By: Heather O’Neill
The scent of a cigarette stops me. I wonder if it’s from a red and white box. I think about his smirk and my heart aches. I wish I had more time with him. Wish I could hear his chuckle, the sound of his voice. Lean over and kiss his freshly shaven, old-spiced cheek.
It’s been two years since my dad passed. Not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.
One Saturday night in November, 2016 a pain in his side he had been dealing with for some time was too much to take and he took himself to the ER. The following day doctors told us it was cancer, that it was serious, and it looked like, with some treatment, we would have 4-6 months left with him. In true fashion his reply, “So Doc, what you’re telling me is that I don’t have to renew my driver’s license in January?”
I wanted to throw up. My dad, a man who truly loved me unconditionally, was going to die…..soon.
He passed away 6 days later.
I felt a void inside me that I knew would forever be there. Tears were unending. I was in a fog.
I spent the following weeks in memories – running through the sprinkler in our backyard, watching him shave, snuggling on the couch on a Saturday morning watching “Fat Albert,” dressing up for the Father-Daughter Girl Scout dances, kissing him goodbye on his way to work, looking for him at the back of the auditorium at my dance recitals, learning how to parallel park, going out for birthday dinners, crying on his shoulder about boys, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, introducing him to his grandsons.
My then 8 year-old son said to me, “It’s ok Mama, a Dad is a once in a lifetime thing. You only have to do this once.”
He had no idea how much his words stung. He meant for them to be healing, but knowing I would never see my dad again, never chat with him on my way home from work, never share a funny story about my kids, never ask his advice, never again hear one of his memories, hurt more than words or hugs could comfort.
You can’t explain this hurt to someone who has not experienced it. It’s a club you don’t want to belong to.
They say it gets easier. It’s still so fresh. I often think of those 6 days and wish I had said more, done more, remembered more. He was in so much pain I wanted him to rest.
I didn’t get to ask all the questions I wanted to. I relive those painful moments frequently. I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m sad. I’m not whole. I feel like a piece of me is gone – the last piece of the puzzle that you once knew you had but now cannot find.
I was blessed to have my dad for as long as I did. Selfishly, I wish it was longer. Cherish the time you have with your parents. No one is promised tomorrow.