I will say, being a newlywed has been a hard dynamic in the midst of this grief. I love my husband. He is open and honest with me like no one else has been and in many ways I feel has been God’s gift to me to show me that a man can be open and loving since I didn’t always see that in my father. But there were nights when I cried myself to sleep after my father died. I felt guilty sometimes when I did it, like I wanted to just stop and let Donovan be enough for me. But my heart was so torn, so sad, so very bruised. And it didn’t feel like that would ever go away. My father was my friend. There was something about our friendship that no one else in the world could give me, and for that I cried. I grieved the loss because it could never be given back to me, it could never grow and continue, and I feared it would eventually even be erased from my own memory. My dad and I laughed together in a way that my husband doesn’t truly see as funny, I guess in a cynical way, in a so-sad-you-have-to-laugh kind of way. There is something about our person that is similar, something that is alike, something that through being socialized by him or being born from his blood makes me like him. I can’t help but have his sense of humor, and I can’t make Donovan have it when he doesn’t. I grieved that being gone. I grieved all the little tiny things I remembered us doing together as a child and I guess I was happy to have those moments and sad that the person who they were created with was gone forever. I was so sad that no more memories could be made.
There was a hope in me for a while that things would go on as normal. For so long we got used to “things being really serious” that we didn’t get phased by it as much anymore. My dad would go through a long and hard surgery and we would all pray for him and call him and check up on him when we could, but we knew that as it had been in the last few years that he would be fine and life would still limp along. Eventually he would do less but still participate. He drove us to the mountain as a family once a year, but he would ski a half day instead of a whole day. He would work until the end of his work day (3pm) but not work any overtime. He would come to family events but sit in a chair. I think towards the end of his life I got even less sentimental because one just gets tired of worrying themselves silly for over five years. It wasn’t conscious, but I thought he would always be there. Although when it came to big decisions I always remembered him and worried about his cancer and if he would be around. I moved back to Portland after graduate school was done and even rushed the process by a few months saying it was because I couldn’t find a job in Portland as a therapist and wanted to get the ball rolling. Really, I was afraid that time was running out. Several people in my church community didn’t understand why I left LA and did so quickly. I think that was one of the smartest things I did for myself in this whole process. Just four months after my move up my father died. Those four months were such a precious and fun time. I worked odd hours and had the time to come to see him at least once a week. He would take me out to eat because he doesn’t cook and I didn’t have the money to treat myself out. We would talk about very basic stuff, but it was just good to be together. I imagined (after he died) that if we had more time we would go on growing as adults in this more “equal” type of relationship, co-adults, although me always knowing that he was my father. This is more than a friend because he knew me at my birth and through every single step until the moment he died. A kind of friend that knows you like that I guess can really say what they think and you have to listen because they have such a deep context for relating to you. That’s the piece that I’m talking about when I say that Donovan didn’t really perfectly fill that grief, because although he has known me in a different way and known me for several years, there is something he can never know completely and that many cannot know, and that died and was buried the day that my father died.
So moving forward after his death is very painful. He was so interested in my decision-making as a young adult. He wouldn’t impose but he would share his concerns. He worried at times that we were too young to be married, that we didn’t have enough money to make it, and that whatever challenge we went through might break us instead of make us stronger. So the first time I moved apartments after he died I cried, knowing that he had helped me hang some practical things on the walls and helped put the pieces of our bed frame together. Once I undid them I knew I could never again say “my dad helped me do that.” The first time I got a job after he died I knew that he would love to talk to me about how it was going, and although some people in my life did that it didn’t replace his curiosity and the conversation that only he and I could have had about it. And by far the hardest thing was finding out I was pregnant almost exactly six months after his death. I was surprised at the news and so happy. But a part of me was so sad to know that my father would never become a grandfather. Moving on meant that I had to learn to make decisions and changes without him there to catch me in case something went terribly wrong. It felt venerable but it also felt good, it felt adult, it felt right for Donovan and I to stand as our own family even though it was kind of forced.