My dad would put his calloused, meat hook of a hand in mine and tell me to squeeze it as hard as I could and I would. It wasn't until I was in high school that he finally pulled his big paw out of my grip and told me with a mix of respect and relief, "You're stronger than you know." He then put his theory to the test when he passed away. 15 years ago to be exact.
The timing couldn't have been worse for me. I know, you're probably thinking there is never a good time to lose your father, but that's not true. Even if I just had one extra freaking week more, he would have at least known my future was in good hands since I received my first college acceptance letter the morning of his wake. Or a few months more and he would have at least been there to see me graduate high school, go to prom, becoming an adult.
The timing couldn't have been better for him. I could tell he was scared about the prospect of dialysis and he was never scared of anything. Pain, both physically and mentally was a constant for him, but the thought of being tied down to a machine had him finally reevaluating his life. We didn't talk about it and I regret that now, but he was probably dreading me going off to college too. We saw each other every Monday after all, during his only day off. What would he do on Mondays now? In the end, I was the one who had to figure out what I would do on Mondays without him.
I remember how supportive my school guidance counselor was. She also lost her father when she was 17. In an attempt to explain that she knew what I was going through, she shared that just the other day she was crying thinking of her dad. I know she was being nice, but her words terrified me. All I could think of was 'great, this painful ache never goes away.' It does though. 'Time heals all wounds' was the platitude that everyone kept telling me, but I wanted to shout, when!?
Yes, I'm always thinking about my dad, my friend, one of the few people who really got me. But thankfully, that painful gut wrenching ache has finally dulled. Yes, some days I'll even feel like his memory and presence is almost palpable and I'll start crying while driving some place or when thinking of some memory that only I remember. However, those attacks on my soul are less frequent now.
So, if I could talk and hug that 15 years ago me, I wouldn't lie and tell her that it's all going to be okay, because we would both know it would never be OK again, but I would tell myself that it does get better. That elusive time that heals will eventually come, at a slow crawl, but it will arrive. Then, believe it or not you'll feel sorry for its loss, because although time heals, it also erases.
How can I have possibly made it 15 years without him in my life? I guess I am stronger than I know.