It’s been one year. Your grandpa has been gone for an entire year. The last time I saw him, outside of the hospital, was Thanksgiving night 2009. I’d made a turkey and he was the first person to compliment it, declaring it the juiciest bird he’d ever tasted. That night, before sitting down to dinner, he prayed. It was weird because he didn’t usually pray in public. He gave thanks for his family and friends, for his wife’s health, for you. And I love that in the last memory I have of him he was counting his blessings.
Thanksgiving rolled around again this year. We didn’t get together with tons of family and friends. We didn’t even make a turkey… but we counted our blessings.
After your grandpa died, there were moments when I thought we wouldn’t survive the next minute, and now we’ve made it an entire year. And even though it’s been an incredibly difficult year, all of us — your grandma, your uncle Ani, and I — we find something to laugh about every single day. We still dream and trust and love and hope.
A terrible thing happened, a thing that tried to knock us out — it hit us with its best shot — and, by the grace of God, we are still standing.
I’ve been thinking about today for a long time. I always imagined that I would want to write about that day a year ago. About the hospital scene. About the heart-wrenching pain. About the overwhelming despair. It’s all still incredibly vivid, haunting me whenever I close my eyes. But it hasn’t defined me.
When he was in the hospital, I prayed with all my heart for a miracle. Until today, I thought my prayer had gone unanswered.
Surviving this year is the biggest miracle I’ve ever seen.
There’s a character — a teenage boy — in a book I’m reading who lost his father. It’s interesting how much more I notice death in everything now, even fiction. How deeply I am impacted by it. How very clearly I understand it.
Until it shows up to devastate your life, Luki, death is a very abstract concept. At least it was for me.
This character’s father was a poet and there is a lovely part in the book in which the boy says that it makes him happy that poems continue to be referred to in the present tense, even when the poet is in the past. After reading it, I immediately thought of your grandpa. He wasn’t a poet, but there are so many things he left behind that continue to be. So many things that are and that will be, even though he was.
As the anniversary of his death lurks nearer and nearer, one of the many feelings I’m experiencing is disbelief. I can’t believe it’s already been a year. In my life, your grandpa continues to be so present. As if he’d been here yesterday. There’s nothing I do that doesn’t include a vivid memory of him. From the mundane, like peeling garlic or pumping gas, to the essential, like dealing with stress or helping a friend. I constantly ask myself, “What would my father do?” and I always have an answer.
And, like the boy in the book, it makes me happy. I’m still sad and angry and the thought of having to wake up on November 28th makes me sick to my stomach. But I’m also happy. Because there are so many things that still are.
He didn’t write any poems, but he left an encyclopedia of fundamental wisdom in all of our hearts. One that can only be referred to in the present tense.
I promise to show you everything that still is, my boy.
Yesterday was Wednesday. I didn’t write you a letter. I don’t want to give up on this project but writing in November is really hard. Writing in November means that I have to write about November. About last November. And all I really feel like saying about that is a long, capitalized string of curse words. But if you’d come with a manual, I’m pretty sure it would’ve said something like, “do not write child a letter filled with profanity.” So… I don’t know what to say. Except that I’m sad. That last November is tormenting me. That last night I had a dream that your grandpa was working in Vancouver… that’s why he hasn’t been around. AND I BELIEVED IT. And then I woke up and remembered the truth and I felt devastated.
You know what? Whatever, Luki, if you’re reading this then you’re probably old enough for this kind of language: FUCK THIS MONTH.
It’s November. I had no idea it was possible to feel so much disdain for a page on the calendar. I miss your grandpa everyday, but ever since we entered the eleventh month, I miss him painfully.
In a few weeks it will be a year since he died. And I don’t feel any better about it. I think about him every day. I continue to be incredibly angry. I’m still absolutely confused by his death and its meaning. It doesn’t make sense.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I didn’t agree with your grandpa on. The arguments we had. His annoying habits. Sometimes I’d get frustrated with him for talking or laughing too loudly. I’d feel embarrassed by — what I perceived to be — his inappropriate jokes. Sometimes, I’d swiftly kiss or hug him goodbye when I knew he’d prefer it if I lingered. If I rested my head on his shoulder every once in a while. If he could tickle me or sit me on his lap like he did when I was a little girl.
And those simple, insignificant acts of kindness I could have exhibited seem so very significant now. And my embarrassments, frustrations, or whatever else kept me from being the best daughter I could be every single day… those things seem so worthless in hindsight. Because a year without crazy loud laughter and silly jokes has sucked. It has sucked harder than anything I could’ve possibly imagined.
I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about these things lately. I know that, despite all of my flaws, your grandpa gave me the benefit of the doubt. That he found the good in me. Always. I just wish I could have done the same for him.
Maybe that’s the point of this whole thing. My point, at least. The sense I’ve been trying to make for the past year: To find the good. Always.