Guilt and grief

Tomorrow is Monday. For most people, it will be just another work week starting. But for me, it is the worst anniversary: two years since we lost Dad.

July 17 used to be just another summer day, but now it looms like an exam I didn't study for or a long, painful dental appointment.

As this summer approached, I didn't think about lounging by the pool or trips to the beach. Instead I thought "was Dad in the hospital by now two years ago?" Anxiety festered inside me as I tried to decide how I should observe the day. I worried "what if I missed the anniversary completely? What if I forgot?"

Maybe someday I won't dread July 17, but I doubt I will ever forget what happened on that terrible day.

Sometimes I don't know how I have survived the last two years. One of the two people who created me no longer exists.

Other times, I think "I'm OK. This is how life works," before feeling horrible guilt over denying the extent of the loss.

Guilt has been an ever-present part of my grief. I feel awful for how selfishly I have been grieving. Losing Dad hasn't just been about the pain of not having him present in my life; it has caused me to question nearly every aspect of my life and its meaning. I have found myself drawing boundaries around the parts of me that hurt, building walls and hiding behind them. It doesn't come naturally to me, but I don't know how else to get back to being me.

I miss the littlest things about Dad. The way he's always ask me to help him choose which shirt or tie he should wear. His skinny chicken legs and how they look in all of our Rehoboth Beach pictures beneath neatly pressed shorts. His annoyance with mosquitos and how they gravitated to him, but left Mom alone. 

I think of Dad every time I smell fresh cut grass even though it has been years since he was physically able to mow the lawn. My memories of sleeping late on those glorious first days of summer vacation from high school all smell like grass and the chlorine Dad used to keep our pool crystal clear.

If I had a tally of all the names Dad called me, 'Jen' would top the list followed closely by 'Honey.' He only said "Jennifer" if we were disagreeing about something. Jenny was for when he felt like teasing me.

What I wouldn't give to hear Dad say any of those names for me once more.