Today I went to the cemetery.
I’m in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio and I drove to the place where my Dad was buried on that rainy day a few days after he died on the Ides of March in 1990.
I was 10.
But I was really 25.
It was hot today, by Toledo standards. 90 or so? I put my hot green tea in the cup holder and I stepped out of the car wearing my flip flops and I walked to his gravestone. The grass was still damp with the morning dew and my feet were a little wet.
And I stood there.
And I looked down.
And oh… it overtook me.
It’s like you’re gliding along perfectly when out of no where… you’re pummeled.
My chest tightened and I inhaled and held my breath… and I tried to keep it in…
…and I bawled.
At 9:15 in the morning, in the heat of the Toledo summer sum. At the cemetery.
The tears wouldn’t stop.
I cried because, “You never got to meet my girls, my Lila, my Vivi.”
I cried because, “I’m doing ok. And you’d love my husband. He’s kind and funny and he’s handy and he can do anything.”
I stood for a few seconds at his grave and then walked away.
Then I’d walk back. And cry.
And walk away again.
I couldn’t stand there and read his name. It was too much. Where was this coming from? He’s been gone, dead, for 26 years, and I’m crying like it happened yesterday.
So I walked away, and I saw her.
The sweet woman with the watering can.
She walked over to the spout about 5 yards from her loved one’s grave. She filled it up and walked back toward the stone to water the colorful flowers she had so lovingly planted and cared for around the grave… and I cried more. I cried because she’s someone and she lost someone. I cried for her.
I cried because grief unites. We go through our lives differently, but loss and sadness knows no color, no race, no age, no demographic, no time…
No one is spared the pang of loss.
And I walked back to his stone and I brushed off the grass and I stood there tracing the letters of his name hoping to absorb something from him as I stood there.
The hardest thing about losing a loved one is everything.
The hardest thing about losing a parent is everything.
“Kylee, pull yourself together. For the love.”
I walked away. Then I walked back. Yet again.
I tried to talk out loud, but it felt awkward.
I don’t feel like he’s “there” or anything.
It’s just a stone…
So, I just said the words in my head, thinking that God could pass them on, or maybe for that split second my Dad could see me, recognize the 10-year-old girl that he last saw, and hear what I was saying.
I wish I could tell him that I remember the way he smelled after a shower.
I wish I could tell him that I remember his laugh when he listened to Rosanna, Rosanna-danna, and that I watch SNL religiously because he liked it.
I wish I could tell him that I willed myself to drink hot tea becuase he drank hot tea.
I wish I could tell him that I practiced his signature years after his death, just because.
I wish I could tell him that it was ok that he didn’t walk me down the aisle.
I wish I could tell him that I went to college and I got married and I bought a house and then I moved to a new country and I’m doing fine.
I wish I could tell him how amazing my nieces and nephews are and how all of us “kids” are different, but we still love one another with ALL of our hearts and we would do anything for one another.
I wish I could tell him that I’m so sorry that life wasn’t easy for him.
I wish I could tell him that he made a difference in my life — in just 10 years.
So many memories have been swarming lately about him.
I don’t know where it’s come from.
But I think it’s part of the process.
Which makes me smile, because after more than a quarter of a century I still miss my Dad.
And that’s ok, because he’s worth missing.
So I left the cemetery and the tears flooded my eyes and I cried because I have no parents.
I’m not the only person in the world whose parents are dead.
There’s a group of us, there’s a club.
I usually put these feelings neatly in a box. I unwrap it on the rare necessary occasion. Usually though, I stay busy. I go. And go. And go some more.
But today. Time stood still. And… I felt it.
For that 12 minute drive back to the bungalow, driving the streets I had once driven with my Dad, I cried and I felt it. I felt the sadness that comes with not having anyone to praise you, to back you up, to love you unconditionally.
I just… cried.
It’s ok to feel the feelings.
And then I got out of the car and I took a deep breath and I walked into my house.
And I thought to myself, “Twenty years from now… I want to cry these same tears.”
I want to miss him and honor him and love him like this because his life, oh Dad, your life… it made a difference.