A year ago today my father passed away, about two weeks short of his 92nd birthday. It still seems surreal in the sense that it can’t be real, it can’t have happened. And yet it did.
I don’t feel as if I’ve grieved. You know what I mean, the kind of grieving that lets it all out, a catharsis, a closing…or perhaps a new beginning. I haven’t done that.
I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been living so far away from my parents for so long, far enough to make visits a planned event. At least one visit a year usually occurred over the 4th of July holiday or Thanksgiving, depending on my travel schedule. After leaving my job to become a full time writer I had a bit more flexibility and visited more often, but still only two or three or maybe four times in any given year. Which means my time with Dad and Mom was sporadic, but special.
So maybe I’m finding it hard to acknowledge his absence because I didn’t see him that often. Perhaps if I had lived closer and saw him every day or every week or every month I would have felt the overwhelming loss necessary to reach closure. If closure is even a thing. Maybe it isn’t.
I miss him.
Because of COVID-19 I haven’t been able to travel anywhere this year at all, which means I haven’t even been able to see my mother since last Thanksgiving. The annual 4th of July parade that brings a hundred family and friends back to my mother’s hometown isn’t happening this year as COVID has pretty much ended social gatherings. I’m also concerned about “bringing the virus” to my Mom. But my tentative plan is to drive up after the holiday anyway.
Recently my brother and sister-in-law moved back to the area, which gives my mother some nearby family for comfort and logistical support. My other brother lives with her so there is a level of assistance close by. Other family also live in the area and my mother has friends she meets, although on a more limited basis given social distancing requirements. Everyone gets by.
My default mentality seems to be that Dad is still around, that he’s merely far away and I’ll see him again when next I visit. Then I’ll read something in a book, or hear a song on the radio, or a random memory pops into my head and I realize he is, in fact, gone. This past Sunday was Father’s Day and one of those “Dad Songs” on the country music station set me off a bit. Not over the edge, but closer to it. I feel like there is a time-bomb waiting to blow, a sudden explosion of emotion that rids my soul of grief. But it doesn’t happen. I don’t know if it ever will. Will the sense of loss end, or will it be one of those long fuses you see in movies that seems to burn forever, foreshadowing a cataclysmic release that never seems to occur.
I know the answer from an intellectual perspective, of course, but psychologically it seems as if a recurring nightmare refuses to give me peace of mind. And yet the random memories are not all sorrow and sadness. Many of these sudden thoughts reflect the good times we had and the inspiration I found in his presence and his life. I like those thoughts.
So thanks, Dad, for being you and being there. I’ll miss you always.
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.