One year later (and one father shorter)

It’s been well over a year since my last post. Yet despite this passage time, now, after all these months, I feel as though I need to offer some explanation. I can’t say why, exactly, since I don’t “owe” the Internet anything and I expect that any followers of this blog have flown the coop ages ago. Maybe it’s an explanation of facts that I need to type out for myself, so that they seem real. Because for the past year, I’ve had the feeling of living a nightmare out of space and time.

My father died on Oct. 12 after a 20-month battle with small-cell lung cancer. He lived 14 months longer than any of his doctors thought he would, though of course at the time of diagnosis no one would put such a firm expiration date on his life. Perhaps it was a way to encourage him to fight that much harder; perhaps it was honesty on the part of his oncologist, who had no cancer crystal ball and could not, really, predict how long it would take the cancer to destroy his lung capacity. At any rate, Dad stayed on chemo and occasionally radiation for much of those 20 months. In fact, he was overdue for his next round of chemo when he was hospitalized two weeks ago. It happened this way: He was doing well, he was doing pretty well, he couldn’t breathe, he got a little better, he died. Just that quick, after one excruciatingly bad night in the hospital, he was gone. And even though my family had 20 months to digest the idea, his death happened so fast that it flattened our lives like a tornado; we were grabbing up photos and papers while the sirens went off, even though we knew it was too late. One minute I was kissing my father goodbye in his hospital bed, and the next I was in a funeral home, surrounded by rows and rows of urns, reeling at the thought of having to choose one as his final resting place.

So much of the past year has been devoted to coming to terms with this pending loss. The process more or less paralyzed my writing ability, and I found myself, every time I sat down to compose a review, at a loss for words. So many words gone unwritten, just like so many words gone unspoken, words I should have said to my father but did not. Now the “pending” part is gone, and I suppose what’s left is grief. Plain, ugly, painful grief, the kind there’s no way of getting around. The work of accepting a life where someone who was a constant fixture is missing. Accepting this surreal, strange new world where it feels as though the rug has been ripped from underneath me only to reveal that that floor is missing as well. Accepting a new normal far less appealing than the old one. I’ll be candid: I have no idea how to do any of this. But I think writing will have to be a part of it. Because I shared a love of movies with my father, and because he was always proud of my reviews, no matter how many or how few people read them. Dad may have been a man of few words, but I knew that much. And I’d like to think that coming back to these reviews, however slowly, is a way of honoring him, of honoring his memory.

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