How do you measure a month? A year? Four years ago, my answer would have been something similar to: memories made between birthdays, or what I’ve accomplished since the calendar turned in January.
So how do I measure time now? Mostly by how long it’s been since Daddy’s been gone and by how many life milestones he’s missed since then.
It was an early Saturday morning – Memorial Day weekend 2010 – when everything in my life changed. It was around 6:10am when I was called to the ICU room during shift change. The next several minutes were simultaneously the longest and shortest minutes of my life. In those minutes, I watched nurses performing CPR, I watched the paddle shocks three times, I held the hand of the amazingly sweet nurse who was explaining to me everything that was happening. It was 6:18am when I had to make the call to tell them to stop trying. It was one word, one syllable, and is to date (and perhaps always will be) the single hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
I still remember everything as clearly as if it was yesterday, though I tend to block it out most of the time. It replays in slow motion sometimes, just as it seemed to happen that morning. Usually there will be a trigger, like seeing a similar situation on TV, but lately it seems to be coming back all on it’s own.
It’s been four years. I thought I was fine. I thought the hard part was over. I thought the grieving was done, except for a few special moments here and there (like today). But grief is a funny thing. It never happens quite like we expect it to.
I was prepared for the funeral to be hard. I was prepared for the first birthday, Christmas, father’s day to be hard.
What I wasn’t prepared for is the fact that grief is so unpredictable. It isn’t just sadness and it isn’t just linear.
I thought the first days and weeks would be the worst and then it would get steadily better, however slowly, and that’s not how it’s been.
It’s been four years now and I realized about a month ago that I am just now starting to really grieve losing my Daddy. I was strong in the days leading up to the funeral. I made all the decisions, made the difficult phone calls, held everyone in my family together, stayed strong for a community who loved and rallied around my Dad for as long as I can remember. The thing is, when you’re a rock for everyone else, it sometimes means you don’t get to grieve for yourself.
I haven’t really seen my aunt or uncle or their families (the only ones left on his side of the family) in years. I want to. I love them. I miss them. But being together is hard. It makes it more real. I always thought I’d see him again. I always thought I’d get to say goodbye. To tell him that I loved him one last time.
I’m going to spend my entire life missing him. For me, it isn’t in the missed Christmases or the big celebrations. It’s in the small things.
It’s on Tuesday and Thursday nights when we used to talk on the phone every week, and now we don’t.
It’s in remodeling my house with my father-in-law helping, wishing it were my Daddy because he loved doing that kind of thing.
It’s going to Athens for football games, remembering all the years of memories shared with him. It’s wanting to pick up the phone to call him after a big win, but knowing I can’t.
It’s in wanting to call to describe a noise my car is making so he can tell me what’s wrong with it.
Grief is in the small things. It’s in the every day. It’s in the details. It’s in all the things he’s missing out on in life.
The one thing I’ve really come to realize as I’ve gotten older is that there’s never going to be a time that you will not need your parents. And that grief doesn’t conform to a set of rules so that you can tie it up in a pretty bow and put it away when you’re done with it.
People say that it gets better with time, but I don’t think it does. I don’t think it ever gets easier. You just learn how to live with it.