It's The Little Things...... The stocking by the fireplace we hang every year with hope, yet knowing in our hearts we will take down, full and untouched after Christmas. The empty bedroom we remodeled with hardwood floors and a French theme with music accents, in some kind of homage to a girl who while alive somewhere, may never exist again. The place setting at holiday dinners, dismantled and stowed away clean and unused after our silent meal. It's the little things.
Three years ago on Valentine's day I put my wonderful daughter on a plane to the Castlewood Treatment Center I had spent a few weeks going through the intake process for this miracle place that would help my girl. I vetted them as best I could. Google searches, website browses, testimonials. Phone interviews and email exchanges. Her mom's insurance wouldn't cover it, so coordinating my wife's insurance was part of the mix. The Castlewood Treatment Center came highly recommended by a local therapist my daughter trusted implicitly. I knew nothing at all about eating disorders then. All I knew was my daughter needed help, she felt good about this place in Missouri, and I was going to move heaven and earth to get her there.
Like yesterday I remember driving her and her mother to the airport. Leaning over and giving my precious angel that one last big hug. I had advise ready for her! I always did, usually followed by the “Daddddd, I knowwwww” annoyed rebuttal. I reminded her she was going far away. Far away to a place where nobody knows her, or anyone near us. A place where she could and should get EVERYTHING off her chest. Whatever was hurting her, whatever was causing her not to eat, she was going to a place where she could open up about ANYTHING at all. She knew I was so worried about her. She assured me she would be ok. She said “I love you Daddy.” The past two years she had converted me to “Dad”. The more grown-up way to address her father. “Daddy” was reserved for very special times, like when she wanted something, or wanted to make me smile. Typical teenager. She quickly walked off into the group of passengers, her little rolling suitcase, and mother, in tow. I watched her go. I drove over to the runway observation parking area. Cool little place where you could watch airline departures and arrivals fly over you. I think it was her plane that I watched before I drove off. Watching airplanes was actually a little thing we shared. I'd bring my scanner set to the tower frequency. She and I would listen to the airliners come and go, making up stories about where they might be from or going. Even fictional versions of the passengers on board. Funny how the simplest little things can become fun games when they're young. It's the little things.
Valentine's three years ago was the day I lost my daughter, my only child. Valentine's three years ago was the day I lost most of myself. Ever since she was born I would cringe and feel heartbroken when hearing about any parent losing their child. Cancer, horrible accidents, events that take your child and rip her away forever. The loss, the finality. But I had never heard then of a child being lost forever the way mine was three years ago. How do you describe my kind of loss? Cancer of the memory? The death of her real past? However you decide to describe it, the loss is so painful. I'm very fortunate she is alive. Somewhere she, or some small piece of what she was pre-Castlewood still exists. I take solace in that little fact to help me survive the pain each day. It's the little things.
Valentine's used to be a special day to me. Since her very first Valentine's I always got or sent her flowers and (to her mother's dismay) candy. Cards too. With loving father-to-daughter messages. In her post-Castlewood mind all those and similar events are jumbled in with, and twisted together with sick, impossible, lurid, and horrible false memories of things that never happened. Things completely unsubstantiated and dis-proven time and time again. I can't celebrate February 14th anymore. Castlewood and the sick therapists that were there took even that one small day away from me. It's the little things.
My birthday is coming up soon. My 50th. A day my pre-Castlewood daughter always recognized. I think her pre-Castlewood mother may have been complicit in reminding her, as my super energetic girl was a tad on the scatter-brained spectrum. For reasons unknown, but beloved by me, my birthday meant a new wallet. My daughter seemed to feel my wallet had some kind of finite shelf-life. Like it would turn and go bad at the one year mark. One year when she was younger she was so excited to give me my new wallet she did so in my car! My daughter was never known for being patient about well, anything at all. She had great taste I will say, and she knew mine as well. It was a nice leather Buxton bi-fold, black, with many slots, and two window sections for my license, and my concealed carry permit. Just in case you care at all about my wallet. I was tired hours later when I was in a gas station convenience store. Having a confused, bumbling, stupid looking panic attack while trying to find my credit card among the completely new and unnaturally arranged grouping of ID cards, credit cards and personal artifacts. My daughter had been nice enough to swap all my stuff from old wallet, to new wallet. I didn't even notice. Until I was at the counter with a line behind me. She thought the whole tiny pandemonium was simply hysterical. Little brat. It's the little things.
Things that I loved, but never imagined being gone are what I miss so much. I miss being happy on holidays. Post-Castlewood I sit silently and look at a tree decorated with stuff. Eat a formerly special meal with my wife and step-daughter in silence, wondering what my child is doing at that moment. For three years every time my phone rings, I get an email or text notification, or I hear the mailman's boots coming up the front stairs I jump, hoping it's my daughter reaching out to me somehow. It's the little things. Yes, while there are much more painful aspects to what I'm going through, the little things hurt so badly. Like this fear I have of my last moments in this life. Sick and sad, in bed. Looking over at my bedside table and among bottles of medicine seeing one object that would sum up my entire post-Castlewood life. The very same worn, ripped and tattered black Buxton, bi-fold wallet I have in my pocket right now. It's the little things.
UPDATE: Friday, November 20, 2015 at 10:24am EST
I finally had to give in. I really, really tried. But I began losing cards and stuff. Many of you know the back-story to this semi cryptic photo post. I'll elaborate and explain to those who don't later on. Seems petty and silly? Maybe. But when your life, and the lives of your loved ones have been decimated by horrible evil people, the once little things become all you have left. When you lose a wonderful daughter to cultist creeps like Schwartz and horrible places like Castlewood you instinctively clutch onto whatever shreds of your pre-Castlewood life still exist. Today I had to let go. Again.