Today is the 18th anniversary of my father’s passing. 18 freaking years. There are times of weakness when I feel like it was yesterday. Funny how I can relive every painful second of that day and then some. The plane ride back to Maine thinking I just left that state in my rear view and here I am, traveling back for a man who won’t speak my name. Little did I know I would never hear his voice again. The stark white hospital room listening to my sister be all brave telling me it is okay to touch him, grabbing his foot as proof. The heart monitor slowing ticking away, the numbers in glowing green getting smaller. Here I am, going to the waiting room to tell what’s left of my family it is time. Time. The funeral. The Other Family. The Road Less Traveled. Flowers from Ruby. No one else knew what to say. Friends backed away in horror over my hysterics. Family hovered and smothered and tried too hard to have all the answers, the remedies to fix a broken heart.
I try not to dwell on the “Nevers” as in My Father Will Never____ (meet my husband, see his grandchildren, hear his daughters bicker, see his wife, pat the dog, eat peanuts out of the shell, do anything again). Instead I have been practicing forgiveness. I forgive myself for fighting with the most influential person this soul will ever know. I forgive myself for making him angry and not saying sorry soon enough. It is my fault we spent our last days seething at one another but he has forgiven me despite the unspoken, unuttered apology. He did not die hating me just as I no longer live thinking I hurt him.
Guilt and grief make a dangerous combination. To live with such a noxious combination is to die a slow death. Truly, this was killing me alive. Starting today I am done with regret.
I miss your wisdom. You would have said something profound and provoking on my sixth wedding anniversary. Look dad! My longest relationship to date! Aren’t you proud? You would have said something witty about next year’s itch, something to make us laugh. Something about athlete’s foot, I’m sure. But, in all seriousness you would have told us you loved us. And we would have believed you.