It’s been a year

Don’t clutter your head I’m fine
Don’t clutter your head it’s been sometime and I’m fine
Strange it’s almost been a year

Strange it’s almost been a year. Those are lyrics from Greg Laswell’s song, “It’s Been a Year.” I had to begin with lyrics because I don’t know where to begin. My last post was in November, almost five months ago. In that post, I talked about cake, milk and honey cake to be specific. That cake was one of the most delicious cakes I’ve made in 2020 (and I’ve made a lot of cakes in that tragic year). Cake has become the best diversion, taking photos of it and eating it have helped me navigate the months after my father’s death.

However, It’s strange to immediately dive into cakes and pretty pictures again without addressing the fact that it’s hard to sit with my thoughts again, much less think about what happened this past year. As much as I believe it’s important to gather these thoughts again, it’s difficult to revisit memories, to take stock of the many ways my life has still expanded despite the pandemic and despite my father’s absence. I wish there’s a better word for bittersweet (especially when the bitter part is still almost 80 percent than the sweet part).

Since that last post, Jed and I have moved apartments. It’s been quite a journey, one that I’d like to tell someday. And so I spent the better part of early 2021 immersed in settling in to our new place. For the first time in my life, I’m living in a house with real space, including outdoor space. And though I’d want to say it’s been the best time ever, there have been a number of struggles along the way, most of it the general shakiness of change and at the core of it a long and drawn-out case of compromise. As I’ve said, maybe a story for another day. I have happily decorated our new space and of course my new-found passions had to take a backseat. In the midst of the move, I’ve also managed to squeeze a few papa-related errands that bog me on a daily basis, particularly closing his SSS account. This was only on the first part of my long to-do list when it comes to sorting out all of papa’s affairs. If you must know, this list has a long way to go. But I’m grateful for the small successes.

Back in December, I also went to therapy for the first time in my life. I’ve been a mental case for as long as I can remember but I’ve never sought serious professional help. I’ve always thought that I could run and healthy eat my way to mental stability. Also I had papa then. Whenever I’m in the weeds of my long battle with anxiety, I could always count on papa to be my therapist. One phone call and he’ll listen to me talk about my feelings. He had a way of saying the exact words that I needed to hear to make me feel better. Sometimes it’s a good dose of calming words, sometimes it’s a hard sigh of exasperation shaking me out of my ridiculous worries. But whatever help papa had for me, nothing beats his listening ear. And now that he’s gone, no better time to finally seek a real therapist. Within the first few minutes of talking, I realized I would always cry when I talk about my father. I also realized how good I was at facing my emotions head on. I was a textbook example of DABDA, eerily following through this theoretical, emotional roller coaster of loss and pain. Then I felt the most unexpected emotion I could probably think of during this moment—proud. I am proud of how I handled it (and still handling it).

The holidays, as I expected, was difficult. Christmas—and any holiday celebration—will never be the same without my father. Christmas was specifically our time together, just the two of us. For almost twelve years, it was mostly just him and me celebrating the Christmas season back home in Surigao. So this very first December without him, I just couldn’t do it without doing something I’ve never done before. I decided to spend Christmas alone. I asked Jed to leave me home, with only our dog Elmo with me as I slept my way through Christmas eve. The isolation felt right. To have survived Christmas is to have simply survived this first year without him and the many more to come.

They say grief never goes away, but pain diminishes as our lives expand. Grief slowly fades as we welcome new things into our lives. It’s crazy to me to think about my life expanding, amidst this pandemic, given the sameness of our everyday lives. I cannot imagine getting over my grief, especially as it’s the only thing I have left. I remember my father with me through February and March of last year, keeping death at bay even when it was waving right in front of us. We fought once because he didn’t like the food I prepared. We listened to old music together one afternoon in March. I asked him about his good old days and papa talked about his youth like he was there again, mighty, bright, and very much alive. Has it really been a year?

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