I remember the first time I felt somewhat shamed for talking about him. A friend, or something like that, told me it was becoming a little predictable. Like some reoccurring theme I needed to switch up a bit. The audience was bound to get bored. They didn’t want to constantly hear about my dead dad. It’s morbid. It’s overdone. It’s time to pick a new subject. The subtext of “move on” rang in my eardrums. “You don’t fucking get it!” I wanted to scream, but I never did. I rarely ever do.
I thought it was kind of funny, to think my writing about him was ever supposed to be entertainment. Did anyone think this was a gimmick? I wish it was. I wish it was something I could turn off and on, play the card when I needed it. But it wasn’t. It was survival. It’s always been survival.
I had finished up a poem or story, something that talked about him and this gaping hole in my soul that I’m okay knowing I will never be able to fill, and she cleared her throat. Her eyes avoided mine, and she lowered her voice an octave.
“It’s just…you write about it a lot. Him a lot. You don’t want to be pigeonholed, you know?”
Ari Eastman, Dead Dad Girl.
Not the catchiest nickname, I’ll admit it. Ari Eastman, Adam Brody’s Wife sounded better, but I guess we weren’t talking about that, as she reminded me. We were talking about the loss of my father, my best friend, and the kindest man I’ve ever known. And I was talking about it too much.
I joke a lot in life. It’s just part of who I am. I think I feel things so deeply that I try to balance it out with some self-deprecating shit. I want to let people off the hook and make sure it’s okay. “Yeah, I drop the dead dad bomb all the time, don’t I?” I always respond. And I laugh. I laugh so people know it’s okay. And honestly, it is. It’s okay that I joke and we laugh. If I didn’t have humor, I wouldn’t have survived. I would have drowned in emptiness. I would have jumped into eternity with him. The cancer took him, and his loss would have taken me. I wouldn’t have been writing this.
Had certain days gone differently, I might have been in a wooden box right next to him. Sometimes, I still think about it. I’m not supposed to admit that out loud. I’m not supposed to talk about my dead dad and dead me thoughts. I know, I’m supposed to just smile. And laugh. Be the jokester. Ari Eastman, The Funny Girl. Ari Eastman, The Internet Persona. Ari Eastman, Not Even A Real Person.
But the thing is, I am. I’m a lot of things. And one of those things is daughter. A daughter missing her father. I can’t escape that. I don’t want to. I don’t want to act like it isn’t there. I don’t want to act like when I hear “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan, it doesn’t shatter my heart a little bit. I don’t want to pretend little girls holding hands with their fathers doesn’t kill me.
It does. All of it does. Is it all I am? No.
But it’s part of me. So I’m always going to write about it. I’m going to write about him.
Dad, you’re everything. I won’t stop writing about you. Ever.