“There’s a club, the dead dads club. And you can’t be in it, ’till you’re in it.”
Grey’s Anatomy’s quotes are almost always on point, but out of the hundreds quotes the show shared during its 10 years of airtime, this one stays with me the most. When my father died, I thought I would never recover from that. In some ways, I still have not recovered, maybe I will never, but one thing for sure, I learned to live with it.
It’s the new year already, crazy to think about it. Crazy to think about the many, many things I could’ve done had the pandemic is finally over. But I sit here and think, that it’s crazy to let this whole pandemic made me think of the many many things I could’ve done, while I probably am not doing the many, many things, I could only do during this pandemic.
Like maybe spend more time with family, or decorate my room, or yoga more often, or video call a friend.
It’s painful now that all of us has a story about covid. That maybe a lot of us has lost someone, or consoled our friends and loved ones over losing someone, to covid.
When I lost Chandra, a friend whose spirit I admired, I kept thinking to myself: how do I not learn? How do I not learn, that life is fragile? That it is very possible for people to vanish, that they were here yesterday, and not the next day.
There’s that numbness, that emptiness, and that awe, on how the world goes on. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop for him, to mourn him, it doesn’t stop for anyone.
As much as I want to be stoic about it, I can’t.
This brings me back to the number one loss I still sorrowed over.
My dad has been gone for a decade. Much has changed and yet, some things stay the same, like grief.
I tried to imagine a world where he still exists. Could it be he’s still working and I could relate to some of that aspect ? Could it be he’s still golfing regularly and by now would’ve acquired more friends on the course?
I would never got the answer to these, so I tried something else. I tried to remember the world where he did exist. Fragments and pieces of moments come back to me. Of him wrapping his arms around me when I’m sick and wanted absolutely no one else but him. Of him hugging me every single time I cried when he’s leaving for business trip – all the way till I was in high school. I still cried and he would always hug me and every time, told me he will be back before I know it. Except this one time, he did not. Of him giving me life advices: to have savings, to go explore the world and to look for the stars and to know that not everyone is kind.
Of him driving me to school and picking me up when I pretended to be sick. Of him taking me to special lunches, the secret that we don’t share with anyone else.
Of him telling me that working for NASA designing spaceship to venture beyond the Milky Way is possible – same thing for wanting to become a secret special agent or to work for the Interpol or to become a profiler and prevent crimes.
Of him asking me if I would stay by his side when he’s too old and weak and couldn’t walk on his own.
Dad, I would have.
I would have.
The teenager me might not understand what you were going through, the loneliness and pain; the teenager me might not know how to act around you. But eventually, I would have.
The scariest part is, after a decade, my memories started to blur. I couldn’t recall his voice on command, I had to concentrate to call it back. I can feel the details of events slipping through my brain, or maybe it’s buried deep back, they said the brain doesn’t forget, I just can’t find the key to unlock that suitcase of memories.
The somewhat grown-up version of me, the wiser one, understands that this is just how things naturally played out.
Parents don’t usually outlived their children – their love does.
That version of me had accepted that I am bound to move on and grow older and with that, decreasing my ability to retain old memories. That version probably agrees that along with age and declining function of memory, I would have to sacrifice some memories to make room for more.
But there’s also a part of me who thinks all of that are mere excuses.
I don’t have it all figured out, but, maybe grief is not something we’re supposed to grow out of. Maybe instead, we’re supposed to grow around it. Grief itself will stay the same, it’s this gaping hole of the same size still occupying your heart years after and it stubbornly weighs the same. But maybe as we grow bigger, we carry it better.
If you’re mourning, I’m sorry. If this is your first time in the club, I’m sorry you had to join us. I promise you it gets better. Little by little, it gets better. Hang in there.