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Dear Dad: I Finally Know Why You Were So Sad

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I posted our photo today, just a picture of it from my phone. You can see wear and tear, a light from the flash, and you can see your smile. It’s been such a long time since I have heard you laugh, my mom said it was amazing and so full of life, but I don’t remember if you cackled, silently snickered, or belly shook.

You had the best sense of humor, and I remember sometimes I thought I’d die from not being able to breathe. You were immature, but your delivery of jokes was immaculate. You used to tell me how sad you were, though, and that wasn’t funny.

I think for as long as I can recall, you were so sad, and I just wanted to know why. Now that I know why, I’m not sure if a weight has been lifted or if I’m just as sad if you were. When I found out, I cried for hours, and I told my mom I just wanted to go back in time and tell you that no matter what, you mean the world to me. My mom told me that we can’t linger on the “what ifs,” because it’ll only hold us back in life. In my heart I know she was right.

But still, I find myself awake when I should be asleep, wishing I could have that conversation with you. I want you to know, you shouldn’t have left me, you shouldn’t have been so selfish. Then I realize, I’m the one being selfish. You stuck it out for 50 years, in a world you just couldn’t thrive in, and I am so lucky to have known you for nine of mine.

The truth is, I will always long to have one more talk with you, one more laugh. Maybe it wouldn’t be much, but there’s so many things I want to tell you. I don’t think people understand fully, knowing what I know about someone I’ll never be able to talk to again. The longing feeling gets so hard sometimes, I just don’t know if I’ll be able to overcome it.

I do talk to you, can you hear me? My mom says you haven’t come to talk to her in her dreams yet, and the last time you came to me was a week after you died. In it, you took me out to our favorite aquarium, and you told me you were leaving, but that I shouldn’t be sad because you were better.

I am sad, I’m sorry. I’m not better without you, sometimes I don’t know if I will ever be better again. What did your voice sound like? I heard it in the dream, but It was such a long time ago. Will you come see me again or was that the last time?

You smelled like cologne and cigarette smoke, I don’t know the brand of either. I smelled you once, It was a few weeks after you died and I swear I smelled you in the gym of my grade school. I had bags of things from your apartment when I was little, they’re still in the basement of my mom and stepdad’s house. I only opened the bag a few times a year, because your smell was trapped amongst the stuffed animals and fuzzy blankets and I wanted to save it. I haven’t opened those since I was 11. I’m scared if I do now, your smell won’t be there anymore.

A lot of you was lost with time, and I’m the only thing you have to show for 50 years on this earth. I spread some of your ashes during Christmas, right where you told me when you knew you wouldn’t be here anymore. It was so cold out, and my hands were freezing, but I tried hard to get the wind to take them into the river where we used to fish next to your apartment.

The apartment still smells like cigarette smoke, but not yours.

Getty image by Westend61

Originally published: January 28, 2022
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