August 6, 2018
If you were still alive, today you would turn seventy-nine. It’s such a strange thought. I can’t imagine you at that age. You’ve been gone for twenty-one and a half years now, nearly to the exact day. I remember you before, and I remember you at the end, sick and weak, but trying to stay positive in front of us. Even then, I could never think of you as weak, and all these years later, what I remember most is when you were healthy, young, older, but still you. You were my hero every day of my life, even today.
In the days after you died, people said to me, “at least he isn’t suffering anymore.”, or things like, “Just remember, he’s up there watching over you.” Do people really think those words are comforting? Of course, I didn’t want you to suffer anymore. But damn it, right after you died, all I wanted was for you to come back! So many times I cried out in my heart, begging you, begging God, anyone who could undo the hateful thing of your death. And watching over me from beyond? Why? You spent your life, from when you were eighteen to your death at fifty-seven, worrying about me. I know. People told me. They told me you worried about what would happen to me if my arthritis got so bad that I could no longer work. So, watching over me? No, not comforting. I either wanted you alive, here in the world with us, or if you were somewhere beyond, if you had to be gone, I didn’t want you watching over me. You’d done your time worrying about me. It was your time to rest from worry.
Oh, Dad, how much I wish I could tell you! How my life has changed in these long twenty-one years. How many times I’ve wanted to call you when something great, or terrible, happens in my life. How often I’ve thought, if only I could tell dad about this or that. If only I could ask Dad about this or that. If Dad was still here, would I have screwed up so badly? So, here I am, telling you the things I wish you could know.
Two years after you died, I went back to the guide dog school to train with a dog. There I met the person who would become my dearest friend in the world, my dear Doug. How often I’ve wished you could know Doug. He’s so different from you, but I think you’d have liked him. You’d have tried to figure out how to feed him, since he’s a vegetarian. You’d have loved talking to him about everything. You’d have appreciated how much he’s here for me over these years.
Remember how the very last thing you were trying to do, right before that last Christmas when you got so sick, was to find out about accessible computers for me? Well, dad, that wasn’t in vain. You inspired me, and I went out and found it. I learned, I soaked it in. You always did groan over me being so intelligent and not trying at all in school. But when I was interested, I flourished. Learning computers changed my life, gave me independence I could never have had, gave me the ability to have jobs I couldn’t have had before. Now, I have a job where I can work from home, no commute to exhaust me, and I help other blind people with their computer technology.
When I bought my home, at age fifty-six, I longed to be able to have you there as I signed the papers. I wanted so badly to lead you through my home and show off all the space, the colors, the furniture, the yard and every detail. You must have known how long I’d wanted my own home, and at last, here it was! If only you’d been here to toast with a good wine and celebrate this amazing step forward.
Getting published. The first person I wished I could call when my piece was accepted for an anthology was you. The thought still crosses my mind, got to tell dad this or that. You could have read my story, and knowing you, would have shared it with people you knew and talked about your daughter the author. Wouldn’t we have had fun celebrating that?
Then there’s the bad side of things. The worst was losing my job at the guide dog school. You’d have been so disappointed in me over that, due to the reasons it happened. Funny to think that in today’s “Me too” world, I might have been able to protest, but not back then. I’d have been too ashamed to tell you, and I might not ever have told you the truth, just as I’ve never told anyone but Doug and Joylene and Dan. Some shame goes too deep to share. I remember thinking back then, that it was the only time I was almost relieved you were gone, because you could never be ashamed of me. But no, even at the idea of your disappointment, I’d rather you were here.
Oh, dad, I’ve been angry so long about your death. A friend told me I would survive and get better, but that I would never be the same person. That has proved so true. I’m not as idealistic. I feel more negative and sad and unhappy inside, though I try as always to show only the positive. You were too damn young to leave us. I feel like much as I’ve been relatively successful over the years, somehow, I’m still floundering around, trying to find peace, trying to find my way through this crazy thing called life. I’ll be sixty-one in October. I’ve outlived you, if you get my drift, and it somehow feels weird and wrong and all that sort of bewilderment. I don’t feel right in my own skin anymore. Sometimes I don’t know if I know who I am really, because I try hard not to look at that person.
So, dad, I don’t know what else to say. So far, here I am. I’m still working. The arthritis hasn’t taken me over yet, though it sure does try to. The financial things you did to try to help me, they didn’t work out, but I’ve learned to handle my finances better than I ever did before.
I live in Colorado now, and I haven’t been home since 2009 when I moved here. You’d hate the fact that we, your kids, don’t keep in touch. You’d hate that I haven’t dared to go home for Christmas since 1996, your last one with us. Now with Doug in my life, I spend the holiday with him and couldn’t go home and leave him alone. But I know that’s a cowardly excuse. Sometimes, I miss Jerry, John, Joe and Rosie with such pain and longing, but then apathy takes over and I don’t try to plan the visits. And once I was ready, I had so much dental and medical stuff to do, I don’t want to go home until it’s done. They can’t see me like this. But I know you’d want to kick my ass for that. And how I wish you were here to do it!
Life goes on, day after day. I don’t think about you every waking minute, or even every day, or every week anymore. A person can’t live with that amount of pain for so many years. I don’t talk about you much, because it hurts to do so, and I don’t want to hurt. But today, I can, today I can remember. I can let myself feel the pain and the missing you. I can remember you and smile and cry if I need to do either of those. I’ll finish this letter, get my head in the mode for work, and lock my feelings away till the next time I let them out. If you are somewhere watching us, know that I love you as much as I ever did, that I miss you with all of me, and that I’d still rather have you here than wherever you are. But maybe, someday, we’ll meet again, in a paradise beyond this world. Until then, I love you, I miss you, and I spend my days, hoping and praying that if you see me, you are proud of me, in spite of all I’ve done or not done.
With all my heart
Sherry (sherriola) as you used to call me