It will soon be my father’s birthday. I wish he were here with me to celebrate it.
No, he’s not abroad like most fathers in this day and age. My father has gone on to realms where I cannot reach him. My loss feels deeper these days than ever. Others have told me that things like these get easier over time, but no matter what they say, I still feel hollow and topsy-turvy inside. I lost a parent and a confidant in one blow.
When people ask me what I remember most about Daddy, I feel as if I’m fumbling through a dark school corridor. Although my childhood was generally a happy one, there are reasons old memories appear to me in shades of gray. I have bipolar manic depression and because of this, some of my memories are clouded. Sometimes I cannot decide whether one thing really transpired or it happened only in my mind. I think my permanent “state of mind,” so to speak, affects the way I have grieved so far.
When my father died, I plunged into another episode of manic depression. Although I did not know it then, a great part of it was because I could not accept that my father was forever out of my reach.
It has been a little over a year since my father died, but I still have recurring feelings of loneliness, helplessness and despair. Even when I sleep, I try to grasp the hands I once held. I constantly dream that I’m with Daddy -- that his passing away is just a nightmare that I would wake up from. I wake up crying alone in my bed because I’m too grown up to be sleeping next to my mother or sisters. It’s in those small hours in the morning when I’m sobbing quietly in bed that I regret that I have grown up. I realize that the perks of becoming a grown-up never compensate for childhood’s assurance that everything will get better, that someone will make it better for you.
When I was young, someone making things better for me meant my father or the other grown-ups in our family buying me ice cream, chocolates or animal crackers. Today, when I go to a convenience store to buy chocolates to make myself feel better, I sense that the chocolates I eat aren’t as magical and comforting as the chocolates of my childhood. And of course, this makes me sadder.
People say that every person grieves in a different way. And after what I’ve told you so far, you probably know that I don’t grieve like normal people. I grieve too deeply. Indeed, I feel things more strongly than others. I’m more sensitive to certain sights and smells than others.
I can give you an example: It is my secret that trains bring tears to my eyes. It may sound silly to other people, but I can’t help but feel melancholy every time I board a train.
My father adored trains. He loved riding in them and he loved constructing miniature models of train routes and train stations. He always believed that trains were the way to the future and would insist that trains should be part of my daily commute to school.
A long time ago, when I was a freshman in college, my father asked me to find a particular train set that was being kept in our school library. I asked the library personnel, but no one could locate it. No one, that is, until I got to an unexplored floor of the library. And there it was. It was a diorama with a train set. I rushed to the ladies room and cried. I just couldn’t understand the sheer futility of finding that train set now that the only person I knew who adored trains would no longer be able to see it.
It doesn’t end there. When I go on my daily commute to school and ride the train, my eyes mist over as I push my ticket through the ticket slots. I keep thinking my father once rode these trains with me and his hands could have touched one of the cards I’m holding now. Sometimes, I turn to see if he is right behind me, but of course he will never be there again.
You cannot imagine how difficult it is to take your daily commute with these thoughts swimming in your head. It always happens to me, no matter how much of a rush I’m in. I always remember and grieve when I ride those trains. I just can’t help it. I can’t help remembering that he reached his terminal station way before his time and left me fumbling for my ticket at the turnstile.
Will I ever get over his passing away? I don’t think I ever will for as long as a train line rumbles through this city and through my heart.
Tish Martinez, 21, is a human rights advocate.
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