Saturday, May 15, 2021

Twelve Mays

Twelve years ago today, my dad walked out the door of their house.

Twelve years ago tomorrow, we located him at the morgue.

Two weeks later, we brought him back to the house as a bag of ash.

I write this post every year. 

May has become easier than it was. Or anyway, today is.

This year I didn't realize it was May, or rather what May meant, until I did. Does that sound stupid? Yes. But I felt it in my body. I was having a hard time.

And then recently I realized: it's May. May is my month of loss.

May is the month my dad left and we don't know exactly which day he died. And maybe which exact day doesn't even matter but it still matters to me.

As such, I need to remember and honor these feelings and his loss.

Nobody else needs to remember this along with me, and yet my dear friends Vik and Jess always do. In the middle of the night, when I was up and reading in the quiet darkness I got a text that said, "*hugs*". This morning I awoke to an email with, "I love you". 

It's perfect.

These messages first go straight to my nose, where that weird prickle triggers tears. Then I feel them in my heart.

Or maybe they to to my heart and that tells my nose to prickle. I was never very sciency, although I don't know if that would explain it anyway.

And it's not like an inability to build a model solar house in high school determines your understanding of physiology for life.

You know, I almost wrote that that twelve years ago today my dad walked out of our lives, but honestly, as soon as my mom realized he was gone, our lives became all about locating him.

The question always was: Could we find him in time?

Six times he'd survived.

My brother told Nick that my dad did it for attention. 

My dad's psychiatrist told Nick that every attempt had been so severe, the fact that my dad was still alive made him, an atheist, want to believe in God.

Dad left us today, May 15, on a gorgeous day very much like this one. Humid, ripe with flowering life, full of promise. I suppose it was a day very much like me at the time, six moths pregnant, humid, ripe with flowering life, full of promise.

We found him on the 16th, at the morgue.

This is not new information to any of you who've known me for a while.

You know that my dad walked out and then we searched frantically for nearly two days, and then we knew.

I wished so badly in the days that followed that I weren't pregnant, so I could have a stiff drink or five, or knock myself out with Valium. 

I hated how present I was in my grief.

My life up to then had been so much about my dad. Monitoring and working around his moods, being fearful, being vigilant, searching frantically, begging and praying in the aftermath, cajoling him back to health.

Keeping the secrets, lying to friends, pretending we were fine.

When my dad was fun, he was so much fun. He was great to travel with. He loved London, so we stopped there every summer on the way back to visit grandparents. And he loved musicals, so he shared them with us from young ages. He took me to Evita when I was so small that he brought pillows to the theatre from me to sit on.

My dad was so bright, and he was so dark. I understand now that his mental illness shaped how I grew up. It determined where we lived, not just how we lived.

We left Egypt after two years, rather than four, because Dad was sick, though they didn't know what was wrong.

That was his first attempt.

And we kept the secret.

Dad should've been posted to another country after India, but we went back to the US, because Dad was sick.

That was his second attempt.

And we kept the secret.

His suicide attempts, living around them, working to keep him alive, defined me.

And what I see now was that my life after my dad died by suicide continued to be so much about him, about not having him, about how we lost him.

It continued to define me for so long.

The loss has become less painful, and no longer defines me, though I know it will always be a piece of me. But not the largest piece, not determining my day-to-day actions, or driving me by fear. 

But it's important.

Growing up with my dad has made me both more understanding of people's struggles and less tolerant of bullshit. 

I'm not willing to carry people the way I used to.

A friend of mine is coaching me with boundaries. Mine still aren't great, but I was raised with practically none, so I think I'm doing pretty well considering.

Anyway, it's been 12 years, and some of these anniversaries have been incredibly hard, and this year this one is easier. It's a spectacular day, and I'm about to take my dog for a walk.

And then friend is coming over to sit on our deck and catch up. Nick bought a bottle of Absinthe and he's going to make Absinthe cocktails.

I thuppothe it will make our hearts grow fonder.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell me about it.