“Standing in this moment,
Before the fork of time.
One path brings tomorrow,
One can bring back time…”
I am a card-carrying member of the Dead Dad Club. Today is my worst day: Death Day. Today. 1097 days ago he was alive. Then he wasn’t.
When I am upset, distraught, angry or self-loathing, all things I think I am today, I do one of two things. I’m either self-destructive in a very minor, harmless, put myself into a sobfest pino induced coma, or I write. Considering I took care of the first of the two behaviors yesterday, I am working on a blog post today, as my other option would be to have never left bed this morning, only to lay there, hidden under mounds of feathers and pillows, listening to it pour again today, only to hope that when I wake up that it’s September. Not even August 3. Fucking August, you wretched, humid, good for nothing, emotionally draining, no one likes you, all my calendars are ripped of you, month. Vile doesn’t even come close.
And so today, most hated day of the year, is the three-year anniversary of my father’s death. One gunshot and my life changed forever. One twelve hour car-ride later from D.C. to Maine and I told woke my sister up to tell her the news myself. Now her life was equally ruined and we were brought closer through tragedy that no one else will ever understand. I wish I could describe how I feel today, but even I’m not sure, as today seems different from all of the usually death days I’ve encountered.
If I close my eyes, I am back to that day, the day he died and I was told the news. I’ve been kicked, hard, and it’s awful to wonder how one memory can rip you to shreds. Today is no good. I fought hard today to crawl off the couch, having not made it to bed last night, the anxiety of today weighing me down, making me lifeless and indifferent and immobile. I fought the urge to throw up my coffee this morning, though managed not to, not feeling like tasting the bile or whiskey of yesterday so early in the day. I didn’t bother with fighting the tears. They are my only hope in releasing some of this pain I carry with me today. They burn and stain my cheeks but I don’t stop them, I can’t, and as the minutes of today wear on, I feel waves of sadness and my old friend helplessness and it doesn’t matter if I wave the white towel today or not, the only person I am fighting is myself and the memory of my father and I lose to both. This year’s pain, though, is much different, much deeper than the previous years.
The first year was my year of anger. I was too busy being angry and lost and helpless to feel this huge sense of loneliness. During the first year, all I could feel, if I allowed myself, was this immense and piercing pain that ripped through my chest, violent bouts of panic that constantly races and races and races, stomach aches, and my face was swollen from tear ducts that worked overtime to produce more pain by the hour. I hated him so much for leaving me that I alternated between wishing him back and then wishing him dead again. I slept on the floors of my own house and I smoked heaps of tobacco and there were often days where daylight was no different from nighttime and I wasn’t sure if I knew the difference.
The second year was not worse, just different. I could no longer say, My father died this year. It was last year. People like you to be over last year’s events. No one talks about last year’s Oscars or last year’s big game. People want you smiling again and it’s uncomfortable to be the only one left that hasn’t moved on and has no intention of doing so. I hated anyone that used phrases stolen from Hallmark in an attempt to make me feel better to make them feel better about the fact that they were awkward and insensitive and just downright fucking stupid. I hated people who didn’t understand me or didn’t realize I still needed attention. I didn’t want anyone to forget my pain because I lived with it behind every smile I gave during the day and dealt with it more with every night that I cried in my bed until my pillow smelled like wet duck or goose or whatever was in there. I wanted to be left alone but I wanted everyone to care still and it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with during my grief.
And now year three. Three years is a long time. Three years is painful. Three years is a long time to miss someone, to be reminded every day that they are not coming back, I will never, ever see my father again. Today, and some other days, very few but still, I feel empty and hollow and my heart beats but it’s dull pain now, dull pain that promises never to leave. Pain that will act up just enough to suffocate but then let you breathe only to then suffocate you again. Three years means my memory, which is typically that of an elephant, is getting worse and I wonder if I have forgotten things I never remembered to remember. I don’t write everything down like I promised. I’m petrified of amnesia and cracking my skull and I spent six hours last night making myself remember what he looked like and hear the sound of his laugh. Six hours I spent doing that and crying and wishing it was just over again, this terrible week and month, so that I could start over and have my mind back, at least until the holidays, when I know this starts again.
Today isn’t the day when I remember the good times or the happy times or all the times we shared that are never to be again. I do that on his birthday, or my birthday, or a day that doesn’t involve death. And today, I’m not even that angry. I’m defeated. I’m defeated because today I’m a thirty year old woman with an eight year old mentality. I want my father. I want back what he took from me without asking or without warning this time. I want him to say he’s sorry and I want him to just be here, so I can be mad at him and love him myself, in person, not through letters that have no address for mailing or on blog posts read by people who end up feeling awkward by the end. (don’t say I’m sorry to me or I will punch you) I’m tired of crying and screaming and pleading with myself for him to have just loved me enough, wanted to be here enough. I want to believe it when I remind myself that you can’t fight crazy with logical and he was sick and this wasn’t about me or him or us. I want to accept that he and I have had our last talk and I will not see him for a very, very long time. I want to do so many things that my heart will not allow. A broken heart is a bitch, regardless who broke it.
The good that has come out of my father’s death is only the changes I have made in my own life. I’ve listed them before, the moving here, the risks I’ve taken, the love I’ve shared. There is one thing I truly believe now, and it’s that people don’t learn to live until they are faced with death, or great challenge, something that tests you and brings you to the depths of hell and leaves you, naked and indifferent in the fork between two roads. And when you are ready you have to pick. I had to pick. I could self destruct and be my own worst enemy. I could let myself die with him, feeling nothing anymore and getting sucked into the hatefulness I felt for so long. I could destroy all I had left and be nothing, because that would have been easy. Or not.
Sometimes I meet people and they ask me why I’m so unapologetic about my life and it would horrify a stranger or potential friend to hear this drawn out version. I didn’t have a choice, really. My two choices were live and live the way my father didn’t get the chance, or let my spark die with him, the one I shared with him, and I couldn’t just do that. And so the way I live each day is my choice, my tribute to my father, though somewhat inappropriate some days. I say what I feel and I make decisions based on what my heart says, not so much my head. I cross the street without looking and I lack morals. I live to make an impression and I’d rather be hated than forgettable because not everyone will like me, but at least they’ll remember me. I am fiercely loyal to my good friends and I fall in love madly, deeply, insanely and without regret. I’d rather be a work in progress for the rest of my life than fear failure. I want to see the sun rise in every part of the world and go to bed dead tired each night because there is always time for more. I want to laugh until I cry and cry when it’s worth my while. I want special people to know I love them and that I only love with everything I have. I want only to live my life in the way I don’t think my father lived his—without regret, without apology, with hope and with a passion that leaves me exhausted.
And so that’s how I’ll keep trying to live. But for today, I am still heartbroken and missing someone who can never be replaced. I love you, Dad.
***This line comes from a poem written on this blog: http://enreal.wordpress.com/***
(PS, the childhood photos are just a bonus to lighten the mood. I was such a gem. Eat your hearts out, boys.)