I was listening to the radio this morning. Dads were sharing moments during which they were so proud of their children, it brought tears to their eyes. My hand reached to change the station, but I was frozen – I wanted to hear more of the love in their voices. Looking through tears at the cars in front of me, I thought about all the moments in the past few months that would have brought tears to my own dad’s eyes; the moments that would have made him proud.
In one month, I’ll graduate from high school – the countdown to the end. It’s as if a domino was tapped. One by one, things are starting to end. And, with each of my senior lasts, I’m one step closer to that surreal moment that’s played in my head for years and years: walking across that stage to graduate.
It’s a moment that the Class of 2010 has looked forward to since September; one that we have longed for on countless occasions. Whether viewed as an escape from our high school walls, or the culmination of years of projects, tests, and quizzes, graduation is a celebration of success – a celebration in which you’re surrounded by your teachers, family, and friends. But as the days inch closer and closer to June 18th, a fact that I’ve known for seven and a half years has become increasingly more real: my dad won’t be there.
It’s something I’ve struggled with all year. For me, graduation is symbolic of all the things he has missed and will miss. It’s knowing that he won’t be there to watch me with his fill-the-room smile. That he won’t be here to take an entire memory card’s worth of pictures, and that the family pictures that are taken will feel incomplete. I won’t get a bear hug while hearing him tell me how fast I’ve grown up, and he can’t purposefully embarrass me just for laughs. Nor can he brag to his friends about my successes because he wasn’t here to experience them with me.
But it’s even more than all of that. It’s realizing that he never knew me as a teenager, and will never know me as an adult. That he will have missed all of my “graduations,” from elementary, middle, and high school. It’s the fact that I’ve made decisions about my future and am moving on to create my own life. A life he will never know.
Amidst all the excitement about graduating and moving on to new things is an underlying fear. As much as I’ve tried to embrace changes in my life, change still makes me uneasy. Despite all of the changes that have occurred since he died more than seven years ago, these changes feel harder. It scares me to know that I will no longer be surrounded by my family on a day-to-day basis, nor will I be in an environment I know. I’m worried that it will be easier for my memories of him to fade; I’m terrified I’ll begin to forget.
As the years since my Dad’s death have grown in number, fewer and fewer of my friends are people who actually knew my Dad, and it scares me to think that moving on to college, and on with my life, will only make this worse. This, in itself, is a thought that has brought me to tears on countless occasions.
The majority of my current friends never knew him – to them, he’s just a myriad of bits and pieces of memories; stories that are tied to a sad part of my life. He’s more of a myth than a real person, and it hurts to know that a day will come when the majority of those who did know him will no longer be a part of my life.
In 30 days I’ll graduate wearing the last necklace Dad bought me with a picture of the two of us taped on the inside of my cap. And although I’ll do small things like this to help stay connected, it won’t make up for the fact that he’s not here. At the end of the day, it still won’t be fair.
Yet, I know I’ve become the person I am because of my loss. And I know he would be proud.