Part of me is shocked and even a little bit impressed (surprised?) that we've made it to the two year point after my dad went on ahead. We've done it; we've helped each other through it and we've survived it, so far. Some days, though, it feels like running the third lap of a four-lap mile around the track, which for me was always the most painful because I knew that I had to give it my all in that part of the race but I was also aware that there was so much work left to be done even after that lap had been completed. Part of me is so shocked and so saddened by that fact that we're already at the two-year mark that just the thought that it has been that long since I've seen him immediately brings tears to my eyes. Two years. How did that happen?
I had a dream about my dad a couple of nights ago, and in it he was sick and he kept asking me, "How did we get here?" At first, I thought he meant that he wanted to know how we had arrived in the physical location where we were, which was, oddly, sitting on a bench in a park that was not familiar to me (and certainly it wasn't somewhere that I went with him while he was sick), but then it dawned on me that he was asking how we had gotten to that exact point in time. And then in the dream I turned to him on the bench with tears in my eyes and I said, "We got here because of your strength, your courage, your toughness, your determination, and your love, and we will never forget that." I knew he want to know how he had gotten cancer and how it had gotten so bad so quickly, but no one knew the answers to those questions. What I did know in the dream - what I wanted to convey to him - and what I do know in real life is that my dad is the reason that my family and I have had the fortitude not to crumble in the midst of the biggest challenge of our lives; time and time again, we have held him up as an example of how to face the pain of our grief, how to cope with the sadness and the anger that threaten to overtake the joy and the promise of hope for a better tomorrow, and how to look for the good on even the roughest of days. That's how we have gotten here; that's how we've made it through these two years since he had to go on ahead.
But of course knowing that doesn't make me miss him any less; if anything, the passage of time makes me miss him more!
It's not just that today marks the two year anniversary of my dad's death that brings him to mind; I miss him all the time.
I miss how he and I could laugh over the craziest things, sometimes things we knew were ridiculous or even dumb but we thought they were funny anyway.
|We ran up and down steps like these|
as one of our training routines.
I miss his no-nonsense attitude and advice, the same kind he gave me when I called to tell him that I'd been offered my first job as an occupational therapist after I'd graduated from college. I told him what the salary would be and that I thought it would be a great place to gain experience, and then I said that I had told the human resources department that I would get back to them about my decision. Without missing a beat, he said, "Haven't you been wanting to work at a children's hospital like that for many years?" I told him that I had, and he said, "Well, then, what are you waiting for?" was the advice I got in return, in response to which I hung up with him and made the call to accept the job.
Before I could say anything in response, he commented, "Sometimes I worry that any advice I've given you hasn't been about the important things."
"What do you mean, Dad?" I asked him. "You've given us good advice!" to which he responded, "All I can remember telling you is stuff like always keep a towel in the trunk of your car and put some toilet paper in the waistband of your shorts when you go for a run in the woods." It was true; he had told me both of those things many times throughout my life, and, truth be told, I always did both of them (and still do). But, of course, that wasn't the bulk of the advice he had given to me over the years, and I wanted to be sure he realized that. "You've taught me a lot more than that," I told him, but the only answer I got was the sound of his rhythmic snoring. After tossing and turning and chatting for the majority of the night, he had, at last, fallen asleep.
Once when we were running together during the time that I was preparing for a marathon, I told him that I had gotten some new gear to help me with the training and that I had estimated that I had several hundred dollars of equipment on me every time I went out the door to run. He actually stopped in the road and said, "Are you serious?" Yes, I told him, but that included my high-tech clothes, my shoes, my GPS-enabled watch, my heart-rate monitor, my sunglasses, and my iPod. "That's crazy!" he said, incredulous. He started running again but insisted that we go back by the house so that I could "ditch the extras." "That way we can really run just to run," he said. And that's what we did. How I miss being able to do that with him, and to talk about anything or nothing along the way. Damn.