Two Years Later….
My dad passed away two years ago this weekend. Though most of my blog posts contain recipes or odes to tacos or pictures of champagne, it also contains a section about my Dad. During his illness, the only way I knew how to process my emotions was to write. And I posted my thoughts on my blog. And people read them. I think about taking this section down sometimes, because my feelings are not as raw as they once were, and I ask myself just how long should I have something so personal and emotional posted for anyone to see. But, two years later, people still read them. People find my blog every day by searching for ‘losing my dad’ ‘loss of father’ ‘losing my dad one year later’. To everyone who finds my blog by searching for comfort or searching for someone who knows what you’re going through, I am writing this post to say: it does get better. You will feel better.
This post is both easier and harder to write than the one I wrote last year, on the one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing away. It’s easier because more time has passed, the normal that is losing your parent is becoming more normal, and because I’m not crying as I write this. Yet. It’s harder for the same reasons. More time has passed—it’s been two years this weekend since my dad passed away. I’ve lived two years without my dad. And I’m not crying as I write this—I almost feel guilty that I’m not crying. My dad being alive is getting farther and farther from me as time goes on.
The hardest times for me are on his birthday in December, and this weekend in May, Memorial Day. He is on my mind constantly. I still think of picking up the phone and calling him sometimes. Does that ever go away? I still cry every single time I hear an Eagles song. It’s a self-made link in my head, and now it’s there, forever. Maybe it’s a way for me to hold on to him, to be reminded of him. A bittersweet tribute, I guess; it’s nice when I have the presence and intention to sit and think of him, but can suck when a particular song plays in a restaurant or when I’m at work and I automatically tear up.
I think the hardest part, besides missing his presence and his Gandalf-like wisdom and bald head and jokes and smell and songs and self, is the way it happened. That part still gets me. It seems so cruel. And though I don’t think I ever mentioned it here, there was a lot of drama with his side of the family that took an enormous toll on me. I still want to rail against the universe sometimes; I get that it’s a cycle, but can’t we let the good ones go easier?
You can’t change the course of life though, and you can’t change the past. I’ve learned so much by being by my dad’s side as he passed away.
I’ve learned to appreciate my family, and really everyone, more frequently and more sincerely. Life is fleeting and occasionally unfair; I want to show my appreciation and feel my appreciation for loved ones as much as I can. I don’t want to waste my time on the small stuff.
I’ve learned that those irritating little quirks that we all have will eventually make for fond reminiscing. Think about a quality your partner or parent has that you may not like. Realize it’s part of what makes them who they are and you may just miss it when it’s gone. I missed everything about my Dad when he was gone—even, and especially, his stubbornness.
I’ve learned that when I’m caught in an unexpected rain storm and I get soaked and my toes are wet and my mascara’s running down my face that it’s okay because I am so incredibly lucky to be able to be outside and feel the rain as it hits my body. One day I won’t be able to feel the rain on my face or have wet toes; I want to soak up every moment of it until then. My dad and I left the hospital together for a few hours on the last Saturday before he had his stroke. He had just gotten his eyesight back, and we took the bus down the hill from the VA Hospital to downtown, just to walk around. The wonder that was in his eyes was inspiring. Though he had seen downtown Portland before, he looked at it in a new way. He was so appreciative just to be out and about and with me and around people doing their everyday people things.
I’ve learned that when I look in the mirror and see love handles or chubby thighs, that they’re MY love handles and chubby thighs. They’re part of me. When my dad started losing weight in his hospital bed, I would have given anything to have him back to his old round self. We have these bodies that take us through our life. We need to take care of them, but we also need to appreciate them for what they are; they are vehicles for our souls. I don’t care what kind of body my dad was housed in, I would have loved him whatever his outsides looked like. When I arrived to his hospital room the night he passed away, I could tell in an instant that that my Dad, James Kerp, was gone. What made him him had left his body. So my chubby knees? I’ll take ‘em, because they’re part of me and house my inner self, which I’m fond of.
I’ve learned to appreciate the here and the now. We don’t know where life takes us and when our personal journey is over. So we better make the most of what we have. My dad and I had talked about him paying a visit to my older brother in Korea. He didn’t have a passport yet, but he wanted to make it happen. Someday. But that someday never came. 5 months later, he was confined to a bed and a machine. Seize the day, seize your life, and do those things on your bucket list now.
I’ve learned that grief is heartbreaking and terrible and lonely and confusing, but it subsides. It never goes away completely, it’s a part of us forever, but it’s like a scar. Some days you notice it and it is so strong and throbbing and you can’t think of anything else. And some days, it’s just there, part of you, and part of what makes you who are you.
My dad taught me so many things, in life and in death, and though I miss him, every day, I am thankful for the gifts he gave me. Last year I wrote:
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.
This year, on the second anniversary of his passing, I feel I’m getting there. I know I won’t always feel as centered as I do right now, today, and I know that the tears will still come unexpectedly and I’ll miss him so much it hurts at times. But I know that as time goes by, his absence doesn’t sting as much as frequently. And I know that it’s okay to cry sometimes, but it’s also okay to laugh and to move forward.