My father died on January 26th, 2015. This past Friday was the third anniversary of his death.
All week leading up to it, I kept remembering that the day was coming up. On the day of, I kept remembering and forgetting what day it was. It has been 3 years but I am not sure I have really processed the difficulty of that day. It is a visceral visual seared into my psyche.
I never thought I would watch my father breathe his last breath. I never thought my family would be put into the position we were in. I can’t yet verbalize the feelings . . . it may take me years, and that is ok.
I was extremely irritable on that Friday. I hated everyone except my silly Lily. I felt like I wanted to jump out of skin I didn’t have.
Because of plans I made weeks early, I met some friends to celebrate a major milestone. My friends had saved me a seat in a cozy corner, near a bin of children’s books. Though I haven’t been a child for many decades, I have never lost my love of children’s books.
To quell my anxiety I started to leaf through them. I read one called “Rabbits’ Habits” and enjoyed a copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” in French. I mindlessly reached for a third book and saw that it was called, “My Dad.” I immediately understood why I felt like I had no skin.
Yes, it has been 3 years since he passed. But time doesn’t really do a whole lot to alleviate the grieving, as many people who have lost a loved one can attest. Some days are better than others and I can laugh at silly anecdotes from his life, while on others I feel like there is lead in my blood.
As I flipped through the book I stopped hating the world and everyone in it, and started instead to have compassion for myself. I remembered that our bodies hold on to trauma, which is why anniversaries can be extremely destabilizing. I know I was meant to stumble across that book that evening. I went from being isolated and angry to feeling connected to the Universe, and specifically to my father.
My friends also marveled at the coincidence. While I still felt physically uncomfortable, I felt comforted on an emotional level. On my way home, I received texts from my two sisters. My eldest sister let us know that she was able to get great tickets through the lottery for all 3 of us to see Hamilton. My earlier anxiety and melancholy were replaced with euphoria and excitement.
I shared the discovery of the “My Dad” book with my sisters and asked how they were feeling on that really tough day. The eldest responded that the anniversary was what prompted her to buy the tickets.
Because life is so short and some things have to be experienced regardless of the cost, she really wanted to gift this to Broadway show to us. The fact that the show will be right after Father’s Day clinched the decision for her. Make no mistake, my father loathed any music that was not classical, operatic, or religious in nature, and Hamilton would be no exception. Yet I have a strong suspicion that he hooked up this bonding experience for his 3 daughters.
Though today has been difficult in a different way, I felt less “skinless” than I did yesterday. I’vee been reverting to old habits of escaping into mindless TV and compulsively browsing online for items that I have no business even looking at. I am also trying not to comfort eat, but when the vending machine gave me two Hershey bars for the price of one at 2 am this morning, I inhaled them both like I hadn’t eaten in weeks . . .
I am not beating myself up over this. I am emotionally hungover, and I accept that. It won’t last forever. But I felt called to write about it as a healthy way to process these indescribable pangs of loss in the pit of my chest. Because my father was such a prolific writer, writing helps me feel more connected to him.
Pai, if you are up there reading this, please know I am thinking of you and I miss you. Thank you for hooking us up with these Hamilton tickets! You might be gone from this world but you are still very much in my heart.