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Thursday, April 6, 2017

the 5th birthday without him

April 10th is my dad's birthday.

He would have been 64 years old.

This is the fifth birthday we've marked since his death.

I still find death to be such a bizarre thing.

For me, my dad will always be frozen in time as the 59 year old he was before his death.

When I remember him, I don't recall the days leading up to his unexpected death.

Instead, I recall him from the time right before we left for Taiwan, which was four months before his passing.

I remember going out to lunch with him. I remember walking down the streets of Bainbridge Island with him and talking about what an awesome adventure moving overseas would be. I remember him taking apart our furniture as we packed and him driving loads of our stuff to the Goodwill. I remember riding the ferry with him on the way to the airport. I remember squeezing him goodbye before we went through security. I remember Skyping him once we arrived in Hsinchu.

I remember my dad being my dad: present, interested, and excited for us.

While the sting of his death has faded over time, one thing has not: the sting of new beginnings.

My dad is dead and gone. I know that, and most of the time, I am okay with it.

After all, I understand that we all die, and that death is a natural part of the human experience.

The times I struggle to be okay with it are the times when I feel like I am departing dramatically from the person I was when my dad last knew me-- the times when I think my life would be the life of a stranger if he saw it now.

There have been very, very few times I have felt this way, and they happen whenever I venture down an immensely new fork in the road.

I mean, I kinda figured things out pretty early in my 20s.

Despite the fact that my dad died when I was 26 years old, I had already been with my husband for eight years. I had been teaching for five years. I had been travelling the world for nine.

So even at 30 years old, I feel like much of my current life four years later would be easily recognizable to him-- well, until now that is because I cannot think of a newer, bigger fork in the road than my impending motherhood.

Honestly, I think my dad would have been very surprised that Sean and I decided to have a kid after all, especially while still living in Taiwan. That said, I think my dad would have been surprised that we still live in Taiwan at all. I think he would have been tickled at the prospect of Sean being a 4th grade elementary school teacher.

So much has happened over the past four years that he will never be a part of or know-- all our travels, our decision to remain in Taiwan, Sean's graduation and employment, paying off all of our debt-- but Ruby is so much more than the sum of all those other things.

She is a grandchild he will never meet.

In a way, her impending birth and his impending birthday mark a finality in my perception of my father's death.

Until now, my life felt divided in two: before and after his death.
Now, my life is adjusting.
She will mark my great before and after.

And, sadly, she is something that he could have never even fathomed.

All of the other things-- our adventures and successes-- I like to think my dad knew those were in store for us, but Ruby is altogether something else.

This year, we will mark his birthday with a little extra sadness because we are about to embark on our greatest adventure yet and my dad will not get to witness it or be a part of it-- ever.

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