25 years gone

He died when I was 16 years old. Tomorrow will be 25 years.

Twenty five years. A quarter century.

It’s hard to fathom that my dad was in my life for just 16 years when he’s been gone for so many more.

The memories are still clear, yet starting to fade just a little.

I try not to think of the arguments we had (i.e., that so many teenagers have with their parents, especially during a sticky divorce), and instead focus on the happier moments —  e.g., hot summers at the beach and vacations in the wagon, baseball family picnics, barbecues out back, learning to drive while sitting on his lap, swimming on his back at the community pool, listening to old Motown and jazz records, movie nights with popcorn, chocolate and root beer floats…

I try not to think of his sick weakened body — a shell of the man and father I once knew — and instead try to remember his more active self, smiling and tanned and ready for tennis, or lifting me up for a big bear hug…

It was a mere four months from start to end, from diagnosis to death.

The day he died I lost a part of my innocence forever.

I lost that last bit of my childhood, though at sixteen you can bet I already felt quite like an adult. At sixteen I had already had a few serious boyfriends. I had already had sex. I had already gotten drunk enough to have a major hangover (not related to the last bit about sex). I had already borrowed my mom’s car without permission (stolen?) on numerous occasions. I had already worked my first job (actually, my first job was working for my dad, doing paperwork for his practice at the dining room table and my second job was babysitting; but my first “real” job was at a pharmacy). I had already experimented with drugs, smoking pot with a friend after school. I had already traveled alone several times. I even planned to live and work at the beach that summer with a friend. I was a mature, independent 16 year old, going on 22.

And then I learned about grief. I learned how time stops, yet just for you, and how life goes on for everyone else. I learned how people don’t know how to deal with grief, how they don’t know what to say when you lose someone you love, so they say stupid, even hurtful things, or nothing at all. Even well meaning people. (Really, for the record, one of the only things to say is “I’m so sorry for your loss.”)

I learned that cancer is a bitch and hope is her mistress.

I learned about what is important in life, and what is trivial (a lesson I re-learned in the struggle to build our family).

I learned, maybe too late, about how uniquely special the bond is between father and daughter. How a young woman might search and long her whole life for that kind of love, for that approval.

I learned how people can be ignorant and cruel.

You see I didn’t just lose my father 25 years ago. I lost his whole side of the family too. His family wasn’t very large to begin with, yet, despite my best efforts, after he died that was that. Long story, but sad, really.

Though it has been twenty five years, I still miss my dad and think of him often. And though I realize it’s magical thinking, I think about how wonderful it would be to have him in my life today.

I really wish he could have met Mac, my amazing husband, who I met just a few years after he died. I wish he could have been there on our wedding day, nearly 15 years ago, when my brothers held me up and walked me down the aisle (trail, actually) and I thought of him. I wish he could have seen me evolve into an intelligent woman, with a career dedicated to helping others, like him. I wish he could have met Baby Jaye, his grandchild. I wish he could have caught a glimpse of the light in her smiling face and heard her sweet laughter. I wish I could watch her crawl up in his lap for a big old hug, just like I used to.

I wish he could have seen his only daughter finally become a mother.

So tomorrow I will light a candle for my dad, for the life he lived, and the life he didn’t.

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~ by luna on December 3, 2010.

13 Responses to “25 years gone”

  1. Beautiful post. My dad died when I was 25 and my little sister was 16. I think of him in some of the same ways you wrote about. If I ever become a parent, I’ll mourn his loss all the more because he would have made a wonderful grandfather.

    I’m sorry for your loss. *hug*

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, truly. I didn’t know him but I bet he would be bursting his buttons at what an amazing wife, mom and advocate you are. He would be very happy with what he left to the world. I bet.

    I’m so sorry, Luna.

  3. My thoughts are with you now and tomorrow.

    Wow, his family is really missing out.

  4. Beautiful post. My dad died when I was 24, my sister was only 7. I miss him so much and know that often I do the whole magical thinking as well.
    I’m thinking of you and this difficult anniversary in your life. Hugs to you.

  5. I truely am sorry for your loss. That was a beautiful post.

  6. Sorry I am belated in sending you peaceful thoughts, Luna. Thinking of you

  7. I’m sorry, Luna. I’m sure he would be — is! — so proud of you!

  8. I totally get your feelings. I was 4 when he died and next year will be 30 years.

    Peaceful thoughts and hugs to you

  9. I am so sorry to hear about your father. Losing him at such an early age is just so traumatic and you have survived a lot. I have lost family members as well and the grief is indescribable, just like losing a pregnancy – people who haven’t experienced it don’t get it or often say stupid things. I learned a lot through grief and I learn more and more when I hear others go through grief. I am glad you are taking the time to remember and to honor him.

  10. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that he does know you’re a mother now? That he knows about J? He is part you after all and you’re still here, remembering him. An older, much wiser Buddhist friend of mine once told me that we are all just energy in the universe, energy made of atoms and subatomic particles, etc. We vibrate, we move, we merge, we are connected, regardless of whether we are here on this existence in this body or not. Is memory real? I am so sorry for your loss, and for all the time you never got to spend with your father.

  11. Oh Luna,
    I will be abiding with you. –I am sorry for your loss– I lost my Daddy when I was 14. I have felt his absence ever since. I also wish my dad were here to see his grandchildren. Like the pain of IF, it is one of those things people don’t really understand unless they’ve been there. Hugs to you xooxxoxoxox

  12. […] it’s commemorating 25 years of living without my dad, and a week later, remembering what would have been his 75th birthday. […]

  13. I’m so sorry you lost your dad at such an early age, Luna. Those teen year are so formative and that was a whole lot to try to work through for you. I lost my own dad at 25 just as I was beginning graduate school and had so many of the same wishes you listed about your own dad. Never enough time…

    I didn’t know your dad, but I do know that he would be amazingly proud to see you now.

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