You watch everyone hustle around to meet the conflicting priorities of gifts, festivities, and stress management for the winter holidays, but you’re not involved. You take a step back every year at this time to remember Dad. He left this world on December 19, 1996, less than two weeks before you turned 19. You were on a plane when he died, heading in his direction.
Grief is a funny thing. It starts as a terrible monster, an all-consuming eraser for your typical routine, leaving you with the very basics, and a yardstick to measure everything else. It’s been two weeks since he died, but today I went to class and didn’t cry until I got home. Tomorrow I’ll run around the apartment and rue every item out of place, scrambling to get everything just so. Preparation is key. I’m keeping it together, see? I want everyone to know how strong I am.
It does get easier, even though you didn’t believe them when they told you that at first. You could hardly move past the moment of the wake when you saw his face (was that really him?), through the surreal funeral when people who never knew him made sweeping statements about his life, to later, after you put a rose on the casket and somehow managed to spend a few hours at his house, surrounded by strangers and family, lonely without him.
Years pass, and you grip your memories with every ounce of strength you have, pulling out the few physical pictures in your possession every so often, trying to listen for the sound of his voice you can just barely remember. You can hear every corny joke he ever told, repeatedly, because they still make you laugh. (Did you know they asked me to sing solo in the choir? Oh yeah? Yeah. So low no one could hear.)
You will yourself to rake your mind over these memories, the good ones, the painful ones, because they are all you have. Because you don’t want to forget the way his beard felt against your face when you leaned over to kiss him goodnight. Because you still have his eyes, and nose, and goofy expressions, and you can see him when you look in the mirror. Because you remember a few fights, and of course his tendency to be late to pick you up, and you know he wasn’t perfect, but you remember that feeling of putting your daddy above everyone else, just because he was yours. And still is. So you spend today remembering Dad, and everything he means to you.by