September 20, 2014
Dear Dad –
Can you believe it’s been five years? Yeah, me either! I can’t believe it’s been five years since we lost you. I can’t believe it’s been five years of blog posts and I haven’t once resorted to an epistolary model…until now.
A lot has gone on in the last five years. I know that you didn’t want me to cry or be too sad, but come on. You knew me pretty well. I was pretty sad when you left, and I have certainly shed my share of tears.
Recently I was talking with a friend about how you and Mom never really did understand what to do with me when I would cry. Like, you were concerned, and loving, and looked at me like I was a dear, sweet, beloved alien child who had somehow started leaking.
Speaking of calling crying “leaking,” did you know we lost Robin Williams too? It sucked. I wish I believed in an anthropomorphic type of afterlife where you and Robin Williams could be up there laughing your asses off together, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the way it works. But I could certainly be wrong! God knows I’m wrong a lot!
Anyway, so I’ve cried a lot in the last five years. Sometimes because I was sad, sometimes because I was happy, sometimes because I was angry or confused, and sometimes simply out of sheer beauty or sheer joy. Often it was several of those things mixed up together.
I visit your grave usually once a year, usually on your birthday. Remember how I never knew what to do at graves? And I’d talk to you and Mom about it, when we would go to put flowers on Grandma’s grave? Where I wasn’t sure whether to pray or laugh or chat or what? Yeah, I still have no idea. I love the cemetery where you’re buried though. It makes sense to think of you there.
I keep thinking of stories from the past five years, Dad. Funny things and sad things. The bird that got stuck in the church during your funeral. Continued Christmas gag gifts and how I tried to figure out a way I could possibly leave one of those singing fish plaques on your grave. There are things I’ve wanted to tell you and ask you. I visited your grave once not on your birthday, but after the first Flower Communion I attended at my new UU church. I brought the flower that I got that day to your grave, because I needed to tell you about where my faith was taking me, and what I feel I need to do.
But why now? Why take up this letter-writing business when after all, I’ve just admitted a few paragraphs ago that I don’t believe in the type of afterlife where you could at all appreciate this sort of letter?
Well, Dad, a few reasons. For one thing, I’ve had the blog since before you passed away. I still have it, and it seemed important to me to mark this five-year anniversary. For another, to be honest, there’s something I struggle with. I’ve written about grief and mourning and about missing you. The grief is part of me now, every day. It is a part of the sum total of who I am.
But Dad, I have to tell you. I don’t miss you every day.
You hear that a lot, you know? “I miss [name of deceased loved one] every day.”
I couldn’t tell you when the first day I didn’t miss you was. I was pretty aware, a few months after you’d passed, that I had at that point gone longer without seeing you than I ever had in my life. That kind of sucked. And there have been plenty of times I’ve been reminded of you, or wished you were there to read a book or see a movie I thought you would enjoy. (Let me tell you RIGHT NOW though, I’m pretty glad you didn’t have to see them make these stupid Hobbit movies. Yeah: movies, plural. Don’t get me started…) The family’s been through so much we would have been so happy to have you share with us, good and bad.
But I don’t miss you every day. And I need to talk about that because I think sometimes people get ideas of how their grief should be. They listen to the people who talk about missing so-and-so every day, or the ones who note how long they placed a certain type of flower on a grave, or maybe they drive past the monuments on highways to people killed in crashes long ago. Maybe sometimes people hear what other people do or feel in grief and they feel guilt because their own grief doesn’t work the same way.
I know you’d agree with me that that isn’t right. Because I know that you wouldn’t WANT me to miss you every day. You would want a life of love and joy for me. I know this because you told me, and for that I’m so grateful. We got to have a lot of conversations when we knew your time was coming – on top of the ones we’d had all along. Maybe sometimes people need to mourn in a different way because of conversations they do or do not get to have with their loved ones before the end. If you had died suddenly, perhaps I would miss you every day.
I’ve had a lot of pain and a lot of joy in the last five years, Dad. There have been many days I’ve missed you. And there have been times I have been grateful for the freedom of not having you here. It’s hard to say that. But we each make our break from the life we were raised to in our own way. We make our own life, our own path, our own way. Sometimes we run away from our families, or marry and make new ones in a traditional way, or act out against our parents, or simply move on and make chosen families in less traditional ways. Part of becoming fully me, fully myself, has been facilitated by your not being here. And while I love you, and while I carry the grief of your loss, that is a scar and no longer a wound.
I’ve written, Dad, about what a revelation it’s been to look in the mirror and like what I see. I love who I am, scars and all. It’s not that I could never have learned to do that so well while you were here, Dad. It’s that this is the way it has happened, and this is who I am right now, and part of this woman I am is your loss. Part of this woman I am is more with your memory. There are things in my past I regret, things I’m ashamed of, things I am proud of, things I can barely remember. But to be here now they all matter. You matter immeasurably, Dad. You mattered for the 37 years of my life I was blessed to have you with me, you mattered for the 32 years you had before I showed up, and you will continue to matter so much for as long as I live.
But I don’t miss you every day. And I thought you’d be happy to hear that.
I love you.
p.s. In the last five years I’ve gotten two more tattoos AND gotten my nose pierced. And I know how much you must love hearing THAT. Heh.