One year: A letter to my father

It’s been a year since you passed.

I don’t know whether I will ever get to talk to you again.  I spend a lot of time worrying that I won’t, which I know isn’t really a productive use of the years I have left (Serenity Prayer and all).

I relive what happened almost every day.  I still cry a lot.  Losing you was really a huge, permanent loss.  Even having a son didn’t make up for it, really.  I feel bad that you didn’t get to meet him.  What if I’d taken your advice–studied medicine, and married earlier?

My husband got his permanent green card.  He is well into his medical residency and will be a doctor soon.

Mom is as she always was.  She misses you a lot.  After you died she said you were the perfect husband for her.

We all miss you so much.  I feel like I live in my head these days, desperately pulling up old memories–of us catching fireflies, of you teaching me how to ride a bike, of us at the park exploring the creek, and at the playground, and in the swimming pool.  I run over and over them in my mind because I’m afraid, so afraid, that I might forget.

I always wanted to leave this city–it’s too hot here some of the year, and too cold the rest of the year, and in between there’s all the traffic and congestion and crime.  But that was when you were alive and well.  Now suddenly I am terrified to leave, because the places where we made memories together is all I have left of you.

There were so many things you wanted to do with me that we never got to do.  To visit your graduate schools, to visit the town in India where you grew up.  You wanted to take my daughter to the playground, and to have her hold your finger and walk like I used to do.  The loose ends hurt.  You would comfort me, and now you can’t.

We were always with you near the end, 24/7.  The day you died and they took you away, and you were finally alone, I was so scared that you would be frightened alone in the van, in the funeral home morgue.  It seems silly now.

All our lives, we almost never went a night without talking.  And now we haven’t talked in so long (your speech went before you died, so it’s been more than a year).  You used to say there was no place like home.  You never liked to stay away from home even a night. You haven’t been home in a year.  I miss you so badly.  Though I guess in a sense, you are home…we all must come from somewhere and we go back there, whether that “there” is some kind of afterlife or just that our atoms are recycled.

I know if there were a way you could come to me and Mom–if there were a way you could talk to me, that you would.  So that you haven’t done it, that you haven’t communicated from where you are (if anywhere at all) must mean it can’t be done.

You used to say you didn’t want to live past 80 and I didn’t understand.  And I was kind of hurt too–didn’t you want to be with me?  Now I do understand.  It’s not nice, old age–being dependent on others (not that I ever minded), feeling your health go.  And kids…they are great, but they are not peers–their well being is a responsibility…I didn’t understand until becoming a parent myself that you must have felt that burden.  I guess I can see why one would ultimately want to be free, or at least not mind being free.  So I guess I agree with you…I don’t want to live past 80 either; it’s a reasonable wish.  But I do wish you’d made it to 80.  Even one more year would have been so different–you’d have seen my son.   I feel so jealous of people my age who have grandparents, let alone parents.  My husband’s family will come and visit over Christmas…he has a dad and I don’t, and it isn’t fair…he has siblings too, and I don’t.

It has sucked not only to lose you but to lose one of the two keepers of my childhood–there are so many memories that now nobody in the universe remembers but me, that I will never really be able to convey to my kids or anyone else.

I don’t know how to end this letter.  I have gone on with my life, as best I know how.  People think I’m fine, but the reality is I don’t really have anyone to talk to about this–I guess Mom’s loss is bigger than mine.

I have gotten used to my empty e-mail inbox, Facebook without your “likes.”  I try not to think too much about how much you would have enjoyed the iPhones we got, or the family WhatsApp groups we made, after you passed.  Or how proud you’d be of me–after you died I got promoted, I lost weight, and I had a son.

But every cell of me misses you.   It comes out of nowhere and beats on me like a stick, and it is hard too because I can’t even think to myself that given time, this too shall pass…I know this grief and the missing will never quite go away.

I miss you.

I miss you.

I miss you.

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I hate that this has become a blog about cancer.

I was hoping to blog about so many other things.  I was hoping to blog about my dear little baby.  Or my 35th birthday today, or my first Mothers’ Day as a mother tomorrow.

My mom’s first scans showed remission, but now my dad has a rare and horrible form of brain cancer, and my mom is his caregiver 24/7, day in, day out, as though he were a baby.  My dad’s state has been so bad I don’t even want to write about it as it is an assault on his dignity.   All I can say is that if I had a dog in the state my father is in, I’d have euthanized the dog and put it out of its misery.  Life is ugly when your brain doesn’t work.  I live in a perpetual state of guilt that I do not go to the hospital enough.  The main reason is that I have an infant, but the secret reason is that sometimes it’s harder for me to see my dad than not to see him.  I lost my father three months ago.  The person who remains doesn’t usually wake up when I come to see him, and when he does he doesn’t say anything, and he calls me by my aunt’s name.

We have no family history of cancer.  Nada.  I don’t understand how this could have happened to us–not once, but twice.  And right when I had a little infant–on her three month birthday, eleven days after I returned to work.

If my dad had died three months ago, I could grieve and move on with my life.  Instead he lingers in a state that is not-dad, as someone who cannot do the most basic things.  He has a week of chemo every other week–and the sliver of hope is almost worse than if the worst had happened, immediately.

We celebrate small things–“oh, today he said a few words,” or “today he remembered my name.”  And I cannot believe what he has been reduced to.

My life has just been storms, for two straight years.  I was looking forward to so many things, if/when my mom went into remission, only to be right back in the maelstrom.  And now I wonder…

  • Will I ever write again?
  • Will I ever be able to return to exercising?
  • Will I ever be able to move to a job I like?
  • Will I ever be happy again?

I am hanging on these days by the thinnest of threads.