The Problem with Past Tense

My dad died in 2006. Death is a strange thing. It’s not like you stop missing someone, but you get used to it. I don’t think you get over it. I think you just learn to accept it. Dad is no longer here. It sucks. it will continue to suck, but it’s the way it is.

Today my mum and I had to re-add me to the safety deposit box because the bank ‘lost’ part of my access. DON’T GET ME STARTED – THIS BANK, MY GOD. IT’S NOT LIKE MY MUM HAS BEEN A CLIENT FOR FORTY YEARS OR SOMETHING. Anyway, we have to review the list of people for the safety deposit box. Guess what? My dad is still on the list. We said, you know, we removed him when he died. He shouldn’t be on the list. You should take him off the list. He’s dead.

The bank dude was like, “UMMMM, I can’t take people off the list without my manager *anxious shifty eyes*.”

We went back and forth for a few minutes, and I finally said, “well leave him on the list, I guess it’s not like he’ll be dropping by to access the box!” My mum laughed and agreed, “Yeah, it’s not like he’ll stop by!” We chuckled, but the young bank teller was visibly uncomfortable.

But, I have a problem with the past tense sometimes. It doesn’t always come up. I’m okay saying “My dad used to own a restaurant” – he sold it before he died. I can also say, ” My dad read Louis l’Amour books.” He did. Or, “My dad tried to garden but never had the time.”

Strangely, I struggle with, “My dad was Greek.”

I know this may seem odd, but it’s like when I say he WAS Greek that he’s no longer Greek or he lost his ‘greekness’ when he died. But he is Greek. He’ll always be Greek. Canadian too! But how else do I say it? He’s “Dead but Still Greek”?

I feel like I need a tense in between past and present.

Death, man. It’s weird even after millions of years of evolution.



Cake or Death? Being all out of cake

If you’re an Eddie Izzard fan, you know what I mean when I say Cake or Death


I’ve got death on the mind lately. Which normally for me usually means something morbid and creepy is churning up in my brain for my fictional writing, but this time, I really just mean death. Like everyday-ironically-a-big-part-of-life death.

Things No One Told Me About Death

1. When you’ve been touched by Death [i.e. when someone close to you dies] other people are uncomfortable around you. I think it’s because they want to say something to make it better and there’s nothing to make it better. But also because it makes them realize Death can touch them too and that’s something we don’t like to think about it. and then you feel weird, because they feel weird. It’s a big cloud of weirdness around you.

2.It’s mostly a tragedy only to you. Most people’s lives go on the next day or the next week or the next month. But you’re kind of stuck dealing with it for a lot longer. You stare at things trying to figure out how it’s all working when you’re not.

3. People still get awkward when you talk about the dead person. In my case, I felt like people were awkward or uncomfortable when I talked about my dad for about a six months after he died. Like, just because he died he didn’t become less a part of my life, you know? But it was like when I would say something like, “Well, my dad used to say…” or “Yeah, my dad owned a restaurant for a lot of years…” or “Dad liked getting lotto tickets and socks for presents….” people would almost pause, like a deer in the headlights. I think it’s because they were having an internal monologue of “OH SHIT, SHE’S TALKING ABOUT HER DEAD DAD. DO I SAY I’M SORRY AGAIN? DO I ASK HER HOW SHE IS? DO I EVEN MENTION THAT I KNOW HE’S DEAD?” – I felt like they really wanted to say something nice or helpful and they just weren’t sure if they should and that made them feel weird.

4. Minutiae is eternal. The phone still rings and the car needs gas and you get a salad dressing stain on your favorite shirt and how can this all be happening when you have experienced this kind of a loss? When Donna’s mum died, I was the awkward one. She was talking to me on the phone and I remember thinking, “How can she just be TALKING to me right after her mum died?” and then 8 months later, my dad died and I told her about that moment and how now, I got it. You just go on and there’s stuff to do. She nodded and said, “Yeah. There is.” But I didn’t get it until that moment.

5. For something you think about a lot, it can still surprise you. Once, about two years after my dad died, I was at the office working. I can’t remember exactly what happened but Chantal and I had just come back from a break or lunch or something and Jessi said, “Oh, you’re dad called for you.” and I was like “Oh really? I wonder what he – what a minute, my dad is dead.” and I realized that Jessi was talking to Chantal. But for that moment, I forgot. I also have seen a man once or twice that looks like my dad and again, for that moment, I’m like “HEY DAD!!!” and then I realize it can’t be him.

6. Okay, I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but my mum and I had “OH SHIT HE WASN’T REALLY DEAD” dreams. Mum would realize in her dream that dad wasn’t really dead and DAMMIT how would she explain that she sold his car? Maybe because of the stuff I read and write, mine were a bit more graphic. I would full on dream we made a mistake and buried him alive and now we had to go dig him up and JESUS how did we FUCK THAT UP SO BADLY. And it would be a dream that I would have several times, with several variations and in the dream, I’d remember the other times it had happened and I’d just feel SICK and wonder how we kept getting this so horrifically wrong.

I’m sure there are other things that I didn’t know about Death. I’m sure I’ll find out more [unfortunately], but those are the things that have been on my mind lately.


It’s that Time of Year Again….

Father’s Day ads popping up all over.

Le Sigh.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t think of Dad at other times of the year – his birthday, Christmas,  or just random times throughout the year [usually right after Jenge has done something very dad-like]. But Father’s day still kind of sticks out. And it’s not like we really celebrated it hugely when he was alive, but after he died, it really became not so much Father’s Day as HEY HERE IS A BIG DAY  DEDICATED TO YOU NOTICING YOUR DAD IS DEAD.

Only they don’t make a card that says that.

I guess I get the most bummed out on how much I feel like he missed. Or rather, how much I’ve missed not having him here. I do believe in an afterlife and I have this notion that he’s kept up with us all, but I feel bummed out and cheated on behalf of ME not getting to have him around.



Dad – Seven Years later

You're in the army now!

You’re in the army now!

The above pic is of my dad when he was in the Greek Army. I’m not sure of the year. Check out those pants! The beret! The mustache!

He died August 2006. After seven years, I wish I had something profound or helpful to say on the topic of his passing.

Death sucks. No two ways about it.

It’s tough because we all want there to be something profound and helpful to say, don’t we? When someone suffers a loss we’re all just praying we have that one kernel of wisdom that will help them through. The only thing I’ve learned is that sometimes there are easy or better ways for people pass over, but it’s always going to suck. If you had a good relationship, a bad relationship, an impartial one – something will shift in you and won’t ever be the same.

I’m very fortunate – I had a great dad. Seven years after his passing and I’m tearing up just writing this, like it was yesterday. Sometimes it feels like it was. Sometimes it feels like it’s been forever.

After seven years, I wouldn’t say I have wisdom but I do feel like I’ve learned some things.

1. He wasn’t just ‘mine’ to lose – it probably sounds so obvious, but it really through me for a loop seeing my dad’s friends distraught at his passing. His surviving sisters were just gutted – gutted in a way that I could appreciate but felt like couldn’t express myself. They’re Greek, and so expressing emotion is more… allowable (?) for them. Friends of his from when he first came to Canada told us stories about my dad when he first came here and it was so strange realizing that these people, who were kind of like strangers to me, had lost something too. My mother as well lost a husband and a partner.

2. I was so lucky to have my sisters and my mum –  I felt like with all these other people who had lost something, my sisters understood the same loss I had felt.

3. I hate when people won’t or can’t talk about the dead – I hated when, for the first couple of days, months, years I would bring up my dad and people sometimes seemed to ‘freeze’ – like the didn’t know how to respond. I understand it, but I hated it. Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean he’s not still a big part of my life. My feelings for my dad and my relationship with him didn’t die the same day he did. To me, not discussing him is a disservice to his memory.

4. It still sucks.

5. It’s not fair. Some people don’t even like their dads or have really shitty dads but they’re still alive. It’s cruel and it’s mean to think it but I do.

6. Father’s day still sticks out. Although I prefer to think of him or remember him on Father’s day or his name day or his birthday rather than his death date. His death date was the ‘least’ part of his life, yanno?

7. Everyone dies. As he used to say, “When St. Peter is calling, there is no ‘take a message’.”

I guess it all sounds pretty maudlin and depressing. I don’t mean it that way. But if anyone stumbles across this post after just losing their dad, all I can say is – It sucks, man. It really does. You learn to live with it and that’s okay. You’ll be okay.



On Grief

It’s surprising to me how grief works. When my dad passed away in 2006, it seemed like every minute of every day was eaten up by thinking about him, about what we’d lost. And then, as I moved through the process, I realized that I wasn’t thinking of him every moment of every day and then slowly, not every day.

Now, sometimes, I have to stop and try to remember what year he passed away. I think ‘Jesus, has it really been almost seven years?’

People say time heals everything but I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe I’ve said this here before, I can’t remember. But it’s not as simple as time heals all wounds. And even if it were, I’m not sure that I would be okay with that wound, the one of my dad passing away, healing.

But time does help you learn to live with it. I’m used to missing my dad. I’m used to not having him around.

but it still really sucks and it’s completely shitty and unfair.


Memory Game

So mum has had her house on the market for a while, and although I do think it’s time for her to move out [nudge nudge, mum], I find myself torn about how I feel about the actual SALE of the house. I know that it’s not the only house I have ever lived in. I think we moved in when I was two. and I don’t even live there right now. I live with Jenge [where mum is moving in]. But I still feel very attached to the house.

It doesn’t have a garage. It’s not open concept. There is no master bath. And yet, I’m very fond of it. I grew up there, and it’s the only house I remember. And there’s my other problem. Memory. I remember falling off my bike and pushing said bike home, lower lip trembling, leg and arm bleeding and seeing the house up ahead of me. I remember coming home from trips and being so glad to see it. Heck, even coming home from days at work or at the university. And then there’s my dad. I remember him in that house.

Intellectually, I realize that the sale of the house doesn’t mean I’ll forget. I know my memories are not somehow tied up in the wood and concrete that make up that building. But I can’t help but feel as though they are. As if having that house there somehow solidifies my gray matter.

Jessi, at work, says she has no similar feelings about the house her parents live in because she moved alot when she was a kid. So I guess it’s because I only know that one house that I feel that way.

And like I said, I know it’s not rational. It’s not logical. My memories are what they are regardless of what external cues are there. And it’s impractical to think that you can keep every place you live and go back whenever you want.

But that doesn’t keep me from feeling…. nervous? sad? morose?


Stranger in a Strange Land
My dad died in August. He was Greek and growing up, we’d learn a bit of Greek here and there. To be sure, I can tell you that I love baklava and tiropita. I can say ‘hello, how are you’ and ‘I am fine’ – y’know, the basics. But I was definately raised to be Canadian. Dad was Greek Orthodox, although he wasn’t what you would call a religious man. My mum is Roman Catholic, and we were raised Catholic and went to Catholic school. But when Dad died, we wanted to give him a Greek Orthodox funeral, but also for his sisters, who are VERY religious. It seems like everytime I go to visit Thea Doxa (my aunt) , she’s fasting for something or other. Thea Freida (another aunt) who lives in Greece, used to go to Grandma’s grave everyday after she died – I think for years. And when in Greece, we had candles regularly slapped into our unknowing hands and we would light them and then place them in the little monument, or in the sand at a church – not really knowing what we were doing or why.

So when Dad died, we called the Greek Orthodox priest and asked him to reccomend a funeral home and we relied on him and Dad’s Greek friends until Doxa and Freida could fly in from Greece (where Doxa was visiting when Dad passed away). And now it seems like everytime I turn around, I’m learning more than I knew before. There has been many ‘funeral’ type memorial services for Dad. Obviously we had a funeral, then we had one forty days after he died and there is another one today, for the six month mark. Before the forty day service, Doxa invited us over for the evening. Jenge and I went, assuming we’d have Coke, sit and mix with the Greek ladies and then go home. But at 8 o’clock that night Doxa said, “As soon as the other ladies get here, we start.” Jenge and I looked at each other, eyebrows clearly saying “Start what?”

And then the Greek ladies arrived. Buckets of boiled wheat were brought out and dumped on a tablecloth on the table. A picture of my dad was brought out, a candle and some incense was lit. Tupperware containers with crushed almonds, slivered almonds, crushed peanuts, breadcrumbs, golden raisins, regular raisins, parsely, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and sesame were lined up. They were put in our hands and we were instructed (in half english half greek) to put it all on the wheat in the shape of a cross – three times each if possible). Jenge and I had no idea what we were doing! Then, when all the fixins were added, the Greek ladies picked up the table cloth and we mixed it by flipping the mixture over and over, ‘tossing’ it back and forth, using the tablecloth for leverage. It smelled wonderful and was tasted carefully by the ladies several times, with orders of “More cinnamon” “More almonds” “Get the rest of the anise” shouted out. There was lots of yelling and they argued, Greek style, about what was needed. Then it all got put into a white linen lined bucket, and another serving on a silver tray. It was carefully covered in granulated and powdered sugar, and then there was a flurry of discussion about how to decorate them. The bucket was painstakingly measured to find the exact center and then a cross was made with white covered almonds. Silver candies were placed all around, and then the edges were carefully wiped with brushes to dust off any stray powdered sugar.

I had just helped make my first Kollyva – or as Chant called it, Funeral Trail Mix. The Kollyva is set up at the front of the church during the memorial service and people can come up and place candles in the big bucket. Then, at the end of church, the candles are lit, and we each get our own candle as well while we stand in the pews. Afterward, the candles are all blown out and the men take the Kollyva to the gym (the community center is attached to the church) and mix it all up in a big bin. It gets dolled out in little paper pastry bags and everyone takes some, and a spoon and then sits around and has coffee, greek cookies and for the family, a shot of Metaxa.

Last night, we went back to Doxa’s and did it all over again, Ann and my newphews in tow. And although I knew what to expect this time, I’m still in a sort of weird wondered state about what it all means. There’s a very strong sense of community, of gathering. And everyone has to put their two cents in. There was a big meal afterward, with tiropita, spanikopita, salad, ribs, fish, bread, cheese and wine. I’m not sure, but I think we’ll do it again at the one year mark. It’s a good chance for me to practice my Greek and to make sure that I keep in touch with my dad’s side of the family, now that he’s gone. In a really weird way, now that he’s died, I feel like I’m learning more about what it meant for him to be Greek than I learned when he was alive. I guess I always thought I’d have more time. But then, don’t we all.