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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On Life and Death

When I have been sad about my mom’s cancer, or the illness or death of another loved one, my husband has told me “well, people get sick and die all the time,” or “there’s nothing we can do,” and after a short pause has gone back to talking about his own life.  And the strange part is that he isn’t an uncaring or a selfish person at all; he is the type of guy who, if he sees that you need anything, he’s right there to help, and he’d give you his shirt even if it’s the last one he had.

What he says is true; life and health are fragile, and people die all the time, and horrible things happen, and even worse, people do horrible things to each other.

But still, for all the fragility of life, for the most part people in my world live to old age and go to peaceful deaths.  As to why the universe wrenches that privilege away from some and not others–well, if only we knew.

To those caregivers who have dealt with the illness and death of a loved one, what can I say?

I hope that having seen the suffering you have seen makes you value life more; that you take the time to squeeze sunshine out of each day that maybe you didn’t before.  That you care for yourself and have regular checkups, which so many people do not.  That you realize that ultimately traffic jams, and annoying people at work, and the small things, don’t matter.