Yesterday marked the 4-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Which is still unbelievable to me. This past year has been one filled with big moments. I had the first major surgery of my life in February and, in April, was in an accident that (sadly) totaled the last car my dad ever helped me pick out. I started a new job last June. Gained a new niece last September and a new sister-in-law this past May. It’s been an incredible year in which my dad has been missed in every moment, large and small. I usually use these posts to recap how I coped with the past year or how I thought I would try to handle the coming one. But this year, I’m just going to focus on how I navigated yesterday because it was a long and strange day, filled with more emotions that I know how to properly express.
Yesterday morning I woke up early and, like I have for the past few years, sat down at my computer to try to put my feelings and emotions into words. These blog posts, every year since his death, have been hugely therapeutic for me and I expected this year it would be the same. Right now it does feel therapeutic. Yesterday however it just felt confusing. And emotional. And I couldn’t figure out what to say. The difference between yesterday morning and the mornings of the past June 3rds is that, instead of waking up in the comfort of my apartment, I found myself in a hotel room in Chicago… on a trip to find a place to live. Yes. You read that correctly. I’m moving to Chicago. I’m sure there will be a post about that crazy decision soon but, long story short, I’m moving there for work and I had somehow managed to plan the making of a very emotional decision on a very emotional day. Not my best idea.
I arrived in Chicago on Thursday evening. That night, as I walked around checking out the neighborhoods, I felt confident that I’d made the right decision. I felt, as I have for the past few weeks, that being able to make the decision to move so far from my friends and family was a healthy sign of how well I was doing. How strong I am. It’s a decision I would have never made in the first few years after he passed away. It would have been unthinkable in the wake of that tragedy. I needed the consistency of the familiar, the support of friends in Dallas, the knowledge that I could get home quickly and easily should my family need me… or more often than not, should I need them.
I had a plan for yesterday. I was going to wake up, go for a walk by the lake, write this blog post, get ready for the day, head into the local Kapow office for a bit and then go look at a couple apartments in the afternoon/evening. It was a solid plan. Unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out that way. Instead I woke up feeling strange, emotionally not physically. I scrapped the workout and then tried and failed to write this blog post. After a few failed attempts, I shut it down and began to focus on my work for the day and the task of finding a place to live. I decided to work from my hotel room for the morning because I was too emotional to go to the office. Can’t have those people thinking I’m crazy before I even officially make the move! By 11am I was feeling a bit better and tried again to write this post but couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling. So I moved on with my day. Hopped from Starbucks to Starbucks, trying to get work done and check out apartments on my way. Had a few calls. Answered a few emails. Met a few strangers. The day flew by and it wasn’t until the end of day, when I found myself sitting on some random park bench, that it dawned on me why I was feeling so weird. It occurred to me at that moment, that by leaving Dallas and my apartment there, I would be leaving behind the last place my Dad ever knew me to live.
So there I sat, on that park bench, on an absolutely beautiful day in Chicago, crying like an idiot. It’s a ridiculous notion, to cry about leaving a place simply because that’s the last place he knew I lived. It’s not like my dad is going to come knocking on my door in Dallas. He can’t. He’s gone. On that point, I am very clear. Since he’s been gone I’ve changed jobs, gotten new furniture, changed my hair, made new friends, traveled to new places and have made many decisions that have affected my life in various degrees. But this is certainly the biggest decision I’ve made without his input and the one that most affects my daily life, as he knew it while he was here. I’ll be leaving the last apartment of mine he’ll ever visit. Leaving the city he’d helped me move to 11 years ago. It’s the end of a chapter in my life that he helped me create. One in which he was physically present and where I have pictures of and vivid memories with him.
When I start the next chapter of my life in Chicago, he’ll never have that physical presence. He is always with me but there will never be any pictures or memories of us at a Cubs game together, riding rides on Navy Pier, having a drink at a local pub or doing whatever people who live there take their parents to do when they visit. For me that’s the cruelest part of grief and the hardest part to come to terms with, the un-lived life of someone taken from this world far too soon.
While the grief may have gotten the better of me for a moment yesterday, I eventually picked myself up from that park bench, wiped away my tears and shared an Uber with a saxophonist from Brazil named Marcio. By the end of the day I was back to feeling confident if my decision. I even felt a little bit stronger because of that brief breakdown. Why? Because I didn’t let the grief win. I dealt with it and moved on like a boss.
Yesterday’s emotions ran the gamut. I was sad, happy, excited, mournful, amused, lonely, content, annoyed, optimistic, anxious… I think I literally had all the feels. Yesterday, for the first time since making the decision to move, I truly began to picture what my life might be like in Chicago. It started to feel real. I’m super excited for this new adventure but sure wish he was still here to be a part of it. As always, I try to take comfort in the hope that somehow, somewhere, he has a ringside seat to the movie of my life.
Signing off. – Jen