Happy Anniversary of Being Dead
Last Saturday marked sixth months of my dad being dead. I know people don’t normally acknowledge half-anniversaries, but in this case it seemed unavoidable.
Six months. It seems like a long time, in that I can’t believe I’ve managed to survive without my dad for such a stretch. But it also seems like a short time when stacked up against the rest of my life that I’ll spend without him. When he first died, I asked my boyfriend how long he thought it would take before I stopped counting each day that he had been gone. He shrugged and said, “I don’t know. A long time probably. I mean, at least six months,” as if either of us had a clue. I now know that I’ll never stop counting, but the increments will just keep getting larger.
Half a year. How long before people forget that just half a year and one day ago, your dad was alive? How long before people stop asking you how you’re doing in that more concerned way, where you know they aren’t just making small talk. How long before all of your friends forget that you’re walking around with a broken heart? When you break up with a boyfriend you’re allotted half of the length of your relationship to mourn the loss. So with your dad you must get a while, right? How about a lifetime?
Twenty-four weeks. When my dad was first diagnosed, I spent the following 11 months living in fear, wondering what life would be like without him. But here we are, it’s November, and we’re all still standing. So much has happened since then, although I can’t help feeling like the world is moving forward while my sisters, my mom and myself are stuck, waiting for him to reappear so we can laugh this whole thing off and then continue on with our lives. How can we move forward with one man down?
One-hundred-and-eighty-five days. I know that my dad is dead. I know that he had cancer and I know for sure that he died, because I remember my mom coming upstairs to tell me and my twin that “daddy is gone,” and us shuffling downstairs to give him one last kiss on the forehead. He was tucked in comfortably in a hospital bed, his eyelids gently closed by my mother. We didn’t even cry then, too overwhelmed with shock and relief that his torture had come to an end.
Four-thousand-four-hundred-and-forty-hours. I’ve discovered that a person can function normally in their day to day, can laugh, can dance, can have fun, while still missing a piece of them that’s been gutted out from their insides. The pain isn’t always at the forefront, can sometimes be dulled, but will flare up when you least expect it. For instance: when making an obscure pop culture reference that only he would understand, when getting 2/3rds of the way through “Layla” without crying, only to lose your shit during the piano solo at the end, or when sitting around thinking about nothing and having his voice pop into your head–“Ange-ayyy!”–and realizing that in your head is the only place that voice lives now.
How long before I stop looking at pictures of him and being completely taken aback that he is gone? How long before I can watch home videos of him without crying? How long before his clothing, his old records, anything with his handwriting, stop feeling like ancient, sad artifacts?
Six months, two days. I got out of bed, had breakfast. Listened to Eric Clapton all morning while I tuned the old acoustic Yamaha that used to belong to my dad. Cried my way through writing this article. I know my heart is still beating because it’s aching in my chest. The world is still turning. Another day is going by.