My father died.
I have trouble admitting this, accepting this. I go about days, just thinking that he’s off working late, back in his lab at IBM. Or on the racquetball court destroying the competition. He’s still alive. He’s just too busy to have lunch with me and my mom. Or asleep, exhausted from a long day, when I call.
Because I cannot accept the reality that this incredibly brilliant, kind, funny man no longer exists.
I have tried telling people, but it stuns me every time the words come out of my mouth. I can’t tolerate when people tell me that they are sorry. I know that most of them mean it and want to pay their respects. I deeply appreciate the kindness. I appreciate the acknowledgment, but I cannot acknowledge back. I can’t discuss it.
So, I haven’t told some of my close friends. Many of the people with whom I grew up, people who spent holidays with us, people who celebrated with us, don’t know yet. I can’t get the words out.
I watched him endure a devastating illness and mourned him as his health deteriorated in front of my eyes. I was anxious and sad around the clock, listening to doctors tell us that he could live one more year or one more day. Now, the anxiety is gone. I should feel a sense of peace. But all I feel is a deep sense of sadness that permeates my every waking moment.
But I don’t want to discuss it. Happy, thoughtful, and kind memories of my father do not make me feel better. I cannot look at pictures of happier times. I can’t talk about missing him or contemplate how much he valued his life and family. I can’t comment on what he would have enjoyed doing or seeing. I can’t reflect on all of his great accomplishments. None of this gives me peace. None of this makes it easier for me to accept that he has died.
I don’t confront my sadness. I function like a shark, moving forward so that I can stay alive. Stay functional. Stay busy.
On the daily, I pretend. I pretend that he is still there. That I can hear his voice again. That I will hold his hand again. That my children will once again hear his good-natured chuckle whenever he answers the phone and hears their voices.
Friends, wonderful friends, have asked me what they can do for me. I laugh, not because I do not appreciate their sincerity. But the only thing that would make me feel better is to bring my father back. To save a life that could no longer be saved.
My father died.
I know it happened. But I’m not able to accept that reality. So, I will continue to move along, living in denial.