My Dad died.
The day after the burial anniversary of my Mom. He passed in the early morning hours of the 22nd.
I remember waking up the morning of the 22nd, happy that I had weathered the gloom and doom/emotional roller coaster of the past three weeks, my mother heavy on my mind the entire time though she had passed some 17 years before. It is difficult to explain to folks what this time of year does to me emotionally but suffice it to say that from the beginning of July till about the 21st, thereof, I am never ever myself. I am introspective, I am melancholy, I am up in arms internally.
I had always been hard on myself for not going through that mourning time for my mother very well. To this day I never allow myself to cry because I am afraid once the flood gates are opened they won’t ever be able to be shut. I miss my Mom so much that the missing her frightens me. But my mind/Self misses her too, enough to make my emotions react though I wish they wouldn’t. This year though I decided that I would be easy with myself and come out the other end as unscathed as possible.
And that morning of the 22nd, I was happy, breathing a sigh of relief that I had made it through! That I had survived my first year, sans therapy, sans breakdown, grieving “proper”, thoughtfully, carefully. Until I got the call from my Uncle in Jacksonville that my Dad had passed that morning. My mind went blank and I didn’t hear anything he said after the news. It felt surreal, not unlike the moment the hospital called about my Mom, not unlike many of the other bad, awful, no good news I’ve received in my life. But unlike those other times, when I would immediately spring into action, doing what needs to be done, in this particular slow-motion moment, a part of me, the matured part of me, decided that we were gonna use all those years of therapy and do this grieving shit right.
So I cried, wholeheartedly. This startled my retired military Uncle so much that he had to tell me that he would call me back. I continued to cry that day. I cried the next day, even to the point where my tears were falling into my food and I would scoop them in with my rice and eat them. I mourned his passing like I had seen him just that day at hospital, instead of some years past, despite my insistence that he make a pit stop in Miami to come for a visit. His passing is an irony to me. Ironic because I hadn’t known that he was sick enough to warrant death. He hadn’t let me know he was sick at all (though I had slight suspicions) and he didn’t tell my Uncle the extent of his sickness. Ironic also because I had been so careful to explain to him my anxiety about people in my life leaving me without warning or preparation.
In retrospect, a lot of things make sense now. His increasingly fuzzy memory, his lethargy, his frequent trips to the doctors over the last two or so years. During our conversations, I would make it a point to ask if he was alright and his answer would always be that he was healthy and that he would live a really long time. A really long time wound up being 8 years post retirement.
Though he was candid to a fault, my Dad died a very private man. There were things he didn’t share with me, his youngest born. I take it as him protecting me from any more of Life’s ill whims. Though I was grown by the time we began cultivating a relationship, in these past 12 years, I took solace in knowing that I could take to him, with him about anything I had in my heart or on my mind. For the first time in almost all my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere, to someone, to a people.
Irony that once I began to feel a sense of home, he is now gone.
It has been a few weeks since his passing and not even a week since his burial and I still speak about him like he is accessible by phone instead of prayer. I am not sure he knew how much knowing him had begun to heal a gaping wound in my psyche.
I wrote a poem about him the day his body was en route back to his homeland for burial:
You fly above me,
to your Homeland.
letting me know –
this way you’ve passed.
I smile, a tear.
will keep you vigil
I can’t pretend that I knew him best. I can’t pretend that our relationship was always alright but I hope I brought him some peace of mind, some softness in the later years of his life like having a daughter can for a Dad. It pains me that he died without me there, vain though that may sound. Me that has lived with sorrow, that has eaten from its table for so long. I’d like to think that I could have alleviated his fears at the end, if he had any. Speculation, that is all it can be now. Speculation.
And so, here is today, the next phase of this life without him. I hope I can navigate it right.