This is now the week I spend in the past every year. (Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that this is the month I spend in the past.) I wish, and I hope that soon, more of it will be spent in the happier years, but still four years later I find myself spending most of it in 2009.
I think about the phone calls.
I think about the ones that were fun, and normal. I think about telling Dad about how Sam snuck a fudgesicle and then told me he hadn't with chocolate all over his face. I think about him skyping with Ben, eating cheezies and making faces. I think about being able to hear his voice and feel like things would be okay. I miss that feeling... That everything would be okay. I haven't felt that way since he died.
I think about the really hard phone calls too.
I think about the night that Mom called in the early morning hours and how terrified I was to answer, only to find out he was okay physically, but upset and needing someone to talk to... Someone to distract him. I think about how good it felt to be needed and to be able to help, even though it was the middle of the night and I was tired. I think about hanging up and crying because of how lost he sounded at the beginning of the phone call, and how much better he sounded when I said goodbye.
I think about the phone calls that made me change my plans and fly out to see him a month before I was supposed to. I think about how I started dreading conversations with him. I think about hanging up and crying, because he reminded me of how Grampa sounded just before he died. I think about feeling guilty because I didn't want to hear Dad so confused, and tired, and done. I didn't want to hear. I didn't want to talk to Dad on the phone, because I didn't want to hear.
I think about Dad telling me not to go there. I think about that a lot. Sometimes, I feel a little angry that we weren't allowed to go to that place. I feel angry with the people who made me feel like I was over-reacting. I feel angry that Dad didn't write letters to us or our kids, that he didn't TELL MOM what he wanted done with his stuff, just in case, so that we wouldn't have to fight her for things I know he would have wanted us to have. (Or buy them from her.) He wouldn't go there either.
Once I start thinking about those phone calls I always wind up thinking about that day before he was diagnosed when the idea of cancer first made its way into my thoughts, and screaming and crying alone in my room. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I was so terrified. And I felt like everyone else was taking it better than I was, and everyone else thought I was being a baby, and everyone else believed he would get better and I didn't and that was making it harder on Dad and Mom.
I didn't believe. I never really did. I was always terrified. ALWAYS. There was never a moment from that first day of terror when I didn't dread this.
This living without him. No Dad. No Grampa. In the beginning the thought seemed impossible. I couldn't allow myself to really think about it because it was too terrible. I was constantly pushing it away because it was too much. And the last few years... I was right. I knew it would be awful. I knew it would rip me to pieces and destroy my ability to trust God. I knew it would leave me empty, and yet so full of pain. Agony. Despair. And guilt. Because, of course, the thought slips in that I didn't do enough or believe enough. I let him down.
Did I ever tell you that I used to make Ben pray for Dad because in my mind, God would be more likely to listen to Ben's prayers than mine?
You would think after four years, the first week of 2009 wouldn't haunt me the way it still does. But I don't feel its oppressive weight any less now than I did then. Sometimes, I feel it more. Because, now I know what I was afraid of. I know what this is. I have the pain of four years without him added to the pain of what it was like to lose him... to the pain of that last night... that last breath.
And as the last minutes of today run out I think about what I was doing then. Where I was sitting. What I was wearing. Who I was with. What I was thinking. What I was feeling. I remember thinking that someday I would WISH I could be there in that room with him again, and even while I thought that I STILL wanted to sleep. I hate myself for that... For wasting even one minute with him.
But it's the evening of October 8th, and four years ago at around this time we stood around his bed, and he was awake and he was saying just one thing, over and over, like it was all that mattered. And in that moment it was.
"I love you a lot."
I love you a lot. That's all he said.
Oh Dad, I'm trying so hard to hold onto that. To let go of all of the other stuff and to just hold onto what you really wanted us to know. To let that one thing fill up the emptiness and push out all the things that hurt.
I'm trying. But this... This is so much more, and so much less, than what I could have ever imagined. I love you. I miss you.