August 29, 2016

it's all love, all love.

The quarter is from my birth year. It hung on my dad's work keys he used every day to get in and out of buildings and into his giant tool box. When I found it in one of his hospital bags, I sat on the floor and cried big ugly crocodile tears because it cemented in my mind just how much my dad loved me. 

My dad and I didn't have the best relationship when I was growing up. When my parents got divorced, part of their terms were that I had to spend every other weekend with my dad. In hindsight, I have come to see the beauty and the value in those weekends we spent together... But at the time, in my angsty teenage brain, I loathed every weekend where I had to pack a bag to leave. 

Right after the divorce, my dad moved to Illinois. We did fun stuff then. We stayed up late on Friday nights, belting out '80s music from WKTI on the drive down 894 across the state line. We saw midnight movies and he always bought us popcorn, Dots gum drops, and Milk Duds. We went bowling. We did laundry together—every time I fold blankets now, I still remember running to him with the other end of the blanket. 

When he eventually moved back up to Wisconsin to be closer to me, our relationship took a nosedive. I entered puberty and my dad pulled away hard. He hung out with his friends more. Our weekends together went from being fun and exciting to us sitting in the garage with his friends. Sometimes they would work on their cars. Mostly they just smoked cigarettes and drank beer. I spent a lot of my weekends sitting inside watching Cartoon Network and Trading Spaces on TLC. I used my dad's free night and weekend cell phone minutes to talk to my friends. 

He stopped showing up to activities I was in. I used to do a lot of school and community theatre, and I always wanted my dad to be there. Seeing everyone else in the cast have their dad supporting them broke my heart because all I wanted was to see him in the audience cheering me on. When I was going through a box of his things before the funeral, I found programs from two of the last shows I ever performed in. That made me so happy. 

As I got older, I called my dad out on his bullshit. Or my mom did it for me because I would be uncontrollably sobbing in the background because I was so mad and hurt that he couldn't show me he loved me. My senior year of high school was when things between us got better. I came to love hanging out with my dad in the garage, watching him work on his Nova or later, the Monte Carlo. 

The last day we spent together before he was hospitalized, we did exactly that. He drove me up to Milwaukee in the Monte. We went to the Oak Creek Diner for lunch and then headed to the airport where my dad's toolbox is. I watched him change out the steering wheel in the Monte and got to hold screws and hand him his tools as needed. He made me the official horn tester—a title I coveted at four years old in the shop. I'll cherish that memory forever, our last good day doing exactly what we always did: hanging out in the garage together. 

Finding that quarter on his work keys told me, "Hey, dad always loved you. You were always with him." That thought was further cemented by my family—not only my immediate family, but by the Gutermuth family as well. My Aunt Lisa gave his eulogy at the funeral. Her words touched me deeply, and I won't ever forget the words she said about his love for me. "His love for his daughter Anna was special. He always lit up whenever he talked about her." That sentiment was also echoed to me by all of his friends. My dad loved me. 

Padre, I miss you. I love you so much. Thank you for the reminder, that you're always there. And thank you, always, for the unconditional love. 

August 28, 2016

hey blondie

When something traumatic happens, my first instinct is always "Welp, time to do crazy shit to my hair." This is pretty tame, considering that in high school, I used to dye it dark colors before I started going red and get a substantial amount chopped off. This time around, all it took was a few inches off and some highlights to make me feel like a million bucks. 

And, fun fact? This is how I looked every summer when I was a kid. We went to the pool literally every day and between the sun and pool chemicals, I was the blondest I have ever been. 

I got my hair cut literally an hour before my dad's funeral. I have a feeling that he would've said something along the lines of, "You look just like my little girl, but now you're all grown up." 

August 26, 2016


I was productive today, if you ignore the fact that I slept until 11:45 this morning. I had to battle with the post office and their horrible parking to get my dad's mail forwarded to me. I stopped at the funeral home to pick up death certificates. Then I bee-lined for the Coffee House because mama needed a pick me up. (Caramel turnover with 4 shots of espresso, I owe you my soul.) One of my dad's friends changed my oil today, and told me the sad news that my POS probably won't make it through the winter. She also got a new nickname... The Rust Bucket. Then I went to pay my phone bill and stopped at Adrian's to get a quart of Pistachio Almond. When I got home I watched TV with my mom's boyfriend Bruce, and then I got my dad's thank you cards from the funeral done. 67 envelopes, addressed, stuffed, sealed, and stamped over the last three days. Now it's time for a shower, my pjs, and Scandal. Happy Friday!

August 25, 2016

progress + good things

Close to 70 envelopes, addressed and stuffed. Tomorrow will come sealing and stamping. Being productive takes my mind off of missing my dad so thank you cards have honestly been my saving grace yesterday and today. 

I got to see my Noelle and Sage today. They brought coffee & we got girl talk in while Sage watched Nick Jr. and ran around my childhood backyard before lunch. I love them so much. I don't know what I would do without my person. 

And today, Justin and I have been together for FOUR YEARS. He's coming down to see me tonight and help me go through some of my dad's things. I'm so thankful for him and his family and all the love and support they've given me over the last week. 

I'm treading water right now in the ocean of my grief, and it feels so good. 

August 24, 2016

a letter


I went through your things today. I opened every door and every drawer in your apartment. It felt invasive almost, but someone has to do it. Hanging in your closets, I found your Army uniform. I found your golden Lion's Club vest with the best enamel pins. I found your jackets you were awarded with for winning the hobbyist division at the races in 1993 and 1994. Even though your name is spelled wrong, I'm still going to wear them every fall and spring. 

I miss you. Everything is starting to feel real now. All I want to do is hang out in the garage with you one last time. I want to hear you pick up the phone and say "Hey Anna" with a smile in your voice. I want to go to a car show with you and do nothing but take pictures and listen to you identify cars just by looking at them. I want to ask you all the questions I never got to ask you. I want to tell you I love you and hear you say you love me back. 

I went to the cemetery tonight to say hi to you and grandma. I didn't stay long. It's hard to be there right now. The dirt is too fresh. But I see you everywhere. You're in the way the light slants perfectly at golden hour. You're in the breeze that blows through the trees and ruffles my hair to say hello. You're in every sunrise and sunset. You're in every moonrise and all of the stars. 

Padre, I miss you. Thank you for keeping watch over me. I love you to the moon and back. 

Love, Your favorite (and only) daughter

August 23, 2016


honestly, the best and worst part of the last few days has been my dad’s family. the best part was getting to spend time with all of them and getting to notice qualities about myself that come from all of them. the worst part? flashback to being a little kid and wondering “if dad has such a big family, why don’t they ever come to see us?” they all grew up here, wouldn’t they want to return to their roots every so often? this was the first time any of them had been there at least since my parent’s wedding in 1997. I was five years old and the flower girl. my cousin jonathan was five and the ring bearer. after that I wondered if it was something I did. I saw pictures that they would send and all of my cousins would be in them except for me.

spending so much time with them over the last week and hearing them promise me “We’ll have family reunions every year. You have to promise to be there.” and “Every summer we’ll make the trek to Wisconsin to see you.” has broken my heart. it has brought up all this sadness and just that feeling of being six and seven and eight years old and wondering if my family hated me. and also reminds me of every single promise every Gutermuth family member has ever made to me and broken, my father included. 

monday night at my dad’s funeral they all gave me a necklace. it’s a real leaf, dipped in gold, on a thick gold chain with a tiny clasp. they told me, “This is to remind you that the leaf never falls far from the tree. You’re replacing your dad on our family tree. And this is an apology from all of us for neglecting you.” it was a SWEET gesture. it really was. it’s a beautiful necklace and it will always be a sweet memory. but buying me a piece of jewelry, no matter how beautiful or unique, does not make up for the last 24 years of my life that they have missed.

another thing that bugs me? I shouldn’t have to REPLACE my dad on their family tree. I should already be a part of it because I am their niece and granddaughter. I am not my father. he is a part of me, that is undeniable. but I cannot and will not even try to replace the hole that has been created in all of our lives without him. 

after the church service, they told me to go Fred’s with Bryce and that they would meet me there. we waited for 20 minutes, until the staff said, “Hey guys, we’re closing the kitchen at nine. If you want food, you have to order now.” so we left and went to log cabin to hang out with my mom and my dad’s very best friends, and all of their kids that I grew up with. his friends became my aunts and uncles. their kids became my playmates, almost like my cousins, and my friends. having a reunion with all them was the best part of this whole situation.

Bryce and I went for a drive after a couple hours, and we saw them all at charcoal grill. they were all at the big table in front of all the windows by the bar. once again, eight year old me poked her head out and thirteen year old me piped up. she reminded me that grandma used to send me Christmas and birthday cards, and then she stopped. the last one I have is dated 2004. 

at the cemetery, I kept my distance. I stayed close to the people who are familiar to me. my mom stayed by my side the whole time. we sat with his friends at the luncheon. I kept my distance until everyone wanted to take pictures. then I soaked up all the time with my dad’s siblings while I could and listened closely as everyone promised me they’ll keep in touch, come see me, etc.

we went to Adrian’s after and I got behind the counter to sling custard. (it felt like I was seventeen all over again.) my aunts took pictures of me handing out everyone’s orders. I gave everyone directions on how to get out of town and we all said goodbye. then I went to beachview to get my mom and to say goodbye to and make arrangements with all of his friends to help me go through his stuff. 

I’ve been leaning hard on my mom. and his friends are more than willing to catch me when I inevitably fall and she’s not there. they are my family. they were all fixtures of my childhood weekends and summers. I can be myself around all of them. I don’t have to hide my grief because they know. they know the twinkle that always came to my dad’s eye whenever he talked about me. they’ve been able to answer my questions. they show up when I need them and they understand when I need my space. 

my family has answered my questions about the early years. his childhood, teenage shenanigans, and his time in the service. his friends have answered the questions about the dad I knew, the dad I grew up with. the one that raced stock cars and collected matchbox cars and took me camping on the weekends I was with him after the divorce. 

you shouldn’t be able to count the number of times you’ve seen your aunts and uncles on one hand. I hope that they all realize how important family is now. my dad was the first one of his siblings to die. my grandma and grandpa lost their son—and no one wants to be the parent having to bury their child. I hope that all of their promises aren’t just empty words and noise. but I’m really trying to emotionally prepare myself before I lean on them for support.

August 22, 2016

magic monday

My dad's funeral is today. Everything finally started to feel real last night as all the Gutermuth clan rolled into the town that everyone grew up in and then abandoned for bigger and better dreams. My dad was the only one who stayed at home base, and now this trip back home has everyone strolling down good old memory lane. 

To be honest, I still feel lost. I cried last night on the way to the gas station with my mom. I keep thinking about when I was home for my birthday and he took me to see where he worked. We changed the steering wheel out on his Monte Carlo and I sat in the passenger seat handing him tools and asking him questions. "Dad, why does that go there? What does that part do?" It reminds me of being little and hanging out either at his shop or just in the garage with all of his friends. It reminds me of comfort and home all at once. 

You never know that the last time is gonna be the last time. The last time I talked to my dad was August 3. He had just had all of his top teeth pulled and was in some pain. I'm so happy that at the end of every phone call we always said "I love you." Every time I tried calling after that, his phone went straight to voicemail. 

Today I'm going to buy a new dress that I will only wear once. I'm going to do my eyebrows and put on waterproof mascara. I'm getting my hair cut! And I am going to do the hardest thing that I have ever done: say goodbye to my dad. I don't even know how to begin to emotionally prepare myself for that. I'm going to lean on my people, because I need them more than anything else right now. 

Padre, I love you so much. Thank you for everything. Thank you for watching over me and for bringing everyone together, even if it is only temporary. I miss you. 

August 17, 2016

miss you, dad

July 16, 1958 - August 17, 2016

The world lost a good man today. A muscle car fanatic. A true race car driver. I lost my father. The best dad ever. The dash still doesn't feel real. 


I love you. I'm still trying to process this. I still can't fathom that we won't get anymore garage hangs or days at the laundromat. Folding clothes and the smell of gas and oil will always remind me of you. Every time I see a muscle car now, I'll know you're watching over me. I miss you, dad. 

These words don't feel like enough, but right now they're all I have. I love you.  I wish we had more time. Thank you, dad, for teaching me how to ride a bike. For teaching me how to drive a car in Dyer's parking lot. For always listening to me when I needed someone. And for always giving me the best pep talks. 

I love you, Padre. Forever & ever. 

August 11, 2016

chasing rainbows

Work kicked my butt tonight. We were busy and could have used another person. But I found a rainbow in the clouds so I'm calling today a win. 

August 10, 2016

hump day

It's laundry day so I actually made my bed for once. The afternoon light streaks peeking in through the curtains in the living room were too pretty not to photograph. I spent my afternoon listening to old Mayday Parade & A Day to Remember. Spending my evening with Olivia Pope & the pile of laundry that needs to be folded. 

August 09, 2016

thirty second dance party

Justin and I were watching Naruto: Shippuden last night and episode 210 got to me. I was still thinking about it when I went to bed. How strong memories are and how much the way you remember things vs what actually happened affects you. And then I started thinking "WHY?" in terms of the traumatic things that have occurred in my life. 

My first thought went to Cody, which surprised me at first. But then I realized that the anniversary of the first time "Nice shoes, wanna fuck?" is August 19. AKA right around the corner. It's been 7 months since his three sentence Facebook apology and this is the first time I'm staring an important anniversary in the eye. I don't know how to feel about it.

I don't know whether to be heartbroken for my past self because I remember her hurt, or empowered because it's been ten years and more importantly, I SURVIVED TEN YEARS of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bad Decisions and Intimacy Issues and Trust Issues and let's not forget the Breakdown Inducing Anxiety. 

I want to tell my past self to put on some red lipstick, stop listening to the acoustic version of Three Cheers for Five Years on repeat, and put on Tegan & Sara. Let go. Dance it out. That has truly been the motto of the last few weeks: Dance It Out. 

It doesn't matter that today is Tuesday and the last time I showered was Friday. That today it was a chore to drag myself out of bed just to be sad in the chair. That somehow I found the motivation to go to the grocery store. I sat in my car in the parking lot, pulled up "Where Does the Good Go?" on YouTube and danced it out in my car when I was done. 

The ins and outs of why things happen don't matter in the long run, I've realized. What matters is how you get through it. 

August 06, 2016

little things

The most I can do today is appreciate the little things. Like the way 11:45 sunlight filters through the trees and makes shadows on the garage door. Like when I #treatmyself by buying myself coffee as motivation to do something I don't want to do (bar charts, I'm looking @ you). Like when I wake up feeling sad and Justin gives me a hug before he goes to bed and reassures me it's going to be okay. 

The little things always turn out to be biggest things. Love. 

August 04, 2016


Shoutout to the sky last night for making going to the hospital to get antibiotics for an abscess in Justin's mouth worth it. 

August 03, 2016

august is a weird month

I always have mixed feelings over the last month of summer. Everything feels like it's ending, and nobody wants to go back to school and nobody wants to go to work. We all just want one last month of eternal summer before we have to look responsibility in the eye and either sink or swim in its wake. 

Last summer, I declared I was taking the last half of August off. I didn't pressure myself to share anything here or any other social media platform. And then my grandma ended up on the hospital and was treated for pneumonia. We got kicked out of our apartment and had to move back in with Justin's parents. It seemed like every bad thing happened all at once and I almost completely shut down. I became thankful for my break because it gave me space to breathe. 

This summer took me by surprise. In June, when I called my dad on Father's Day, he informed me that he was in the hospital for chest pain but when they ran tests, they found a spot on his liver. It's cancer. When I went home in June, it was all for the purpose of seeing my dad.  

shoved down my fear of driving in downtown Milwaukee where I've never driven before, and went to see my padre during the scariest time of his life. I felt so crippled because it felt like my dad needed me to be strong for him and I always felt like I fell just a little bit short. It's weird coming to terms with your own parents mortality, and realizing that one day they won't be there to help you. It's actually something I'm still struggling to come to terms with. 

I also miss my grandma. The anniversary of her death is approaching faster than I can change my calendar pages, signifying that I have done the impossible and survived without her in my life. I'm struggling to cope with my grief right now in light of her anniversary. If losing my grandma has taught me anything, it's that time spent with your loved ones is not wasted time. 

Call your parents today. Call your grandparents. Call your best friends.  Tell them you love them. Tell them how much they mean to you, because you never know when you're not going to get that chance to anymore. 

August 02, 2016

i love days off

Today: woke up at 9:30, took a 10 minute shower, did my makeup, got coffee & took a walk in the park, came home & laid around, watched an episode of Scandal on Netflix, went grocery shopping, found a 4 leaf clover in one of Justin's mom's flower pots. Now we're watching Futurama & the season finale of Deadliest Catch is on tonight. Cheers, Tuesday.