The night my dad died, we went out for Mexican food. We carried all his shoes and clothes from the hospital room to the car in silence. We sat down and ordered margaritas, like we always do. My mom and my sister and I sat around the table. The waitress asked us how we were doing and we said “good.” We ate nachos and said weird things that didn’t make any sense. I lost my mind that night—I couldn’t stop shaking my head. We were in shock and we were starving. I felt a sense of relief that my dad wasn’t in pain anymore, that I didn’t have to worry. But of course, the worry was replaced by something much darker and heavier than I could have imagined.
As soon as I left the hospital room that night, something in my mind switched off. I think it must have been my brain protecting itself. Whenever I would start to think about what happened, I just couldn’t do it. There was this huge barrier blocking me from any sort of understanding beyond the bare bones. It felt like trying to force two repelling magnets together, and it would give me headaches whenever I tried. It was like this for a while, but slowly something shifted and I was allowed access to my own thoughts and memories again. Bite sized bits of grief that would come to me at odd hours. And then it would come all at once, when my brain thought I was ready to handle it. I remember it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I was walking alone in the park by my house and I saw someone who was wearing a similar fleece that my dad always wore. I did a double take. I didn’t expect to be struck by that at all, but it all hit me so hard. Wow, I’ll never be able to talk to my dad again.
When I got home from the park, I laid on the floor under the coffee table that my dad built me for my new apartment. He wrote a message underneath it that said he was proud of me and that he loved me more than the stars above me. He would always say that. I’ve never cried so hard before in my life. When it was over, my body was exhausted and I felt better. I try to think about happy things, like the coffee table, when I think about my dad. There are so many to choose from because he was the best father I could ask for and I know I’ll never run out.
When my dad was sick in the hospital, my boyfriend at the time was with another girl. During the time I needed someone most, not only was he not there, he betrayed me in the most cruel way. But this sort of heartbreak was minuscule compared to what I was about to feel. I think he prepared me in a way, and looking back now, I feel weirdly grateful. He pushed me to hit rock bottom and only then was I able to start to recover and rebuild myself from the ground up. I’ve never felt so strong in my life, so thank you. Fuck you, but thank you too.
I went through a tragedy at 25 and it changed me forever. I’ve learned just how tough I can be when I have to. I learned that from my father, who was tough all the way up until the end.