Above all, love.

THEN:
Written October, 2013

The world is cruel and life doesn’t slow down to allow you to grieve. 

You’re just left to hold it all together as you attempt to go on with “normal life”.  In the beginning your life changes completely. It’s literally having half of you ripped away. There is no getting over it. There is no “time heals all wounds”. Cliches are stupid. Only you and you alone have to deal with your grief. Don’t get me wrong,  the love of friends and family is a wonderful, vital thing. But when you lay down at night it’s just you and your thoughts and your pain and it’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to fall asleep and how you’re going to wake up.

That last day. 

I stopped by after work to do his laundry. When I got there he saw how tired I was and said I didn’t need to wash his things, but the laundry room was on a different floor and I knew I could get it done easier than he. In between loads we talked a lot, a lot more than our usual comfortable silence. I was humming a song I had heard earlier and he started to sing the words. So I googled the lyrics and we sang it together, him laughing about how terrible he sounded, and me lying and saying he was great. We talked about how that song always reminded him of first dates, and how the girl’s parents always liked him because they knew he wouldn’t touch their daughters….”Well, in THOSE places”, and he laughed.

He talked about having lunch with a 101 year old lady, and how he had never thought he would live that long, but how he was thinking maybe he wanted to so he could see great, great grandchildren. He said he wanted to live another 40 years. I said, “Dad, that’s 112!”. He was like “yup, I can do it”.

After I got all his bedding washed and dried and remade his bed. I grabbed a small piece of paper off his desk and a red marker and wrote “Sweet dreams, father dear. – Daughter #4”, and placed it on his pillow. (I found that note stuck in a picture frame on his wall after his death. I put it in his casket with him)

At his doorway I gave him a long hug. I had been so stressed out and just needed a long hug from my dad. I walked out the door, took a few steps and turned right back around and gave him another hug. It still makes me cry. I’m so glad I gave him that extra hug.

As I walked down the hall I heard him call after me, “I’m watching you”.

I turned back around, saw him standing in his doorway watching me, laughed and called him a creeper. I turned around, got on the elevator and that’s the last time I saw my dad.

November, 2013

All I can think about is that I’m putting leftovers away but I’m not setting aside an extra container to take to my dad’s tomorrow when I get out of work. I’m not going to ride my bike up the sidewalk to his building and smile and wave at the elderly strolling around outside. I’m not going to walk in the lobby and up the stairs and down the long hall. I’m not gonna knock on the door and hear him fumbling around and calling out that he’s coming. He’s not going to answer the door with a “hey, pretty girl”, a grin and a bear hug. I’m not going to tell him I brought him treats. I’m not going to open up my backpack and hand over containers bearing food made with love and with him in mind. He’s not going to have a gleam in his eye, as he peruses what I’ve brought before putting in the fridge, pretending he’s not excited about the food.

I’m not going to sit on the couch for a bit before heading home. He’s not going to interrupt our conversation to say hello to a squirrel. He’s not going to tell me about his day, or the lady across the hall, or who he sat with for lunch. He’s not going to tell me some memory of his childhood. He’s not going to hug me goodbye and tell me he loves me. He’s not going to send me off with his infamous “be good and if you can’t be good, don’t get caught”. He’s not going to tell me to tell my husband he loves him and to take care of me. I’m not going to give him one last squeeze. He’s not going to watch me walk down the long hall. I’m not going to feel that ache of having to leave him alone again. I’m not going to walk down the stairs, say hello to the all the ladies gathered, climb on my bike, and ride away.

Now: September 28, 2016.
Three years now. I don’t know how that’s possible. I feel like I have lived a few lifetimes since then. Life has not been easy, but it’s still been beautiful. I learn from the memories and the life of my dad. Be quiet. Be steady. Be unshaken. Live in the sunshine. And above all, love. I want to talk to him every single day. I still go to pick up the phone to call him. I still think about what Christmas/Birthday/Father’s Day present to get him.
My life has adjusted around the grief. I wear it comfortably now. I welcome it.
He taught me what I needed to do to go on without him. Above all, love. That was the example his life gave me. And that’s what I will continue to do.

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