Dead Dad Day

I’m not sure that I process death in the same way that “normal” people do. I blame my family.

WhatsApp chat: Sarah Huntley says "Happy dead dad day x" and Doreen Huntley replies "Shouldn't it be 'sad dead dad day'"?
My sisters and I have wished one another a “Happy Dead Dad Day” every 19 February since his death.

When my grandmother died in 2006 I was just in the process of packing up the car with Claire to try to get up to visit her before the inevitable happened. I received the phone call to advise me that she’d passed, and – ten emotional minutes later – Claire told me that she’d “never seen anybody go through the five stages of grief as fast as that before”. Apparently I was a textbook example of the Kübler-Ross model, only at speed. Perhaps I should volunteer to stand in front of introductory psychology classes and feel things, or something.

My sister explains what Dead Dad Day means to her, and I explain what it means to me: a celebration of the relationship we each got to have with our father.
I guess there isn’t actually a market for Happy Dead Dad Day greetings cards?

Since my dad’s death seven years ago, I’ve marked Dead Dad Day every 19 February a way that’s definitely “mine”: with a pint or three of Guinness (which my dad enjoyed… except if there were a cheaper Irish stout on draught because he never quite shook off his working-class roots) and some outdoors and ideally a hill, although Oxfordshire makes the latter a little difficult. On the second anniversary of my dad’s death, I commemorated his love of setting out and checking the map later by making my first geohashing expedition: it seemed appropriate that even without him, I could make a journey without either of us being sure of either the route… or the destination.

Dan and his dad have breakfast in the garden.
Eating cornflakes together in the garden was a tradition of my dad and I’s since at least 23 years before this photo was taken.

As I implied at his funeral, I’ve always been far more-interested in celebrating life than mourning death (that might be why I’m not always the best at supporting those in grief). I’m not saying that it isn’t sad that he went before his time: it is. What’s worst, I think, is when I remember how close-but-not-quite he came to getting to meet his grandchildren… who’d have doubtless called him “Grandpeter”.

We all get to live, and we’re all going to die, and I’d honestly be delighted if I thought that people might remember me with the same kind of smile (and just occasionally tear) that finds my face every Dead Dad Day.

The Ball and The Box

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

Thread by @LaurenHerschel: "After what has been a surprisingly okayish Christmas, I had a moment today in SuperStore. Saw a lady who reminded me of my 92yo grandma, who […]" (threadreaderapp.com)
Thread by @LaurenHerschel: "After what has been a surprisingly okayish Christmas, I had a moment today in SuperStore. Saw a lady who remindedndma, who even in the early stages of dementia, completely understood that my mom died. I thought I’d share t […]"
After what has been a surprisingly okayish Christmas, I had a moment today in SuperStore. Saw a lady who reminded me of my 92yo grandma, who even in the early stages of dementia, completely understood that my mom died.
I thought I’d share the Ball in the Box analogy my Dr told me
So grief is like this:
There’s a box with a ball in it. And a pain button.
And no, I am not known for my art skills.
In the beginning, the ball is huge. You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles around on its own in there and hits the button over and over. You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting. Sometimes it seems unrelenting.
Over time, the ball gets smaller. It hits the button less and less but when it does, it hurts just as much. It’s better because you can function day to day more easily. But the downside is that the ball randomly hits that button when you least expect it.
For most people, the ball never really goes away. It might hit less and less and you have more time to recover between hits, unlike when the ball was still giant.
I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.
I told my step dad about the ball in the box (with even worse pictures). He now uses it to talk about how he’s feeling.
“The Ball was really big today. It wouldn’t lay off the button. I hope it gets smaller soon.”
Slowly it is.

Dumping for Dummies

Ruth wrote:

Wow, it’s been nearly a month since I put finger to key for the sake of this old thing. In case anyone’s wondering, I was feeling hurt and a bit isolated due to the total lack of concern you all showed when I had my first taste of bereavement (with the notable exception of Bryn). I’m over it now though, so no hard feelings, huh?

Anyway, the very briefest of updates: Back from the Cropredy festival, tired, sunburnt and quite ill, but the music was fab and the company fabber. It was especially good to see Bryn and Heather again.

And so to the reason for breaking my silence. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the best way to dump someone. Obviously, ending a relationship is often going to be pretty hard on the other person, but I think there must be some ways of doing so which are more considerate than others. Here’s an example of a way which seems a bit bastardy:

A young couple have been together for just shy of two years. For reasons which we will assume to be sound, the girl decides to end it. She calls her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend and tells him “I don’t know if I love you as a boyfriend or as a person”. He tells her to cut the crap and just dump him if that’s what she’s going to do. She gets pissed off and hangs up. The next day, he logs in to facebook to update their relationship status, and discovers a message from a friend on her wall which says “Congrats! You and [guy she met on a latin course] were meant to be!”. He calls her and tells her he wishes they’d never gone out, then goes to a club with his cousin, gets drunk, causes a nuisance and gets beaten to a bloody pulp by four bouncers. He goes home, calls his sister in tears to say he thinks he must be cursed and his life is worthless, and falls asleep, bleeding, miserable and alone.

This, I think, would be a prime example in the how-not-to-do-it column, even if the dumpee in question wasn’t my little brother. It’s left me wondering if there is a way to do it that’s just a bit less selfish?

I haven’t often been involved in dumping scenarios, most of my relationships having fizzled out without the need for The Talk, and hopefully I’ll never have to get good at them. However, from my inexperienced position, it seems to me that the onus ought to be on the dumper to try and be honest, in so far as this is necessary to prevent the dumpee from making the same mistakes again, and to be as unhurtful as possible. They also ought to resist the urge to use bullshit lines, even if there is some truth in them. Cliches may be cliches for a reason, but you could at least do the person you’re telling isn’t good enough the courtesy of saying so in your own words. Finally, I think the dumpee needs to be willing to take it. Dumping isn’t – or shouldn’t be – easy, so if someone has taken the plunge, chances are that the decision isn’t up for discussion.

It seems to me that this is an area which is woefully under-represented in traditional etiquette. Given how many relationships end in one or both parties deciding to move on, perhaps it’s time that ‘Good Manners’ came to include how to tell someone to get lost in a polite way?

Part The Widget

Sorry I wasn’t able to offer you any support after your last post and during your bereavement. I’m disappointed in others for not helping, of course, but I’m more disappointed in myself. I hope you got the emotional assistance you needed.

Genuinely really sorry. Could post excuses, but I’m sure they’re not very good ones, so shan’t bother.

Part The Brother

In the cases where my relationships haven’t just “fizzled out,” I’ve more often been the dumpee than the dumper – in fact, I’ve only been on the “giving” end of a break-up once. In my experience at least, it’s harder to be the initiator of a break-up than to be dumped, although that’s possibly more to do with the circumstances than anything else (in the case where I was the dumper, I cared more about my partner than at any time that I was the dumpee).

In any case; at that time, I – like your brother’s ex- – lied. Not so well as she did: I explained that I was leaving her for somebody else (Claire), but I didn’t at that point expose that I’d been cheating on her. Why? Because I’d already upset her (and me) and I didn’t want to upset her further or risk sounding like I was gloating (“hey, and look what I got away with!”). Instead, I planned to talk to her about that later (which went a bit shitty for other resons, but that’s beside the scope of the story).

The bottom line is that, in my opinion, your brother’s ex- was unethical, but I can possibly see why she chose to do it the way that she did. I’d hope that in her position I’d do better (in fact, I’m pretty sure I would – I’ve learned a lot about relationships in the last five-and-a-half years). Moreover – in my mind – it’s not her fault that he got drunk and beaten up; that’s a detail that (while sad and upsetting) doesn’t actually change the moral validity (or, rather, invalidity) of her actions.

Still, I do feel sorry for your brother. I hope he’s getting by.

Part The Ways

Perhaps you’re right about relationships and etiquette, but it’s hard to say for certain. Every relationship is unique, and – even during the break-up – what is right for one is not necessarily right for another. It’s impossible to lay down a rule that says “when you break up with somebody, tell them exactly why and how long you’ve felt that way” because in the end there are relationships that will end better (cleaner break, happier parties, better ethics) if they are done in a different way (drift apart, white lie, outright lie, whatever). Unfortunately, at the point of the break-up the dumping party may well not care so much as they might once have what’s best for *both* parties, and may well be thinking more selfishly (“how do *I* want to feel out of this break up?”). And sadly, unethical as this may be, it’s their right to feel however they want, and it’s hard to tell them that they can’t…

…it’s a big emotional mindfield.

I’d like to think that if Claire and I were to split up, we’d make a good job of it. We’ve laid the groundwork, and talked about it, and we’re pretty good at talking about the status of our relationship with one another anyway. Moreover, we’ve got a healthy grip on the frequently-transitory nature of romantic relationships, and – while it sounds a little pessimistic – we find it’s a great way of keeping things in perspective. Of course, it’s impossible to say. Time – perhaps – will tell.

Ultimately, I’d just like to see people communicate better with their partners: feeling capable to talk about how they feel and able to be honest about what they think. It *should* be okay to say “I love somebody else more than you. How do you feel about that?” It *should* be okay to say “I’m only with you for the sex. But the sex is good.” It *should* be okay to say “I’d like to spend more time alone, but I’m not ready to commit to breaking up.” And it should be okay to say “No, that doesn’t work for me. Can we find a compromise? Or shall we call it a day?”

[sighs]

I’ll fix the world some other day. Far too much going on right now. If you want to debate any of this, drop me an e-mail or call me (haven’t heard your voice in too long anyway).

Love and hugs.