When my dad passed away in November – my life changed forever – I remember writing about it once, how my life would always be separated into two parts, the time before and the time after my dad died – I’m now living in the part after my dad died.
Grief is an emotion that’s hard to understand, one that makes me feel the need to be busy all the time, because if I’m busy all the time then I have no time to be sad, but suddenly out of no where, it’ll feel like I hit a brick wall, like I suddenly realized that the sad story in my head isn’t from a book I put down last night, or from a TV show I turned off, it actually happened to me.
I remember two Septembers ago, when my dad was in the hospital with pneumonia, not quite a year since his diagnosis, I told Darren in the elevator, tearfully, that I just hoped when he was gone he’d send me signs – I asked for good cups of coffee, dogs that instantly liked me, and nothing but clouds when it came time to dry a freshly washed car – all things me and my dad held dear.
It took months – I thought he really was gone forever, that I’d never feel close to him again, I’d talk to him in the car, I’d play songs late at night that I could still hear him singing, but nothing, I just felt more alone.
Then, one night I had a dream, a dream that my dad wrote me and my mom a letter, and the letter was so obviously written by him. He started it by saying how bored he was in “Heaven,” or whatever we wanted to call it. He said there was no grass to be cut, no stonewalls to be built, and no dishes for him to wash and for me to dry.
When my dad got sick, before he lost the ability to type, and then the ability to write, and then all ability to communicate – I had hoped he would write me a letter, something to have after he was gone, I wish I would have asked him to, because he would have done anything I asked, but I wonder now if he didn’t because he was even more heartbroken to have to lose me, than I was to be losing him.
Then, a few nights ago, another dream – this time, my dad showed me a moment from two years ago from his point of view. Back then, we were driving to Albany a lot – appointments at the VA, appointments at the ALS center, appointments all the time. I would bring my laptop with me and work on articles for the freelance writing job I was doing – I’d write while I was in the waiting room, waiting for him and my mom. That day he was getting fitted for carbon fiber leg braces – at this point he was unable to stand up on his own and was struggling to walk without a cane, or me or my mom to lean on. Him and my mom started in one appointment in one room and ended up somewhere else. I grabbed a coffee and a snack after a bit and walked up to the floor they were supposed to finish up on.
When I got off the elevator – there he was, walking on his new legs, walking without help, walking toward me. Except, in my dream – I saw me getting off the elevator, I saw what my dad saw, me smiling, me laughing, me looking at him like he was my dad, instead of someone I needed to take care of. Then, I felt this overwhelming sense of pride. He was so proud to see me proud. There I was, looking at him with new, hopeful eyes and he was so happy – I felt so happy.
It never occurred to me that while I was watching my dad get weaker, he was watching me get stronger, as I was watching him growing older, he was watching me grow up – it never occurred to me how happy it would make him to have me smile like someone who had nothing to worry about, I wish I had smiled more like that when I had nothing to worry about.