My father died on October 10, 2006. I was fourteen years old and was only a month and a half into my freshman year of high school. I haven’t been anything close to a child since.
Monday will be the fifth year anniversary. Each year “The Day” hits me a little differently, and up until yesterday I thought I would slip by this year unscathed by the searing pain of grief. However, my best friend, trying desperately to make me feel better, inadvertently pushed me into the deep, dark abyss. For a moment it seemed as though all comfort in my life had disintegrated, leaving me literally gasping. I’m still trying to claw my way out of the hole, and I’m not sure how long it will take me to get out this time.
Usually I’m good at concealing sadness, so much so that I often trick myself into being happy. Today, though, I didn’t have the energy to put up the facade. Three out of four teachers commented that I looked tired or asked what was wrong. On most days I’d shrug it off and walk away, but today it was too close to the surface for me to bury it in time. I had reached my suppression threshold by the end of the day, so my poor Special Ed. professor was the recipient of my word vomit.
During class, I made no effort to look even remotely focused. I was mentally there enough to get the information I needed, but otherwise my brain was tangled in its own web of thoughts. My pen died while I was trying to correct my homework. Because a student was going over the homework with us and my professor wasn’t, she was able to see my predicament and hand me another pen. Later, she asked the class a simple question and didn’t receive an answer. She commented that we all seemed exhausted, and she specifically singled me out. I wasn’t surprised; I was quite aware that I was zombie-like in appearance.
The professor ended up letting us out early because of our complete inattentiveness. When I handed her the pen she had lent me, she said, “Are you okay? You look… sad.”
I couldn’t stop it. All of a sudden I was telling her nearly everything that was pent up, and I came to a very interesting and slightly startling revelation: my life has been completely fucked up. I don’t ever let myself really think about it as a whole, especially because I don’t like “playing the victim” or what have you, but honestly. My dad died as a result of medical malpractice. I watched the heath care system fail. I saw corruption so disgusting you’d never set foot in a hospital ever again. I went through the trial process and watched my mother relive the worst day of her life over and over again… and then it was my turn to do the same. I had to read my personal journals in front of a courtroom of strangers, as if I were some sick sideshow attraction. “Come see the grieving daughter spill her soul everywhere! Admission is free!”
I then watched the judicial system fail, at least in part. (It was ruled a wrongful death against the hospital, but we settled because nurses flat out lied on the stand.) I had to fill the place of my father in the household, meaning I was told financial things that no fourteen-year-old should ever have to know. I have never been fourteen… or fifteen, or sixteen, or seventeen… I don’t even feel like I’m nineteen now. It has been nine months since the trial ended, but I still feel like the healing process hasn’t begun. Since 2006 I’ve been waiting and waiting for the moment when it will “hit” me, but it has never come. Is there really just one moment? Will it come in spurts for the rest of my life, picking the worst times and rendering me debilitated until it finally subsides?
In this conversation with my professor, I was able to see my life for what it’s really been. I don’t want to give off the impression that I hate my life. I still believe that everything happens for a reason; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to survive. It was a strange feeling to view my life at once subjectively and objectively. I feel those five years right now, if only by their weight. I’m tired. I’m tired of running from the grief that threatens to consume me. I’m tired of trying to keep up with schoolwork. I’m tired of being tired all the time.
I know that I’m going to be fine. That’s never been a question because there’s never been an alternative. I don’t know how long this spell of grief is going to last. I feel myself closing off again, but whether that’s indicative of the end is not something I can know for certain. I know the present, and presently I feel completely exhausted in every possible way. I have a rough draft to write, a chapter of psychology to read, and my own personal bullshit to attend to before 1:00 tomorrow afternoon. All I want from my life at the moment is sleep and a hug.
I find it interesting that I can explain my life events to other people as if they haven’t happened to me. The whole time I talked to my professor, I didn’t even come close to crying until I admitted that it sometimes feels like my father never even existed… like he has only ever been a figment of my very vivid imagination. Otherwise, I can separate myself from this horrible event completely. The whole fifty minutes I talked to her (God bless her for listening to me for that long, because I had no idea I had spoken for more than fifteen minutes) I spoke about myself and not as myself. I analyzed myself and my life from an outside perspective, which was how I could see how completely fucked it’s been without reacting to that realization.
This will not be the last time I visit these thoughts. Writing is usually my catharsis, but I feel as though this time it’s made me more active instead of more subdued. As tired as I am, I’m worried about falling asleep tonight.
I miss him.