I remember reading Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school and stopping at the line, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer,” feeling the power of it and knowing I didn’t yet really appreciate its meaning.
This is a year that has asked so many questions that remain to be answered, all in the shadow of the central one: what do you do and how do you go on in the minutes, the days, the weeks, the months after you suddenly lose the anchor of your universe.
It is also a year that has answered defiantly: you love, you cry, you scream, you (finally!) laugh, you breathe, you hold your breath, you survive, you survive, you survive.
In all reality, I will mark this year’s passing not only today, but with the dreaded days that follow in the next week, anniversaries of the end of the world with my dad in it. January 5, a year since I picked my parents up from SFO on their way back from Mexico, meeting them and their cooler of fish at baggage claims, watching him laugh and drink Bud Light Lime with my soon-to-be husband; January 6, a year since I last saw my dad alive, when he sat reading his Kindle on my couch, didn’t eat his breakfast, and smiled down at me from the driver’s seat of the truck as he drove away, watching me fire off Saturday work emails from my phone; January 9, a year since the last text message I received from him (a curiously new thumbs-up emoji… small wonders…); January 10, a year since I pressed my hands against the stone of my office building and held my breath on the phone with my mom in the ER, then drove through rain, darkness, hell, for hours to kiss him goodbye ten minutes too late.
Mostly it has been a year of catapulting, lurching forward and standing frozen at the same time. New husband, new family, new places, new home, pneu-monia. So much life, so much loss, just one year? Such a long year.
When I soak in the fact that a full year has passed, I feel a strange mix of exhaustion and total terror. I remember feeling so scared when I was young and thought about my parents dying some day. And I remember their soothing responses to my fear: not for a long, long time. The strange thing is, at least for me, the fear I had then is not so different from the nagging fear I live with now: it is scary to live in a world without your dad in it…just as scary as I thought it would be. More so, because as I have grown, so has my capacity to feel and, by extension, to fear.
But so has my capacity to love, cry, to scream, to (more and more often!) laugh, to breathe, to hold my breath, to survive, to survive, to survive.
I am glad this year is over — it gave me so much, yet took away more. I am grateful for the people who loved me and cared for me through it, and I look forward to being a better wife, daughter, sister, friend, and colleague in the year to come. I will pass these next few days in peace knowing that, whatever comes next, at least this part is behind me. And I look forward to a happier New Year of loving, crying, screaming, laughing, breathing, holding my breath, and surviving.