The past few days have been a bit overwhelming.
Mike and I are moving tomorrow, our house closes in just over a week and I’m heading out to Victoria, BC for my second and final three-week residency as part of getting my BA in Professional Communication on April 27.
I also hit the ice for the first time in ages and surprised the hell out of myself by making an adult skating team earlier this week. However, all of these things combined don’t take up half the space in my mind as my Dad has the last little while.
Perhaps it’s because Sunday was the anniversary of my sister and I finally laying him to rest in Scotland, where his ashes were scattered with his Dad’s and Mum’s. Whatever it is, he seems to constantly be on my mind, more so than usual.
When I think about my Dad, I usually think about time.
In the initial days and months after he died, I remember trying to bargain with whatever greater power was listening to just have five more minutes with him. In my naivety as a 24-year-old broken-hearted, grieving daughter, I decided at one point it would be worth giving up the next 40 years of my life – yes, 40 years – if it meant I could talk to him just one more time.
In the moment, I meant it with every morsel of my being. Now, hindsight and a little perspective have allowed me to see how ridiculous I was for wishing my life away.
Some days, I feel like the last time I spoke to him was 100 years ago. These are usually the same days I torture myself by thinking about how I’m slowly forgetting him.
Other days, it’s almost as if I’m right at his bedside at Sunnybrook. His room – if you could call it that – was dark and gloomy. The unit had patient beds lining the windows and a “pod” of beds in the middle separated by curtains and concrete bricks painted a light colour. I remember how much it really bothered me that he didn’t have a window. The only light that ever touched his face was the glow of the monitors beside his bed that beeped every few seconds.
I can feel the cool air of the unit, the smell of plastic and hand sanitizer, and the sound of other families praying, crying and whispering at their loved one’s bedside. One night before we let him go, I crawled onto his hospital bed and lay beside him. I remembered him cuddling with me as a little girl many times, usually in an attempt to comfort me after a nightmare. It was my turn to comfort him.
When I think about it hard enough, I can still feel the crispy hospital blankets on my arms and his stiff pillow under my head. I grabbed my iPod, put an ear bud in each of our ears and played Joe Cocker’s ‘You Are So Beautiful’. I can still feel my Dad’s warm hand in mine as I held it tight, desperately wishing he would squeeze it back.
Right up until his accident, he’d tell me how this was “our” song. Once in a while, I’d even get a voicemail about it. His voice shaking from trying to hold back tears, he’d tell me that it came on the radio and it reminded him of rocking me as a baby. He always ended by telling me how proud he was to be my Dad.
These days, it’s like no time has passed at all. But I know otherwise.
He’s been officially “home” for a year; this July he’ll have been gone three years; in 21 years, he’ll have been gone from my life longer than he was a part of it. I know it sounds like a long time, but the past three years have flown by and it seems time picks up speed the older I get.
I’d be lying if I said that during the past 978 days since he took his last breath that I hadn’t wished for him to come back at least once. I know it’ll never happen regardless of how many years of my own life I’d trade. (Thankfully, I’ve grown out of this bargaining phase….)
This time without him has allowed me to see that life continues to move forward, even if I insist on standing still. Since that fateful day in July, I found strength I didn’t know I had and I finally feel like
I’m keeping pace with my life instead of watching it go by – it’s almost, dare I say it, empowering. I’m in control once again and for
a control freak someone like me, that’s a big deal.
My siblings and I talk often about all of the things he’s going to miss – weddings, birthdays, Christmases, grandkids, and graduations. But just because he’s going to miss those things doesn’t mean we have to, too.
Although I’d give almost anything to have my Dad back, I can’t spend the rest of my life wishing time away and looking backwards. Aging is a gift that you only get through living and I know too many people who have been denied this privilege.
If I learned one thing from my Dad, it’s to enjoy every second and live every moment just like he did. For him, it came in the form of spontaneous road trips, random trips to the Bulk Barn, meeting after work for appetizers and cheap beer, singing with his band, and loving his kids.
For me, it means following in his footsteps and doing what makes me happy. Today, it comes in the form of playing AC/DC in my office and remembering the last time I saw him sing. Tomorrow, maybe it’ll mean finally getting back to writing that memoir I started six months ago… Or maybe not.
One day at a time.