Birthdays without my father

Today is a Hated Day, one of two in the year.  Today would have been my father’s birthday.  Today my father would have been 56.  Today I have no phone call to make, no gift to ask about, no one to watch blow out candles.  Today is the 5th birthday in a row that we haven’t shared together, even in long distance, because he is gone.

Today he would have pretended he didn’t know why I was calling, even though he would have called me on Monday to ask if I knew what week it was.  He would have screamed that, actually.  Screamed into the phone like I do, with no volume control, because volume control would mean you can contain your excitement about anything.  Today he would have acted like it was no big deal, his birthday, but if I hadn’t called, I would have been banned for life, because he loved this day.  Not as much as Christmas, but any day that centered around him was alright.  Can’t imagine where I get it from.

Today, I want to be happy and think of him fondly and think of all the fun times we have shared, but I can’t and I don’t know why.  Actually, I do know why.  I just don’t want to deal with why.  I don’t want to deal with mywhy.  I can’t think of him fondly today because I miss him too much.  It’s much easier through most parts of the year, but this year, especially now, everything is changing.  It’s been a great and weird 6 months. Everyone in my family is having kids, getting new jobs, moving, starting new businesses or traveling.  He is missing all of those things.  I don’t know what I have in store for me this fall with work or where I’ll be living.  I’d like a little advice from my father once in a while.  We have a lot of family plans, a lot of memorable things I want to be able to talk to him about.  I want to ask his advice about adult things.  I want to tell him my frustrating stories, because he’s the only person who has never told me to be less angry.  I want to tell him the funny and the stupid stories about people and work and my random encounters, the stories that make him laugh loudly.  Even more than all of this, I just want to hug him.  I just want to hug him and have him for a day. I want to hear him and I want to smell him and I want him for just one more day for the rest of my life.

It’s funny, because I spend so much of my time pretending I am the world’s strongest person.  I like to be a fixer.  I like to tell people that my father killed himself, he didn’t kill me.  I like to believe that living a fabulous life after he died was a choice, a hard one, but a choice that I made to survive myself.  I like to convince myself of a lot of things that sometimes I don’t really believe when I let in Doubt.

I am an expert in Loss.  I am like a Grand Wizard in dealing with Grief, unless Grand Wizard is only a KKK status, which I think it might be.  In which case, I am not that.  I am just super good at Grief .  I am a proud card carrying member of the Sadness and Regret Club, a club that has more members than you’d think.  I guess I took the approach that if I was going to have to deal with all of this, you better believe I’d be good at it, and believe me, some people are just not black belts in things of emotion.

I have spent hours talking to people about loss, because I want them to feel better than I feel some days.  I can talk in circles about the 7 steps of grief, having done them at least oh, 8 million times already.  I can talk to you about how losing someone, especially to suicide, is not your fault.  I can talk to you about how much you affected someone’s life and how they affected yours and the valuable life lessons to take away from loss, how to grow from it, how it can change your life.  I can talk to you about being a survivor, about rising above, about turning the bad into good.  I can talk to you about self-destruction, about finding your face under a bottle and how it won’t help you but then again, if you don’t die of it yourself, it’s probably ok.  I can talk to you about how I don’t think God will fix your pain, but maybe faith will.  I can talk to you about loss of faith and lack of trust and how sometimes only fresh air can help you from not suffocating on your grief.  I can talk to you about how blame and depression will only kill a part of you slowly, not help, and a good fucking cry here and there is magical.   I can talk to you about the destruction of Indifference and the power of believing in yourself.  I can talk about all of those things like I have a PhD in Shitty Life Experiences.  I talk about them because I hope I can turn all of this awful into hope for someone.

I miss my father in an empty, aching, bottom of your gut, bitter, angry, regretful,  helpless way that I’m positive now will never really go away, just continue to dull with the years.  I can deal with that. I can deal with that because the days I did have him in my life were filled with laugher and tears and cheering and walking and talking and hugs and wisdom and love and memories that will also never, ever go away.

If anyone ever takes seriously the words that I write, which I normally wouldn’t recommend, do this for me.  Love your people with everything you have.  Love them not in gifts, but in words and in memory creation and in spending time together that one day you will not have.  Sit in kitchens and bake muffins and have coffee.  Go to games and eat hot dogs and scream at players.  Walk together and talk or be together in silence, because those silent moments will mean more to you than you will ever know.  Look at them when you’re together, and think about what you love about them.  Listen to them, hear them, and never make them feel stupid or little or unimportant.  Touch them, hold them as close as you can, as much as you can, whether you’re big or small or in a bad mood or too busy.  Smell them and smell them longer and know that you will never be able to buy that so remember what it smells like.  Never be too busy.  Just love them and make sure they know.  Tell them a million times in a million ways and when you’ve done that, do it one more time.

Loving your people too much is one thing I promise you will never regret.

This post is for my father, who I love and miss with all of my heart, with every second of every day.