In my life, I have lost many people, but none so close to me as my father. I thought I was prepared to say goodbye. I thought I’d had enough time ahead of the loss to be mentally ready to lose him.
I was wrong.
So very wrong.
When I was a child, I sat on my great-grandfather’s porch swing while he told me about his life and I wrote it all down. I wrote a ten-page paper for school documenting the highlights of his life. I got a perfect score and then I lost him months later. I’d kill for that document back. It’s been lost over the years. I don’t even remember what it said. I only barely remember what his face looked like and I only have one surviving photograph.
In my teens, my cousin who was two years older than me was killed. Some people said it was a suicide, others argue he couldn’t have done it himself. I don’t know either way since I was a child and I didn’t really understand. I remember crying in gym class at school because I didn’t understand why it happened to him. He had been my favorite male cousin since he didn’t treat me like a girl. I do not even have a picture of him.
In 2004, I lost my Grandma Margie to breast cancer. She was my favorite person alive at the time and my personal hero. Before she died, she got to meet two of my children, but they don’t really remember her. She taught me all of the things about life I needed to know. She taught me how to sew, cook, and clean. She taught me that you stand up for your family and what you believe in. She taught me that religion is much more than a church pew. And she taught me that even if you hate the president, you show respect for the position and the weight of the responsibilities that person has accepted. You don’t have to love everyone but you should never hate them. Hate is the ugliest word a person can say. She always encouraged me to write, explore, and grow.
I only have a few pictures of her and my memories of her have started to fade and disappear.
I went a little crazy after she died. I left my horrid boyfriend and got into a comparably worse relationship, toxic and violent. I began drinking and partying in all of my free time. I hid from my family and let myself become a victim.
It took three years for me to wake up and get out.
My Grandma Katie was next to go from my life. She was a sick woman, having endured multiple brain surgeries and ten years of doctors telling us she wouldn’t make it through the night. I remember so many hospital waiting rooms, gathered with the family, expecting her to die but she didn’t. She kept getting better. When she finally passed away, it was hard to believe it was real. I kept expecting a phone call that she was okay. She was the most resilient woman I ever met, having endured the hardest life imaginable and refusing to give in to it. I have a few pictures but not too many and only one that was taken before she got sick.
In 2020, as the pandemic was beginning, we were informed my father had stage 4 lung cancer and probably wouldn’t live long. I do not believe I grasped the severity of it. But, we got three years with him.
Three years, during which time I think we all started to believe he would last much longer. In the beginning, we spent a lot of time with him. As those three years moved, we spent less time with him. Every single day I would wake up and think about visiting but something always stood in the way. Money, school, and time. None of it matters anymore. It was never a good enough excuse to not get in the car and drive.
Lately, I’ve been collecting photographs of my father. I want pictures from his entire life because I am terrified I will forget him. When I shower, I listen to music I associate with him and I cry. Every single time. I wear his hat every day and I have a small collection of possessions my step-mother let me take when I left the last time.
It will never be enough.
I message his phone occasionally but I know that will be turned off and the number will go to someone else eventually. I dread the day someone tells me to stop messaging it.
I’m trying so hard to hold myself together, but sometimes it feels like I’m going to drown in the sorrow. It weighs more than I do and I cannot hold myself together against it.
But, I am not a quitter. I won’t give up. I just hold on to the knowledge that everyone tells me it will get easier. History has taught me the pain will fade. But sometimes I don’t want it to. I don’t want to forget him. Good and bad, I need those memories to know that he was real and that his life mattered.
Hopefully, in the near future, I can get back to my writing and regular entries on this blog. For now, dear readers, please understand that grief is keeping me from moving forward. I will get there, but you must be patient with me.
Until next time,
Cathy Marie Bown
Before my father died, I published a novel for him. It wasn’t specifically for him, but I have always told him that someday I would write a book and he would see my name on the cover. I was able to give him a copy of that book in November of last year. I am not a big fan of self-promotion and I’m pretty bad at it. But if you want to check out that book, you can find it here.