Wish You Were Here

Dad with Leonard Bernsteind?

My Dad with the great composer Leonard Bernstein

After hearing my father audition, Bernstein told him that he had what it took to be a world-famous concert violinist

Today would’ve been my father’s 88th birthday.  

I wish my Dad was alive to celebrate his birthday for so many reasons – mainly so his two beautiful granddaughters could get to know him and enjoy his remarkable talents as a: Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist, oil/watercolor painter, sailor, model airplane builder, expert skier, woodworker, gourmet cook, book/poetry aficionado, gardener, college professor, violin teacher, backpacker, world traveler, Spanish speaker, and Irish Setter/Golden Retriever lover! 

I’m leaving out much, much more, but that list alone explains why time spent with my father was never dull – unless he was struck by a bout of severe bipolar depression. When that occurred he’d hide away in his bedroom with its thick curtains drawn shut as if it was a sepulcher. There he slept to escape his misery.

While growing up, I saw firsthand how manic depression affected my father, and I hoped to high heaven I’d never experience it. But that’s not how things worked out, and my father felt responsible and terribly guilty that I inherited bipolar disorder.  

I called him from the psychiatric ward’s single pay phone during my first hospitalization. I was six weeks postpartum and full-blown manic. (My suicidal depression wouldn’t arrive until weeks later.) Four hundred miles away, Dad answered the telephone. I told him I had just been diagnosed with bipolar one disorder. It was the first time I ever heard him weep.

Since I was manic, as soon as the psychiatrist looked me in the eyes and told me my diagnosis, I wasn’t fazed. During my conversation with my father I tried comforting him. I urged Dad several times not to worry about me, but he knew what lay in store for his beloved daughter. He knew that the shit would hit the fan in my brain, and it did. Again, and again, and again.  Six more hospitalizations would follow, I’d ask for unilateral ECT after he died, and for bilateral ECT after I made the disastrous decision to taper off bipolar meds.  All in all, I’d try over thirty-five medications to no avail.

Despite all my suffering, with the help of my immediate family, my doctor, my therapist, the medical establishment and (gasp!) even evil Big Pharma, I’ve come through “Dyane’s Inferno”.

220px-Gustave_Dore_Inferno1

I wish that my father could’ve witnessed how my bipolar disorder didn’t destroy me. Wherever he is (for I don’t believe that when die, that’s it.), maybe Dad knows I’ve reached this hard-won, relative stability.

I wish I could’ve called my father after I was offered my book contract; Dad knew I wanted to be a published author from the time I was seven-years-old.  He was a voracious reader, and at bedtime he read me The Juniper Tree stories (a tad disturbing, but fascinating nonetheless) or Edgar Alan Poe’s haunting poem Annabel Lee, one of his favorites.

In the last couple years my father was alive, I’d search the Los Angeles Public Library’s online catalogue for books I thought he’d enjoy. Using his library card number, I’d request books about the violin, sailing, and history to name a few. This memory makes me happy because I know that the books served as bibliotherapy, despite the recurrence of his bipolar depression. He always thanked me profusely for finding books he couldn’t put down.

Dad would be so proud to see me achieve my dream of having my book published by Post Hill Press. (I still think he pulled some celestial strings so that I got the deal!)

I’m beyond grateful that Dad and I had our time together.  

I’ll be dedicating my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder to my girls, Craig, my Mom, Miss Lucy,

and of course…

Dad.

Dad unshaved

Dyane & Dad 002 (1)Eight-months-pregnant Dyane & Dad, 2004

Annabel Lee

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.
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31 thoughts on “Wish You Were Here

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Dyane. I have an amazing daughter who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003. She has given us two amazing little grandsons.

    1. Thank you for taking time to comment, Anne. You sound such like a loving mother and grandmother, and your daughter is lucky to have you in her life! Take good care & enjoy the rest of your Sunday. 🙂

  2. Touching post, Dyane- your dad sounds like a very interesting and wonderful man. How cool is that, his playing with the L.A. Philharmonic!!! I understand the wondering how proud he is, etc.- my father passed away over 20 years ago and I wonder the same thing. I wonder, too, how he would have responded when I had my mental health crises (including the ECT). Glad you shared this.

    1. Thanks so much, Mariah! I’m sorry that you too have experienced the loss of your father. It’s so good to hear from you; I miss your Facebook updates. One day I shall return – I just need a break, but I do miss *you*!!! 🙂 Xo

  3. This is such an amazing post. I love he picture of your Dad with Leonard Bernstein. I know that your Dad is proud of you about your book deal. I believe that he knows. This was a lovely tribute to your father.
    Annie

    1. Thank you SO much, Annie. This comment of yours made me feel so good! Hoping with all my heart that your day will be an extra-good one! Xo

      1. Thank you for saying that. I was close to my Dad growing up. My Mom was never emotionally available, even when I was little. I was daddy’s little buddy. So I could relate to some of your feelings about your Dad.
        Much love,
        Annie

  4. What a sweet post, and your Dad sounds like such a brilliant, talented man, what a life you and all must have lived. I had to look up the word ‘sepulchre’ (sigh), please do not use such big words in your book or it may take me a year to get through it. hahahaha 🙂

    Genetics are clearly at play in your experience of this illness, I hope you consider (if don’t already) thinking of giving your beautiful girls salmon oil (supposedly with vitamin supplement has more positive results in studies, we do a Green Tea capsule with a capsule of salmon oil daily as we can) off and on (regular routines never worked in our family, things always change and keep life exciting, but I always had a focus on health with my son and prevention of illness (avoiding chemical exposures, always non-toxic paint, never new carpet, electric heat, lots of outdoor time, etc.) and still do. Health stuff in hopes of not triggering mood issues!

    Many with BP in their family history do not develop it, I’ve been just trying to stack the cards in his favor. Hope those things in my book help others.

    hugs amiga, Molly

  5. I can totally relate, having had a bipolar daddy too. I wish he’d gotten a chance to meet these babies. He had a gift with kids.

    I know your father is so proud of you! It’s obvious he loved you fiercely and you had a special connection.

    1. Hello dear supermommyoftwins – thank you so much for stopping by!!! Yes, you have a special understanding of what it’s like to live with a father who had bipolar as well. It’s heartbreaking that he didn’t get to meet your beautiful little ones. I hope both of our fathers know how amazing their grandchildren truly are.

      Sending you my love and a big hug – you always rock! 😉 Xo

    1. Thanks so much, Kitt, and thanks even more for your amazing voicemail yesterday. I listened to it at Urgent Care and it was truly perfect timing and you really helped me.

      Much love to you!
      Dy

      You’re the best! Talk soon!!!!

      p.s. I’m saving your message as #12! (I have 11 special ones I never erase so I can listen to them again when need be.

      p.p.s. And please pray that Marilla doesn’t get strep (I got it alllll the time as a child!!!! “Strep” was practically my middle name. Yuck! At least dogs can’t get it, right?

      1. I got strep all the time as a kid, too. When I was 7, I even got scarlet fever. The doctors in the ER at Harvard Medical Center (my dad was an MBA student at the time) had all the residents gather around me as a case study. Scarlet fever is not that common in the US nowadays, usually it’s caught as strep before it becomes scarlet fever. My fever was so high, I was delirious. My memories of the time are mixed up with my memories of Beth dying in Little Women and of the boy getting sick in Velveteen Rabbit. Unlike Beth, I didn’t die, and unlike the boy, my toys were not burnt.

      2. Whoa, Kitt! I’m so glad you didn’t die from scarlet fever OMG…..I didn’t know that strep could turn into it, either. Thank God you got immediate medical attention at a first-rate ER such as Harvard! I remember how disturbing it was to read about Beth dying…that was one of my first experiences really taking a (literary) death in,a and how haunting for you to mix up her grisly death with your memories of the time. I don’t remember the Velveteen Rabbit (shocking!) but that sounds freaky too.

        Thank God you pulled through – you were the same age as Rilla, who has… (my fingers are crossed so tight to the point of non-circulation) has not gotten her sister’s strep. 😉 Xo

  6. Hey I had computer problems yesterday so I didn’t get a chance to read your post! What a beautiful way to remember your dad, and I hope that your stability lasts for a good long time. I can’t wait until your book is ready for us all to read! I’ve read Annabel Lee before at some point, but it still brought tears to my eyes. I think the word poet was already a word, but Poe really puts the poe into poetry.

    1. “Poe really puts the poe into poetry” – I LOVE that!

      You are so sweet to write such a lovely comment. I’m sorry you had computer problems, which I know can be so exasperating that one may wish to throw the computer out the door to “fix” it. 😉 Hope it’s 100% better now.

      Yes, here’s hoping that I can be stable (and you too) for a super-long while. I’m still rooting for a cure – why not? That’s really cool you’re familiar with “Annabel Lee”, by the way.

      Thanks for being a fabulous follower and I hope you have a wonderful, computer-glitch-free holiday weekend! :))))) Xo

      1. Aww thank you, you are very kind. Computer may or may not have a virus but two different antivirus things got shut down about 8 times each at the same point during a scan. Its working fine for now though and neither of the antiviruses came up with anything so maybe it was just misbehaving.
        Just been for my first acupuncture session but I think its too early to tell whether its working, got 6 more sessions to do. I will keep you posted. You have a good weekend too!

  7. I believe your dad does know that you “reached this hard-won, relative stability.” He must be so proud of you. I know I would be. What a great post in memory of a father whose daughter never stopped loving him.

    1. Thanks so very much, Sammy. You sound (and have sounded in your previous comments) like such an amazing, caring and loving father yourself!

      Your comment brightened my day & I hope you have a fantastic holiday weekend!

      take care,
      Dyane

  8. What an amazing and gifted man your dad was. So many who suffer bipolar have found ways to channel some of that creative energy. It is sweet, and so telling of your relationship, that you tried to comfort him when you got your diagnosis. I understand just a bit of that guilt in dealing with my own children’s health issues. This was a lovely and loving tribute, Dyane. So glad to have met you. 💕 Van

    1. Van, you’ve been such a joy and I’m so happy we’ve met as well. Thanks for your kindness & empathy about me and my Dad.

      I wish you strength in dealing with your children’s health issues, my dear. See you over at your blog – I realized I hadn’t been following you (bug duh!!!!) but I fixed that situation in a jiffy! 🙂 Xo Dyane

  9. Aww, thank you Samina!!!!

    I have much, much better photos of him and of us, but there’s nothing scanned on the computer yet. 🙂 I do have the same coloring as he did, that’s for sure.

    You understand how strong the bond is between a parent and a child. You’ve made me quite happy for taking the time to read and comment, so beautifully, dear friend.

    XOXOXOXO
    Dy

    p.s. I think you would’ve *loved* my Dad’s prized rose garden. (I saw your most recent photo of the gorgeous roses and that reminded me of him.) He loved growing different varieties and he usually had very good luck with them, but he didn’t do as well with his avocado trees. He never could keep one alive. 😦

  10. You look like him, you lucky girl! Such a lovely post. You are so lucky you had him, and he loved you so much and must have been so proud of you. Love and hugs my friend.

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