Three years ago this week my Dad was getting put onto hospice and we were coming to terms with his impending death. It’s surreal that three years have passed. Because so much has changed in the world and in my life. It feels like a really long time, but also like yesterday. It was overall a shitty week. I was still new in my practice and working around the clock. I felt overwhelmed and I had two three year olds and a marriage that had started to crumble.
My dad’s death did a lot to bring the deterioration of my marriage to the forefront. My ex was unable to really support me through my grief. And I realized I couldn’t be with a partner who could not be there for me during the hard times as I had been for her. I waited until a year a half later when she moved out to finally start truly grieving for my Dad because I was finally in what felt like an emotionally safe space for the first time in many years.
I remember walking around my house the first few weekends without the boys and without her. It was just me. It was so quiet. I remember walking from the stairs toward my living room and stopping in the foyer. It’s kind of the central location to my house. I stood there, and then I just fell to my knees and cried. I cried so hard. To live with some one who cannot emotionally support you takes a toll. Because I was always censoring my feelings to avoid having to deal with hers.
And for the first time I could just safely let them all out. I laid on my floor in the center of my house for what felt like hours remembering my Dad’s last week, his last day, his last breath, the stretcher taking him out, the well meaning hospice nurse who told me I didn’t “kill him” with the last dose of Dilaudid, and sitting around the firepit with my Mom and sister as we waited for them to take his body.
I remembered the funeral, there were so many people, and there were men in uniform who saluted me when I approached them and told me that my Dad was one of the best soldiers they had ever served with and they wanted to know why he hadn’t received a soldier’s burial. I had to explain he didn’t want one. That at the end he was so angry at the military. He made that quite clear. The military was such a part of my dad and such a part of my life with him. When people got to go to work with their parents, they maybe went to offices. I went to armories. I met Officers and I played in huge storage areas with rows of military supplies.
To see them there, I just, remember willing myself not to break down, but feeling more connected to my dad in that moment than I had in a long time.
I cried and I lay on my floor a year and a half after he died. Feeling it like it was all still happening. I don’t remember getting up or what I did next. I know I obviously did get up and do something because I’m not still laying there.
In some ways I’ve never felt more alone than I do now. But looking back, being in a relationship where I couldn’t be authentically me I was alone too. I do not regret the divorce. And most of the time I don’t regret the marriage.
It’s actually quite humbling being single at age 37 because there are times when I know that there are no other people who care about what happened to me today. There are people who care about me, and who care what happens to me, but the day to day minutiae is something only our partners know and truly care about. I guess as I approach the anniversary of my dad’s death, more single than ever, it drives home that he was one of the only people who cared about my minutiae and to lose him and lose my marriage has been, well, intense.
I can say three years out from his death and going on two years out from the divorce I no longer find myself falling to my knees sobbing. That was short-lived. I do cry heavily at all children’s movies. Without fail. All of them. Sing 2. Moana. Encanto. Literally all. Even the bad ones. And I know he would love my dog. Like love her. He would probably be at my house every day trying to hang with the dog.
I may not ever find someone to care about the minutiae again. And that’s okay. Because the grass is always greener. The idea of being in a relationship again sounds appealing for two seconds until I remember everything that comes with a relationship. Then I skip ahead to divorce papers and then I backtrack and think I will never get married again and then I think of the people I have dated in the last two years….and yeah I think I’m set being single.
But I would take my Dad back. In a heartbeat. I’d take back all the parts about him that annoy the crap out of me too. Like how he never spell checked his text messages and then would get mad at me for not doing whatever it said in the text message that was completely illegible. Or how he left really long voicemails. Or how he would show up and start doing yard work and then trek through my house with dirt and poison ivy gloves and get mad at me when I got mad at him for trekking dirt and poison ivy through my house. Or what a horrendous driver he was. Or how he insisted on talking very early in the morning even though he knew I was the worst morning person in the world. Or how he put mayo on my sandwiches even though mayo literally makes me want to puke and has since I came out of the womb and I would freak out when he would hand me a mayo’d sandwich. Then he’d say incredulously that I like tunafish, and I’d say back yeah but that’s MIXED with the mayo, not slathered in it, it’s totally different! My Dad was prickly and funny and he and I knew how to drive each other absolutely nuts. But I’m happy to say now it’s because we were so similar (I’m not a bad driver and I’m very respectful of mayo choices, and I am very anti-dirt in my house, and still not a morning person- I do leave long voicemails…)
One morning recently my son was chatting me up at 7 AM. I was clumsily wandering my kitchen trying to put their lunches together and make my coffee. I had to stop at the sink and close my eyes. He was still talking. And I said, “Buddy,” and he was all smiles, “Yeah Mama?” And I dropped my head, “Buddy, uh, Mama needs a minute to wake up,” “But you are awake.” “Yes, but Mama needs another minute to actually wake up.” “But you are awake.” “Buddy…” “Yes?” “Never mind.” And he continued chattering. I remember dropping my head and then looking out the window at the sky, and thinking, ‘Dad’s having a good laugh right now.’