Wow 13 years, has it really been that long since I have saw my dad? Has it really been that long since I called someone *dad*? How can it be that he has been gone 13 years? As this day has been approaching he has been on my mind and I have actually had several dreams about him. One of the things that has crossed my mind is that he has been gone as many years as I was alive at the time of his diagnosis. I am not sure why this seems to affect me so, but it has. The year he was diagnosed with brain cancer I had just turn 13 and was so excited to finally get to see him more often. Growing up I didn’t get see him as much as I would have liked. I don’t have the memories my brothers and sister have, I never got to really know my dad the way they did, though the memories I do have I cherish. The same month I moved back to Phoenix, and finally got the chance to spend time with the dad I longed to be with, was the same month he was diagnosed with a 3 inch brain tumor. I remember those days as if it were yesterday. The look in his face as he was told his diagnoses, the moment after surgery when he was angry that there was blood on his hands, the way he looked days later as if someone kicked the crap out of him, the mood swings and him yelling at me for no reason, the hallucinations of seeing snakes on the roof tops and cows in the trees, the falls, his life fading before my eyes. From the time of diagnosis to the day he died was 10 months. I watch as my dad make a huge transformation and it was a lot to take in as a 13 year old girl. I grew up very fast in those 10 months and that was the start of learning about this thing called grief. He passed away on June 5th, 1998 which if you know me know that it was the day before I turned 14.
I was in the room the morning he passed away, I watched him take his last breath, I collapsed onto the floor crying like I had never cried before asking why. I did not take his death very well and I know that I truly grieved for my father. I would cry, and light candles, listen to the song I chose when we spread his ashes. I would write about it in my journals. The first few years it kind of surprises me each year was different, some years I did ok around this time, others I wouldn’t do so well. I hated my birthday for years but now I am able to enjoy it again. Losing my dad at 14 was a tough thing to go through and it is something that changed me as a person.
The past few weeks I have been thinking of him and thinking of the things he has missed out on in the past 13 years, military ball, prom, drill team competitions, graduations, my wedding, Brandon’s wedding, Gavin, Mckenna, his grandkids growing up, all the things you want a father around for. Writing all this down does make me miss him, but to be honest if he hadn’t have passed away my life would be dramatically different. I would have probably moved in with him when my mom’s drinking got out of control, went to a different high school, met different people, I never would have met Billy, never would have lived in NC, never would have had Mckenna. This is something that I can’t imagine. Losing my father was one of the hardest things I had to deal with at the time, it has made me who I am today. His death taught me so much and though it may sound weird to some, I am thankful for having had to go through it. It was one the hardest things in my life and I could have walked down a different path, but I chose to not allow his death to take me down a path of destruction. I chose to look at the things that his death brought me. His death made me appreciate the people I love, it taught me compassion, empathy, sympathy. It taught me that you can become stronger in the mist of pain, that life does go on no matter what happens in your life. Who knows what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t had the experiences I did. I do wish I had my dad here, but grateful for the time I did get with him and that I knew him at all.
On this day 13 years ago I lost the dad I never truly got to know, the dad that loved me unconditionally, the dad who gave the best hugs, the dad who made me laugh, the dad who’s face would light up when he saw me. I love you dad and miss you.
Peter Joseph Santi