How do you live in a world where your dad no longer exists?

Six months ago, my dad died. 25 December 2014. Christmas morning. 11:00 am. He was 69 years old.

While we’d known those last four days we were physically losing him, we’d really been losing him for several years. In early 2012, my dad had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. No cure. You just have to wait and watch while your loved one slowly leaves you. It’s not easy. And the earlier they get it, the faster it progresses, until there is nothing left.

The last few months of his life, I was familiar to my dad. He knew my face was familiar. But he couldn’t remember me. I will never forget the last time he actually said my name. Looking back now that was a blessing.

Dad_JumpShotHe loved basketball, both as a player and spectator. He played basketball his entire life, and never missed NCAA March Madness.

He loved music – my love of music comes from him. Every time a good song came on, you had to “turn it up.” Pretty soon the music would be deafening, because they were all good songs. My dad and I had a special connection with The Beatles and Neil Young.

He loved his family. He adored his grandsons.

He loved to play cards. His parents taught him, and he taught me. Thanks to my dad I know and love solitaire, Euchre, and Canasta.

Dad_GrandmaHe was funny. He never said no to a good (bad?) pun. He loved Yogi Berra. He had standard one-liners he liked to just throw out in conversation. “Know what I mean, Vern?” was a favorite.

He wasn’t a big reader until he discovered Stephen King. One night he was up late reading It in bed, and got so scared he couldn’t even go back downstairs to let the dogs outside. I didn’t believe that a book could be that scary, and he challenged me to read it. He was right.

Dad_Kristi_WeddingIn 1996, I went to Foster City, California (near San Francisco) for a summer internship. My dad was a seasoned traveler; he flew to different places all the time for work. That Memorial Day weekend, my dad flew out with me to get me settled in for the summer. He took me to the City (San Francisco, for all you non-Northern Californians). We rode the cable car. Ate at Fisherman’s Wharf. Visited the Top of the Mark. He introduced me to Ghirardelli chocolate. I had my first Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista. Before he left he made sure my refrigerator was stocked with food and that I knew how to get to the office from my apartment. I cried when he left.

There’s a club. And you can’t be in it until you’re in it.

I used to watch Grey’s Anatomy religiously. (Until she killed off George.) There is one scene that was so powerful I never forgot it. And I’ve thought of it often these last six months. The scene right after George has lost his dad.

“I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t.”

Grey’s Anatomy

I’ll tell you right now, the Dead Dad’s Club sucks. I hate being a part of this club. But I’m in it. And George brings up a great point. How do you exist in a world where your dad doesn’t? For me it’s only been six months. Sometimes it feels like he’s still here, and other times that he’s been gone much longer.

I’m still learning how to navigate through these uncharted waters. But here’s what I’ve found, six months into this journey.

You remember. You remember the times you enjoyed together. (Often this involves crying. But that’s okay.) And you miss him.

Sitting together on the couch, each reading your own Stephen King novel while sharing a bowl of Cheetos between you. (He liked puffy.)

Falling asleep at night, listening to him pound out Neil Young songs on the piano downstairs as loud as he could, singing along with the music.

His laugh. And his sense of humor.

That weekend together in San Francisco.

Dad_Kristi

You are thankful. Thankful for the time you did have. It wasn’t enough – would any amount of time ever be enough? But you are thankful you had it.

Thankful for the values of honesty and integrity that he passed on.

Thankful he got to watch my two boys play basketball.

Thankful that of all the people in this world, he was my dad.

You smile. Because not all reminders make you cry.

When Neil Young or The Beatles (or any of the songs he loved) come on the radio. And I turn it up. Because it’s a good song.

When playing Canasta with my husband, while we drink our Irish coffees, knowing that the spirit of my dad is living on in our game.

When my son throws out a line my dad would always say in regular conversation. Like “Don’t you know?” and we smile and answer back (as my dad would expect), “I don’t really know.”

When you know he’d be proud of something you just did.

How do you exist in a world where your dad doesn’t?

You take it one day at a time. You remember. You laugh. You cry. You live.

“The people you love are still going to die. You’re still going to lose them. […] Then I realized, maybe that’s okay, maybe it’s even okay loving someone knowing it’s going to end, that either you’re going to die or they’re going to die, or you’ll move away and never see them again, because that’s what it means to be alive.

That’s the whole point of life. To love someone.

The Black Reckoning by John Stephens

I love you, Dad.

Dad_Wave

28 thoughts on “How do you live in a world where your dad no longer exists?

  1. That was a truly moving post. I am so sorry for your loss – it sounds like your dad was a really wonderful person. I lost my dad 6 years ago and my mum last year so I know what you mean about existing in a world which they are no longer a part of. It does get easier with time and the painful memories ease and make way for the more pleasant ones. *HUGS*

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful tribute and what a wonderful bond you shared with your dad. I wish I had answers or wisdom or something but I don’t. My husband lost his parents almost 7 years ago and it’s still hard from him and his brother at times but it is easier now. We talk about them a lot and as time has gone on the balance has shifted away from tears and more towards laughter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I know it will get easier. Some days are easier than others now. Talking about him definitely helps. This post was hard to write, but at the same time therapeutic in the healing process I think.

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  3. On April 2, 2004 my Mom died of early onset Alzheimers. So in some ways my story is a bit different than yours. I didn’t get to have a relationship with her as a parent or an adult (I was 27 at the time…let’s be honest, I wasn’t anything resembling an adult). But in the most important ways my story is very much the same in the way you described above: this is a bittersweet club we belong to and no one understands until they belong too, God forbid.

    Bad news: the hurt and emptiness doesn’t ever go away, although it does get less acute and more…achy, I guess.

    Good news: the myriad positive influence of your parent becomes so much more evident as time passes

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jeff. I didn’t realize you lost your mom to Alzheimer’s as well. It is so difficult to lose a parent. I am thankful for all the time I had with him and I know he will be an influence forever. ❤

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  4. I’m so sorry. I’m also a member of this club that we wish didn’t exist but there it is. It sounds trite but I think you’re already finding that it does get easier with time although the missing him part will never go away. My dad left this world 21 years ago and I still sometimes think I wish I could tell him this or I wish he could go there with me. It’s OK, though, because it’s a comfort just thinking of him and you’ll reach that stage. Have faith 😉

    Lelia

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My dad raised me as a single dad and we’re really close. Reading this tribute, I definitely understood your strong father-daughter bond. And I’m so sorry for your loss. This was really moving and must have been so hard to write, thank you for sharing, Kristi.

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  7. This was an amazing tribute. I’m so sorry for your loss. All I can say from losing someone I love is that it does get better. Slowly but surely. You never forget and it never truly stops hurting, but someday in the future 90% of the time you reminisce will be done with a smile on your face, in your heart and soul. Amazing tribute and you two seemed to have an amazing relationship.

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  8. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my Dad to cancer when he was 71 about 6.5 years ago now. We were very close, he was a huge influence in my life and he was one of the most embracing of life people I ever knew. It was incredibly painful watching the cancer take that all away from him in the most painful way possible. There are still many times when I wish I could talk things over with him. Basically I do really feel for what you are going through and so appreciate your tribute to your wonderful dad. Thanks for sharing it especially for those of us who are reluctantly a part of this sad club.

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  10. So well written. Wow. I can’t imagine what you are/have been going through, but I can see that you are continuing to push on. You never truly heal from a loss like this, but instead accept the void into your existence and daily life. Keep remembering the good times. This post was so beautifully written. What a great way to remember a great man.

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