My father died on July 23, 2012. It was a Monday, and for awhile thereafter, we tapped out time's rhythm by that day: One week since Daddy died. Two weeks. Five. Eight.
As the multiples of seven slipped through our fingers and into the fog surrounding us, we began measuring by a certain day of the month: September 23. December 23. January 23. May 23.
We have watched the calendar pages blow away like they would in an old black-and-white movie, marking off the milestones that make up our lives without him: his birthday and each of ours; every full moon, every season, every holiday (Father's Day was especially hard).
And now, somehow, it's been a year since Dad died, which could as easily be two days or three weeks or 10 years or 20. I don't want my father to be dead at all, and I certainly don't want him to have been dead for a year.
So what happens the day after a year has passed? When I see a man pull a white handkerchief out of his pocket, will it take me a second more to remember that Daddy used to always carry one? Will I smell chili and not immediately think of the pots of it (and the mess) he'd make while we in Colorado? Do I forget the words to "The Creation of Sam McGee," a major player in his poetry repertoire?
Maybe I just become a veteran, a longstanding member of that club none of us wants to join, the one made up of shell-shocked children whose parents' deaths have made them inextricably adults.
His death made me feel vulnerable, but also invincible. So to be honest, I think part of me believes that once the calendar page flips over, we'll no longer be under the comforting quilt that wraps around our shoulders and protects us from anything bad.
I can forget to wear sunscreen and I won't get sunburned. I can eat as much peanut butter as I want and not gain weight. Storm clouds may gather while I'm running, but I know they won't release their torrents until I'm home safely.
I lost my father, I alternately whisper or scream from under the cloth; isn't that enough?
This popped into my head last week, when I was desperate because I didn't know where my son was. Charlie said he was going to Tom Thumb to get a can of tuna, and then (because I wasn't in the mood to cook) pick up dinner at a nearby restaurant. He'd skipped the part telling me that he'd do those things after volleyball, which I'd forgotten that he plays on Thursday nights. I only knew he'd been gone more than an hour, and that the grocery store is five minutes away.
Before he called, I paced the sidewalk, willing the comfort quilt not to slip as I looked up at the stars and thought, "No no no no no. My dad died and that's more than plenty."
My father taught me how to ride a bike and how to drive a car, how to take a refrigerator of seemingly disparate leftovers and turn them into a culinary work of art. He taught me to love coconut, and that crying is OK, and that being tone deaf should not stop anyone from belting out Christmas carols.
He taught me to be kind, to cherish my brothers and sisters, to pick up dropped items with my toes. (He tried to teach me to dance, and to believe more completely in myself, and that airplane turbulence is nothing to fear, but those continue to be works in progress).
He didn't teach me how not to miss him. And as awful as parts of this year have been, as many paper towels and shoulders I've soaked with my tears, I'm realizing -- in miniscule doses -- maybe that isn't knowledge I'd want imparted. I will always miss him. And for that gift, I am eternally grateful.