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Twenty Years Later (I Miss My Dad)
The candle on the altar just burned itself out. The sliver of blue cheese is still there, and will be until morning. My dad died twenty years ago today.
I was just a few months past twenty years old when he died so, by midsummer, I’ll have known him dead for just a few weeks longer than I knew him alive.
It is so WEIRD to love someone you’ve only interacted with while dreaming for literally half your life. It’s WEIRD to miss someone whose photo you say Hi to most morning on your way down to breakfast, whose face is not much older than some of your friends, than your wife, than you, now, a few months past forty with the first silver threading through your hair.
Sometimes I wonder what all those other universes are like, the ones where he’s still alive, where he saw my siblings graduate high school, was at my first wedding (which might or might not have happened in those other timelines), and my second. Where he got to meet my wife, got to meet his grandchildren (one of whom is turning three literally tomorrow, and who might have a different middle name under those circumstances). Where he’d be dancing, this June, at my brother’s wedding, with a brand-new daughter-in-law who can look him in the eye. Where he’d be celebrating his own wife’s seventieth birthday this Tuesday, and his seventy-second in just under two months from now.
Would he be teaching his toddler granddaughter to shoot baskets, the way he taught us?
Would we have had fights, back when I was in my twenties and learning terms like “rape culture” and “white privilege” to put around my own experiences? (Part of me doesn’t think so. It’s slim evidence, and decades old, but I think I’d have been proud of him).
Would I have the relationship, such as it is but so much better than it was twenty years ago, with my mother if he’d been alive to keep being the go-between? (I hope so).
I realized, some time last year, that I was afraid I’d be a widow before I was fifty. And it hit me that my Dad died two days before my Mom hit that age.
Every time I think about – and cry about – my wife getting older, our parents getting older, anything like that, I wonder how much of it is pre-grief for the family members who haven’t died yet, who I still have time with, and how much of it is grief for him who died so young and so quickly (pancreatic cancer moves really fast. Now you know) and, now, so long ago.
I miss him.
I hope I see him in my dreams tonight.