It would have been my father’s 65th birthday today, July 27th. I’ve given lots of attention in my blogs to the nature of birthdays and anniversaries for the griever, so I don’t want to do that again here. Some years these designated hard-grief days are extra painful; other years they are not. I’m not sure yet what I’m feeling this year—likely a mix of feeling glad for the distraction of work and also wishing I could stop the day and pause to meditate on my loss and where my life has led me since then. And as usual, I’ll dedicate a good chunk of my day today to doing the things that my father loved so much—time with the dog, a little Thai food, some exercise, and hopefully some writing, if even just for a few minutes.
One thing I find time for no matter what’s going on when my father’s birthday rolls around is an episode or two of Star Trek: The Next Generation. My father and I loved watching Star Trek together; it was something that he and I did with a lot of ritual and fanfare, and enjoyed in a way that no one else in the family shared. It was nerdy, it was a little odd, but it was ours. Dad loved to wax philosophical about the themes and morals in Star Trek, and would lull me with his long-winded summaries and discussions. We didn’t watch a lot of TV or movies growing up, but when we did, my dad always took advantage of the media stimulation in order to generate some dialogue about what we’d just seen. He had a way of discovering literary references, musical tie-ins, biblical theories, and social commentary in even the most banal or unwitting forms of entertainment. That was one of his many gifts—my father could make pretty much anything seem interesting and relevant just by talking about it.
Though I have a few friends who share my geektastic obsession with Star Trek, I chose to always watch it alone. Watching Star Trek, like many activities, is something that I can’t bear to share with anyone else now that my father is gone. If I can’t watch Star Trek with him, then I don’t want to watch it with anyone. Maybe this mentality is cold or rigid, maybe it’s immature. If it is, I don’t care—it’s how I feel. My dad’s presence was so strong, so warm, so inimitable that it cannot ever be replicated or even mimicked. And so in turn, his absence is inescapably powerful, so terribly looming and large in my life even after all these years. In my mind, there are some things in this world that only he could do right, and I hold tightly to keeping those things preserved and whole–untarnished.
I get prickly when my brothers or other family members do or say things in a fatherly way, even though I know they only do this with my best interest at heart. Because if my father isn’t here, then I only have one parent left and I only want to be parented by that one parent—no one else. In recent years I’ve allowed myself to open up a bit, let the people who love me issue advice and bits of wisdom in my father’s place. But it doesn’t always feel easy. After nine long years, I still pause when I pick up the phone to ask for help with insurance decisions or some such thing—the one person I want to call most is gone. I cannot stop myself from thinking each and every time, I should be calling dad right now. He would know exactly what to do.
But I am a lucky girl indeed, and have a mighty large list of people who are always willing to help and lend me their guidance not in my father’s way, but in their own. I never forget this, even when I choose self-sufficiency over support.
While I don’t actually believe that there is any such thing as “moving on” after losing a loved one, I do wonder about relaxing a bit and letting my loved ones participate, in some new way, in the things I shared with my father. I’ll continue to work on asking for help when I need it, and allowing my loved ones in to steer me in the right direction. But for now, there are some things I still hold tightly to myself, some small things I can’t bear to part with or share.
Today, I’ll still do all those other things to honor my father—walk with my dog, work on some writing, spend a few hours catching-up with my best friend over Asian food. But at some point, I’ll be heading home to cultivate the Sci-fi tradition my father and I started, in the only way I know how anymore—by doing it alone.