He loved listening to music.
He was an engineer.
And saying “my Dad died when I was 11” rolls off of my tongue in a way that it never has before. It’s been nine years. Time has passed. Things have gotten easier. His death is no longer where my thoughts default when nothing else is distracting me. I don’t think about him every time someone mentions his or her father in conversation. And, I don’t think about him every time someone asks about my own family.
I do think about him though. Every single day. It’s still hard.
I watch a girl dancing on her Dad’s feet and am transported back to days when I used to do the same. My friends don’t understand why I’m suddenly grinning from ear to ear but unable to say a word. It’s because I can hear my four-year-old self saying, “Daaaadd-ddyyyy” through uncontrollable giggles while I struggle to keep balance. It’s because I’m also thinking about how I want my future husband, whomever he might be, to do this with our children. Of course, I’m then reminded that the person I marry will never have had the opportunity to know my Dad.
I think of my Dad when I hear Consuelo Velázquez’s “Bésame Mucho,” Louis Prima’s “Jump Jive An’ Wail,” Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia,” or any other seemingly random song. I think of him each time I burn a CD. When the tollbooth takes an extra second to turn green. Every time I pass a Waffle House. And when I turn past a crossword puzzle and see the empty white boxes that he always filled.
Most of the time, the thoughts are fleeting, coming and going throughout the day. Usually, it doesn’t upset me because I’ve grown so used to having the thoughts that bring a smile as well as having those that bring a bit of pain. It has become a part of my daily routine. Still, there are times when I’m hit more intensely.
My Dad’s birthday is on October 17th. That day, my Facebook profile picture changes to one of us together. I do it for myself because there’s something in me that needs to be able to wave my hands as if to say “Hey world, I still miss him! Thousands of days have passed, but I still grieve and it still hurts.” It’s ironic in a way. After he first died, I hated feeling like I was “the girl whose Dad died.” But now? I just want people to remember him, even if it’s for just one day of the year.
The worst are the times when I’m sharing a memory and realize the person with whom I’m speaking just isn’t getting it. They never knew my Dad, so they’re having a hard time picturing this almost-mythical figure I’m gushing about. For many, he’s simply a collection of fragmented stories and memories of a little girl. How can I even come close to adequately explaining him? There are days when it absolutely crushes me to remember the truth: I can’t.
A person is so much more than their occupation, their likes and dislikes, or their talents. It’s about the moments you share with them. How they could draw people in. How their presence could fill a room. The unconditional love. The pride. The laughs. The embraces. It’s all of the intangible little things you can’t put your finger on. It’s the life that made that person special. The majority of the people now in my life never knew him. I wish they could have. Maybe then, it would be easier for them to grasp what I’m missing.
It’s been nine years since his death, and most days, I’m happy. I accepted my new normal years ago and learned to love my life and live it for what it is. Yet there are still days when I break down crying, and there are times when I want to scream about how unfair it all is. But these days are normal for me. Being used to something doesn’t mean it’s always easy. And those who love me understand these days will forever be a part of who I am.
Special thanks to guest author and Hello Grief community member Samantha Halle for sharing this story with us.