When my dad died my world was overcome with the "I'm sorry for your loss," and "time will lessen the hurt" comments from those around me; an overwhelming amount of people stating the same words. I walked through life in a haze for a long time after the funeral, lost in my own skin, unsure of how to move forward without him. A good friend of mine looked at me after about six months and said "it will get easier in time." As the anniversary of his death quickly approaches, it has left me wondering when does the easier start?
My dad was by far the most amazing man I have ever met. I'm not just saying that out of bias, but out of fact. He was one of those people who truly made a difference in the lives of the people around him. From instant new friends at baseball games to lifelong 40+ year friendships, the man was loved.
He married my mom when I was a toddler and they remained married until he passed on. As much as my siblings and other family members may have known and remember a life before me, I certainly don't remember a life without him, or them. I didn't even know he wasn't biologically my dad until I was a snoopy, nosy adolescent who happened to find a birth certificate with a different last name and got the nerve to ask my mom about it. It's not like it was a secret or anything, the fact simply was that he chose to be my dad and that's all that ever needed to be said.
While he was sick, someone actually uttered the words to me, "It's not like he's your REAL dad." I will never forget how badly those words stung. He was my real dad. He was my real life emotional hero. He was my last hug before bed every night growing up, and he was the first person I ran to for advice as an adult.
Most of the time he would just nod and throw in an "uh-huh" while I was ranting, but I know he was listening. The most common used piece of advice after all of my ranting was "I sure am glad these problems weren't around when I was raising you kids." Looking back I know, while he may not have handed out actual words of advice on a regular basis, he did exactly what I needed. He listened to me and my words...and I use A LOT of words.
He swore he would never get a cell phone, until he did. He swore he would never use text messages, until he did. One of my favorite conversations with him on the topic of texting was centered around the comment, "I enjoy text messaging, after all my daughter has a habit of talking for hours when all I need to know is what time are you coming over." It's true, I would get on the phone with him and my gift of gab would take over.
What makes a "REAL" dad? Is it biology? I say no. Here was this wonderful man who chose to take the roll, and did it the best he could. He never treated me any differently than he did his biological daughters, he was tough but fair. The idea of disappointing him, still to this day is the worst possible feeling in the world.
So, when does the easier start? We are approaching two years since his death and while the haze and fog may have lifted and I may have done the work to find myself again, it isn't any easier. I still drive by his old house, now with a new owner. It will always be his house.
When I need peace I go to park by where we lived when we first moved to Tucson and think about him playing basketball with me there. I see the hurt in my daughter from the loss of the only man that was constant in her life. I hear my other daughter speak about him and I can feel the hurt from her voice. I see my mom and know she misses him daily. I hear "And the waitress is practicing politics..." and instantly get teary-eyed. Two years since I've heard his voice, had one of his world-encompassing hugs, sparkle-eyed smiles and the simple "uh-huh" after a long rant. I would give anything to have him yell at me right now; tell me to pull my head out of my ass because there is so much good around me. It is so hard to see that without him here with us.
Two years have gone by now, without a text or silly comedy-filled Facebook message. Two years of me not hearing, "Well if I like him, he's surely a goner" when it comes to my dating life. Two years of me waking up and figuring out that I do have to do this without him, on my own. It certainly isn't any easier today than that exact moment my mom called me and said, "Can you come home... I need you..."
I disagree 100 percent with the statement "time makes it easier." I believe wholeheartedly that time makes it different. We learn how to live without him. We stumble and find our way to move forward, knowing he is always present, always at the forefront of our minds and hearts. We find a way every day to not be upset that he's not here anymore, but instead to look at how blessed we were to share our lives with him. How much joy and love he chose to give to me. How many life lessons he taught me. He chose to be my dad. He didn't have to, but he did. The loss of that will never get easier. It will only continue to change.
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