Disclaimer: this is an incredibly hard post for me to write, likely interrupted with moments of tears. If it doesnt entirely make sense, my apologies in advance.
I tend to not talk about my father very much. This is almost certainly in part due to my less than forthcoming nature when discussing my personal feelings. But in fact, when meeting new people or going on a first date, there is always that moment when people ask where I’m from, where I grew up, and if I have brothers/sisters where they happen to live. I find it easier to avoid the issue when people ask; I almost always say my parents live in Pittsburgh and that they used to work in the restaurant industry. Often, the fact they are both from the same town in Italy comes up which is quickly followed by “wait, you’re Italian!?” given my less than stereotypical Italian complexion. I dont usually elaborate or go into much more detail. Thankfully, first encounters dont normally necessitate further discussion into one’s family life. There’s something very American about our superficial discussions of other people’s lives when we first meet them, much like skimming a resume. And in most instances, this suits me just fine.
Until Thursday night, when I slipped and mentioned that my mom still lives in Pittsburgh. My newest acquaintance that evening astutely picked up on this and asked where my dad lives. At which point I cringed and replied, “he’s unfortunately no longer alive”, a response I’ve found puts a damper on any occasion in which this is the answer to any question. There really is no good way of informing someone that one of your parents is no longer living. The other person, appropriately so, then says they are sorry. And then there is an awkward pause usually filled by my saying “it’s not your fault” or “oh no, no worries” because quite honestly, how could they know?
I sometimes wonder if losing a parent is easier when you yourself are older. It is certainly easier to explain someone passing away at an age over 75; it makes sense. I wonder if being only 21 when my father died is partly why his death is still incredibly difficult. In fact, all of us were so young: my sisters, my mom, and my dad included. Parents arent supposed to die when they are in their 50′s. Seems like they have unfinished business in this world. I mean, if life expectancy is in the late 70′s, how could they not have more to accomplish, more to do, more moments to share in and experience to impart?
A friend of mine recently lost her mother to cancer, and she asked me if it ever gets easier. Her pain was fresh and constant, and she longed to know when that would end. At the time I told her yes, that eventually the everyday pain starts to fade away and the days blur together. The tough parts are the unexpected moments that remind you of their absence, and the feelings of hurt and pain boil so effortlessly to the surface again. I told her the story of buying my first car by myself and breaking down on the phone with my mom because I really wished I could talk to my dad in that moment. In those times, it hits you and makes you catch your breath. The waterworks usually come quickly there after.
I never thought that nearly 8 years later, it would still be this hard. I never thought that reading a facebook post about my dad could hurt so much. I never thought I could be this emotional. I’m still surprised at how angry I am that he isnt here, angry at life and angry at God. And while people’s words are often comforting, it doesnt alleviate his absence, and it certainly doesnt make my pain go away. This is why I dont often talk about him. Not because I’m ashamed of him or because I dont care, far from it in fact. Its because I never truly know how I’m going to react in that moment. I’m never sure if my response will be anger or tears.
Someone told me that we only hurt because we care, that our pain is a testament to how much someone meant to us. I think there is some truth to that. There’s truth to the fact that even though he is gone, part of him lives on in my sisters and me.
To steal from my sister’s facebook post, I think this about sums it up:
Today you are 65. You are a father, father-in-law, grandfather, husband, son, nephew, uncle, friend, and the greatest man I have ever known. Wishing you were here to celebrate the amazing life you have led! Missing you dad.