Sunday, May 15, 2022

Dear Dad, year 13

Dear Dad,

Today, 13 years ago, you left the house while Mom slept. We panicked, called everywhere, sat by the phone, bugged the police.

I stayed up late crying. Pregnant, uncomfortable, terrified.

Tomorrow, 13 years ago, we located you at the morgue.

I write this post every year.

The truth is, all these years of time and processing later, I'm OK most of the time.

Not the pretend fine that we grew up with. I mean like actually OK. 

Like, somewhere along the way I hit the point of being able to be more grateful for what I had than upset about what I've lost. (Let's be honest. This isn't always, every minute. But generally.)

I think I've said some version of this over the years, but I don't think it was actually true until now. It was more aspirational.

It's not that I don't miss you, or wish you'd gotten to know my kids. It's not that I never think of the what-ifs. Or that I don't wonder about details. It's not that I don't get mad sometimes.

But my grief no longer sits at the surface, leaking out all over everything all the time, pouring into the laps of strangers at the bus stop.

It's settled in. It will always be a part of me, I think. 

This expectation that you grieve and then at some point you're done is bizarre to me.

I think maybe that could be true if you hadn't lost someone really dear to you. Or maybe if you didn't feel intensely. It's been suggested to me that I feel more than others, and maybe this is true.

It's like colors--how do I know we're all seeing the same blue, even though we can all agree that a particular color is blue? So my level of love or missing is just my level.

It's like in the hospital when they ask you on a 10-point scale. My 7 might be way different than someone else's.

But anyway. I think my grief over losing you is just part of me.

And as May 15 approaches, as it does every year because time as we mark it is linear, my feelings work their way up through my body, till they're right under my skin. 

I can feel the shift.

Yesterday neighbor friends hosted a birthday party for their daughter, who is now one of India's besties. They had cake and lemonade out front of their place, with the revelry of good neighbors spilling onto the sidewalk.

They had champagne for adults, and it was one of the first nice afternoons in a long and wretchedly cold spring, which made it all the more fun and celebratory.

And so I had champagne and more champagne and my story just came pouring out.

I was wearing the tee shirt with this photo on it that I made for my Overnight walk years ago. And someone thought I was India. 

And all this information just fell out of my mouth, like it was just sitting there, waiting for me to open my mouth so it could leap out.

I know you hated how public I was with what you considered your information. 

Wherever you are now, I hope you are at peace with everything.

Anyway, I had lots of champagne after a day of very little food (which I'd forgotten) and as such, I was up watching Grey's Anatomy into the crazy wee hours waiting for it all to wear off. 

I looked at my phone and my dear friend Vik had texted, as he always does, one word: hugs.

Hugs. I see you, I remember. Hugs. 

It's beautiful to me. 

After 13 years with the facts being the facts, I have no new information, which frankly is fine, and maybe even better. 

But I need to commemorate this day. These days.

What has happened over the years is that more dear friends have lost parents. And one by one friends have said to me that they had no idea how devastated they are.

I've come to believe that regardless of how sympathetic a human you may be, it is impossible to really get it until it happens to you. And then you really get it.

And I've had conversations with our family friends about how truly lucky we were to have grown up in the communities we did, with the strong friendships our parents had.

You and Mom were dear friends with extraordinary people. What a gift for us to grow up with these relationships, and being loved and nurtured by them.

And now, there are very few of you left.

I know this is how life works, but gosh, I miss you. I miss you, Dad. I miss our friends. There are so many of you who have left us, and I hope you're all having a grand time together.

I was thinking how 13 is a teenager, and then I remembered that yes, of course, because my boy is going to become a teen in August!

It's always like this with the number of years you've been gone and the number of years he's been alive.

You'd be so proud of both these kids, I know. They'd make you laugh. You'd make them laugh. You'd play the piano and Wanda would croon, and then we'd all laugh.

I miss you.