My sister-in-law, Issa invited me to her house for dinner with the family. This is the house that my dad lived in before he passed away September 1, 2018, after being diagnosed with colon cancer and given just six months to live.  Going there, I knew I was going to be faced with some emotions that I was not eager to embrace. As I walked up the stairs, I didn’t look into the glass window and ring the doorbell as I usually do, I rang the door bell and walked away from the door to look at the vegetables in the garden, it was a distraction for what I was about to feel.

My niece answered the door with my brother Raven standing behind her. I mustered up enough strength to put a big smile on my face and greeted everyone. As I walked towards the kitchen where Issa was preparing the meal, my eyes focused on the closed door to the room where my dad used to sleep.  I was aware that my communication was a little awkward with small talk and non-flowing conversations, basically just answering Issa’s questions.

I finally decided that I would exit the kitchen where I felt I needed to be communicative and sat in the living room with a couple of magazines on my lap so I could browse through the pictures. I felt so rigid and out of place. Almost like I no longer belonged there, my job was done. I don’t freely go in the fridge anymore to get food for my dad, I don’t walk into that room with the door closed anymore. I felt uncomfortable, because in my mind I was lost. Lost without my dad in that moment.

It was now time to sit at the dinner table and I automatically chose the chair that my dad would sit in. It still had the pale green cushion on it that my dad requested one day when it was removed momentarily.  There was a strong sense of my dad’s spirit all around me. I sat across from my beautiful witty 9-year-old niece, Anaya. She had her hair cut short and was wearing a black dress that snuggled off the shoulders under the arms. I felt the muscles in my face start to tense up and my lips drooped downward, my eyes welling up with tears.  I tried not to blink to prevent a tear from rolling down my check. I didn’t want to cast a gloom over a brightly welcoming invitation.

Conversation went on around me but my  focus was on something missing, someone missing, my dad missing. I was missing my dad! It was an intense moment for me.  I looked up at Anaya and our eyes  locked and she said, “are you ok”. I shook my head yes, got up from the table and walked into the bathroom. My first thought was to pretend that I had to use the toilet but since I didn’t really need to, I decided that wasn’t a good idea it would have made me feel silly. So I just washed my face trying to wash the tears away.

After returning to the table we continued various conversations and I decided that it was time to mention my dad. We talked about things he would say and declarations he would make like “Starting today I am a vegetarian!” It felt good to remember those good times with him.

The dinner was scrumptious and the company was a reconnection to a special bond we developed while my dad had been living with my brother Raven and his family. After visiting for sometime, it was time to go and I felt the need to express my feelings to Issa, because I didn’t want to leave with a feeling of avoidance, but, still I wouldn’t let the tears come.

I told her I was feeling a little awkward and a bit emotional remembering my dad’s presence in their home.  She understood and we all said our good nights, hugged and parted ways. When I got into my car I intentionally released all the tears that I tried so desperately to hold back while in the house.  I know that repressing emotional feelings can be detrimental to one’s health in many ways.

As I was driving, I was so busy crying, I was no longer conscious of where I was going. Instead of going in the direction of my house, to Richmond, CA, I ended up going the opposite direction to San Francisco, CA. When I became conscious of where I was headed, my mindset shifted to one of disappointment. Damn!  I had to pay a bridge toll that I had no intention of paying. I had to turn around at Treasure Island and head back home.

At that moment I realized that I cheated myself out of being comforted by the very ones who understood my pain and would have helped me to breath through it. They would have hugged me, rubbed my back and comforted me. But I left longing for someone to wrap their loving arms around me. I had to work through the pain alone!  The lesson I learned is not to be afraid to be vulnerable. Let those you love and who love you, love you. You are worth being loved!



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 ~ Michelle Thompson

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