Dealing with death ten years later

Two days ago marked the 10-year anniversary of my step-father’s death.

I forgot about it.

For the first time, I didn’t remember that May 23rd, 2007, my step-father passed away from a renal infection following 9 days spent at the hospital after his potassium levels were deemed too high during one of his routine checks. He had a large tumor in his stomach.

But, as has been the case over the last few years, the days preceding and following May 23rd have been rife with emotion.

I closed the door on my latest relationship with a man who manipulated me and decimated my self-esteem. And I let him do that to me.

I realized that I wasn’t valuing myself in my professional life, taking on projects that in the end won’t be enhancing my portfolio.

I broke my healthy eating and no added sugars streak, reverting back to snacking on hot chocolate and marshmallows as a core part of my diet.

I didn’t like my step father. He wasn’t particularly kind or generous.

But he was incredibly smart, and as a child I respected him. I remember evenings spent at the dinner table where I had banter with him in subtext and metaphor while my mother looked on, thoroughly confused.

I remember that time when I was 15 and was going to take my first oral test at school on WWII history. We spent 3 hours having a conversation about it. I passed with flying colors and really knew my stuff; it wasn’t just memorized, because he’d helped me understand all the different pieces of the puzzle.

I remember all the food he cooked, and the patience he showed in the kitchen.

I remember asking him one question after another and always receiving an answer.

I also remember his criticisms, his sometimes aggressive enforcement of irrational rules and as a young child being forced to remain in situations where I was uncomfortable or unhappy.

He was a terrible parental figure, but he was an incredible teacher. In spite of aggressive rules, excessive boundaries and authoritative criticism, I learned from him. I developed critical thought, cultivated my interest in history, absorbed any and every tidbit of information I received and to this day continue to thirst for more knowledge. Thanks to him.

Every May, for the past 10 years, I’m reminded of this man’s influence on my life. Every May, for the past 10 years, I feel sad once again. Every May, for the past 10 years, I feel immense gratitude towards everything this man brought into my life.

He was the only formal parental figure I had, and demonstrated many things I will never enforce with my future children. But he also showed me what trying and making an effort looked like when my own father had given up on trying.

The greatest lesson learned from my step-father was that curiosity is a child’s most precious treasure. We need to cultivate it, as he tried in his own way with me.

Be smart.

Listen.

Ask.

Learn.

Share.

Stay curious.

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