–“Let’s sit and talk about death, shall we darling?” said no one ever!
It feels like all year, I haven’t been able to write about much more than my dad, and the feelings I have after his death. I guess people don’t talk about this much because it’s so tough to digest and share. The year seems like an eternity, yet at the same time, it is as if just yesterday, I hugged my dad when I got to Spain to celebrate his birthday in June. He was “fine”. Well, we really didn’t know just how sick he was. I know people are tired of hearing about my feelings, because I’m sick of it myself sometimes. “Get over it Maria”, “He’s in a better place”, “He lived a long life”, “I’m lucky to have had him for so many years.” But suddenly, there’s a heavy feeling in my chest, and I can’t breathe, I can’t swallow, I can barely talk. Panic. Sadness. Sheer madness at the thought of spending the rest of my life without him. Am I exaggerating? Am I a drama queen? Do I need therapy? Maybe yes to all of the above. But that’s how I feel.
I don’t know where I thought I’d be ten months after his passing. I don’t know what I though it would feel like. But this is where I am. We just “celebrated” June 12th, what would have been my dad’s 81st birthday. There was such anxiety prior to the date. That day last year, I walked into his room in the morning to wish him a happy birthday and he struggled to breathe, telling me he felt horrible. I told him we should get an oxygen tank. He said to get one. To call the doctor and get it right away. We called the doctor, explained to him how he felt, and the doctor advised us to call an ambulance and take him to the hospital as quickly as possible. It was day 3 after my dad’s first chemo, and the doctor thought he might be having a negative reaction to the chemo, a heart attack, or some other brain related event. So all of us got ready to go to the hospital, and thus began the journey of my dad’s 50 days in the hospital. That’s how long he lasted. He passed August 1st.
I think I had the goal of finishing my documentary and releasing it this year, because after watching my dad pass away, I decided I would do whatever it took to make my dreams a reality. To follow my passions. To do what I say and say what I do. To not wait until another time when I’m not as busy to do things I love. To enjoy every second I am given.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. I’ve had numerous moments filled with joy and abundance. But I’ve also had deeper sadness than I’ve ever experienced.
And now, my grandma fell and broke her hip at 97 years old. I sat with her for so many hours at the hospital, watching her breathe. Her mind playing tricks on her. And I thought about the places she’s traveled, the extravagant people she’s met. The novel-like stories she’s shared with us. Does any of it matter when you’re hooked up to fluids, your body filled with pain medication, your bones broken, your heart racing with fear at the thought of being alone in the hospital room? YES. The moments we laugh, travel, dance, eat, relish. That’s all that matters. Because life is short. And our memories are all we have when we sleep in the hospital.
Things in the hospital, the wheelchair, feeding my grandma, helping her get to bed, and so many other details while I visit her remind me of my dad’s last days. I am being forced to go to those memories which I haven’t quite processed yet. Like when I would take a wet sponge to clean my dad’s cracked lips from the medication and lack of moisture in his body. He would feel such relief from such a small action from my part. And now, I am wiping my grandma’s cracked lips and seeing flashes of my dad.
I make a vow to sit and write daily about more than just sadness over my emptiness without my dad. I will write every day about what he taught me, what I’m grateful for, what I dream about, what my kids teach me, and so much more that is good and beautiful in life. But I’ll still miss you everyday, papi.