The 3 month anniversary of my Dad’s death is creeping upon us. I’ve heard others refer to this as a loved one’s “birthday in heaven”, “graduation” and so on. Prior to January 17th, the 17th of the month was just any ole’ day. The 17th of the month was 2 days after payday, January 17th in particular is my beautiful niece’s birthday (she has the greatest guardian angel ever now). It was a day I looked forward to. But now, I find myself feeling this gnawing anxiety as we approach the 17th of the month. To me, it’s a reminder that time is ticking and my father is still gone. It’s a reminder that I can no longer speak to him, I can no longer hear his voice, I can no longer seek his advice. The anxiety starts on the 15th of the month and by the 17th I feel like I’m drowning. There are no life vests, there is nothing to help me from the tremendous waves crashing over me. I feel like Rose on the Titanic, running for Jack. I run to Jack, my life vest, my collection of photos and the countless voicemails I have saved from my father. I play one voicemail over and over, “I love you honey” and slowly I can feel myself coming back to life. A life that is new and has me navigating my way through unchartered waters with a shattered heart.
Countless friends and family have reminded me that his suffering has ended. And while my rational mind knows that, my suffering has just begun, my heart is shattered in a million pieces. Don’t get me wrong, watching my larger than life heroic father whither away before my eyes was downright terrifying. Hugging a man who was once overweight from too much pasta and cannolis and then feeling all bones was chilling. Hearing his screams was haunting, as a matter of fact I still wake up in cold sweats panicking that I need to help my father, I am desperately searching for something to comfort him. But there is never anything to help him. Hearing the man who raised you, who was your real life super hero scream in horrific pain is something that you carry with you for the rest of your life. So, no one needs to remind me that his pain and suffering is gone, I know that. A piece of my heart died as I watched my father endure all this pain and suffering.
I watched all of his pain leave his body on January 17th. I held his hand until his very last breath, his hands that somehow throughout his battle remained big and strong, his hands that still had the comforting grip he had when I was a little girl. I held that hand as tight as I could so I would never forget the safety and comfort I felt as I held Daddy’s hand. I held his hand until his soul left his body, I felt his soul leave us as he entered the gates of heaven. And despite knowing that he’s at peace life has become very somber and lonely for myself and my family. Our patriarch is gone and we miss him.
There is one constant in my life….I’m blessed. I know my father knew how much I adored him and I know how much he adored “his girls.” My father’s “girls” were in chronological order: my mother, me and my sister. He bragged about us so much, I’m pretty sure people got sick of hearing how awesome we were. But that was my Dad, always with a photo of us in his wallet and ready to tell us how fabulous his girls were. He was one proud hubby and papa, and eventually grandfather.
This morning as I approached my Volvo, I looked up at the dazzling blue sky, and smiled. After a week of rain, it was a spectacular spring morning. When I turned on my engine I quickly noticed I had a full tank of gas and my tire was reminding me to get air just last night now had air. At some point between last night and this morning my boyfriend put air in the tire and went for gas. This was something my father did for me much of my life. I smiled again, looked up at that dazzling blue sky and mouthed, “I love you Dad.” Despite the fact that it was my boyfriend who responsible for these acts, something was tugging at my heart reminding me of my Dad.
My Dad was a car guy, it was not uncommon for him to take my car to the car wash, fix little things I never knew needed to be fixed, put wiper fluid in and always make sure I had a full tank of gas. As kids eating in his cars was a forbidden act. This was something you never questioned nor challenged. It just was. Right up until my father’s health deteriorated I thought wiper fluid was an endless amount of stuff in your car. Refill wiper fluid? What does that mean? Car wash? What was that? My car was just always clean! Right? Wrong, even when I was no longer living with my parents my father always managed to keep an eye on my car. When I finally realized that it was my Dad and not some cute little car fairy doing all these wonderful things and I asked him why he smiled and simply said, “because you’re my baby and I will always love you” And that was that, right until he could no longer drive because he was house bound he would always check my car.
Just 2 days before my father passed we were discussing my current car lease ending and the kind of car I should get. When my boyfriend told him the Audi convertible, as soon as my boyfriend left the room to use the bathroom, my father grabbed my hand and whispered, “Do you even know how to drive a convertible? Be careful! Can you afford an Audi?” That was my Dad always worrying about his girls. So you see, when I sat in my car to find a full tank of gas and my tire with air I smiled, a tear ran down my cheek and I realized that perhaps my Dad is still watching out for me.