Today, four years ago, my father died.
Four years. That is a presidential term; the interval between Olympics; the space in which my newborn son became a boy with opinions all his own. It is the length of high school, or college, or a medical residency in some specialties. I don’t know if four years is a short time or a long one. As I age it seems shorter; both an eternity and a moment.
Out of necessity, I have built a life without my father in it. He has not seen my new job, my new house, the place I live now, or his grandson. He did not see the current presidency. Sometimes I think of fathers as something in another universe; something other people have. Sometimes I miss him terribly. I find I have trouble looking at photos, or listening to saved voice messages. Sometimes it is easier to put him and it out of my mind; when I see photos or hear his voice I am reminded what I lost. I dream of him sometimes, and the dreams are still painful.
This year I moved across the country to a place with no fall colors. The house where he died (and where I grew up) is for sale. We have lowered the price twice, but nobody is buying it. It makes me sad that the house that meant so much to us isn’t worth anything to anyone else.
The last three years, around this time of year I have become uneasy, anxious, and depressed without even realizing that I had come to associate early fall with his death. I wanted to take the day off work. Here on the other side of the country, those subconscious triggers don’t exist. Here it is always summer. I am not surrounded by the house where he died, or the places we went together. His things are in my garage, packed away in boxes. I don’t know if it feels harder or easier to have lost those connections.
I miss him, but in a different way than I did nearly four years ago when I wondered how I could go on. The missing is like wallpaper; it is there and visible, but life goes on around it. The horror of the last days is there, but the edges are dulled. I have not Googled his cancer in a long time; how he died does not matter any more, only that he is not here.
I am more at peace with the fact that this life may be all there is, and that I may not see him again. Because I haven’t seen him in a long time anyway.
The memories that stick out in my mind are like the little points of flour that remain when the rest has fallen through the sifter: A walk in the park; a swim in the park pool; a trip to the Indian restaurant in Cambridge MA. They were once mundane, and now are incomparable rarities that I touch in my mind, knowing the mold is broken, and no more will be made. And let that remind me to live my days well, because one day my children may remember our trips to the park, or our adventures in our old house, in the same way.