There are few dates in my life imbued with so much meaning, and January 22nd is one of them.
That’s the day that my daddy died. And no, he wasn’t a “rolling stone,” like the lead crooner of the Temptations in the well-known song, “Poppa Was a Rolling Stone” bemoans. In fact, I’ve written before about how he was anything but.
I was a senior in my last semester in undergrad and the loss of him sent my world reeling. Not really sure (or quite frankly, caring) about whether I’d return to my university to graduate in time, to say I felt lost would be an understatement.
Never having felt such deep loss before, I didn’t know how to deal. A devastated, belligerent mess for weeks and not knowing if I was going or coming, my mom literally kicked me out of the house and told me I had to finish college (it was the best thing she could have ever done for me).
So, I went back to campus in a daze, struggling to stay focused in classes and zoning out in important meetings. I remember often running back to my dorm room at least 3 times a week for a good cry, just so I could release the tension and function like a “normal” college kid. For at least 6 months straight, I cried myself to sleep. Every night. Without fail. Longing for his presence, his voice, his laugh, his hugs. Something…anything to wake me up from what I thought was the worst nightmare ever.
Fast forward to May, the longest semester of life ended and I walked across the stage – a cum laude graduate decorated with honors. I was relieved that I made it and thankful for all the support of my close friends and family during the darkest period of my life, yet I still felt a sense of great loss because the one person I just knew would be there on graduation day, wasn’t.
And quite honestly, that’s how I’ve had to live the majority of my life each day afterward. That may sound tragic (and for the first 2 years after his death, I thought it was), until I realized that the loss of my father has contributed greatly to my resiliency. It really helped to put everything thereafter in perspective for me – VERY quickly. Since that time, I’ve experienced my fair share of loss, disappointment and betrayal, but everything else pales in comparison to losing one of the most important people in my life.
There’s this great article by Mark Manson, entitled “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” that aptly describes how important it is not to sweat the stuff that doesn’t really matter in your grand scheme of things.
My father’s death helped me re-prioritize what was important and of value to me and everything else that wasn’t? Well…as Manson so eloquently stated…I just didn’t give a you-know-what. I have been able to manage my emotional, mental and physical bandwidth much more efficiently because of this dramatic shift in life.
In these 6 years without my father, I’ve also learned how to appreciate the precious moments in life…well, I’m still learning. My boyfriend can attest to that (he says I rush EVERYTHING. I tell him I just walk, live and drive with “purpose,” and by that I really mean…I’m going 100 mph 90% of the time because patience as a virtue for me leaves much to be desired). God ain’t through with me yet, ya’ll.
But in these 6 years, I’ve also discovered how true that saying really is: time heals all wounds. I still have my moments, but one surprising thing that helps me deal is by thinking and talking about my awesome father often.
You’d think that with how utterly devastated I was, I wouldn’t want to talk much about him but, just the opposite is true.
It’s like I have a personal mission to keep his memory alive.
So, I carry his wallet with me, the contents of which have been virtually untouched since 2009. That includes the last 4 dollars he had, which is ironic because he was always “broke”…meaning, my mom had all the money and whenever she’d ask him if he had any, he’d pull out his empty wallet. His wallet was always “cash poor” from this hilarious scenario or because my brother and I would “clip” him on our way out the door – always promising to pay whatever it was we “borrowed” back, but never really replenishing what seemed like an endless of supply of 1s, 5s and if we really hit the jackpot, 10s (and to a teenager, that was an embarrassment of riches).
I often find myself adopting his “sayings,” many of which I thought were corny when I was a teenager, but now they roll off my tongue with ease and are always apropos for the occasion of their utterance. And when that happens, I laugh to myself, shake my head and am always reminded of how much like our parents we so often eventually become, even with habits we’d swear we’d never emulate.
I look at his old pictures and laugh at his afro, or at the caption he wrote on the back of this picture with so much braggadocio – even as a 9 year old, so sure of himself.
Every now and again, I fondly sift through the bevy of pictures we have: from my awkward, brace-faced teen years to our last family vacation, appreciating how camera-happy (albeit cringing at the hairstyles and choice of clothing) I was back then, completely unaware of how those photos would help carry me through my periods of debilitating grief.
So, that’s how I deal knowing that he’s never coming back but finally being at peace with the fact that every moment spent with him was enough to spend a lifetime fondly remembering.