George: I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t.
Cristina: Yeah, that never really changes.
– Grey’s Anatomy
Monday will mark the four-year anniversary of my father’s death. I wish I could say that it gets easier, that I’ve found peace with his passing, that his memory lives on within me. But that’s just bullshit people say to fool themselves, isn’t it?
I expected it to be difficult emotionally when Charlie arrived, but I didn’t anticipate the depth at which I feel his loss. I figured I’d mourn for Charlie, who would never know my father. I’d be sad that he missed out on being the grandfather he always wanted to be.
Instead, I grieve deeply for myself. As a mom, I see my mother and father in such new, complex ways. I look back at them as parents within the framework of my own experiences and profoundly appreciate them in a way I didn’t expect.
My mother played one of our old family videos the other day and I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. It was Christmas morning. My father hugged my brother and I, he joked around with us, he helped assemble our new toys. At one point, my brother (about 7 at the time?) crawled into his lap as my father showed him a new toy.
The next section was Christmas Eve the following year, when we all used to sing carols in front of the Christmas tree as my father made funny faces behind our backs and purposely messed up the words to make us laugh.
Of course, I began crying. How could I not? This was a side of him that I never understood before I had my own child. My father was never very open about his feelings, even at the end when he knew the cancer would kill him. Seeing him look at me with the same love with which I look at Charlie just destroyed me.
Today, I’m bursting with questions for my father about being a parent. How did he do this? What did he feel about that? How did he handle this? What advice does he have about that? I ask my mother these questions, but I ache to have my father’s perspective as well, especially now that I see more of his qualities in me as I get older. I don’t see this getting easier.
So Monday will likely suck for me. I’m sure I’ll relive all of those last days, last moments, and last conversations, but mostly I’ll be grieving over the loss of us being parents together.
“I miss you” doesn’t even begin to cut it.