It’s been two years since you died.
It’s weird; typing “died” feels so harsh, so final. Like it’s rude to acknowledge it in that word. But I’m not feeling particularly fanciful, so neither “passed on” nor “departed” or “shuffled off” are words that feel right to me today. Honestly, using “died” doesn’t feel right to me either, on a number of levels.
I know I don’t have to over-explain this one; I never had to with you, pretty much not ever.
Here’s what’s new:
I started watching Mystery Science Theatre: 3000 again. That, Dad, is what we in the business call “progress.” When you and I watched MST 3k the last few times, I kept thinking about how we used to watch it when I was little. It was our thing. Our laugh-’til-we-cried thing. And when I tried to watch it after you were gone, I could only remember the last time I sat on the couch with you and held your hand. You and I watched the same old episodes, of course, and even managed some laughs. But your brain and body were tired, and after the last episode ended I took the DVD out of the player. Mom asked if you wanted me to leave it there for you, to watch after I’d returned to Chicago.
“No, I only watch those with Keel.”
So, like, how was I supposed to watch them without you?
But there’s an imminent reboot, and Netflix recently aired the top episodes of all time. I Accuse My Parents ain’t gonna watch itself, and I knew you’d understand. (I knew you were there with me, too, busting out with the kind of laughter that would make Mom call out from the other room- “What are you two even watching?”)
I still pick up the phone to ask you a question roughly eleven times a day. I don’t think that’ll ever change, whether it’s two years from now or one hundred and twenty two.
P.J. and I both wonder how we’re supposed to do anything concerning this damn house without your skills. We’ve both taken to yelling “Daaaaaaad” (or “Daaaaaave”) at the ceiling when the pipes make weird noises or contractors inform us how special our home is. One of the last things you ever texted me was how you wished you had been able to help me redo the janky kitchen floor; we’re actually going ahead with the kitchen door/floor/back deck project that I’ve been in a frenzy over for nearly eight years.
(I’d stick with these stupid, cracked floors forever if it meant more time with you, laughing about how bizarrely this place was constructed.)
Robins stop and stare at me. Like, all the time. Do you hang out with robins now? Because it sure seems like they’re trying to tell me something and I wish to God I weren’t too daft to understand.
You’d be proud of us. Sorry- I know you’re proud of us. You should see our barbecues and family vacations and home maintenance and concert-going and all of the things we promised to still enjoy. Sorry- I know you see these. (Do you see how hard we’re trying? We’re trying so hard.)
I still feel your hand, solid and warm, on the back of my neck when I particularly need it; when I’m telling someone a story about you, when I’m nervous or sad, when I wish to anything that you could see the craziness your grandkids are getting up to, and whenever you manage to play Lido Shuffle on the radio for me. (I’ve said it before, but I’m pretty sure Boz Scaggs hasn’t had this type of air time since, well, ever.)
Jasper kisses your picture and tells me about his Pop, the one whom he never really got to know, but the one whom he hears was among the very first to hold him. Suzy, even though she was only three when you died, still tells me that you make the best pancakes and waffles (although P.J’s are her next favorite). Nora tears up when she thinks about you, but only when she thinks I can’t see; she’s afraid of making me sad by reminding me that my Dad is gone. Little does she know that I don’t need a conversation topic or a song or sandwich on a menu to remind me of you and your absence. You’re everywhere and nowhere at the same time, all day long.
People ask me how I am- how the family is- two years out. Sometimes there’s this feeling under the question that the grief is a past event, that it’s something that was tragic and hard but now long ago and solved. Sometimes I wish my grief was a broken leg that I could point to and say “this is where it hurts and it’ll be better someday but today is not that day, so leave me alone to listen to the Allman Brothers on my Dad’s studio headphones.”
Grief gets easier after two years.
Grief gets harder after two years. Dad, I swear to God, there are days it really feels like you’re never coming back.
The last time I saw you, I don’t remember exactly what I said before leaving. Isn’t that funny? I can remember exact quotes from my first date with P.J. and could recite the entirety of Tommy Boy if I had to, but can’t pinpoint the words I used before driving back to the airport for the sixth time in three months, listening to the saddest Phish songs ever created, in a dumb rental car, during the bleakest winter on record in Massachusetts.
We probably said “I love you.” In fact, I know we said “I love you.” We always said “I love you,” on phone calls, in texts, when you kissed me goodnight, and when we hugged goodbye.
I know, I know. Time to buck up and take no prisoners and maybe try to buck up again (’cause the first time didn’t take so well).
I love you, Dad.
But you know that. You always do.