Was it April 28th or April 29th?
I signed all the forms. I had the date carved in stone. Why can’t I remember? Who forgets the day their father died?
I woke up this morning thinking of my Dad, and how today marked 6 years since his passing. Yet, a tiny voice in the back of my head was telling me that I had the day wrong. I feared The Day was yesterday, the 28th, and I had passed it without stopping to think of him.
I got out of bed and flipped through an old journal and realized I hadn’t missed the anniversary. I inhaled deeply. It was today. I hadn’t forgotten. I hadn’t messed it up.
Not like death anniversaries are the same as other anniversaries. I didn’t need to shave my legs or make dinner reservations. But, I did need to schedule time to be alone and time to not be alone like I do every year on April 29th. I schedule in time to feel sorry and to cry, knowing that tears for my dad come one day a year without fail. Scheduling is important, otherwise the tears come at awkward and inopportune times, like when I am in line at the grocery store or impatiently waiting for Huck to find the perfect spot to drop a deuce.
There are lots of philosophies about healing wounds. I subscribe to the idea of time healing (obviously, with the exception of cases involving gangrene or tetanus). Time has healed all of my past hurts, from broken hearts to broken nails. But, losing my dad isn’t the same type of wound. The best way I can describe it is time changes it, rather than heals it. Every year I miss him differently. There is no more or less. And I’d hesitate to say it is more painful to not have him around now as it was in the past, because when I miss him, when I am reminded that he isn’t here anymore, there is just that. And it’s the same feeling every time, but it’s also very different. Wanting to call him for a pep talk after a particularly rough day is different from wanting to call him and suggest he try Heartwood Whisky (an absolute delight, by the way).
Most times, I can play out a conversation with my Dad in my mind and hear what he would say as clearly as if he was standing next to me, carefully considering my questions and trying not to smirk in his responses as he tried to simultaneously guide me through rough waters and let me face the consequences of the difficult path I had chosen for myself. Dad was great at helping me through trouble without actually doing much to get me out of it. I always knew if I got arrested, I’d be spending the night in prison. He wouldn’t bail me out, but he might try to bring me a sandwich or something.
Still, as much as I can hear his heartfelt guidance during times of trouble and exasperated responses to some of my more trivial life issues, Dad never failed to surprise me once in awhile. I’ve come to realize, what I miss most of all, are all the things I don’t know he would say. I miss the unpredictable and surprising guidance.
I’ve had a lot of questions I wished I could have run past my Dad. Deep meaning of life questions, like, “Can I call a bomb threat into the car dealership that sold me a lemon!?” and, “Do I REALLY have to pay this stupid fine!?” He probably would have answered both questions with a simple, “No.”
Just last week, I wanted to ask my Dad if he really never filed the insurance claim for a car accident I was in back in 2006, as the State of Colorado garnished my state tax return and sent me a bill for the remaining $680 to pay for a dented guard rail on Highway 40. On one hand, it might be their clerical error. I’m pretty sure I took care of everything after the accident. On the other hand, since it was my Dad’s car and I was on his insurance policy, I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad opted out of paying the deductible, tossing the letter from the Department of Transportation into the trash with a haughty, “Let’s see them come after me for a damn guard rail!” If the latter is the scenario that played out, Dad, we’re going to have a talk when I get to the hereafter…unless there is a 10 year statute of limitations on that crap, then, no worries, CO can keep my tax returns for the next two years with my blessing. Of course, not having a job, they won’t get any money from me either, so I win.
I also wish I could ask Dad what to do about the drunk man who urinates in my entryway almost every Saturday night. To get access into my apartment building, you have to buzz in. However, the buzzer is located inside a small hallway, allowing privacy for someone to open the outside door and piss in the corner where the buzzer is. The landlords know about this problem and are talking about moving the buzzer to the outside, so you have to buzz into the building from the sidewalk, effectively preventing access to the impromptu latrine. However, in the interim, I need to do something besides spray some bleach water and hold my breath as I walk past the slowly evaporating puddle of urine. It gets more concentrated and pungent every day until it’s completely dried up. I am assuming a full grown man with the bladder of a racehorse is the culprit. Human bodily fluids gross me out (hence why I am studying veterinary medicine), so I can’t bring myself to risk getting chlamydia or something by cleaning it myself. I’m considering buying a bucket and leaving it in the hall with a nice note requesting that the Phantom Pisser please use the bucket and empty it into the street when done. It’s a bit medieval, but “gardyloo” worked well for Edinburgh back in the day. Maybe I’ll put a little jar with potpourri in the corner too, just to be an accommodating hostess. No need to be barbaric, now.I’m also considering keeping the door open by tying it to the rail on the inside of the building, thereby eliminating the element of privacy. If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? If people walking down the sidewalk can see the Phantom Pisser doing his business, will he still urinate in my hallway?
Dad, I wish you were around to help me figure out what to do with the Phantom Pisser. I wish you’d knock me up the head and tell me not to use a dirty word like “pisser.” I wish you’d call the Department of Transportation and tell them to give me back my $21 tax return. But most of all, I wish you could tell me that you’re proud of me and I’m doing alright. I wish you’d nag me a bit to study harder and tell me to buck up or get out when I’m feeling sorry for myself. I wish you’d break down some of my problems to a million tiny little pieces that don’t even matter.On April 29th, I indulge in all of these wishes. And I cry. But it’s almost midnight. It’s almost April 30th and like Cinderella’s carriage turned into a pumpkin, my tears are about to fade and turn into happy reminiscing as I can almost hear my Dad say, “You can sit here and keep crying, or you can go set up a CCTV system in your entryway and catch that bastard with his pants down. Your choice.”