It’s August 3, 2014 after 1:00am. The summer has been immeasurably weird because of several reasons: the most emphatic of which is that my Dad is not alive anymore. It has also been cooler. I’ve additionally been living outside of my own home for the first time in seven (7) years. With a guy. (How weird.) And although I am at an age where it is acceptable for young women to live with their partners before marriage, my circumstances seem utterly bewildering.
I find myself craving the written word. As if vocalizing “things” just allows them to escape into the nothingness I feel on a daily basis. If I read something, or write it down so it can be read again, I am preserving that thing. And preservation is valuable. Trust me. I’m a doctor.
I know that people lose their parents. It’s the nature of things, supposedly. But I’m not satisfied with any of it. As the one year mark of my father’s illness approaches, I’ve been reflecting far too much on the events of one year ago – day to day. I’m thinking about the order of things. And how everything is simultaneously real and not real until it punches you in the face and you black out from the harsh throb of what is known as “the truth.”
I always thought “the truth” was such an ominous phrase. I could never relate when someone, anyone, insisted on being told “the truth.” Sometimes I think it makes more sense to accept what we’ve been given, because the truth is usually worse. I know people – myself included – that advocate that “the truth” is better than “not knowing.” But guess what. When “the truth” is undiagnosed stage four lung cancer and “not knowing” was the belief that my Dad’s ribs were really just bruised from his fall months ago, I didn’t appreciate “the truth” when it came out TWO FUCKING WEEKS before he died.
Now, those of you reading this might say, “that’s just one example. The truth will set you free.” WRONG. “The truth” is the worst. Because as long as you don’t know, your Dad lives to spend another Christmas Eve with you in church. The routine you’ve had of going to brunch together every single Sunday for the past six (6) years doesn’t die with him. And peoples’ condescending bullshit doesn’t get shat into your ears.
Here are things I know to be “the truth”:
1. It’s fine to say to someone whose Dad gets sick and dies after being fine 2 1/2 months prior “at least he didn’t suffer long,” if you don’t know what else to say. Nevertheless, to those of us who have lost someone that this is small consolation when the person you had – and always did – has been ripped from our lives irrevocably in less time than it takes to get your tax refund.
2. Going through the process of the Memorial Visitation and the Funeral are NOT the hardest parts of losing someone. They’re easy compared to the infinite emptiness that consumes you immediately after those events. I can never forget the compassion, love, and support of the week after my Dad died. People showed up who I didn’t expect to see. And for me it was an altogether enlightening experience where I realized just how much I knew about my Dad and his life. I knew more faces there than I ever imagined I would. But it fades.
3. “The truth” is IT DOESN’T GET BETTER WITH TIME. I’m in a numbed dumbed haze of denial. That’s how I get through each heart-wrenching day. Every day that my Dad isn’t here is not a day that I get used to it. It’s another day that my Dad is not here. And things don’t get better; things only CHANGE. I just keep trying not to think about it because “the truth” is that if I did I might be keen on joining him – wherever he is.
4. The horrors I knew when my Dad was sick (read: dying) were unprecedented to me. Imagine a man who could heal anything, no longer knows where he is or what is going on. My Dad would lose consciousness and not remember that it happened. He became increasingly paranoid, especially after a “nurse” woke him at 4am to drain his cancer fluid – left him alone – and in his state tried to call for help, fell out of bed, and cut his head open, needing stitches. Imagine he was never the same after that incident. Imagine learning about this after you were already at work for the day, and having to wait until that night to THROW DOWN.
5. I had always believed in God and my religion (Episcopalian). Since my Dad died…nothing. I can’t. It’s not that I think God could have stopped anything, prevented it in some way. I just can’t go to church anymore, knowing that just a short time ago my Dad would be in that pew next to me, singing our hymns, bearing the Chalice during Communion, and making every single person in coffee hour afterward feel like he or she was there just to talk to him or her.
I can’t yet come to grips with any lesson I might be entitled to learned postmortem. In fact, I resent that I’m entitled to anything at all.
Right now, as it stands, I’m the most well-adjusted zombie you’ll ever meet. My ability to make clients and others feel special is unwaivering. But don’t be fooled. I’m a lot dead inside. I swear to God that the MOMENT my Dad died in front of me, something died within me too. I was no longer attached. I’m gone.
I’m not dead. But now, I do anything to feel numb. I do things that I cannot admit to on the internet (for fear of a retribution — which I do not care about nor think is acceptable — but feel obligated to let alone anyway). I judge people more. I can justify anything away. I’m not the person you used to know. I’m better and I’m worse. I’m good and I’m evil. I’m pathetic and I’m worthy. I am successful at being a human fucking being. I am successful at surviving.