Today, I thought about your laugh and came to the horrifying realization that I can’t remember what it sounds like. I just don’t remember. I felt paralyzed with this shame and disbelief, as if I couldn’t recognize my own face.
I closed my eyes, tried to quiet the rest of the world. I took a deep breath. I saw your smile. The gap in between your two front teeth, just like mine. The reason I won’t allow the cosmetic surgeon to touch it. This imperfection in my smile that reminds me of you. But I couldn’t hear your laugh. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hear it, Dad. I tried, I really did. I feel like it’s not so much to ask that I just hear it once more. Just once.
That’s the funny thing about death: just how alive it really is. The way it can sneak up on you. Playing Heads Up 7 Up, touching you without knowing it was coming. Death slips into moments it should have no part in. Every grand moment is a reminder of the loss. The empty seat. The empty space. The hollow smile. Death should not be in the ceremony, but there it is, waving to me. I don’t want Death to follow me like this Peter Pan shadow I did not ask for. I want to remember you. Your laugh, your arms. Your love. I do not want to remember the Death.
I went through your things last week. I opened your urn for the first time ever. I even picked up the bag that contains you, took it out and placed it next to me. Looks like a mound of dust. It’s really not scary, just dust. It’s weird, but it didn’t make me uncomfortable. I found it soothing. You were there with me, in some way.
I read through your travel log, the one that recounted all your biking trips throughout Europe. I told my friend and she said, “You should bike the same path he did one day.” I think I’m going to do that, Dad. I will think of calling you each place I hit. I will wonder, “Did Dad see this?” I will see you in faces of strangers. I see you in so many faces.
I was mad at you for the first 6 months following your death. I knew it was irrational, but your words played on loop in my memory. “I will not let go. I will keep fighting. I will be here to watch you grow up.” I know that wasn’t a promise your body was capable of making, and I forgive you. I hope you forgive me for being selfish. The times I cursed you for having cancer. Why? Why my dad? My wonderful, empathetic, silly dad? It never made sense to me. But it never will. Not everything happens for a reason, and I’ve learned that is something I must accept.
These days, I count how long you’ve been gone in milestones. My first boyfriend. My high school graduation. College. Alice. Open mics. Stages. Crowds of people, but you never one of them. Caps. Gowns. Apartments. Mom dating. Mom meeting someone. Mom remarrying (I think you’d like him). Job offers. Tears and breakdowns. Dipping so low at times, I was not sure I could ever crawl back up. But I always saw your face. Even when I cannot hear your laugh, I always see your face.
But I keep trying to hear that laugh.
I will always be trying.
I love you to the moon and back.
I’m sorry I don’t write you more often.