A Year Since You Left
Making it through the year after I lost my father
It hit like hell. I was planning baseball games and date nights with the ex-boyfriend I started dating again after you got really sick. As many times as he hurt me, he was the one I called after three margaritas to say this was the end. He left his friends at a bar in Brooklyn and I took the subway to his place and cried in his arms on the couch for an hour. That’s the last time I remember feeling like I had everything, while knowing I was about to lose everything. He asked if I wanted a grilled cheese and I said I was fine but I ended up eating his anyway. I told him how I needed to go home and I needed to be with him. When I look back now he never offered to come. He offered to hold me until the tears stop. He offered to take off work and drive me to the airport. He offered to sit on the phone with me when I lost you. He always offered only part of himself. But then you were gone and I needed him, if only part of him. He drove me to the airport and then I was home again. My family and I sat there in your room with you in hospice for two days. You didn’t speak, but sometimes you squeezed my hand, so I felt like you knew I made it home. My sisters, brother and mother were all there when you passed. We spent the next few days together, mostly in tears. There were moments of silence, but there were other moments where we told stories about you. You weren’t afraid to speak your mind. You always wore that straw hat. You had a rough tone but always cared about everyone you met. A week passed sitting in Ohio until sitting made me anxious to get back to the city.
I was back to my life in Manhattan. Working 10–12 hours a day at an ad agency job. Going out to the bar after work with friends who didn’t know what to say to me. Hailing a cab home to my tiny apartment where my ex-best friend lived. The friend who didn’t say anything to me when you passed away. That’s when I knew there was nothing left to repair. I went back to work and quit my job. I gave more than two weeks notice. They understood I needed to be closer to home. I understood why it was time to leave New York. I spent the entire month seeing the city like a tourist. I spent the entire month kissing the boy I shared that city with for eight years. I spent the entire month pretending you weren’t gone.
I returned to Ohio and immediately felt trapped. I left my job, my friends, my boyfriend, my rent-stabilized apartment, my city. I told myself I would never leave New York, but now I felt like a quitter. I was job hunting in a new city. I was interviewing in Chicago. I was lounging around when I wasn’t. I felt the sun in my face, but being in Ohio for those three weeks was just a reminder. I landed a job. I landed a beautiful apartment. My ex moved to another continent. I moved to another city. I thought you’d be so proud. Proud of the crown molding on my apartment walls. Proud of how quickly I found a job. Proud that I could always make it on my own.
Summer disguises sadness. Trips to the beach. Concerts in the street. Dinners on the patio. I was high on life. I had a new job and a new city to conquer. I spent the month thinking this was my new happiness. I spent the month thinking the pieces would fall together like they never had.
Everyday, the commute felt longer. Every night, the apartment felt emptier. I loved my own space. But every night I would come home in tears. You’re on my mind. You’re missing this. Maybe you’re looking down. Maybe things can’t fall together now that you’re gone. I had no reason to cry. Slowly everything new reminded me you’d never see it. I know you’d love to see it.
In every movie, every TV show, every news article I read… Someone lost their dad. Someone had cancer. Someone survived, but you didn’t. This is why I spent most nights crying myself to sleep. This is why I was sad and angry. I took myself to New York for a week and my heart ached for it. Maybe because it was familiar. Maybe because my ex was in town and we spent time together. The day I got back to Chicago, I started researching one-bedroom apartments in New York. They weren’t affordable. But they were familiar.
I’ve always hated the holidays, though I never had a reason to before. But now that you’re gone, I found my reason. I went home for Thanksgiving. I pretended you would be at the head of the table, getting your third plate before everyone finished their first. You and Mom had moved to a smaller house in the spring. I had no memories of you there, other than a weekend home which we spent driving you to dialysis and chemo. The dining room set didn’t even have you in them. Mom had a new table from my sister, one that didn’t have creaky chairs or memories of you sitting in the chair with arms. You would’ve hated my salad. You would’ve questioned why a salad needs fruit. Thanksgiving was just the beginning of the holidays without you.
People love this month. I don’t. I went into it knowing I was possibly about to make a major career move and that excited me. I got the job. I booked a plane ticket to London and a train ticket to France to spend the week in between with my ex-boyfriend. I was in a bad place. I think I was missing you more than ever. But there I was again, just like in August, on a temporary high, waiting for January. I went home for Christmas and mom set a place for you at the table. We mentioned your name. We acted like we weren’t hurting.
I rang in the New Year like I rang in the last two, like the New Year would be better than the last. The last two were hard, but this year was missing you. But at least I knew. I quit my job. I flew across the world to spend a week in bliss. I started a job that I instantly felt challenged by. I fell in love with Chicago on that plane ride back. I knew this was where I wanted to be, for now.
It was a cold, short month that lasted forever. I went to New York and started to hate it. I celebrated your birthday with a dear friend who lost her dad in college. She felt like the only person who understood exactly how I was feeling. My ex-boyfriend and I ended things because that’s what we do. I shouldn’t be sad anymore so he didn’t need to hold my hand. Plus it’s kind of hard to hold hands across six time zones. I fell into work. I visited Ohio and felt overwhelmed by our family. You know there’s so many of them; it’s a lot to take on. Sometimes I want to be like you, in my paper, watching the game, somehow blocking out all the noise.
The weather turned warmer and I felt Chicago was perfect. I complained about New York on my next business trip to the city. I was done with it. It was dirty. It was small. It was expensive.
Ohio seemed far away from my mind. I kept putting off trips because memories of you still hit me hard. It’s been nearly a year since your passing. I spent Easter thinking of last year. We sat by your side in the hospital as you helped put the candy in the Easter eggs. All I wanted was a holiday where we didn’t have to be in the hospital. But we’d never get another holiday at home together, I just didn’t know that then.
The memory of you is still with me, but as everyday passes, I am scared of losing memories. It’s been a year since I rushed to Ohio to be with you. It’s been a year since we all sat by your side and watched you go in the night. Coping with death isn’t something that’s easy. Coping with death isn’t solved with kind words. Coping with death teaches you that you may end up pushing people out of your life that have been there. There really isn’t a way to cope with death. No one can say anything to make it better. I’m trying not to miss you. I’m trying not to think about the future without you. I’m trying to be the person I’m supposed to be. I’m trying to pretend like missing you isn’t so hard. I’m trying.
My father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in May 2013. It’s a rare bone and blood cancer that is incurable. He was never given a timeline. He made it a year.