“It’s like we are living in fast forward and slow motion at the same time,” my cousin said last night as we hung up the phone.
He was right. As my relaxing day of getting my nails done, eating yummy food, and watching Law & Order: SVU with my housemates was winding down, I found the familiar fear of impending doom settle in my gut. It was the 17th. October, November, December. January, February, March. Six months, we were a mere hours away from six months of a world without my daddy.
My throat felt a log try to go down it as my stomach was training for a gymnastics competition. I could not get comfortable nor could I slow my mind. I had to get away, so I got in the car, called my mom, and did what I do best: drove to the airport.
We talked for a while as she helped me find the rhythm of my breath once more. It helped to time it with the dance of the airplanes, taking off, landing, taking off, landing. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. As my mom questioned what would make me feel better, I knew the answer, but saying it hurt more than thinking it.
I choked on my words trying to tell her. My mom can say or do anything, any amazing thing she does, but that would not do the trick. I can watch all the airplanes in the world, but they will never fill the void. I can cry an ocean of tears (okay – maybe a lake), but more will still flood me. The only thing that can make me feel better when I reach those panic-stricken moments is a hug from my dad or our super secret handshake.
I don’t want to say that because I know it will not happen. It will never happen. It makes me sad in one way that I know what I need in that moment yet I can’t have it. It makes me sad in a completely different way that I know I will never get it again. As each monumental date passes by, forever feels longer and longer.
I wrote before that it is when I wake up at 3 in the morning that I realize the magnitude of forever. That feeling has gone away. Now, it is when I see a funny Tweet or get an A paper back that I realize its magnitude. It’s when I start to pick up the phone to call him when my computer malfunctions, when I hit submit on my dream internship application, or when I just need to know that I will be okay. It is the things that happen continuously throughout the day without a second care or thought that I need him the most.
No amount of love and support from anyone else can get me close to how it felt coming from him, so in these panic-stricken moments, I remember the smell of his cologne and the feeling of his strength surrounding me. I reach for my necklace to hold his hand. I rub it, slowly and never able to let go. It’s taken me six months to recognize all of this, now there’s no telling how long it will take to accept it.
Before my dad passed away, he promised me one thing: I will be okay. In his last week, I made a note on my phone of all the cute things he said. Over and over again, it was the reminder that I will be okay. My eyes would tear as I wondered how it was even possible for him to say that. He believed it so much more than I did. Each time I can conquer this anxiety plague, I believe it more. There is a stillness I can find in this memory of his sparkled blue eyes smiling at mine — “okay.”
My cousin and I stayed on the phone for over two hours, laughing at some funny stories and dreading the negative ones. While he is definitely more blunt, his perspective may be the closest I have of my dad’s. He listened to my fears and my accomplishments, and it brought me peace. I felt like a little bit of my dad could speak through him, reminding me of his promise. When we hung up, I took a few deep breaths, and went back out to SVU marathon in the TV room.
The day ended with a trip to In N Out with my roommate, and she watched me dance in my seat to some Cardi B jams. I dipped my fries in my neapolitan milkshake and looked around, realizing this is my life now. I live in an incredible house with the best girls. The people in my life today are amazing, and the opportunities that are potentially ahead in the next six months are inspiring.
Six months ago, my family and I did not know if I would truly end up back in school or how I would gather up an ounce of courage to move away from them. But I did it. One final is all that stands between me and a successful first quarter away from home at my dream school. I am living the life I have wanted for a long time now, and it is only getting better.
I believe I have an angel in heaven to thank for that.