Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish (for my dad)

(x-posted to my deviantART journal which it was originally written for.)


So you're expecting another Steve Jobs remembrance journal? Kind of.

I've been needing to write this journal for a while. In fact, it's been burrowed inside of me for some time. Every time I looked at my userpage and the happy llama I helped create, I just didn't want to wreck it all and stop pretending that it's all alright.

When Steve Jobs announced that he was resigning from Apple, August 24th or 25th, I was inundated with journals and tweets and comments from co-workers passing by. I didn't know much about him other than his accomplishments, and I finally took a moment to watch the Stanford Commencement speech that was going viral again. The message at the end was clear, Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. And stay happy. And stay fearless. It meant a lot to me at the time because there is so much life I want to live, so many projects I want to work on, so many words I want to write. It meant a lot because, like so many, I had gone through a lot in the last few years. Homelessness, hungry--you guys know better than anyone, really. I was humbled by life, and I had decided to try and be fearless.

His commencement speech reminded me, two years later, that I still needed to be fearless. I couldn't settle for okay, and I had to make each day count.

I had been living on this high for a while. The high of feeling fresh and new again. Ready to tackle it all. I spread the message--STAY HUNGRY! STAY FOOLISH! to anyone who would listen. I tried to re-inspire my loved ones to seize the day.

A week later, after a particularly amazing day, I received a phone call at eleven o'clock in the evening. It was a strange phone call--and it was one that told me two things: my dad moved to Arizona (from California) without telling me, and my dad was in the hospital--really sick. It's hard to not launch into the feelings and emotions again... there's so much to be said... but after an hour, George and I hopped into a car, picked up my mom and my younger brother, and beelined for Arizona.

I thought so many things. Why didn't he tell me he was in Arizona? Why did his new wife only tell me now that he was this ill? Is he tricking me? He's tried to get sympathy before...

... and I thought of all the rotten things I could to keep myself from thinking what I already knew. What I already felt.

This is so hard--so hang out for a second.

Okay. Breathing.

We arrived early in the morning. It was already so, so hot. Ninety degrees at five in the morning.

I... I can't explain fully what I saw. I can see it vividly, but the words are too hard to write (the thoughts too hard to think.) A shell of a man... on a hospital bed. I don't even... Ah.

Not my father. The man lying there wasn't my father. Not the strong, proud, stubborn, angry man that I had known. Or the one who sought to find the good in people and lift them up--the one who was so hard on himself as he was on those around him.

A body. A body strapped to the bed because he was going through alcohol withdrawals. A body. Just a yellow-skinned, bleeding body.

I've spent a lot of time in hospitals. I mean, a lot of time. If I tally up the hours I've spent, it has to be a cumulative total of a couple of months. None of what I saw prepared me for it.

It looked like the worst. It was the worst. His liver failed, and his organs were bleeding... he couldn't breathe--his lungs were failing. He gasped for air, this frail man who wasn't my father. I felt ashamed in those moments to know exactly what the cause of my father's death would be years before it even happened.

We left him hours and hours later. We hadn't showered. We hadn't slept. Even at the bleakest moment, he was getting better. It was silly to believe, looking back, but when we left his breathing was steady. He was calm, he wasn't shaking or jarring. His ammonia level was dropping. It would've been a huge battle to win, but things were promising. That's what they said.

Two hours later, we received a phone call from his wife saying he didn't have long. Breathing...

To save myself from feeling everything, I'll only say that I watched his last strained breaths before he died.

That night was the worst. I couldn't sleep with the lights off. I wasn't afraid of the dark. I wasn't afraid that he died, but everything that happened that day in all it's gruesome detail made me lose my mind. It was on a loop. Over and over again.

I left for California the next day. Everything was numb. Everything I saw, no matter how small or how fucking stupid, reminded me of him. It's funny how you forget all of the horrible things and only remember the good things. You know why that is? Because it doesn't matter anymore. All of the hurts from when he was alive? They just don't matter. My father was an alcoholic, and we got to enjoy the benefits of it.

Now? He's just gone. He's the memories that we choose to remember, the words we choose to keep him.

My father was a troubled man with a troubled past (much like we all have), but he couldn't face his demons, disappointments, or despairs. Underneath all of that? Underneath that anger, underneath the alcohol? A brilliant man who could touch anything and turn it to gold. He knew the secret before it was The Secret. He understood the value of helping people by pushing them to their limits--making them test themselves and achieve things that no one could dare to dream of.

And he held me to that too.

Stay fucking hungry, stay fucking foolish--that's how he would've said it.

The theme of living, even in death, ESPECIALLY in death, continued to resonate with me through the days after. Through his funeral. And still now, through the death of Steve Jobs, whose words were the catalyst to a deepening epiphany that I'm still living in.

You don't have to know or love or cry for Steve Jobs to appreciate the message he said... many have said it before him, many will say it after.

Keep living. Be fearless. Find your happiness. You just have to. Otherwise, what's the point?

There is still a lot I have to get through. It's fresh, and it keeps happening. My first birthday without him passed, and his first birthday without us is ahead. I'm not trying to get spiritual about any of this. I wrote this for me first, and for all of you wonderful friends second--it's been simmering inside of me for so long, and now the water is boiling.

And you know what? It's all okay.

Seriously. It is.

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