Nine Years

On Easter Sunday we marked the ninth anniversary of my dad’s death (pancreatic cancer doesn’t spare the loving). We joined the family for Easter mass, as always, and we had Easter dinner, as always. The day was filled with its own dramas, its own troubles big and small, as they so often pop up, holiday or not. My brother and I talked about it briefly when he called from the home he shares with his wife in Wisconsin. Something about the symbolism of the Easter anniversary. The depressing aspect that yep, Dad’s still dead (because despite nine years you still wonder sometimes if it’s just a bad dream you’ve yet to shake off). Jesus is risen, but Dad’s still gone.

David’s dad’s anniversary was a couple weeks ago (I’ve said it before: April is super fun around here), and we hadn’t commemorated it “officially”–between David’s travels for work, and then life, it hadn’t happened. Yesterday we remembered Dad and Tom with a quick toast and moved on to the ham, because what else do you do, I guess? The day was jumbled. An anniversary of a parent lost is biggest for their spouses, for the children. But for each of us, all of us, the day still moves forward despite its meaning, as ordinary as the one before it.

I was in the car last week with the children, on our way home from school. One of the girls–Quinlan, probably, because it’s usually Quinlan with the big questions–asked me something about my dad. I forget what it was, but she asked me, “Does it get any better?” She meant the missing him, of course. And the answer came out without my having to consider the question: “No, baby, it doesn’t,” I said. “I don’t cry as much, but I still miss him as much today as I did the very first day.”

It was an honest answer. I think about that sometimes: how humans manage to move forward, sunrise to sunset, over and over again, despite the weight of their sorrows that grow like a scab over a wound. Sometimes the scab tears away, and the pain is intense and surprising. But always, the scab is there. Always, the wound. We keep trudging forward, carrying them, because what else are we to do? 

I miss him as much today as I did the first day. I sometimes dream of him looking at me, smiling, through an open doorframe (he’s always on the other side of a doorway). He grins at me from the outside to in, so close to see but too far to touch. My mom, her husband. My brother and I, our dad. David and his brother, theirs. Easter rising, but a day that breaks and closes like every other. 

We keep moving forward, because that’s all we know how to do.