Today, my dad would have turned 67 years old. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be spending more time in the quiet moments thinking of him, as November 10th marks five years since his death, the event that has by far had more impact than anything else in my life. This Saturday also marks five years since I started this blog, which began purely to exhale in any way possible during the experience of his death. Lying my head on his chest as he took his last breaths. The fury that built up in me the day before he passed for so many things. Collapsing to my hands and knees in the shower as I shook with grief. The fact that it has been five years and while I am in a much better space in my life and my heart, sitting at his grave this Monday still had me feeling very, very lonely. Even in the mystery of those thirty-four years, I think of how those conversations were never enough, how I craved his time and how over the years I felt less and less important to his existence as he raised his “real” family. And just as much, I remember the years we had before, when he was still in Oregon, when he and I would take road trips all over the state, from the quiet of Strawberry Lake in Southeastern Oregon, to collecting agates along the coast, to his trailer at Crooked River Ranch where we rode horses. Back then, life was me and dad, dad and me.
I was with him the day I entered the world and one of two people next to him on the day he left the world. Every year I feel like I lose a little bit more of him. I am grateful for one video I have from my graduation where he is there, near me, around me, and we’re good. Today, I caught my reflection and I saw his smile in me. In the shape of my mouth and the sincerity of my eyes and the incredible worry I carry with me whether people see it or not. So yes, I suppose it’s true, he’s here with me, whether I like it or not, whether I’m sad or happy, whether I try to forget or hold close to the memories.
I was my father’s first child, my mother’s last child, and the only child coming from the two of them. I can see perspectives of many, yet always feel there is nowhere I truly belong. And then my partner reminded me, we are family now. We belong together, There is no more need to look back when we have so many reasons to look forward. And as I release the ghost and tattoo the memory, I know this: I have, as I imagined five years ago, imagined freedom.
We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. ~Kenji Miyazawa