So today marks ten years without my dad. I’m feeling okay. I went through the worst of it early this morning. Much like every year, I woke up in the middle of the night – right around the time my mom woke us up to let us know what happened. I had my usual flashbacks of utter disbelief… literally asking my mom if she was kidding. I thought about the last time I saw my dad – just hours before he passed away. About how he was “completely fine”… we were supposed to pick him up & bring him home the morning he passed away. To be honest, ten years doesn’t feel much different than year 3, 5 or 8. It doesn’t feel monumental like most people think it does. What I’m dreading is year 13… the year where the number of years I lived without him surpasses the number of years I lived with him.
I had no idea what to write today. To be honest, work has been crazy and I haven’t had time to write much in the past two weeks. However, during lunch, I came across this video. I had to watch it in parts to keep myself from sobbing at my desk. Within this video lies my biggest fear – the father/daughter wedding dance. It has always haunted me… I’ve always been afraid that when this time comes, I’ll be met with grief during such a happy occasion… and that just didn’t feel right. Upon watching this, and the bride sob at her own wedding, I finally realized it’s okay. It’s okay to miss someone. Even amidst happiness, it’s okay to break down.
The second thing that really got me about this video was how different men in her life danced with her… it wasn’t just her grandpa… or brother… or uncle… there were so many men who were now the father figure in her life. I get that. I understand. Gina Loring says it best in her poem, “You Move Me” when she says, “You see, we of the fatherless tribe love men differently.” I thought about my own life & the people who really stepped up when my family needed it.
To be honest, while I have always missed my dad, I never felt the void of a parent. Yes, I hold such high respect for my mother for being a single parent and I understand how hard it must have been for her. However, I never felt like I only had one parent. Aside from the cliché empty chair at the table or seat in the audience, I never felt like I didn’t have a father anymore. So many people joined hands to make sure I never felt the void of a second parent. Don’t get the wrong idea… it wasn’t that I didn’t miss my dad – I missed (and still miss) him terribly… I just never felt like I didn’t have a second person there for me. My village didn’t allow for that to happen.
The second we found out about my father’s death, my best friend’s mom was there. She watched Oprah at 3am with me when the rest of my family went to identify the body. By 7am, my family friends were over with breakfast. At 8, my cousins were laying in my bed chatting with me. At noon, we had a house full of people – neighbors, family, friends… just sitting there to chat with us or doing anything around the house that needed to be done. In the afternoon my cousins took me shopping for funeral clothes and at 3pm my sister and I took a nap. It didn’t stop after the services.
My best friend’s dad would pick me up after school and drive me to cheerleading practice. My 8th grade teacher opened her door during lunch when I was upset. My priest returned the check my family gave to the church for religion classes and my uncle made sure our family always had flashlights. Food came in for months after the services and my aunts took my brother and I holiday shopping so we could get something nice for my mom. My mom’s coworkers took care of her at work and my family friends let me sleepover to give my mom a break. My coaches made sure I still had my goals in sight and my teachers understood when projects were a little late. My voice teacher taught me how to heal through music, my choreographer through dance, my English teacher through poetry and my Healing Hearts crew taught me how to laugh and still be a teenager through it all.
The support still hasn’t stopped… my uncles always make sure that I’m doing well when I come home to visit and fill my mom’s car with gas when she’s not looking. Each summer, when I am in Cooperstown with my Fieldstone Farm Family (who loved him as much as we did), I’m able to talk not only about the best memories of my dad but how hard it hurt when we lost him. My dad’s oldest brother always makes time to call to check-in on my mom & reminisce with her. My nephew always asks about him when he’s with us and allows me to remember him through great and hilarious stories. I don’t think I can drink a bottle of red wine without thinking about the time he got my cousin drunk after her dad passed away.
Every single year my village grows… my newly found Second City family provides the funny I missed after he was gone, my Chicago friends let me talk about the type of person he was and my teachers & coaches challenge and push me to reach my goals just like he would have. Ten years later and people are still there… most without even realizing it.
Yes, it really sucked to lose my dad… and I’m always going to have my days when I flashback and grieve. But today I am choosing to be grateful for my ever-growing village. I am eternally grateful.