Time is a capricious beast, stretching out for long periods of time that seem to creep by very slowly, then whipping back with a snap that makes a week pass in a matter of seconds. Time was especially tricky during the pandemic, when every day was much the same as the other and it was as though the world stood still.
It was during the pandemic that my dad passed away, one year ago last Thursday. It feels like no time has passed at all since then, while at the same time the year feels like it’s been interminably long.
I wasn’t able to go to Ontario last year for my dad’s passing and celebration of life because of the pandemic and my mental health. This meant I had a hard time admitting to myself that he was gone, felled by a second stroke that was deadlier than the first he’d had several weeks earlier. I had talked to him through tears on the phone in his final days, even though he gave no sign of having heard me. I know he is gone. But I don’t feel like he’s gone. Since my parents usually come and visit once a year, it’s been easy to trick myself into thinking they didn’t come last year because of the pandemic and are both still waiting to come and visit this year.
Even though I haven’t had any emails sharing interesting articles from Scientific American and American Scientist, even though I haven’t had philosophical phone conversations with him when my mom was out volunteering, even though I haven’t heard any stories about his gardening or something silly he did around the house, I still feel like he’s out there, somewhere. He’s still on my mom’s answering machine, and my mom still uses their shared email. It’s as though he’s floating in the ether, neither gone nor present.
That’s why I’m going to make the effort to get out to Ontario next month, so I can be in my parents’ home and feel that he’s not there. It will help me process that he won’t be coming out to visit ever again. I will see that his chair is empty, his coffee cup clean and put away in the cupboard, and his dress shirts are not in the ironing pile. Just the travel alone will be stressful and anxiety-inducing, but hopefully the visit will help put my heart at ease and cement my dad’s passing for me.
I also want to share stories about my dad with my mom, which can – and has – been done over Skype but is better to do in person. Reminiscing is something that happens best over a cup of tea at the dining room table, where you end up laughing so hard you think you’ll cry. And I know I’m no replacement for my dad, but at least she will have someone else in the house and it won’t be as quiet as it’s been for the past year (after my sister left last July).
Time is definitely capricious, but hopefully my trip to Ontario will make it run somewhat normally again.
Featured photo is my dad (looking back) and my nephew in a biplane. Photo by Sonja Boon.