I’ve put off this post for as long as I can but I’ve run out of time. October is almost over.
Three weeks and two days ago my father passed away. Despite living with this truth in this time span it’s still difficult in a harsh light of day sort of way to see it written so plainly.
I began this blog post two days after he died, when my life was chaos and every breath I’d taken since felt like it was being stolen from me. All I’d had the energy to type was a title that has since been changed multiple times, and the following lines:
Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga, Tn.
The location of my birth, and my father’s death.
For days. weeks now, I thought about that space between the comma; of how long and winding our paths had become after my birth and before his death, and how all of it wasn’t perfect or pretty. How much resentment I’d felt toward my dad by the time I’d left Chattanooga for college. And how I’d learned to let go of a lot of my anger through therapy and simply letting the fuck go of it all.
The week following his death I’d gone over each bitter memory carefully, forcing myself to recall each angle of our relationship. I didn’t want to erase our lived experiences. I didn’t want to be that person who conveniently forgot the bad moments in the wake of someone’s death. And I knew my dad would’ve been the first to say, “it is what it is.” The person he was when he died didn’t negate who he used to be. Most importantly he was my daddy, and I wanted to acknowledge every identity that made him who he was at the end of his life.
So, I picked and prodded at the memories. The shadowed corners of cold silences and shouting matches and drunken phone calls just to reaffirm an undeniable truth: “I’m the only daddy you have.”
But there was joy too. That first conversation after the anger was gone and I’d learned he was the best father he knew how to be. That it was okay if we didn’t have the most ideal relationship so long as we both kept trying. That he drove to Memphis to see me graduate from college. That he walked me down the aisle on my wedding day.
More days passed and my mind wouldn’t shut off. It was like watching a home movie, filled with scenes and snapshots of my life after the comma. He always had me with him when I was younger. We went riding in his powder blue Cadillac (and later, his green LTD that he’d nicknamed “the green hornet.”). Top down, wind gusting through the ponytails on either side of my head as he drove through a tunnel or down a hill, so fast I could barely catch my breath but I never asked him to slow down. I’d wanted that moment to last forever.
(I have to pause for a moment to wipe the tears away. That feeling – that heart-dropping, light-headed, sound roaring back in my ears feeling of my dad’s death – is like a goddamn albatross.)
Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t get outside my own head, like I was trapped in this loop of reminiscing details I hadn’t thought about in years. Which I suppose is part of the grieving process. I’ve never had to do this before, this acceptance of losing a parent. It’s something that was unfathomable to me, as unrealistic as that is, right until it was happening and I was forced to deal with it. As my mom so succinctly sent to me via text one day, “we all have a number.”
I remember making a dismissive noise upon reading her text but it’s the plain truth. We all have a time to die. At some point I’ll be able to think about my dad and not want to break down, or talk about him without biting my lip to keep from tearing up. Condolences from friends and co-workers will be easier to bear, with time. And I’ll have to regroup and start the cycle again when something inevitably sets me back.
Through it all, I’ll go on with my life. Even as part of me will always be a daddy’s girl, coasting down a winding road in a blue Cadillac and gasping for a breath, but unafraid.