for no reason and talk about whatever. It is my stoicism.
Is there anything else? When you think about if you were ever a father, what are things about your dad that you thought were good that you would want to do, too?
Everything that he did besides a couple of things. He was a great dad. He provided for us in every way that you could think of. He was there for every soccer game and anything that we were ever out to. He taught me how to take care of myself if there was no civilization and how to hunt, gather, and survive in the woods.
He was also handling things at the rental property.
I never really paid attention to that.
You say you didn’t, but then when I had you change the doorknob and do some other things, you knew.
There was a lot of stuff that he wanted to show me that I did not know how to do at all for the most part. Changing a doorknob, Mom?
There are some people that don’t know how to do that. Hunting, changing a car tire, and different stuff. Those are things that your dad took time to show you and make sure that you were capable.
He was there emotionally and physically as well. He taught me how to do things. He also taught me how to be a man as well.
That’s a lot. That is good. Thank you. I’m glad we got to circle back to that. I started jumping right into something else. I wanted to have that conversation. We are standing there. Tell me what you remember about the funeral. Do you remember standing there as people were greeting us?
I remember it now that you told me, but beforehand, I wouldn’t have been able to draw that up from my memory. I don’t really remember much from that funeral. I remember being there.
Do you remember saying something at your dad’s funeral?
I know I did. It was something along the lines of what I said. I was happy that he taught me everything I needed to know as a man. I don’t remember everything that I said. Also, I wouldn’t have remembered that I even said anything if you wouldn’t have said that. I’m trying to think of things. I remember being there. When I think back on Dad’s funeral, I think of seeing him in the casket and how shocking it was.
What do you mean?
It was more so how he looked like.
You did not go the night before to the private viewing.
I guess not.
The night before, there was a private viewing. You and your sister opted not to go. That’s a really good thing to mention. The night before the funeral, the funeral home gave me the option to have a private viewing with friends, family, and whoever wanted to attend. The comment that you made about it being shocking, I did not want to see him for the first time in the masses of people. I am so very glad that I took that opportunity to see him privately before doing it on the day of the service.
I remember looking at your dad. Up until then, I don’t think I ever touched a dead person. I remember rubbing his head and how cold it was. There was no blood. It was flat on his skull. I was thinking, “He is really gone. He is no longer here.” Without the blood in your body and everything else, you’re looking so dead and lifeless. It was almost like a mannequin. It was like, “This is my husband in this box?” It seemed hard to wrap my mind around the reality of it. I knew that it happened. I knew that was him, but looking at it, it was hard to take in the reality of it. Did you cry then standing there?
I don’t think so. The only time I cried was the first two days.
That was after that thing that happened with Tabi and you came and visited me.
You were saying when you found out he died.
It was the first two days after I’d found out. I was mad after that.
I never recalled seeing you cry at the funeral. Were you trying to be strong for me?
I’ve told you multiple times since then that there have been times when I was like, “I should be crying right now,” but there were no tears coming. It makes me feel weird about it. It’s not like I don’t have emotions. It’s like what you’re saying. It is like, “Are you trying to be hard? Is there some subconscious thing not letting me cry or something?” I could cry. It’s not like I feel some type of way about it, but nothing happened.
That’s fair. That’s good to mention because people do role-play in their heads about how they did or did not respond to something. They’ll guilt trip themselves about it instead of being okay with however they are is how they are. That’s good enough. It doesn’t have to be a particular type of way.
About his funeral, I really remember wanting to carry the casket as well. That’s something I wanted to do.
Why was that?
That’s symbolically being there to send him off. I knew after he left there, he was going to go to get cremated. I wanted to be there to carry him to his final destination.
How did that feel doing that?
Do you remember folding the flag with your cousin?
Alexander was in the Navy. He has a cousin, Mitch. I’m not sure if he’s still in the Army or not.
I think he is.
The two of you took the responsibility. You took his flag off of the casket and then folded it. Auntie Venus helped direct you guys or maybe somebody from the funeral home to do that.
It was somebody from the funeral home.
That was very hard to watch. It gave me a lot of pride as your mom, but it was also another sense of the reality of what was happening and what was taking place. In my mind, I thought, “Mark would be very proud of his son standing there strong.” It was not because you weren’t crying, but your strength in standing there, doing that, and taking that responsibility on. Were you there when your dad got cremated when we went there for that or did you have to go back?
I’m pretty sure I was there for that. I remember standing there, all of us. It’s not like we saw him go in there.
They took him from the hearse and then put it into the burner or whatever.
It was in a box.
It wasn’t that we physically put him in.
That’s what I’m saying.
He was still in the casket.
I’m saying he was in the casket and they rolled him in there. I remember that.
We went to get some something to eat and then you left the next day after that to return to the Military. Do you recall what that was like going back and the reality of that?
I remember feeling a lot of pressure because I was close to the end of my schooling. My schooling was a nine-month or more long process. I was seven months or more into it. I didn’t want to be on that base anymore. I was tired of being there. I wanted to get out into the actual fleet. I remember they had asked me, “Are you okay?” or this, that, or the other and I was like, “I’m fine,” which is crazy to me. If I think about it like, “Am I okay? I’m not. My dad passed away. I’m eighteen years old. You shouldn’t be taking what I’m saying at face value.”
Let’s pause right there. You get a few days to go home and bury your dad and then we have to go right back to life. As you look at it and reflect on that, knowing what you know, would you have said something different?You get a few days to go home and bury your dead and then you have to go right back to life. Click To Tweet
What would you have said differently?
That I’m not okay.
If somebody’s in a situation like that, what would you recommend to them?
Be true to yourself. You know how you are on an everyday basis. If somebody passes away like that, you know you’re not that way anymore. Seek help, whatever that means. It doesn’t have to be a therapist or anybody, or it could be. It is whoever you feel like can be there for you. I’m saying it doesn’t have to be a therapist. It could be a therapist. It is anyone to talk to. It’s more than enough, in my opinion.Be true to yourself. Click To Tweet
It’s not like I was expressing my emotions much at the time. I was being hard. I was getting on with it. I went straight back to the Military. It was like, “Keep going with school, and then I can get out there.” I figured once I was off that base, it’d be a new start and stuff. I wouldn’t have to think about things as much. I’d be busy doing things, like learning and being in the fleet.
Life goes on. Years have passed since your dad passed in 2017. How has life been different for you in that aspect of growing up?
It’s very hard to answer because if I had my dad in my life from when I was 18 to 21, then I would know what it was like to have a dad during my adult experience. Life changed as it changed. I turned eighteen. I joined the Navy and my dad passed away, so I had to find a new normal. I didn’t have much of an adult relationship with my father because I had turned eighteen. We have an adult relationship because we were able to build it. At the time, I left high school and I was getting out on my own, and then my dad passed away. I don’t know what adult life is like with my dad.
That’s fair. A point in time happened and then you had a comparison for him.
I grew up with my father and then went off to be an adult, and then he passed away. I know what life was like in high school and stuff, but as an adult, no.
That’s fair. How has it been dealing with your dad’s death for you?
It comes in waves.
What does that look like?
The grief or thinking about random things.
For instance, like?
When you say dealing with it, you find your new normal. I’m still here. I didn’t give up.
You say it comes in waves. What does a wave look like?
A wave looks like I turn on the new episode of Attack on Titan for the day. I’m watching it and I think halfway through the episode, “Dad was supposed to finish this with me.” It’s not like I break down and start crying or whatever. It is thinking about him and remembering him. It’s a solemn attitude that I might have for longer that day than I did before. That’s what a wave would be like. It is something to makes me think about him. It’s not like I don’t think about him. I think about him all the time, but certain things make me more upset than other things.
You make a point about missing him all the time. How does it feel when somebody says your dad’s name or mentions him to you?
It all depends on the connotation and what we’re talking about. That’s a very varied thing.
Give me two instances where it’s happened and how you felt.
It feels weird to say this, but it drives less emotion over time. In the first year that my dad passed away, if somebody had mentioned him or something like that, it might have put me in a solemn mood the rest of the day. It’s hard to think of examples. I bring up my own dad and talk about him. It’s normal stuff. I don’t use past tense when I talk about my dad though. I say, “My dad,” so I’m sure when I’m talking about my dad, sometimes people probably think he’s still alive.
Has there been a time somebody has mentioned your dad and that has made you upset?
No. It doesn’t make me upset. It’s not like I get super emotional about it. If someone talks about my dad, I talk about it.
When was the last time you were emotional about your dad?
In 2022 around this time.
It was around Christmas time and I had COVID.
We were in the bedroom watching the Christmas movies that we watched together. We watch Mr. Freeze, It’s A Wonderful Life, and the Claymation.
Also, The Year Without Santa Claus.
We watch those. What made that a situation then?
I don’t know.
You can’t recall what the trigger was?
I don’t really have triggers like that. It comes up when it happens. It happens whenever.
We were watching the Claymation movies that we watch all the time as a family. You were sitting on the floor. We were talking. We were in the bedroom because I was lying in bed resting. You were walking out of the room, and then you came back, rested on me, and let it all out, at least it seemed like to me. Did that surprise you or catch you off guard?
I’m not closed off or anything with my emotions. Did it surprise me? Yes. I wasn’t really expecting to do that, but I let it go. I don’t want to hold something like that in. If it needs to come out, it needs to come out at the time. That’s how I was feeling then.
How did you feel afterward?
Thank you for answering and talking about this. Have you had any friends that have had parents pass and they’ve reached out to you?
You’ve not had to comfort anybody or share what you’ve learned and give that to somebody else?
No, I don’t. I’ve had two close friends who had a parent pass away since dad passed away. It’s not like they came to me specifically and wanted to talk about it or anything. They’re like me. They were younger. It’s still hard and stuff, but it’s something you can’t accept. It’s not the end of the world. It feels like it is at the time when it happens, but then you sit with it a little bit. This is sadly the natural course of life. I would’ve liked to have more time, but that’s how things go, or at least how things are supposed to go.
It’s the world we live in. Death is part of it. Is there anything else about what we’ve talked about? Is there anything in what we’ve talked about that you wanted to say before I move to a different topic?
I’m going to switch up a little bit. Life changes. You live here in Virginia with me. For a while, you were living with me before you got your own place. What did you think about the idea of your mom dating?
It is what it is. My generation uses that as our catchphrase because we live in this crazy world that we have no control over. It is what it is.
How old are you? I’m talking about my generation.
That means you were eighteen. There was no hang-up with you about your mom dating and not being overprotective.
Why would I? You’re from the South side of Chicago. You’re more than capable of protecting yourself. Good luck to the man that tries to do anything adverse to you. I trust your judgment probably more than mine, so I don’t think you would be picking out a bad partner for yourself. You picked a pretty good dad for me to have. Your vows said, “Until death do your part.” They did your part. You still deserve to be happy. I wasn’t hung up about it.
What would you say to somebody, and this may be a stretch, if somebody came to you and was like, “My mom is dating and my dad died. I’m not happy about it.”
I would ask them why they’re not happy about it.
Ask themselves what they’re not happy about because I still deserve to be happy.
You’re still a person. You’re still here. You didn’t die too.
Nothing about that made you want to go, “You should stay single,” or anything like that?
No. You’re not like some mom that’s going around and doing whatever. I don’t know how to describe it.
I’m not hoe-ing around and being busy.
You’re not ghetto or anything like that. You have morals, values, and stuff. If were the situation different and you didn’t have the morals, values, and things that you did, I might feel differently about the kind of men you were going to date, but I know who you are. I didn’t have much of a worry about that.
What’d you think when you did meet Fred?
He coughs a lot.
He does that. We would say if it wasn’t for the coughing, he would be perfect.
I appraised him in my own manner. I looked him up and down. I saw his mannerisms and interactions. He didn’t seem like a psychopath. You’re dating him already, so what judgment am I going to pass here? You’re my mom. At this point, if you’re dating someone, all I can really do is try to build a good relationship with them. You already judged that they were worth your time to date so that’s enough for me at that point. If I saw something completely out of left field from Fred, I would let you know about it, but he seems like a good guy. There’s nothing for me to say other than try to have a good relationship with him.
How has it been having a blended family compared to the life we had before?
You got two bonus brothers.
I’m not upset about it. I could be upset that my dad’s not here and that we don’t go and spend time more with his side of the family and stuff, but why would I be upset? We have a new normal. Life is what it is. You added a bunch of people for me to be my friends and have good relationships with. There’s nothing but love and goodness there. They’re all nice to me. I’m nice to them. It’s cool for me.
How did you feel about walking your mom down the aisle?
That’s my duty. That’s my job. That’s what I should be doing. I’m here. I’m fulfilling it.
Not many regrets or feeling like life is horrible.
Life’s not horrible.
What would you say to somebody that feels like life is horrible because their parent died?
I don’t know.
How do you not make life horrible?
I know a lot of people who are depressed and stuff, but I don’t get that way at least personally. I might get upset for a little bit but I can look at life for what it is and continue on. What was the question again?
Somebody comes to you and they’re really mad because their parent died, and then they go, “How are you not mad?”
If they wanted to ask me why am I not mad, I would let them know. It entirely sucks. You have every right to be mad, but you can’t stay that way forever. If you do, that’s going insane. You have to, at some point, continue to live your life. The person that passed away, would they want you to be this way? Would they want you to be all mad, upset, and whatever? Would they want you to remember the great times you had with them and continue to have great times? That’s what they would want from you over them being upset and stuff.
It would probably be more personal. There’s no cookie-cutter answer to a question like that. At the end of the day, you could say all that to somebody and it is like, “Eff all that. I’m still mad.” I’d be like, “You have that right.” I don’t think you are any less or more right about your feelings if you’ve accepted it and moved on or you’re still mad. You deserve to be mad. It might not be the healthiest thing in the world to stay mad about it, but it’s not like your feelings aren’t validated.
Thank you because that is the concept. You’re right. Everybody does this differently. How I’m going to experience grief is going to be different than yours. That is partly because you had a unique relationship with your dad and so did I. Those things show up differently based on who we are as a person. You may or may not have an answer to this. I’ve asked you a lot of questions. Do you have any questions for me at all? Does anything come to mind?
Not at the moment.
Thank you for having this conversation. I appreciate it. Is there anything final at all or anything you want to say to the widowhood and us doing this or you doing this with me and what you know about me?
No. I’m happy to be here to help you with your show and your story and show people the different sides and everything. I’m happy to be here to help.
My son, Alexander, is very much like his dad. Not a lot of words, but when he has something to say, he will say it. I thought it would be good to be able to hear from his perspective. In 2024, my intention is to have conversations with other people who have lost their parents because widowhood is that entire community. My goal is also to make part of that conversation a discussion with my daughter from her perspective. Thank you again for allowing me to be with you this 2023. I look forward to talking more with you in 2024. If you have any topics that you would like for us to cover, please email me at WidowhoodRealTalk@Gmail.com. Please visit our website. We are having events throughout the year. I would like to hear from you. I’ll talk to you later.