Three Years In

It is hard to believe that three years have gone by since my father’s passing. People say a lot of things about loss and death, that time heals all wounds and that new experiences help us cope with our losses.

I will not pretend to know whether that is wisdom or just banality intended to make us feel better.

However, I can remember my father with some bittersweet joy most of the time…without a lump of hurt settling in my throat and without the sting of tears burning my eyes. Certain memories still ache and writhe. There is a preciousness to those, a feeling that they are still unhealed and raw and unfinished. Other memories haunt me, painfully reminding me of what I can never get back.

The past three years have been busy with the growing of children and the activity of family and jobs and life. I wonder sometimes how things would have been different if my father were around to enjoy these times with us. He would have doted on his grandchildren and given me sound advice—sometimes unasked—on the best decisions to make for the future. There are many times I just wish I could hear his voice again. That longing always makes me cry.

I use his example to remind my friends and loved ones to schedule all their doctors’ appointments early in the year. Sometimes I can tell them why without breaking down. Other times I can’t.

I try to appreciate the time I have with aging relatives more, even if that time is spent on a phone call—they won’t always be around. Honestly, I’ve tried harder with relatives of all ages, and it’s brought me great joy to nourish those ties.

This time of year raises the worst memories. I can remember his birthday and anniversary with joy, but the period between the last times I saw him, the news, and the funeral hit me especially hard.

Looking through my pictures on Google Photos, I discovered that Google’s creeptastic face recognition managed to capture my father’s image across four decades without any trouble, despite hair loss, weight loss, and even the dazed exhaustion of his final days.

Perhaps seeing the evolution of these images spurred my subconscious to the troubled dreams I’ve had, reimagining his illness all over again. Despite his having been gone for three years now, the horror of discovering his diagnosis and watching his health decline still feels like a nightmare. I honestly haven’t slept well in the since I saw the pictures, either because of bad dreams or a resistance to wanting to go to sleep in the first place to experience those dreams.

The gaping hole in my soul, however, remains, and nothing can bridge it.

All my love, Papa. I miss you.

This is Two

So today marks two years since my father’s passing. This whole month has taken me down a memory lane filled with the most lasting painful memories I’ve ever made.

Knowing that, whenever I visited my father I was seeing him move inevitably closer to that final goodbye, knowing that every time I heard his weakening voice I needed to capture that precious sound before it was gone forever.

One Saturday afternoon, soon after his diagnosis, he called me. Postpartum and overwhelmed, I had just snapped up my laptop and run out of the house near tears after telling my husband I’d be back.

Ever reasonable and definitely not averse to my getting out of the house alone, K’s only questions were where I was going (the nearest Starbucks), and when I expected to return (I wasn’t sure). It turned out to be about 3 hours, which I spent binge-watching “Arrow” on Netflix with a gigantic cup of tea.

My father’s call arrived just as I parked the car. So I answered, and I’m sure he could tell I was upset, because after greeting me and ascertaining where I was and why I was there, his first question was, “Do you have time to talk?” And my heartfelt answer was, “For you, always.”

I just wish I could still honor that promise.