Today is November 21, 2010. On November 21, 2008, my life was irrevocably changed in a way that I never knew was possible.
I remember the day perfectly. It was a Friday and I was a junior in college. I was 20 years old and, up to that day, the most tragic occurrence in my life had been my parents’ divorce. After my last class, I met my friend Jessica and we hopped in her car and started the drive to my aunt and uncle’s house, a pit stop on our way to DC. We were going to visit with my aunt & uncle, sleep there, and make the short trip into the District the next morning to do shopping and visit a few museums. When we finally got on the road, Blue Raspberry Icees in tow, we battled through I-95 N traffic around Richmond and rolled up the mile-long drive way at Liberty Farms, where my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Josette live.
I knew something was off as soon as I walked through the door. The hugs I received from my aunt and uncle were different, they seemed to last longer and mean something deeper than just a welcome. I remember noticing that. After quick introductions to my friend Jessica, my aunt offered to take her on a tour of the historic house and my uncle said he needed to speak to me about something. He walked me into the alcove by my aunt’s office and sat me on a big wooden bench.
“Mere,” he started.
“What happened?” my thoughts immediately jumped to my mom or even my brother. Had he had a car accident?
“Now Mere,” he took my hand, sitting across from me, “You know your father loved you very much. But, he had a lot of problems…”
The truth started to sink in. Had my dad been in an accident? I remember asking that. And why hadn’t my thoughts immediately gone to him? And then I heard the most life-shattering sentence that I will ever know.
“Your dad,” a tear came to my uncle’s eye, “well, he took his own life, Mere. I’m so sorry.”
I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath. I let out huge, staggering sobs. My dad was gone. I heard my aunt in the kitchen. I knew she had just informed my friend Jessica, who was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. My Uncle Chuck, my dad’s only and older brother, tried to comfort me with hugs. My Aunt Josette brought over a box of tissues and both she and Jess hugged me. Everyone was lost for words. What else was there to say? My father was dead, by his own doing, and my world was left shattered.
In the minutes, hours, weeks, and months following this, my life was turned upside down and will never quite go back to how it was. I was 20 and my brother turned 22 just four days later. We were not at all prepared nor equipped to deal with a tragedy of this magnitude. I still don’t think that I’ve fully processed everything. I’m simply too young to have lost a parent.
Even though he is no longer physically with me, every day I know that he is still here; somehow and somewhere, he is present. Not only am I the spitting image of the man, but in the gestures I make, the look in my brother Hunter’s eyes, or the phrases that we all use — he’s here. Even when I’m afraid I’ll forget what he sounds like, I can hear his voice saying, “Hey, princess!” like every night when he got home from work. It doesn’t make the hurt any less or the tears any fewer, but just knowing he’s still at the core of my being makes it all a little bit easier to remember him.
I can’t believe it has been 2 years. Some days it feels like 2 seconds. Some days it feels like 2 centuries. What I hate most is knowing that every day past November 21, 2008 is one day more that I haven’t spent with him.
My dad wasn’t perfect, and I won’t pretend he was. But he was my daddy and I was — am — his little girl. Today, I’m shedding a few tears, looking at old pictures, wishing he were here, and continuing to put my life back together. Today is simply one more day I remember how much I truly love my father.
I love you and miss you Daddy. Rest in peace. 2/10/63 — 11/21/08