Six months since my dad died. My. Dad. Died.
Six months of saying those three words, sometimes out loud, and not hearing them. Because they couldn’t possibly be real, could they?
Six months of friends saying “How are you?” and “What can I do?” and “I’m so sorry.” Not great, nothing and thanks.
Six months of wearing his clothes, trying to catch a whiff of the way the top of his head smelled of some sweet combination of sweat and shampoo. When I was younger, I liked kissing him there before going to bed, when he was stuck working at the kitchen table.
Six months of wanting to call him whenever I have a cough, a rash, any medical question under the sun. He was a primary care doctor. My primary care doctor. He worked magic, getting me impossible appointments and diagnosing my ailments or sending me to someone who could.
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Six months of crying. Crying on the living room floor, crying on the street, clutching my heart trying to make sure it’s still beating; crying in my bed, pressing my cheek against my pillow, hoping the harder I push the quicker I’ll fall asleep.
Six months explaining Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease to people. Googling the spelling, and still not knowing if I’m right. I send a link to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control’s website instead: “This disease is rapidly progressive and always fatal. Infection with this disease leads to death usually within one year of onset of illness … one case per million population.”
Always fatal. One case per million.
One in a million.
My dad was one in a million.
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Six months of spotting CJD in pop culture, on social media, wondering how many times I scrolled past it or heard it without ever knowing it would be the one thing, the only thing, that should have scared me.
Six months of catching myself every time I say “my parents.”
Six months of realizing I’ll never talk to him again. Not really.
Six months of changing tenses. My dad “plays” the clarinet – no, he “played” the clarinet. I should play the clarinet again.
Six months wondering if it could’ve been me instead.
Six months wondering if that makes me unhappy.
Six months hoping that in another six months I will be happier. Smarter. Funnier. Kinder. More like him.
Six months of deep breaths.
Six months of sleeping with my dad’s “Eat, Sleep & Golf” pillow. It propped his head up when he couldn’t hold it up himself in his last few weeks. When the disease destroyed the man I knew and left him dazed, wordless and bedridden, that pillow kept him comfortable. At least, I think it did.
Six months of replaying every conversation I can remember with him, both before and after he got sick.
Six months of –
Me. This same but changed me.
With and without him.
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Story Credit: usatoday.com