Today marks the 10th anniversary of my Dad’s death.
He died just after 10am, so by the time you read this, I will have lived a life without my father for 10 years.
How should I feel?
I never really thought about that before, but this past year, two of my close friends lost their fathers and one friend’s husband lost his mother. They got hit with it before the holidays. Dad had the thoughtfulness to survive the holidays and not die on New Year’s Day. I mean, how could I really do a New Year’s Eve countdown after that? “5…4…3…2…1…Happy Dad’s Death Day. Oh, and New Year!”
It’s been 10 years. I have some distance and acceptance.
He wrote me letters, so it was fitting that I published a short story letter about him, Lessons from Dad: a Letter to You, and I’m finalizing my memoir, My Father, My Friend. Someone asked me if it was cathartic to write that. Odd, I had never thought of that, although I can see why someone would ask that.
No, it is not cathartic, at least not in the way most people think. I have always planned to write his story, but as someone in my Writers Group pointed out, this is my story of him. I always thought he was an interesting man. Drafted as a teenager and getting his GED many years later, I thought he was street-smarter than many educated folks. Practical with money and words. A snarky sense of humor. A unique way of meeting my mother. I though his story was worth telling as-is. It turns out I’m telling his story in my way, through my eyes, which is not the intended or expected way. In that sense, yes, it does feel good. Delightful, even.
Maybe I’m not explicitly sad, but I do miss Dad. I can’t call him and tell him about the movie I just saw. I can’t assure him that I did turn my headlights on while driving through the Pennsylvania road work zones. I can’t ask him, “What would you do if…?” I can’t hear him make a joke about me and then snort-laugh with my husband. I can’t even tell him that I published a book about him.
Too many can’ts. That makes me empty.
Perhaps because there’s so much of him in me that I do not feel lost. If I had a nickel for every time someone commented, “Oh, that’s just like your dad,” I’d be buried in cents. It’s a tribute to me that there’s so much of Dad in my actions.
I do take comfort in the date that he died, January 2nd, and not just because he skipped by all the holidays. If you want to know why, the memoir will be out by Father’s Day. It’s a little spooky, actually, but knowing Dad, it just makes sense.
Just when I thought everything was fine…
I wanted a picture to add to this blogpost, but I’m in Philly now. My in-laws might have a photo, but I had this great idea. Rather than use a photo of Dad, insert Dad’s essence here: letters. Letters were the connecting thread between us. I have a lot of his old letters stored in their basement, so I went down to find one to photograph.
One. Yeah, right. I found myself digging through one box from 1988. I read his weather reports and what he had for dinner. He wrote about Mom, their jobs, and when the newspaper would be arriving. The crinkling papers echoed in the quiet basement as I read tidbits of local news, newspaper comics and other clippings tucked inside the envelope. All of his letters were hand-printed in blue ink on white lined paper, the kind you bought in pads of 50 or 100 that was made for small envelopes. Instantly recognizable as his. Every letter was like….
When I noticed the time, my hand holding a letter shook. Realization slammed into me: it was now January 2nd.
When I started this post, it was January 1st.
Everyone in the house was asleep. I was alone in the quiet basement. Not only that, I was lonely. Deeply. That empty, gnawing, can’t swallow, breathless kind of lonely. But I didn’t go upstairs to wake anyone; I just let the feeling numb me. I wanted that moment. I needed that moment. It sunk in–just then–that I will always feel lonely, no matter who else I have to hold. Yet, I know being lonely also means having been loved. I would not trade that feeling for anything…except, of course, to have Dad back.