July 24 has come and gone once again. My dad would’ve been 66 years old. If his 65th birthday would have brought on a slew of senior citizen jokes, his 66th would have brought on a collection of “Route 66” parodies.
I must say I felt quite differently about July 24 this year than last year, mostly because I was working at a conference in Philadelphia. Working was an ideal distraction because I had to keep my game face on all day, my professional/networking/perky game face to be specific. I barely had a minute to myself all day but I was worried I would fall apart because I was surrounded by so many things and places I know he would have loved (Reading Terminal Market, about a foot away from my hotel, would have been his paradise; in fact I don’t doubt he ate there tons of times in his life) and so many things we used to do together (the Philadelphia Zoo, the Please Touch Museum). Alas, I didn’t cry once the whole day.
No my heart hasn’t turned to stone, and no I am not anywhere close to being “over” this, if such a thing is even possible. It’s just that as time goes on I don’t really need a holiday or a birthday in order to miss him. In fact earlier this month I had a really awful couple of weeks, like crying about him at least once a day. One afternoon I started crying during my commute home and didn’t stop for hours, when I got home I just sort of crumbled on the floor and Archie (my 6-month-old golden retriever, in case you haven’t been paying attention to this blog/my tweets lately) just sat down in front of me and gently placed his paw on my knee. Another time I had to leave a party for a few minutes to calm myself down. The whole week I kept thinking, ‘What is going on here? Why am I feeling this way? Is there an anniversary or something coming up?’ I realized that while yes his birthday was slowly creeping up on me that wasn’t it, it was just another week. Another week that he was gone, and I missed him.
My mourning process has definitely, noticeably changed, at least it’s noticeable to me. I believe a lot of it actually has to do with my sister’s blog post about him a couple of months ago. Right around that time, the first anniversary of his death, some kind of fog was lifted and I stopped dwelling so much on the cancer, what went wrong with the treatment, why the doctors didn’t do this or that, how it could have happened, how it had changed all my post-grad plans and so on and so forth, and instead started remembering my dad. The real Mackie. Sometimes, if I concentrate really hard, in my mind I can hear his voice and see his face so clearly it’s startling. In some ways that is even more difficult than what I was doing before because I still can’t even completely wrap my head around the fact that that person is gone, but in many other ways it is more comforting because I’ve been so terrified that I would forget all those things.
The night before his would-be birthday I had a truly dreadful dream in which he sort of came back and then died again, and I had to go through the process of informing people. Again. It brought to mind a quote from Dawson’s Creek (I believe Andy says it to Dawson in reference to their respective breakups with Pacey and Joey): “Letting go isn’t a one-time thing, it’s something you do every day. Over and over again.” I’m still wearing that amber ring.