Update: I’m busy as hell and this summer has been chaotic. But! I was able to sneak away to Rehoboth for a week and the beach is always a nice break from the craziness.
I really needed the ocean waves to heal me (even though they also dropped me on my ass a few times) because I’ve had some heavy things on my mind. Summer has become kind of a rough time for me in general for reasons I’ve mentioned in other posts. But to be clear, today is the anniversary of my father’s passing. It’s so weird to say that still. It still feels really new somehow. Almost unreal, like he’s still around but I just haven’t talked to him in a while. Every once in a while when I’m speaking to someone new and parents come up in conversation, it’s difficult to find the words. Like, how do you casually tell someone your father is dead without stopping the conversation cold? Those are the weird things I struggle with.
You know, I recently watched that new Netflix show, Stranger Things (which, by the way, is fantastic and you should go watch immediately) and there is a scene where the police chief is asked about his daughter and he says something like, “She lives with her mom in the city.” He walks away and the person he was talking to was informed that his daughter actually passed away. Sorry for the minor spoiler there but I really, this captures that experience so perfectly because there’s no guidebook on how and when you tell something like this to another person. But not acknowledging it seems…. like a dishonor somehow? And dishonest.
Once, at work, I had a newer colleague ask me what my dad does for a living and where he’s living these days. I paused for a half a second and I honestly considered just saying he was in California (which isn’t really a lie – his ashes were spread along the Pacific Coastline) because I didn’t really want to him to look at me with pity in his eyes. I didn’t want to hear “I’m so sorry” and I didn’t want to have to explain what happened. But in the end, I said that my father had passed recently. I tried to sound breezy about it but I actually sounded very high pitched and the words got stuck in my throat for a beat. The guy was polite and said the standard “I’m sorry” (which I mean… as much as I have grown to hate those words, what else is someone going to say in that scenario?) but then we sort of just… moved on. There wasn’t any real weirdness and I didn’t carry that moment with me for days and days. It’s a process – finding little ways to be okay with something that is very much not okay and learning how to manage your grief in healthy manners.
The hardest moments honestly are the times it’s unexpected. When I was at the beach this summer, the group of us strolled down the boardwalk after dinner in search of ice cream and we discovered the most hilarious and random Elvis impersonator performing on the main gazebo with a bunch of back up dancers/singers and very bright lights. It was hilarious and I loved it but it also made me think of my dad, whom I have road tripped with to Las Vegas many times. He was OBSESSED with horrible Elvis impersonators and would plan an entire evening in Vegas around finding the best (or maybe worst?) ones the city had to offer. There is a whole album he had of pictures he’d taken with impersonators over the years. It was such a weird interest and the second I saw that Elvis in Rehoboth, my first thought was, “I have to text this to dad”…. and then I remembered. Those moments when I forget for half a second – those are the most brutal times. Remembering that I will never hear him laugh again or say his signature, “Well isn’t that something?”
It’s been two years. Two years. My dad has been gone for two years. How does anyone ever get used to that? He never got to see The Force Awakens. He never got to hear the music of Hamilton. He never got the opportunity to mock the British for Brexit (which he would have done with many, many terrible dad jokes, none of which I can even dream up). He and I will never spend another Thanksgiving together. We’re never again going to sit on the beach together and watch the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean. We’re never going to have another argument over which is better – French toast or waffles. (Yes, French toast is the answer. My dad was confused, clearly.)
As Chris Hardwick often talks about on his Nerdist podcast, I’m also part of the Dead Dad Club and I’m still learning how to cope with it. I got through Father’s Day without crying, which is kind of amazing. And I’ve surrounded myself with people that make me see the good in the world. This week had its ups and downs but I was able to spend time with people I care about and who fill my life with laughter. Over the weekend I will be celebrating a couple of birthdays, for two awesome people that help in keeping this crazy life of mine fun. It’s helped in making this week less somber and more of a celebration of life and appreciating what I still have to hold on to. I know it’s what my dad would want. He grew up with nothing (except the strongest and most loving mother in the world, which I guess is actually everything) and all he wanted was for me and my siblings to know that we were loved and lucky – and we should spread love and generosity to others who needed it and accept love in return. I am fiercely independent, to a fault in some ways, so the “accepting love” part can be hard for me sometimes…. but it’s something I’ve gotten better at, especially in the past few years.
I guess my point is…. today is hard. But it could be harder, so I think maybe I’m in a healthier place than I have been in the past year or two? Instead of feeling like the world is ending all over again, I’m going to do all the things my dad would want me to do today – do something generous for another person, hug my dog, watch a Star Wars movie, eat ice cream for lunch, spend quality time with my brother, celebrate life with my friends. I’m going to live the best possible version of my life today because that’s the best way I can think of to honor him. How lucky am I to have a dad who, even when he’s passed, inspires me to be happy and to do good things?