I was 24 when he was diagnosed, I was 27 when we lost him. The morning he left I remember walking into am empty bedroom across the hall and sobbing uncontrollably. The next few days and weeks I "held it together" and only last year did I realize a deep and unresolved need to grieve.
Australia has been diving from one unknown to the other, sitting with my unrelenting and merciless emotions. I left because I missed the relaxed feeling I had around my father, the way my shoulders dropped when I walked into his house after a long journey, recognized the scent of his fabric softener, how he always had milk in his fridge and drip coffee in the morning, how he saved the grass for me to mow because he knew I liked to do it...I missed that distinct feeling of home, not having experienced it for seven years, since I was 24, since dad was diagnosed and my world fell apart.
As much as I rail against hollywood's use of sitcoms to spoon feed us mores of a heteronormative framework, the TV shows I do watch happen to be ones about loving nuclear families (The Middle, Blackish, Bob's Burgers), because I long for that sense of belonging and unconditional love.
Today, after months of conscious unearthing of emotions, after abandoning vehicles for bypassing discomfort, I watched this video, on the anniversary of his death, and had the biggest, ugliest, messiest cry over him. I loved seeing his life and his love for his family, particularly his children and nieces, who he loved as his own. He was badass, he knew how to fix things, he was annoyingly cheap but taught me how to be thrifty, loved Led Zeppelin and Dwight Yoakam, he let us be wild and climb on roofs, he didn't mind that I was weird or gay and loved me just the same, he always made sure I had a cell phone so I'd be safe, and if I wanted to earn money he'd give me the most boring jobs at his office. He loved his family so, so, so much.
I feel incredibly gauche making this so public, but I do it because people of the same generation tend to share events in waves: getting the first cars, getting married, having children, parents dying. Unfortunately I was early in the last one, and years later I'm seeing the first wave of my peers lose their's. It is heartbreaking. Please love the ones you've got, and make sure they know it.
Healing is a lifelong journey...
"I felt that the world was no longer safe if my young handsome lively father could be so suddenly dead. It felt like it was a shooting gallery out there. And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn't have to anymore. And then over time I became more or less okay: I did feel joy again, and I feel it now sometimes bigger than I ever thought possible." - Anne Lamott