This is for you, Dad.
This will come as a surprise to you, perhaps, just as it is a surprise for me. But in this moment, on this day, and in truth, ever since way back at the beginning of this twenty-nine day challenge, our relationship has been on my mind. That day, the day I wrote about embracing my heart, I was writing about my mother, but I was also writing about my grief for the loss of our family, the way I knew it to be.
I was writing about the ache of feeling that I had lost my father as well.
When someone you love dies, everything changes. It sounds simple, yet it can be so very complex. Say it again: when someone you love dies, everything changes.
What doesn’t change is the love we hold for the people in our lives. What doesn’t change is the love I hold, for you, Dad. It doesn’t change love at all. In many ways it’s easier to write about how I feel about losing Mum – she’s not here, and because of that, I feel like I can write freely. But I want you to know that every time I talk about Mum, I am talking about you as well. And that I carry you around, in my heart, each and every day, into each and every moment.
And so, Dad, I think about our summer vacations, swimming in pools, and eating Ruffles potato chips. I think of staying up late and watching SNL. I think of the Christmas you accidently mixed up our gifts, and I opened a toy truck and Matt opened a bear pajama holder, and how your eyes welled up, because you thought you had let us down. I think of our drives to Ellicottville, the comfort of nodding off to sleep, knowing that you would get us through the snow storm safely, the oldies playing on the radio. I think of the giant stone fireplace and how we used to pick out faces and animals while we warmed by the fire. I think of the night you put him to bed, and it was you, not he, that fell asleep. I think of Yahtzee and air guitar and silly hats and laughing and surprise dance parties. I think of all of our ups and all of our downs. I think of the day that you and Mum got remarried and how magical it felt. I think of our long, late night talks fueled by cognac on my weekends home, while Mum was sick, discussing our worst fears. I think about those dark and blurry days, all of us numb, everything made us want to laugh and cry at the same time. I think of you always being there, even when I have pushed you away, needing my space to feel my grief for me. I think of our attempts to make things normal when the truth was normal didn’t exist. I think of all the things that made us laugh, and how hard we would try to make each other cry over the words we would write in cards. I think of your smell and your quad pads and your bags full of maps and how you use to eat the breath mints with sparkles in them. I think of your joy at watching our joy. I think of your happiness in meeting someone new who filled your heart up. I think of the many mountains we climbed and how at the foot of each I knew you were there, even if I asked you to stand back. I think of the sparkle in your eyes and how brave I thought it was that you were never afraid to cry.
I hold so many memories in my heart, Dad. I could write all day and night, and still there would be more.
We have each moved forward in our lives, and in building our new families, the memories of our old one stands strong.
For these are who we are built on, and they are essential to who we have become.
You are essential to who I have become.