My dad died when I was four years old.
You don’t have to say you’re sorry.
Today would have been his birthday, if I remember correctly. I’m unsure how old he would be. We don’t talk about him too much. I think twenty-four years later the wounds are still fresh. I still get too close to tears. It is the one thing I still have not managed to deal with. I brought it up once, to my mom, in a letter I wrote here where I explained I was in love with another woman. Somewhere lost in the strange maze of feelings and emotions I wrote, we don’t talk about Dad. I don’t talk about Dad because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. Since then, it has gotten a little easier, through funny photos we find around the house or anecdotes someone might bring up. Easier but not perfect. We still don’t talk about him much.
My father died of something he was born with and found out about too late. There was no way to stop it.
My life has been one long, steady stream of dealing with other people’s illnesses. I think about it this week because I have just returned from the vaguely tense circuit of emergency room visits with my Abuela: my Sunday spent staring into the tiny television hung above her bed and trying hard not to listen to the conversation of people around me. There was a boy with broken teeth crying about how his girlfriend will never love him again, another whose mother was trying to scare him out of a drug haze and a woman who was told she could be stitched up, but there was nothing else they could do there.
The worst words, I think, when you expect a place to fix you up, send you home clean and new.
My whole life has been punctuated by the heartbreak of losing people, of watching their bodies fail them, of watching them struggle to fight back, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. Each one a click against me, in time. I wonder if I will break early too, if I’ll be someone else’s loss too soon. I’m not scared for me, most times. I’ve only ever taken being ill in very quiet nods and forward movements. I’ve been told I had brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, heart issues, only to end up alright, knocking on wood, thanking the universe, smiling softly to myself and all that. I don’t worry about me, I’ll fight when I have to, when the time comes, because when you grow up seeing it, you now it’s not an if but a when it’ll happen. When you see your mom battle breast cancer, see your grandmother have her leg amputated, see your Abuelo get infected from the inside out, you know life is what happens around the series of hospital visits that eventually you’ll have to have, have to make.
My life has always been this way.
That’s why you don’t have to say you’re sorry. It’s okay. Maybe it’s a little awful that I’m used to it. But, I like to think it just means I value the moments spent living just a little bit more.