The last time I spoke to my dad, it was September 21, 2013. It was his 50th birthday and I was just getting over a cold and about to move into a new apartment in Massachusetts later that afternoon. He was worried about me because of my scratchy throat. I could barely speak when I yelled “Happy Birthday!” and told him his gift was in the mail. He said thank you, and that my mom was currently in the kitchen baking him a chocolate cake. He may have joked that he was getting old. And then he died three days later.
I was the one who eventually picked up my dad’s gift in the mailbox later that week when I flew down to Texas to help my mom with some arrangements. Overall, I was fine. I think I reacted to his death like any daughter would react. I was fine when my mom and I sat at his favorite bar and handed out free shots of Jim Beam. I was fine when he was pulled out of the freezer at the funeral home so I could see him one last time. I was fine when I got the phone call that they were cremating him. I was fine when my mom sold all of his artwork. I was fine when a complete stranger on Facebook harassed my mom, claiming to have had an affair with him. I was fine when she packed up the house, gave away our dogs, and moved to Mexico. At least, I pretended I was fine. I’ve been really good at pretending.
Following his death, I led a very predictable lifestyle. I did the same thing every morning, afternoon, and night. I held the same boring job I didn’t like, but at least I had a 401k. It wasn’t until around Thanksgiving last year that I realized how incredible unhappy I had become. I was lonely, and maybe even depressed. I was far away from my family and friends, and I eventually felt as though I had fallen into a hole and couldn’t get out.
Now that it’s October, and my mom just celebrated her birthday yesterday, I realized how much my life has changed. 2016 has been my happiest year since he died. I like my apartment, I like my stuff, I love my friends (even the friends whom I’ve never met), I don’t absolutely hate my job, and each week something new and exciting happens. My life is no longer predictable. My friends actually reach out when they need me. I feel bolder and more confident than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m taking chances I wouldn’t have taken before, like selling my artwork and submitting them into shows, even if it does cost me $100 round trip just to get to the studio. For the first time, I actually like my life and the direction it’s heading in.
So, you would think that I’m better than I’ve ever been. Well, I’m here to tell you, despite the title of my blog, that lately I have not been fine. I just passed another hump in the year that was my dad’s 3 year death anniversary. I spent the day with Mr. Jess, and even though he never met my dad, he sat with me and watched movies and then we made tacos for dinner. I’ve never been one to talk about my feelings, and even though Mr. Jess was open and asked me several times if I was okay, I kept nodding my head, telling him everything was fine. I quickly changed the subject and asked him what kind of ice cream he wanted.
I’ve cried more this year than I think I have any other year, but I’ve realized I’m crying because I’m happy, not because I’m sad. I’ve been upset because all of these wonderful changes that have occurred have not been shared with him. People always told me that it gets easier as time goes on, but I disagree. You just learn to deal with it. When you feel the rush of tears come on from out of nowhere, you run to the bathroom, take three deep breaths, wipe away the smudge of mascara, and then go back to joining your friends who seem to have not noticed a thing, to your relief.
After spending the weekend with a close friend who always calls me out on my bluff, she finally told me that I just have to admit to myself that I’m not okay. So here I am, admitting to myself and the rest of you the honest and absolute truth. I cry everywhere – my car, my apartment, the grocery store, my desk at work when nobody is looking, on an airplane, at the movies, etc. I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at hiding it because I take my three deep breaths and move on.
I know that it’s perfectly normal to miss the people you’ve lost when good things happen, which is why I’m fine with the fact that I’m not fine. Eventually, we all have to face the facts.