It’s been ten years. Three thousand six hundred and fifty-two days. In that time, three years of college; three of Americorps; three with a ‘real’ job. Two degrees and one diploma. Four years with the woman I love, who you will never meet. Forty-two foster kittens. Some hundred thousand miles on my car. One car accident, zero broken bones. Two trips to Washington DC, one to Yosemite, one to Switzerland. One new Jurassic Park movie, which you’ll never watch with me, and too many Tremors sequels. Three tattoos, going on four. One wedding to plan and one to attend. Three times a bridesmaid and once a bride. Zero fathers to walk me down the aisle. Zero dads to dance with. Zero you but countless dreams and too many things I’ll never get to share with you.
I’m a member of the Dead Dads Club. It’s a shitty club and you don’t get to choose to become a member; one day it just happens, congratulations, you’re a member for life now. At first I didn’t dream about him at all, or if I did he was always in the periphery, silent, watchful. Then it was dreams where I didn’t know I was dreaming and he was back – he had never died, he had been resurrected, he just walked through the door one day and didn’t know years had passed. Then it was dreams where I didn’t know I was dreaming and we were just hanging out together – riding in his truck, baking chocolate chip cookies, me telling him about Assassin’s Creed. Then it was dreams where I knew it was a dream and he didn’t understand why I’d hold him hard and sob into his chest. Now it’s dreams where I know it’s a dream but I still tell him over and over and over again how much I want him to come to my wedding. I cry, hard and ugly, and the dream never lasts long enough. In the dream it feels unbearable, the thought that he’ll miss this, too, just like he missed so much else. When you’re in the Dead Dads Club, the list of things they miss just gets longer and longer, and yet you’re continually blindsided when something new comes up.
December 31st, 2015, 5:29 PM
From your last letter, it sounds like you were nervous for 2015. 2014 was a tough year and you were afraid all the stress and darkness would spill into 2015. That fear was unfounded, though. 2015 was a wonderful year. Not without its demons, of course, but as of today I think the scales tip in its favor. So much happened! The year began with Bast knocking – or maybe hammering – at your spiritual door. I’m so glad you let Her in when you did; taking up Her path has been a wondrous, awesome experience. Of course, She came when She did because of Bruno, who was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer. He’s doing well and fighting bravely… I just hope he’s still with you as you read this letter. He should be sixteen, almost as old as Trouble was when she passed. The years are never enough, though, are they? Not for cats or dads. You dealt with that a little this year; I hope you continued to deal with it in 2016. It’s okay to miss him. It’s okay to talk to him. To write to him. To feel him everywhere around you. He’s there.
I was glad to see you hadn’t fucked things up with Chriselle. Hopefully you still haven’t. If everything went according to plan, you should be reading this in the house Mom bought and that you currently rent with the woman you love. Maybe there’s even a ring on your finger – but if not, it’s okay. No rush, right? Every second with her is precious. I wonder if your quirky little family is any bigger? Perhaps you’ve added a certain orange tabby kitten who, as of writing this, you’re currently worrying and waffling over? Take strength from that family, from what you’ve accomplished and created. They’re worth any sacrifice, any risk, any leap of faith. I swear it.
I don’t really want to make any resolutions, so I’ll just say what I hope 2016 has in store for me. Er, you. Us? Anyway. I hope 2016 sees the continued growth, strengthening, and evolution of your relationship with Chriselle. I hope you have continued your journey down Bast’s path. I hope you faced your fears in taking on more responsibilities at work, and that that has paid off. I hope Bruno is still with you. I hope having a house is everything you want it to be. I hope your connection with Tanim and Daren is still strong, even if They can be jerks. Most of all, I hope things are good. I’m sure there will be hard, painful things to face in 2016, but I know you can make it through with the support of friends, family, and the noncorporeal. You’re rocking the tattoos and sidecut – what more could we want?
You know the path you’re supposed to take. If you have any fears going into 2017, just remember that; even blind, you walk a sure path. It’s okay to falter. If you need to stop and catch your breath, the path will still be there. The Wheel keeps on spinning. Let it spin.
P.S. Chriselle is still writing. You were watching her and she looked up and caught you staring. You can’t help it, though, she looks beautiful in candlelight. You’re so in love with her it’s overwhelming. Tonight you’ll sleep curled up next to each other in the bed you share, and that just might be the most wonderful thing in the world.
Except, maybe, for kitties.
This is a long time coming, I know. I’m not even sure what I’ll say here. Happy birthday, I guess. Did it ever feel weird to you to have been born on Pearl Harbor Day? I suppose everyone remembers the date that way, but what a downer, huh? Though it’s a day that will live in infamy for me for a different reason. A happy reason, I try to remember, though it’s more bittersweet than anything else. I wonder what you’d be like, if you had lived to see this birthday. A little older, a little grayer, but still strong as an ox, I’ll bet. I wonder what your current projects would be; the Model A, of course, and a Harley of some sort. Would you still have the ’56, or would you have sent it off to a new home in favor of some other needy vehicle? You’d like my car – he’s very reliable and I try to take good care of him. It’s hard, though, not having a dad to turn to for that stuff. We have Greg, of course. You’d have liked him, I think, even if you’re the exact opposites in temperament. Did you know it’s possible to put up the Christmas tree without swearing the entire time? I didn’t either!
I’m sitting at my desk right now, in my very own cubicle. How adult, huh? Don’t worry, though, I have pictures of cats everywhere and lots of Christmas decorations. Pictures of my girlfriend, too. I wish you could have met her. I think I wish that more than anything. You and Mom taught me what true love looks like and now that I’ve found it too, I’m trying my best to follow in your footsteps. To be the caretaker, the provider, the protector. It’s a small family I’m building, just us and a dog and Bruno (though we have transient foster kittens most of the time), but so incredibly important to me. Was this how you felt about us? Is that why you kept every school assignment, clay figurine, report card, childish doodle, and even my baby teeth? (That was SO GROSS. What a creepy surprise! Why did you keep those?) Is that why we keep finding old home videos? Those are what I’m most thankful for this holiday season, even if hearing you say my name nearly made me break down in tears.
I’m not ready to write all the stuff I need to say, I don’t think, but I can say this – even eight years later, you’re still teaching me and I’m taking those lessons to heart. I might have regrets, but I’m doing my best to prevent any others.I’m doing my best to live the life you would want me to live. I think I’m doing pretty well so far. What do you think?
When will the dawning break? Oh endless night
Sleepless I dream of the day when you were by my side
Guiding my path; Father, I can’t find the way
You promised you’d be there whenever I needed you
Whenever I call your name you’re not anywhere
I’m trying to hold on, just waiting to hear your voice
One word, just a word will do to end this nightmare
Sometimes I feel like I’m overflowing with all the things I want to tell you. They’ve accumulated over the years, you know? Eight years of stories, questions, secrets, interesting facts and finds. I want to tell you about Rose’s Pawn Shop; I think you’d get a kick out of the fact that my favorite band is a bluegrass band. I want to tell you I ended up majoring in Geoscience and History, not English; would that surprise you, or not? I want to tell you about this Roger Zelazny short story I read – it has the Mary Celeste and the Flying Dutchman in it! I want to tell you about field work in New Mexico, climbing to the base of the Nisqually glacier, studying Japanese biological warfare, and the crazy, wonderful professors who made that all possible. I want to tell you about trying to explain recycling to immigrants from Sudan, Vietnam, Ukraine; I want to tell you about teaching emergency preparedness to children and teenagers and adults. I want to make you see Jurassic World with me, even though we both know it will be awful. I want us to go see Jaws in theaters for its 40th anniversary. I want to tell you I remember the first time we watched that movie, and every movie you ever showed me. I want to tell you I discovered the magic and power of Bradbury too late to discuss him with you, and I’ll always regret that. I want to tell you I’ve finally fallen in love, and I know you’d like her, and I know you’d be happy for us. I want to tell you I look at time differently now, and relationships, and life. I want to tell you we’re okay, but we miss you terribly, and things can’t ever be the same.
I know that the night must end
And that the sun will rise, and that the sun will rise
I know that the clouds must clear
And that the sun will shine, and that the sun will shine
I know that the night must end
I know that the sun will rise
And I’ll hear your voice deep inside
happy birthday, Dad
wish we could take one last ride
I’d give anything
I catch a whiff of chlorine
remember my dad