The Junction
Published in

The Junction

My dad died during the Covid-19 Pandemic and I don’t want to write about it.

It’s been two months and I still don’t know what to say, only that I’m supposed to say something.

And it’s not that I don’t want to write about it because I am in denial of what has happened but because there is so much happening that it seems selfish to ask anyone to bear witness to it when it feels like every day is a new, insurmountable tragedy. What feels like a wave to me surely must surely just be one more drop in the grief that is already pooling around our ankles and soaking the carpet.

But he is gone. And even if it feels selfish to say so, it feels disrespectful not to.

My dad didn’t simply die, he fell sick over a period of days; Days where my mom became increasingly concerned about his health. He kept collapsing and having trouble breathing and complaining to my mother that he smelled pennies.

The paramedics who came to the house told my dad that it would be too dangerous to transport him to the nearby hospital as being diabetic meant he had a compromised immune system and there were confirmed cases of Covid-19 already being treated there.

The metallic smell was sepsis. A round of antibiotics he was taking had caused a septic infection called C.Diff. He collapsed the next day quite literally in my mother’s arms. My baby brother tried to give him CPR. This time they took him to the hospital.

I had made the decision from the beginning to quarantine away from my family as I work in downtown LA and worried that I might accidentally expose my dad to the virus.

I drove out to hospital twice: first in the hopes that my dad would wake up and then to say our goodbyes again when the ICU doctor informed us that we had mere hours left. Both times my mom called me, I was in the middle of cooking and I was annoyed because I thought that maybe if I could keep doing normal things, things would keep being normal.

My dad can’t be dying. I have bacon on the stove. There’s been some misunderstanding. He’s not unresponsive, I still have to strain the pasta.

I don’t want to write this because every time I sit down I have to correct all the parts where I write about my dad in the present tense. Maybe that can be a new, nice way of saying someone has died: They’ve switched tenses.

Sometimes, I tell myself that I can’t possibly write this because surely there is something I will forget to mention and this doesn’t seem like the thing you can just casually edit a few days later when you remember a particularly good anecdote.

When I was in film school I would tell people my dad was like a Wes Anderson patriarch, which seemed like the most succinct and accurate way to describe him to any new friends or boyfriends coming to the house for the first time or even just a group of disaffected film snobs in American Apparel gold bomber jackets who had not even asked.

When I was six or seven he took me to a museum of miniatures that used to be on Wilshire but is now a gym and tried to convince me that people used to be 6 inches tall. In one particularly inspired prank in 1997, he convinced me to tell my mom that he’d let me play Marco Polo in the tar lake at the George C. Page Museum. When I was 17 he took me to the Palms-Rancho Park Library to meet Ray Bradbury.

Until very recently I was under the impression that there were bodies at the bottom of MacArthur Park Lake and that taking a few “samples” from grocery store pick’n’mix was perfectly acceptable and legal.

When he was a teenager he built and raced VW Bugs in the Valley. Squeaky Fromm was in his art class and invited him to a party out at Spahn Ranch but he and his friends left because the vibe was weird. Charlie wasn’t there.

Having a dead parent thrusts you into a strange new strata of adulthood. You have to be grown-up now, at least a little, because one of the people who was supposed to make sure you became one is gone now. But at the same time I can feel myself regressing. I have dreams about the outdoor section of the Westside Pavilion that was demolished to build the Landmark Theater in 2006.

Three weeks before he was hospitalized, he tried to give me one of his family heirloom rings. It seemed random and I thought perhaps he was just joking and didn’t really want to give it up so I refused to take it. Instead I gave him my Dodger cap I bought for a hike out to Amboy Crater that was too big for my head. But after he was gone, as devoid of logic as it may seem, I started to convince myself that by refusing the ring, I had created some chain of cause-and-effect that would eventually lead to his death.

And then I went back ever further and thought about how maybe it was because I refused to learn piano despite how much he wanted me to- or that one time when I was 15 and throwing a tantrum about something and locked myself in the den bathroom. My dad knocked on the door and I swung the door open and yelled “What?” with all the viciousness of a suburban teenage girl and found my dad standing outside the door with a copy of Teen Vogue he’d bought from the magazine stand on Pico by the F&S Fabrics. The one with Katie Holmes on the cover. He looked hurt and, looking back, it was the first time it had ever occurred to me that dads were not, as previously assumed, completely indestructible.

So I keep myself up at night wondering if this is something I caused by forgetting that and could possibly have staved off by simply being a better daughter. If I took the ring, if I’d texted a little more, if I’d agreed to quarantine with my family instead and noticed the metallic smell and put two and two together my dad would still be alive.

My dad was sending me memes a week before he died. He was butt-dialing me. He was sending me portrait-mode pictures of his cat, Meeko, who hated everyone in the house but him and who is responding to this loss by scratching the hell out of everyone’s ankles. I don’t know which stage of grief that is- probably the same stage where you listen to the same 10-second voicemail from your dad over and over again. We are all, I guess, our own kinds of messes at the moment.

My dad, my Granny, my childhood dog and the house I grew up in all being gone creates a weird sort of identity crisis where I suddenly feel as though most of my life happened to someone else and I am this new person who arrived two months ago and all I know about myself is that I like to cry and cut my own hair at night. And then I feel guilty for making it about myself- so at least I know I’m still Catholic.

If you’ve scrolled this far hoping for some kind of narrative or a moral to this story, I have none to give you and I’m very sorry for having wasted your time. I don’t have some nice, neat takeaway. Believe me I tried. I even pitched this to a publication before I wrote this, hoping that maybe I could send this to some exhausted editor and they would smooth my wordball into some semblance of coherent thought and then I could read it and it would explain how I felt back to me and I would make peace with it.

Surprisingly, I had no takers.

(Edit: I had one taker, thank you Stephen M. Tomic)

I keep waiting for the moment people have in books and movies where they lose a parent and say something like “I’m an orphan now” or “I don’t have a mom/dad anymore” and the moment never comes. My dad being gone doesn’t suddenly erase the fact that he was here. I had a dad and now I have stories.

He’s switched tenses.

If you feel so inclined or are able, my family has a gofundme set up to cover the costs of my father’s funeral. It feels weird putting this here. Medium Staff if I’m not allowed to do this, just please be cool about it.

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