It won’t be until 10:10 today that my dad died four years ago. I honestly and embarrassingly can’t remember whether it was morning or night, the fluorescent hospital lights and agitated sleep on hard, angled chairs warped time and reality.
It feels like every year January 10th sneaks up on me. Usually on the 9th my mom will ask my what I’m doing the next day. I text back something flippant like, “no plans!” or “nothing, want to get together?” then it hits me that it will be the 10th, and that we should be together. That I want to be together. Sometimes I will receive a message from Brooke or Reina or Nina saying “I’ll be eating Taco Bell for him today” and then it will strike me. I feel sad for my little sister, who has handled his loss in her own way- that she isn’t here with us. I feel the loss of not having her here too.
As soon as I realized the impending date, a heaviness crept onto my shoulders- weighty like a thick fur stole. By the end of last night, I began to poke holes in anything possible except the acceptance that I have been fatherless for four years- that his absence has affected me and that I miss him. The smell of his Coppertone sunscreen. The feel of his worn moss green cashmere sweater as I buried my face into his shoulder, smearing eyeliner on it as I would cry. The warm boom when he would laugh or the commanding sound of his voice when he would address a crowd. The sound of his guitar outside my door as a little girl playing “Vincent” to help me sleep. The smell of his cigars wafting in from the garage. All of these things left when his physical body did, but the remembrance of him won’t. The tears that fall freely whenever I listen to Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” won’t. Neither will the vision of his face over old home videos, always looking into the lens like he’d been caught on camera for the first time- a mixture of being unimpressed and curious as to why someone would take interest in him.
I will always miss him- as will dozens of others- and I can only imagine what my mom is feeling today. We will spend time together tonight when she returns from Sihanoukville, I’m sure over tear filled glasses of wine and Waldorf salads with new family and friends. Ones that will never fill his place- Dad’s place, Hal’s place- but they will create new trenches in our lives filled with fresh memories, smells, sounds, and struggles.
While I am grateful that I had a father in my life, when there are so many who have not, and lost him in such a beautifully quick yet no less devastating way- I say Hallelujah, even if it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.