52 People You Need To Meet: Special Edition – Michael Balasek

52 People To Meet Posts

Editor’s note: Heading into Father’s Day, we wanted to bring you a special perspective from a son. This was written a few days ago, but we were just now able to publish.

There are endless things I wish I had known. I wish I had known not to withdraw. I wish I had known to make the most of our time. I wish I had known to make the most of that time for my siblings. I wish I had known that was the last Kwikfish he’d set for me. I wish I had known that was my best shot at a buck with him standing over me. I wish I had known that could be our last car ride, our last conversation. I wish I had known to have a beer with him. I wish I had known what to ask him. I wish I had known how to say goodbye. I wish I had known just to say goodbye. I wish I had found a way to accept it, to allow it to feel more real, to allow myself just to feel it more. I wish I had known that I wanted to feel it more before I couldn’t. I wish I had known the diagnosis and what was to follow would be difficult. I wish I had actually appreciated what those difficulties were. I wish had known how quickly I’d get to this place.

Today marks ten years. Ten years ago to the date that my father passed away from a Glioblastoma. For the last ten years, I’ve used a desk calendar. Some were by Gary Larson, some by Avery. This year’s by Mead. And every new month, I’d write that date on the bottom-left corner. I suppose I never completely understood why, even reflecting now. Perhaps it was to remind myself, or to track those annual milestones, or because it just became habit. Perhaps it was because somewhere in the impending dampness and blurriness I actually always knew this place was close.

There was a time where the emotions were raw. Where anything could get in through the cracks. A gust of wind. A moment alone. The dark. My reflection. Silence. Anything. Their arrival seemed always ill-timed and inconvenient. I hated that I felt that way. I still hate that I felt that way. The emotions came in waves. They would crash and they’d break over everything. I’d feel submerged. I’d feel a growing pressure. I’d feel buried. I’d want to move out of their path. I’d want to swim to the surface. I wanted to push them out of focus, or bring them in to focus. I wanted them just to be anything but what they were. I associated them with grief, and loss, and sadness, and feeling alone, and a helplessness, and with an unknown, and with a resentment from what I knew, and with a resentment from what I had not had the chance to know. Which felt different from the unknown. As if one I was ill-equipped and inevitably stumbling my way toward, regardless of a constant, yet inconsequential, grasping for substance, and awareness, and understanding. And as if the other were fleeting pieces of my being. Pieces of who I was and who I should become. All fleeting from that same grasp. I knew I was losing pieces, but I wasn’t sure which ones, what they were for, how they worked with the ones I’d get to keep. All of it, it all found the cracks. And I couldn’t separate it. I couldn’t distinguish it. I couldn’t bring it into focus, or push it out of view enough. They were piercing. They drowned out and they blurred the edges of all. They would overwhelm me. And then just like that they wouldn’t. And I thought that was how it worked. I assumed the tide would change. But, I wish I had known I’d miss it when it did.

After a while, the emotions became less sharp. The edges still felt blurred, but in a more constant and droning sense. The colors blended. The waves were no longer inconvenient; they were no longer waves at all. They just rippled in and out every so often. They were similar, they were familiar, but they felt like echoes. Sounds, but distant and peripheral. The sparks changed. A sunrise. The bitterness of a pine needle. The sound of an aluminum boat skipping across a lake. A meadow. Wading into a stream. Cool neon-green backing in my fingertips. A contrail. Turbulence. The gleams in the flecks of my siblings’ eyes when they’d smile. The smell of dill. The view from 11,460 feet. My handwriting. A sunset. The smallest things. The closest things. The ripples became welcomed. But over time, those cracks tightened more. The blurriness remained, but the current lessened and what came in and out had slowed and had dulled and had greyed. There was no inconvenience. And the convenience brought guilt. I craved the sharpness. I craved the contrast. I sought it out. Whether from a picture, an envelope, a voicemail I’d saved, or Annie’s Song. I welcomed the tears. I welcomed the feeling. I welcomed the waves. I welcomed the focus

The diagnosis eroded a false sense of control. While that helplessness was uncomfortable, within the uncomfortable nested the comfortable. And rather than accept and live within the disorder, the helplessness stagnated into denial. I did not appreciate the diagnosis as difficult. I did not appreciate the difficulty of what followed. Providence became stationary, and the denial bled, eclipsing the recognition of the imperfect opportunities I still had. Without knowing, I let those opportunities slip by. And I withdrew. I impeded adversity from building character, instead allowing it to build a wall of regret. That wall took years to dismantle. In those years, I not only missed those imperfect opportunities, I missed the embracing their loss.

Ten years today. The cracks seemed filled, the emotions sanded. The memories out of reach, but only just. The blurriness feels too damp. There is no longer provocation in the sparks. And I can’t recall how or when I got to the place. I miss my father. I miss missing my father. I wish I had allowed myself to love more. I wish I had allowed myself to hurt more. I wish had known how quickly I’d get to this place.

 

 

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