It’s hard to recognize that a year has passed when you’ve been taking everything day by day.
March 31st is the first anniversary of my father’s death. I could have sworn it happened just yesterday — but at the same time, I feel like it’s been an eternity since he passed, since I heard his voice, since I held his hand. And every day since then has been some sort of struggle.
Grief is a monster. When you think you’ve beaten it down, it sneaks up and tries to consume you. When you finally manage to get to a point where you’re no longer crying every single day, you might put on a few episodes of mindless television to pass the time. Oh, this is the episode where George’s father dies? Great, excuse me while I quietly sob in another room. Some days, for no apparent reason, just suck. I wake up with an ache in my chest and just trudge through the day. I’ve taken to calling them Sad Dad Days when my husband asks me what’s wrong. Because there’s nothing wrong, and there’s nothing to be done. I just have to survive until bedtime, when usually, hopefully, the ache subsides when sleep comes.
Sometimes I dream of happier endings. That my dad made different choices in his life, choices that meant my dad was still with us. Those mornings are the worst, the ones when I wake up and don’t remember he’s gone. Those are usually the days that are hardest for me to get out of bed.
And then there are days when I’m just angry. Angry that things aren’t different, angry that my dad didn’t take care of himself, angry that there was nothing any of us could do to make him take care of himself. Angry that my sisters and I had to make medical decisions for him. Angry that my dad won’t dance at my sisters’ weddings. Angry at myself, for not making sure that my wedding photographer captured photos of my dad with my sisters. Angry for assuming we’d have more time with him than we did.
There are days when it feels like the hurt is never going to go away. That there’s always going to be this raw, broken edge in my soul. There are days when I wish for a statute of limitations on grief, because it just feels endless. It’s been a year, shouldn’t this hurt less by now? When one of his favorite songs plays, or when I pull a tray of cookies out of the oven and some of them have extra-crispy edges, or when I miss his laugh. Days when all I want is a hug.
But there are days when I think of him and smile. Cooking dinner on the grill in the summer. Riding in the car with the windows down and the music up. Sitting in the dark and watching the lightning, waiting for the thunder. Finding a shiny penny on the ground as I walk the dog. Those are the moments that dull the ache. My dad would have loved this. I hold on to them like talismans to keep the grief at bay.