Chances are, if you knew my Dad, you probably heard him say this at some point. As I reflect back on this year and on life in general, this phrase has two interpretations for me.
We all talk about how much 2020 sucks and this is a terrible year and we hate it. For me, the realization of just how cruel 2020 could be started in February when I started to understand that my Dad was very, very sick, more so than I had already anticipated. As much as I did not like it, this forced me to begin considering the possibility that I might not have much longer to spend with him.
He went into the hospital for a week for the first time two days later. I visited as much as I could, and then I went back home to get ready for a vacation. He went home the same day that I left for that trip, and reassured me that everything was fine and I needed to go have fun. If Kayleigh or I or any of our friends ran into any trouble, he’d come help me, he said.
When I got back from the trip, I had already planned to quarantine from my family for a bit. Then, everything shut down and I was forced to quarantine from them. This was very hard.
2020 picked up in cruelty in April, when we found out that my Dad needed to spend his 50th birthday the hospital, alone because of COVID, and I couldn’t see him before he went in, also because of COVID. (I found out later that I tested negative and didn’t have COVID at any point, but I am sure if I chose to visit, 2020 would have found a way to play its hand sooner and it probably would have turned out that I did have it. I don’t like to dwell on the what-ifs, but that’s one that I’m sticking to.)
After that particular hospital visit, everything picked up in intensity and life became a sea of doctors appointments, surgeries, and other medical episodes. I watched helplessly from Buffalo and began seeing our lives as a really bad soap opera — what WOULDN’T happen next?
The horrors of 2020 reached a breaking point on July 11. This was the day that the doctors told us that there was really no hope left, and I was going to lose my Dad very soon. It was also my brother’s birthday. I drove around Rochester crying and angrily screaming in my car. I called Dan and then Kayleigh, crying still.
My dad died the next day.
2020 did show a small sense of grace in allowing many of us the chance to say goodbye. But still, we found ourselves planning a funeral for him instead of a delayed 50th birthday party.
Life so unfair. (But that’s only half of it! -Labyrinth)
I spent the first week incredibly angry and got a lot of satisfaction out of throwing things and breaking cheap glassware.
Related: Sometimes You Just Need to Smash Something (coming soon)
Now that I’m back to Buffalo and back to my routine, everything seems dull and ultimately unimportant.
My Dad isn’t here, I can’t change that, and I don’t know how do things without him. I can’t text him about my new vehicle, or the Rangers coming back for playoffs, or just to say hi and that I miss him. I started writing a journal for these things, but it’s not the same because the journal can’t write back or call me. (And if it starts to, I’m sorry Dad but I’m screaming and throwing it out a window.)
As I try to navigate the grieving process, I have my Dad’s voice in my head: “You’ll be alright.” Now, as many people know, usually when he said this, it was accompanied by an eye roll, head shake, and/or sigh, and was said sarcastically in response to something silly or absurd that someone had just said (this happened to me several times a week.)
So after a particularly horrific few months, all I can really say (angrily) to 2020 is “you’ll be alright.” 🙄😡
Now that we’re all on the same page about how 2020 has kicked the shit out of me, I’ll move into something a little lighter. Because despite everything I’ve been through, and probably as a result of the books on resilience and grief that I’ve been reading, I’m choosing this as an opportunity to hear “you’ll be alright” in my Dad’s voice as an affirmation that I will be alright someday. My Dad is telling me that I will.
Instead of focusing on how 2020 gets worse and worse each day, I’ll accept things as part of a ridiculous and stupid year. Whatever happens next — that’s 2020 for you. Why not have this next thing happen?
I’ll try to refocus my efforts as much as I can on the 27 years of good times that I was able to have with my Dad. I was VERY fortunate in that I NEVER had any doubts about how much he loved me and was always proud of me.
My Dad always showed his love and pride by always being there for my volleyball games, award ceremonies, EVERYTHING, no matter what.
He even took a day off from work to help me move to Grand Island when he didn’t really want take that day off. (I still remember that fight.)
He drove to Syracuse to bring me gas when I almost ran out when Rex and I were at a concert. (I still have the texts where he joked that I’d have to push the car home.)
He made sure to always visit me in Niagara Falls/Buffalo like I visited our family at home. He always planned fun adventures, whether it was grilling at a park in Niagara Falls (and accidentally burning a table) taking trip to the Toronto aquarium, snow tubing in Ellicottville, etc. He always knew how to make things fun.
And he was fiercely proud of EVERYONE in his family and all of his friends, not just Rex and I. If you saw the posterboards at his celebration of life, you could see it in every picture. When we say that family was everything to him, we really mean it.
As I try to find my way back to my original point instead of going on forever about how amazing my Dad was, I’ll end with this.
I’m in probably the darkest moment of my life right now, but I know that I will always have my Dad’s love and support to guide me through it all.
So, to 2020 Allet: “you’ll be alright.” Dad said so. ❤️