Wow. It’s been three years since I last held my father’s hand. The past three summers have been tough. Once the end of June comes, it’s like I re-live the last month of my dad’s life over again. The worry, the moments of relief, the worst day ever, the denial, the next worst day ever, the numbness, the compartmentalization of feelings and ultimately, the disbelief that my father was no longer on the Earth with me.
I have all his voicemails saved (he ALWAYS left me voicemails, often saying the same thing) and I while I can’t quite bring myself to play them regularly, I know I’ll never delete them (or his number). When I do happen to hear his voice in old videos or recordings, I’m oddly comforted–and not saddened–by that familiar sound. I also don’t dream about him often but when I do, they’re vivid and I feel a little shook when I wake up. But all in all, these days, I don’t get choked up when I start talking about him. I can casually reference my dad and the fact that he’s longer with us without wincing as the words escape my throat. I, of course, think of the good times and I’m ok with thinking about the not so good times, too, because my dad was, after all, human.
What does get me–every single time, is thinking about the fact that he doesn’t know my kids. And mostly, what really hits home, is that they will never know him as a physical being. To them, he will always be “Popieux” from a photograph or from that story I tell them. They will not know my dad. He will just be a fictional character to them–someone that my family talks up, like some old legend. That is what causes my eyes to well with tears these days.
I have some photos of my dad around the house and they’re mostly older photos from when he’s younger (i.e. my parents’ wedding, a photograph he took of himself) and Harry used to talk to them when he was eating. One night, when Harry was just about two years old, I was laying in bed with him after reading some stories and he was talking about dreams.
‘Oh yeah?’ I ask, ‘who’s in your dreams?’
‘Popieux,’ he replies.
My throat gets a little dry–kind of like when I’m caught off guard and am prompted to talk about my dad.
“Really?” I ask (…my two year old). “What does he say to you?”
Harry, still laying in bed, is looking up in the ceiling but his eyes are getting heavy and you can tell he’s close to dream land.
“I miss you,” he says and drifts off to sleep.