I sit alone. On my right, the German chocolate cake corners me. As my fork cuts into the cake, a million speckles of random memories play like I am watching a familiar movie. I chew with purpose. But it still doesn’t make these flashes stop.
It’s just a cake. Right? It doesn’t mean anything. The whispers yell louder biting into the silence that surrounds me. It’s been three years. Really? I ask myself. One Thousand Ninety Five Days since I’ve spoken to my Dad or had a midnight snack of his favorite piece of German chocolate cake. In recent months, my hand gravitates toward the phone, almost dialing our old phone number at home. I want to tell him what’s happening. How it’s been three years since we’ve lived in Arizona and that in three months his youngest daughter is getting married and that this year his granddaughter turned six. So many times, I’ve just wanted to sit with him and debate the political climate or the recent hike in gas prices or disagree with me regarding a particular stance that we don’t agree upon. These days, I’ve let go of some strands of the grief, accepting that I will never have a conversation with my father again.
The fact that we won’t converse again made me think to my father’s final days. Those days were complicated for him. He filled himself with regret about various wishes he didn’t fullfill or conversations he didn’t have or final words that were left unsaid. This is the ugly part of dying. The one that is the most painful to witness. I remember sharing specific memories of what he did, often citing that he came to the United States of America with only seven dollars to his name, and built a home and a family that really loved him. I failed to convince him that he tried his best. And it was enough. Those were his own battles, I suspect, but in those glimpses, he was teaching me. Even though he wasn’t cognizant of it.
That there are things we all want to say. And that we should say them often. On those ordinary days, when time is flowing over like a waterfall, say the words “I love you” to those we love. Or say yes more than no. Or be less afraid. Or take that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Or say “Sorry” to a family member or friend.
I know from those final days, as I think of him, that living without regret is something you cannot rush. It is everyday. With every word. With every choice.
Thank you Dad.