I hate the “after.” This is where my family and I are now. Adjusting to life minus one.
I don’t know why I’m afraid to go on an all out cry. I do let it out sometimes but I feel like there’s this huge, deep, black cry I still have to let loose. Today I let out a bit of that but still, it’s only a hint of what I have buried inside me. Even sitting home alone in my apartment, I feel weird when I get caught up in an ugly, loud, pulled-deep-out-your-soul-painful cry, afraid that someone will hear me. I don’t understand my abiding need to keep my grief private. If there’s an award for silent crying, I’d have won it by now.
Someone told my mom something along the lines of “you’ll get over it in time.” They meant well. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling bad for them. While I don’t want to spend the rest of my life grieving, my dad’s death is something I will not get over. I think mama and the rest of my family feel the same. I’m quite sure we’re not alone in this. I’m lucky. I belong to a family that love hard. My pop was not into flash, grand schemes, or heroics; he was the everyday guy, albeit a handsome one. He was wonderful, unique in his ordinariness. He was humble, dignified, and most importantly, kind. A man whose loss will be felt by the people he loved long, long after he is gone.
I explained “before and after” to my sister many years ago, during one of those big challenges our family had gone through. Complete for the first time in many years, we were enjoying an unexpected stretch of wonderful—a lovely “before” period—while quietly waiting for the other shoe to drop, the “after.” Afters aren’t automatically bad, just manifestly and irreversibly different. We’ve been looking at some things in the before and after way since.
This particular “after” is inevitable. Parents grow old and one day, they will die. We all know this. I know this. After a year of fear, doubts, pain, triumphs, and defeats—all incredible highs and lows—I tried to prepare for it. It wasn’t enough. In the end, I wasn’t ready. To his last, my pop proved what a wonderful man he was. He allowed himself to be our rallying point, our reason to rise to the occasion and stick together. Nearly to the day, one January to next, he let us convince, cajole, nag, and bully him to fight. We are grateful for that time. We laughed, cried, and loved extra fiercely for one year.
Tomorrow, is my papa’s 40th day. I can’t believe that only 40 days ago, he was still with us. It’s odd that it feels so recent and too long ago at the same time.
This is my after for now. We are limping along without my pop. I feel like there’s a huge crater on my chest. While I know time will blunt the sharp edges, nothing will fill the space he left behind.
The Good Benito
Father, Brother, Husband, Grandfather, Uncle, Friend
11 January 2015