With the stalemate in Congress, October 17th has taken on an ominous meaning for many people this year, but for me, that date will only ever mean one thing—the anniversary of my dad’s death when I was twelve.
You hear people say, “A day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss him.” The truth is, I don’t think about or long for my dad every day. But even after 49 years, there are many days when the ache of missing him is so raw, it still feels new.
In my upcoming novel, CAPE MAYBE, there’s a point when the main character, Katie, reflects on the anniversary of a loved one’s death and says, “Neither of us says anything. We never do . . . like we are both afraid of what might happen to us if we admit what day it is.”
For years after my dad died, it was that way in our house. My mother’s grief was so palpable and fragile. We learned not to talk about missing him for fear it would plunge her over the edge.
I’m guessing that has something to do with my pressing need to write about him now.
In CAPE MAYBE, Katie’s dad died when she was just a baby. At one point Katie says, “I don’t remember my dad, but I miss him as if I do.”
Unlike Katie, I do remember my dad—he was burly, consistent, and dependable, a mystifying balance of gregarious and reserved. Here’s the best way I can explain him. When one of my clubs or my girl scout troop needed parents to volunteer to drive us somewhere or chaperone, I knew without having to ask him, that I could raise my hand.
Because he died when I was so young, all of my memories of him are tinged with childlike awe. I wish I could have known him as an adult, even if that means I would have learned he had some flaws.
Recently, a friend who also misses having her dad in her life referred to him as the one who got away. That really struck a chord with me.
Does it resonate with you too?