by Bailee Epperson, OBOC essay contest finalist.
“Because the darkness squeezes you inside yourself, you get cut off from the outside world, the imagination takes over…you think about dark closets, madmen, murderers under the bed, all those childhood fears,” from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a dream, other times I wish I could sleep forever because dreams are the only place I can be with my dad. I hear his voice, feel his warmth, and most importantly feel his love.
When I dream of my Dad, I’m usually aware he is not alive anymore but seeing him gives me a short relief of happiness. Shortly following my dreams of him I come back into contact with my loneliness and I am reminded that he is gone. Although I will say, the small sliver of togetherness always out weighs reality.
I’ve never told anyone how I really feel when I’m alone. I am not looking for pity, but for awareness. I mostly feel alone when I am truly by myself, usually during long car rides or sitting at home in my Father’s chair. Sometimes I will be in a crowded area like a grocery store and I become overwhelmingly alone. Almost as an outsider looking in reading my own mind. When this happens I grow anxious and weary of everything around me. At moments like that, I feel disconnected.
My Father died on September 19, 2011 in the arms of me and my three older brothers. Seven days after he was admitted to the hospital, an unexpected and rather quick illness took his life. Gone, in a matter of days, my Dad was just nonexistant. At 19 years old I was left fatherless, something a kid cannot even wrap her mind around. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel the pain of losing my Dad, I feel it in my heart, my soul, and my memory. I know my Dad is always close to me, but metaphysically it is hard to grasp. As I saw his mortal body lying on the bed, tears of sadness, anger and hatred ran through my bones. I was angry at the world, at God, and angry at anyone around me. I hated the idea that someone could be taken away from me for no rhyme or reason. And I felt sorry for myself. This was not suppose to happen, your parents are the most invincible people in the world.
It is hard to explain the feeling of gone, the feeling of missing someone you will never see or talk to again. It is also hard to explain why sometimes it is easier to repress my Father. Not who he was, but what had happened. Thinking of my dad makes me feel more alone than ever. Not because I do not have anybody, but because I do not have him. Inside I feel a decision between two things, either I have my father or I am alone. The worst part is, I did not chose the outcome.
One of the hardest parts is explaining my Father to people who never knew him. It is like trying to show someone a puzzle with half of the pieces missing, they will never truly understand the bigger picture. It feels as if he “had become a pure idea.” Almost like my father was a concept. You know how some people are math people, and some people just aren’t? That is how it is explaining my dad except the math people are the people that knew him, and the nonmath people are the ones who didn’t.
When I run into people who knew my father, or know he passed away, I can feel their awkwardness. Sometimes I wish people would just be blunt, don’t beat around the bush, I know I’m the girl whose father passed away. That is just the way it is, “except sometimes people are too nice, to polite, like they’re afriad they might ask the wrong question.” I’d rather they ask “Hey, how are you doing since your dad passed away?” rather then “How are you doing.”
Stories that people tell me about my Father is what keeps him alive. It is learning new things you never knew about a person. At my work one day, I ran into a group of customers who all knew my father. They told me silly stories about him at work and reminded me of what a good guy my Father was. I want to hear the stories, good and bad, I want to imagine them in my head as they are told. But mostly, I want the stories to be real life.
I have never told anyone exactly how I feel or how lonely I truly feel when I think about my Father. It is because I can’t put my feelings into words and because I know I am not alone. I have tons of family and friends who support me and would be there in a second if I asked. I feel alone because a piece of me is missing and will never be replaced. I almost feel that my mother would be insulted if I told her the truth. I don’t explain my feelings because I know that no one will have the right answer. I do not want to hear the superficial and dull answers people like to give me. Sometimes I want the dark answers, the ones no one will ever say, the truth. My Father is gone and that is the truth, his body lies in the ground and he is no longer viable. I do not want to hear the typically religious responses, “You will see your father again one day, he is in heaven waiting for you.” That is not a truthful answer, that is a comfortable and safe answer. I want someone to tell me that my father is no longer here and the rest remains unknown. I want to hear the dark stuff.
I do not look for pity nor do I look for answers because both of those things are not worthwhile. I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me, I want them to be aware. Aware that people are not infinite. Aware that the world is a mysterious place that does not need a reason for its cause. Most importantly, I want people to be aware that every person is feeling something inside that is unrepeatable to most.
Every day I push myself out of bed and remain as positive as I can, that is why no one knows the fight inside of me. That is also why I do not know what you’re fighting inside. If you asked my coworkers, friends, or family, they would probably describe me as out going and energetic. What they would not say is that I encounter times of gloom on a daily basis. Those are the things I keep secret to myself, my loneliness.
“But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smiles and sit up and return to the world.” So, when I fall asleep at night, I remember my Dad so that when my mind takes control, I can be with him again. His laugh, his nick names, and his personality all come together and I know that my Dad will always be there waiting for me to close my eyes at the end of the day and return to him in my dreams.