Until I see you again ...
I grew up a Daddy’s girl.
Apparently, when I was a toddler, I’d pick a random number in my head and ask my parents to guess it. It didn’t matter what number my father chose, he was always the winner.
My father was the one who worked two jobs to support his family. And despite his exhaustion, hunger, and frustration, he’d still stop by the store to get me a “pick-me-up” present in the evening when I was sick. He never complained. He was just so happy to see his daughter smile.
Every Saturday, while my mother tended to her own life, he would take me to the mall. We’d grab a burger from our favorite little hole in the wall, and then we’d walk to the bookstore.
He would let me pick as many books as I wanted because he knew I’d read them and he loved that I shared his passion for reading. Off to the register we’d go with a handful of R.L. Stine for me and Robert Ludlum for him.
These are memories that are locked in my broken heart. I’d say my head, but it’s so hard to access them without collapsing into a pile of tears.
When I cried as a kid, he’d give me a hug. I’d often wet his shirt with my sobs and he’d call it “tear soup.”
“My shirt is soaked with tear soup.” He’d laugh as he wiped away my sadness.
Our relationship only strengthened with time.
We’d watch the same shows, discuss the hottest news topics, and mock each other like the best friends we are … were.
I can’t escape January 28, 2016. It keeps replaying in my mind like a broken tape in a VCR.
I never had a chance to say goodbye to him while he was a conscious, living human being.
It was supposed to be curable cancer.
It was supposed to be gone with only a few sessions of chemotherapy.
It wasn’t supposed to be my father relying on beeping machines to live.
But it was.
I sat beside his bed after making the gut-wrenching decision to remove him from life support and held his hand. It was cold, yellowed already.
His eyes fluttered. The nurse would come in and shut them.
“That’s normal for that to happen,” she said.
His breathing sounded like snoring, but it wasn’t. It was the rattle associated with death. And then it started to slow down until it wasn’t there.
“Is he?” I asked the nurse as she checked his pulse.
“He’s moved on to a better place,” she said.
At some point, I blacked out. I was standing one minute, and the next I was surrounded by nurses and a cup of water, sitting on a folding chair outside of his room.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
I loved my father. EVERYONE loved my father.
Death wasn’t supposed to be something that happened to him. Other people, yes. But not him.
It might sound cliché to say that my heart is broken or there’s a piece of it that will never be replaced. But it’s so much more than that.
There’s a layer of fog that surrounds my father’s passing. If I think about it too much, and things become clear and less hazy, the memories come back and the feeling of being stabbed in the stomach throws me into a fit of tears. So I keep it at bay.
When people speak of cancer or death, I lock my body down. I don’t allow myself to feel more than I have to.
Healthy? Probably not.
Does it help me function? Yes.
But I want to feel. I want to tell you what it’s like to lose the one person in your life who always had your back. The one person in your life who you knew loved you unconditionally, despite all the teenage heartache and adult drama that sometimes rips families apart.
Not my dad. He is always there … was always there.
It’s nauseating. It’s a blind-sided punch to the gut that touches every single nerve in your body.
It’s emotional pain.
It’s crying at night because something happened that day and you can’t text your dad about it.
It’s crying during the day when you take a picture of your son and realize you can’t send it to your dad.
It’s crying watching Game of Thrones knowing that when the show is over, you will not be receiving a text message about how awesome the episode was.
And it’s realizing that no matter how hard you cry, nothing will bring him back.
It's realizing that your son, only four years old when it happened, will not remember the time that his grandfather blew bubbles with him or read him the same book six times in a row because that's what grandpas do.
It's realizing that once a non-believer in anything spiritual, you've now become someone who looks for signs, despite feeling silly for doing so.
It's realizing that you'll never again buy a birthday or Christmas present for your father. The kind he always hated to receive because "Kids shouldn't buy their parents gifts. It's always the other way around!" he'd say as the sparkle in his eye shone on whatever my husband and I got him that year.
It's realizing that all the times you took for granted are gone ... for good. Every moment, every word, every look — gone.
Why didn't I take more pictures? Videos? Why didn't I visit more? Maybe I should have been more accepting of certain things? Does he resent me? Did he die knowing I love him? Did he die loving me?
Losing a parent, especially one that is ... was ... so incredibly a part of your life is one of the hardest, most painful experiences I have gone through.
I still go through it.
I love you, Daddy, forever and always.