The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Had To Write

There aren’t many elegant ways to say this. I lost my dad last week. It was unexpected and anticipated all at once, and pretty much the most crushing emotional blow I’ve ever received (and I’ve had my fair share).

My dad and I had a great relationship. I think I understood him better than he realized because he didn’t like to let people see when and if and how he was hurting. He expressed his pain in other, not always healthy ways, and hoped he could deal with it well enough alone that no one else would have to share the burden. I understand this. I don’t like to let people see my pain – it feels like a private thing, like something I’d have to apologize for if anyone saw. I know I get this, in part, from him.

I’m trying to be better. I am lucky to have people in my life who understand this kind of loss, people who have risen to the occasion, even though it might not be convenient or easy. I am lucky to have such a loving family, because it would have been tough to deal with this past week without them. I am lucky that I have no regrets; my last words to him were “I love you”, and I meant them with everything I had. I still mean them, even though the only answer comes from my memories and that lone twenty-four second voice mail I’ve played too many times.

People who have been struck by lightning often survive, but with altered personalities. That’s how I feel right now. Like I’ve been struck by lightning and I am a slightly different person, and the part of my brain that remembers what I was like before got fried in the storm. I feel like people look at me and expect me to have to patience I used to (which my boyfriend would argue was negligible to begin with), and I just don’t. I am angry so often that it’s honestly a miracle no one was on the receiving end of it this week. I look at manuscripts that I started before I got the news and they don’t look the same. I wonder how I ever had the ability to write them, and where I will find the desire to finish them.

Mostly I find myself remembering a lot of little things. Little beautiful things, thank god. Like his absolute love of Pitch Perfect (he wore out the Red Box DVD and I gave him his very own copy for Father’s Day), or pretty much any musical, as long as it was upbeat. He liked happy things. Happy stories. Happy music. He liked sushi and ice cream (in that order), and when I was a kid he liked scary movies, though I don’t know if he really watched them the last few years. It took a long time for me to see just how proud he was of me, but when I did, I understood that he was my number one fan. When I decided I wanted to go to film school, he took me to an independent theater in Denver (which felt so far, at the time), and we saw a movie called Broken Flowers. And afterward we looked at each other, those awkward first moments in the sunlight, and tried to determine if the other one liked it. Neither of us could pretend – it was terrible, and that moment built the foundation for our love of talking about movies. We loved dumb movies and superhero movies and fantasy movies, and we had a mutual hatred for pretentious movies with no heart. We did Walking Dead marathons together, and spent hours on the back porch, and he’d always come see me if he was heading home from the airport.

That’s the last place I saw my dad. He and my mom had just moved to Idaho. I was there for Christmas, but it was an odd time, in a new place, and no one was entirely happy or comfortable. But a few months later he had a two hour layover at Denver International Airport, so I took the bus out to see him. We spent as much time as we could together, ate terrible airport breakfast, and hugged one another tight before saying goodbye. I didn’t know when I was going to get to see him again, so it made sense to savor it.

No one is perfect. But my dad was honestly, truly, a great dad, flaws and all, and I’m gonna do my best to keep making him proud. Right now, it’s the only thing I can think to do.


3 Responses to “The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Had To Write”
  1. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. My father was my best friend, and I lost him quite unexpectedly as well. While I’m sure (or at least hope) you have people in your life who understand what you’re going through, please know I’m 100% here for you if you need someone to talk to, rant to, ask questions to, or just share stories about your dad. Sometimes sharing with a stranger is easier. I’m almost eight years ahead of you in the journey, but I’m only now really letting myself grieve, so… I understand. I can’t understand YOUR pain, but I understand the pain of that loss. It feels insurmountable. I don’t offer an empty promise – I am here if you ever want to talk. My email is etappero @

  2. Ethan says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing this. I am so sorry for your loss. I love you.

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