February 7, 2012
Ten years ago today Dad died.
I set my alarm and got up at 3:55am this morning so i’d be awake (more or less) at 4am ET/3am CT, which is around the time he’d died. (My journal from the night after his death says only “around 3am.” Nothing more specific.)
I can’t believe it’s been that long. An entire decade. As Mom has said recently, it really does feel far away. Not sure when that happened. Probably sometime over the last couple years, slowly and imperceptibly.
But not a day goes by when i don’t think of him, although usually the thoughts are brief and fleeting. Hearing a train. Catching a glimpse of a picture of him at home or in my office. Seeing a man with a baby. A man babying his dog. A man with thin lips like Dad had.
The time that’s gone by makes me sad. It makes me sad because all of our lives have gone on. Not without grief and sadness and loss and pain. But gone on nonetheless. We’ve met new people, moved new places, started new jobs, adopted new pets, opened Facebook accounts, seen new movies and read new books, heard new music, cried and laughed and loved and lived. All of this he has not been a part of.
And that makes me sad for me, too, that when i die someday, the lives of my loved ones will just go on, too. Not that i would have it any other way. But still…. It is the inexorable moving forward of time, the inevitable leaving-behind of the one who has died that seems so…hard, sad, tragic, inevitable.
People say, “May your memories comfort you,” things along those lines. But memories cannot undo everything that he has missed – and will continue to miss. My memories, while mostly wonderful, are also merely a symbol of my Dad’s gone-ness, his being a part of the past. Memories are about the past, and their past-ness is tragic and horrible. Memories are not now; memories are not the future. Memories are about things that are over, done with, never-to-be-repeated.
There are no more memories of my Dad to be had. What i have is what i have; that is it. No more. I will, in fact, only lose them as i start to “age.” Which is why i spent so much time after Dad died typing up pages of memories of him. No more experiences. No more arguing and agreeing. No more hugs and kisses. No more, “I love you.” No more smiles and tears. No more rolling eyes and laughter. No more exasperation and encouragement. No more airport pick-ups and drop-offs. No more weekly phone calls with him and Mom. No more relationship growth as i get older and more mature.
The finite-ness of life, the totality of death (at least in an earthly sense).
The litany of things that i’ve done over the last decade that Dad has not seen:
- Bought a condo and sold it;
- Bought a row-house and am renting it out;
- Bought a single-family home;
- Moved to the suburbs twice and back to the city in between;
- Lived in a 98% African American neighborhood, thereby being a proud traitor to my race and a defy-er of residential segregation;
- Adopted two cats alone, two cats with someone else, a dog with someone else;
- Seen one of those two first cats die;
- Met my life partner;
- Moved in with her;
- Became a landlord with her (see previous comment about renting out our rowhouse);
- Gotten engaged-for-lack-of-a-less-heterosexist-term;
- Scheduled a commitment ceremony;
- Been fired from two jobs;
- Experienced personally how important unemployment compensation is – and also how fortunate/privileged i’ve been to be hired by someone else so relatively quickly both times;
- Gotten promoted twice at my current job;
- Finally reached a point where, while still continuing my very frugal life, i feel financially comfortable for my daily and usual expenses;
- Had a book manuscript rejected by 13 publishers and about the same number of literary agents;
- Had some smaller pieces published various places, mostly op-eds;
- Continued to do and improve my Trans 101 and LGBT 101 presentations;
- Left the chorus that i sang with for 13 years;
- Stopped volunteering for House of Ruth, which i’d done for 11 years;
- Joined the DC Trans Coalition;
- Started volunteering with a wonderful and amazing set of gender non-conforming children;
- Got invited back to Vassar to be both on a panel and a session co-presenter during a conference for “LGBTIQA” alums;
- Seen all my close friends who used to live in the DC area move away and experienced a kind of loneliness that i haven’t felt in a long time;
- Tried, as yet unsuccessfully, to figure out how to make a new set of local friends to whom i am close;
- Bought a camcorder;
- Discovered a love of digital photography;
- Discovered the joys and the time-suck of Facebook;
- Bought a laptop and learned how wonderful wireless modems are;
- Voted for the first African American president (because, frankly, i couldn’t bear to vote for the Green party candidate);
- Watched, in person, and cried as that same president was inaugurated on the Mall;
- And many, many other things that i’m either not thinking of right now or that are too insignificant to make this list.
All of these things Dad missed, did not experience or hear about. A loss for him and all of us. Because everyone else in his life has a list that is at least as long and varied. Time marches on, life goes on, the earth stops for no one.
Not that i would have wanted that. Most of the things in my list above are good, positive experiences. All of them have contributed to who i am today. I would not have wanted the world to stop in those horrible, gut-wrenching days right after he died. Or in the horrible, gut-wrenching ones as he was dying. And yet there is a certain sadness, horror, misery in how left behind he is now, how very much a part of the past that he is. He is so far away from the “me” of today. Or i am so far away from the “him” of early 2002. Or both. Or something.
**** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****
Two hours later. Just got through reading what i wrote from around the time Dad was diagnosed until i returned to DC after his death and funeral. Between my journal and the things i typed up after the fact, i have a lot of stuff recorded, which is great. This is the first time i’ve reread it since i finished writing it. And i didn’t even read everything. I have months-worth of other journal-type entries typed up, documenting my grieving process. But it’s 11pm on a school night, and i’m hungry and have to go to bed at some point soon.
What a hellish experience it was. So glad that it’s over. So glad that i documented so much of it. So glad that we’ve all made it to 10 years, even with all the ambivalence expressed above.
As John Donne says, “Death, be not proud….”