A Letter To My Father Nearing The Anniversary Of His Death

Johan Larsson
Johan Larsson

Hi Daddy,

Because I always answered the phone that way, and thank goodness, I still remember our voices on the line. I used to fear aloud with mommy that we’d ever forget.

It has been nearly a whole year without you in the world. I’m ashamed by how little I’ve done in your honor. Ironically, I feel like I wasted the last year of your life avoiding you from the embarrassment of my lack of accomplishments. A lot of time spent avoiding you out of a wretched fear of not being enough–not moral enough, successful enough, smart enough.

It was the first year after my college graduation – a time many of my older friends had forebodingly referred to as ‘one of the scariest times of their lives’. My response to that lately?: “…and how?” It was scary how sobering it was.

I guess it’s only fitting that one of my very first thoughts the night I learned the unbelievable truth — in JFK International Airport, waiting to board the Istanbul-bound flight that would take us to your funeral — was: “I have to live for myself now.”

Have I been though? Am I growing up in the right ways? Have I stopped living for you?

In the same vein, a recurring thought I had — because you were an unfailingly strong, fearless patriarchal character – was “the worst thing has happened, there’s no reason to fear anything else anymore.”

And am I fearless now? No, and for that, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

In that case, I haven’t stopped being the worst at being a Daddy’s girl. The Daddy’s girl one no one really knew as anything but a rebel. Daddy’s impossible hope. I felt all the hope you poured into me, but I never felt like I amounted to whatever it was you wanted. Every part of me wanted to ask you “did I make you proud?”

I’m lucid about how this sounds and that is why I’m afraid to admit this: Some part of me felt relieved that I could now live for myself. But I’ll never stop asking myself the questions. I know it now more than ever.

It’s a funny thing in missing; it’s not the big, but the smallest of things. I’m always going to miss those unapologetically adorable mundane tasks you’d give me. Helping you figure out something on your computer – a new software, product, trial, tribulation, etc. that I “must know” due to my age. I’ll miss your “old people using technology” face, sitting far away from your XL computer monitors.

I used to love so much without knowing it the uncomfortable, snail-paced moments with you, in your home office. The times you brought me about to help you read or write in English. I knew your English-education was limited to the streets of street speak of 1980s Brooklyn and was always impressed by what you grasped, what you were able, how able you always saw yourself. What I wouldn’t give to go back for one more quiet moment, rife with boredom, just helping you with the little tasks of life. I loved helping you, but I couldn’t help but wish I helped you so much more…

Survivor’s guilt is unhealthy and helps nobody. One of my earlier guilty spells came during the early weeks in a Brooklyn, New York without you, in the time cleaning out your office desk of 35 years. Work was your other life. I’m sorry I didn’t help you work better. Cleaning out your Gmail inbox, I’m sorry I didn’t organize you or make your life easier in more ways. I’m sorry I didn’t make your life easier when it was still there to make easier. You did so much for me, working hard to give me the privilege as well as the endured challenges of having a you.

You knew I wasn’t happy at the construction company I was working for. But it was a first corporate job after college, a first promotion (as a result of my fearlessly channeling your energy and gunning for a raise). Every day, you’d ask me “how’s the job?” I’d answer agreeably but transparently. Prompted by my dispassion, you’d ask me “what do you wanna do?” and remind me of my original plans for grad school.

Now, 11 months later, I’ve started at another construction company – and how cyclical feelings terrify me — where my boss reminds of your energy. An immigrant with a booming voice coupled with a rough accent: but soft and warm internally.

I’ve been afraid of facing up to the fact that it’s true: your sudden and irrevocable departing from our lives forever.

“You cannot comprehend it, because tragedy forces upon you so many states that you have no language for.

I’ve been afraid to face up to it not out of cowardice but out of our shared stubborn determination to get it right. I’m worried that if I face it or let it hit me, it’ll be one less thing to look forward to.

October 12th marks the one year anniversary of your death. How in all that is sacred did that happen?

Love,
Stephanie!
Your 5th daughter, the quiet one, the honest one, the writer TC mark

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