*** My Dad has been gone a year today, and I still think of him every single day. He has been on my mind an awful lot recently. Dealing with loss is such a personal and ever-changing aspect to life. This blog is usually for recipes, stories and shenanigans, but losing my Dad was and is still a big part of my life. Writing helps me process the emotions I still struggle with. Regularly scheduled blogging will resume soon. I know this is deeply personal; I promise I won’t mind a bit if you skip this one and come back next time. I’m a little nervous to publish these thoughts; until we’ve lost a loved one I don’t think we quite realize how it sticks with us. This one is for my Dad on Memorial Day. RIP.
I still cry. Usually late at night, when I’m alone with my thoughts and I wish I had more pictures and letters and concrete reminders of him. I cry whenever I hear The Eagles sing Best of My Love. I cry when I hear Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. Dad and his girlfriend Annie would sneak down to the parking lot of the VA Hospital and listen to that song in his car, fantasizing about life after the hospital, the disease, the heartache. I cry when I think of the pain he suffered through. I cry when it hits me I will never see him or talk to him or listen to him sing me a little song again. I cry when I know I’m crying for past pain; mine and his. I want to have a healthy outlook on death and dying and I want it now. It takes time, so I cry when I get frustrated that I’m still crying. My memories still hurt.
I carry around with me the startling memories of seeing my last name KERP on a hospital door for the first time, the memories of watching my dad lie in a hospital bed, of how terrible those three months were of simply not knowing. If we had known what the outcome would be, would we still have let the doctors guide us to chemo? Would we have let him stay in the hospital bed, losing his energy, hoping and fighting for him to get better, not talking about too much ‘real’ stuff because it was too hard? Would we have let him go sooner? Would we have fought harder? Should we have fought harder?
It never gets better. Life never reverts to ‘normal’. Your normal just becomes different. My normal now is tempered by late night cries and moments of lingering grief and pure helplessness. My normal is now knowing what acute leukemia can do to a body. My normal is now knowing about the domino effect of kidney failure,multiple heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, pneumonia, temporary blindness and one life-ending heart-breaking stroke in a three month span. My normal is having had to put on disposable blue gloves and a faded yellow gown every time I wanted to enter the quarantined room to sit by my dad. My normal is watching the one-dimensional and compartmentalized way that Western medicine looks at illness, and not knowing enough to do anything about it.
My normal is also having a memory of my dad squeezing my hand so tight when he could no longer talk to me because of his stroke. Pure Love. My normal is knowing I have a mom that will drop everything for a five hour drive up north to be by my side and his the moment I needed her. My normal is knowing I have friends that will be my side no matter what; no matter how much I cry, no matter how many rides I need up the hill to the VA, no matter how many emergency texts I send out at midnight. My normal is having had and lost my Dad.
You were so brave, Dad. You are such an inspiration to me. You fought with all your might the terrible dragon that is cancer, only to be vanquished by a whole dragon army of disease. They may have gotten your body, Dad, but your spirit and laughter and strength live on. I know this doesn’t get easier, I know you’re in a better place, but sometimes I wish the memories of your dying didn’t linger quite so heavily. I wish the pain of your absence didn’t sting quite so much. I can’t believe it’s been a year. Though this pain and sadness is part of my new normal, I wouldn’t trade getting to be by your side every single day for the last three months of your life for anything. I love you with all my heart, I miss you with all my being, and you are in my thoughts every single day, especially today. Rest in Peace, dad.
My favorite picture of Dad; mischievous and happy.