Two weeks ago, tears streamed down my face while watching a movie in a packed theater. My visceral reaction unleashed a grief I try to keep under wraps. Most of the time I am successful, but in this particular scene, a daughter eulogizes her father at his funeral. I tilted my head up to try to stuff the tears back into my eyes, but I’ve done this long enough to know it never works. Instead, I gave in and let my sadness take the reign.
In the last two years, I’ve noticed a shift in my grief. It’s more quiet, but sometimes, I’ll bawl in my closet or wipe away tears when no one is looking. I reveal to very few people how much I miss my father. As the years pass, it is a struggle to find a place for my grief to land. Last night, during an evening run, as my pace quickened, my mind fixated on a horrid thought – What if I forget about all of our memories? It is a consequence of not living the grief out loud. A part of me hesitates doing so, since its been six years since his passing.
My relationship with grief is one I struggle to navigate, but I accept it’s my own. Today is one of those days when I feel like announcing my grief. It’s my father’s birthday. Just typing those four words pushes the tears to my eyes and I am writing this piece in a blur. I miss my father. So much. Many times, I’ve picked up the phone to dial my childhood home phone number, even touching the digits, but realizing this home doesn’t exist and my father is gone. I’ve said to no one in particular, “Can you come and say hello, Dad?” I miss talking to him. My father loved to banter about politics, current news and the mundane. We’d stay up and argue about the silliest things and sometimes feelings would get hurt, but then we’d move onto the next subject. I love those conversations, because like my father, I love coffee and chatting about the ins and outs of this life. In an odd way, this talking about nothing and everything, helped make sense of my world. With him, the talking left. And because of this void, a part of me will always remain silent.
After his passing, my sadness revolved around missing my father, the parent. I longed to say, “My father said this or my parents are going to be traveling here or my daughter loves hanging out with her grandpa or debating which card to send him for Father’s Day…” Now its become something different. I miss my father, one of my favorite friends. I don’t think I ever told him how much his friendship meant to me because I didn’t even know that’s what it was. Can you believe that? This is another part of the grief. Little bits of me unravel and present these epiphanies and it’s not like I can call him up and tell him, by the way, Dad, did you know you were one of my favorite people to hang out with?
I long to say something uplifting about the time we spent, but it is difficult to lean on memories when all I want to share are the new parts of my life. My father never read a single piece of my writing and only knew me as an attorney. He doesn’t know how much I love the desert because he passed a few months before we moved to our new hometown. There is so much he’s missed. And I want to rush to the phone or visit him and tell him about the spaces all of us have filled since he’s been gone.
As much as I’ve moved forward, I am torn because with each step, it furthers the distance between the last time my father and I had a real conversation. I rarely make a request in my writing space, but maybe all of you can do a favor for me. If you think of your father as one of your friends, make sure you tell him. I couldn’t give this gift to my father, but you can.
Happy Birthday, Dad. Your friend always, your daughter, Rudri.