Today is August 5th, 2012. You died nine years ago. Funny, it seems like it was yesterday, and also a lifetime ago.
For a long time that evening stayed in my head. The balmy California dusk, the palm trees outside your bedroom window and the sound of kids splashing in the complex pool, after you had taken your last breaths and I was alone in the world.
But that was nine years ago, and now here I sit, in my office in Beverly Hills on a sunny, Sunday afternoon, 34 years old with a husband and two children at home. Part of me wants to implore, “Can you believe it, dad? I’m a mom? A wife? I made it past your death? Can you believe it?” But of course you would believe it.
Those are the very things – children, a family to call my own — that I’m sure you hoped for me. Those are the things I think you felt certain I would find, no matter how far I fell after you died. I hope that I have the same confidence in my girls one day, that no matter what happens to me, that they’ll survive. That they’ll thrive. I think some part of me knows that already. I mean it’s what we all do, isn’t it? We survive.
I wish you were here to meet my daughters, dad. You would love them so much. They both remind me of you in such strange ways sometimes. Something about their eyes, their determination to live and breathe and be part of this life. And not just that, but their determination to enjoy this life, to find mirth and delight and mischief and wonder in it all. That’s what you were best at, dad. Even when you were weighed down by life it seemed like all you had to do was pause, take a breath and some kind of light would find its way back to your eyes, a smile there, even if it wasn’t on your lips.
I miss you so much, Dad. And sometimes for the silliest things. This morning I was rummaging through the toolbox and I saw a spool of shower tape and remembered the afternoon you instructed me, weak from bed, on how to install a new showerhead. I’d wanted to skip the part with the shower tape – it seemed overly dramatic to have to wind that flimsy tape around the base before screwing on the nozzle – but you shook your head and stared me down and I finally retreated to the bathroom to do as you had told.
A few months later, living on my own for the first time I had to do it again. This time I skipped the tape, that seemingly unnecessary step, and when the water sprayed down the room proving that you had been right, I sighed and began again, winding the soft blue tape around the base, just like you’d said had to be done. And I smiled, glad to have had you teach me that, but sad too that there would so much more I would never learn from you.
I watch my daughters with their dad now and think about the kind of relationship they’ll have with him, about the way they’ll revere him and sometimes loathe him too, just as I did with you. Mostly I revered you, loved you. Still do. There have been times in the last year in which I wept, really wishing I could call you. Feeling confused and overwhelmed by life and all that has presented itself, wishing so much I could hear your kind and gentle voice talking me down from the ledge upon which I teetered, knowing you’d have some advice and soothing words to turn whatever felt big into something smaller. I have no doubt that Greg will be able to do that for our girls time and time again in their lives. Such is the art of fathers, I think. Turning what is large into something smaller, something softer and less scary, something we can handle.
I miss that in my life so much now. Just someone bigger and wiser and stronger than me, someone to tell me that these years will unfurl whether I want them to or not, that whatever is true now, will change and be both less true and even truer later. That whatever scary thing has awoken me from sleep or set me to crying on a Tuesday morning, won’t be the thing that takes away the light at the end of the day.
Nine years ago today I held your hand as you took your last breath. I’d been so determined to be there with you as you left this world, dad. It seemed like the smallest thing to be able to give in return for all that you had given to me, but it was all I had. I know it will always be one of the things I’ve worked hardest at in this life – being there in that moment – but it will always be one of the things I am most glad I was able to do.
With unending love,