My siblings and I didn’t expect my dad to die the day before Thanksgiving.
We expected him to die, of course. We weren’t ignorant of the definition of a terminal disease. He’d die, but at some remote distant day. We’d have lots of warning. He’d experience a slow (five years? seven? ten?) decline, and we’d respond by slowly ramping up our visits. He’d eventually lose the battle of absorbing his own air and go on an oxygen tank, which would be hard to accept but wouldn’t mean he’d lose his quality of life. There would be movies to watch, walks to take, books to discuss.
“This could be his last Christmas with us,” my dad’s wife intoned almost exactly one year ago. My siblings and I reacted with pain and insult, the kind of pain and insult that only adult children who don’t often see their father’s daily health struggles can produce. How could she say this? My dad’s doctor had assured me that my father very well could have a decade of good life ahead of him. He was going to be fine, and such language was unnecessarily inflammatory.
We’d at least have a few weeks to prepare for my father’s death, if my father’s death was to come so unfairly soon. Pulmonary Fibrosis is a degenerative disease that can act quickly, but “quickly” means months or weeks. We would have time. There would be “I love yous” to say, “I’m sorrys” to exchange, “I’ll always remembers” to smile about through cathartic tears.
From the time my sister called me to tell me that my father had been admitted to the hospital for atrial fibrillation to time the incessant, maddening sound of the high-tech machines around my father beeped frantically to let us know he was dying, two days passed.
By the time we arrived at the hospital, my father was in a chemical coma.
My dad was a private person, and part of maintaining this was keeping his illness from us. I had to sneak around to even speak to his doctor, and it required frequent prodding to get even his vague, optimistic updates about his health. In the final few weeks of his life my father did have some warnings that trouble could be coming, but he kept them to himself. I didn’t even speak to my dad in the weeks before his death. I was going to see him on Thanksgiving- we would catch up then.
There were no goodbyes.
There was no time.
As you can imagine, the thought of dating right now is overwhelming. I have a sort of half desire to follow my own holiday advice and exchange some light and flirty texts, but this is subsumed by the desire to increase my Spanish rank on Memrise, watch the X-Files, or browse through cat GIFs, or anything. I envy my sister the support that having a significant other right now brings her, but the thought of going out and hustling for one at the moment is just. so. exhausting.
I know it won’t be long before I’ll want to jump into the weird, wacky dating world again. I haven’t paused my account or anything. I still click on my folder when I get *messages. Heck, if a guy who seems like he might be right for me asks me out, I’ll **go. I’m just not up for the search at the moment.
I’m also not really up for a general, “here’s what I’ve learned from this” message, though I’ll give it a shot.
I think it’s important to take a break from the lifelong search for meaningful connection when a gigantic meaningful connection has been severed.
I wish I had forced myself a refractory period after the breakup that caused me to start a new dating blog last year. It’s good to take a break from messages and scanning profiles (and being too shy and awkward to talk like a human to guys I think are attractive in real life, but really trying.) It’s been good diving into my weird eternal-student-guitar-Spanish-trivia during my nights hiding out in my apartment. It’s been nice to not focus on being single for the upcoming holidays, or society’s judgement of single women, or the banality of my loneliness. There just hasn’t been room for that bullshit. My dad’s gone. Who cares?
“But Jessica!” you plead, ignoring the grammatical injunction against beginning a sentence with a conjunction, “what about funny articles and events blogs and dating recaps?!”
You’ll still have those. I’m not incapable of happiness and levity.
I’m just in mourning.
I miss you, Dad.
*”The weirdest birthday present I ever gave was Vanilla Ice’s Cool As Ice DVD(currently searching for the Blu-ray). What was yours?” – most recent message in my inbox.