One year ago today, July 22, 2017, Dad passed away from complications associated with dementia. We believe he died peacefully in his sleep after all of his visitors had gone home for the night. He had turned 78 years old 29 days earlier.
Today also marked the final day of "Firsts". For the past year, we (especially Mom) have been ticking off the days and how they related to July 22nd. It's difficult to not be a little maudlin about it all. I guess when someone close to you dies, you have to go through your year of "first _____ without" before the real healing begins. First wedding anniversary without him, first Thanksgiving without him, first Christmas, New Year's, Super Bowl, Opening Day of baseball, NASCAR season, etc. And on June 23rd last month, Dad's 79th birthday, the first one he missed.
I went home the weekend before Dad's birthday to be with Mom on her birthday (my parents' birthdays are a week apart) and it wasn't easy to celebrate her 75 years. We all got together and it was nice, but it wasn't the same. And it's really strange because for the last 4 or 5 years of Dad's life, he wasn't around for these celebrations anyway, being unable to leave the nursing home. But at least he was around.
Through all these events, it felt weird to not go shopping for a card or find some wacky gift online to send, or to even call Dad on the phone just to say hello. I would compare the feeling to being single on Valentine's Day. But while it's easy to remember the feeling of being alone when the rest of the world seems to be paired up, it doesn't compare to the overwhelming sense of loss from the definite absence of a particular person who you will never see again. Being alone on Valentine's Day feels annoying, but not having your Dad on Fathers' Day feels hollow.
But all that is in the past now. A full year has gone by, and along with it all the markers we had ridiculously set up to help mark the passage of time. Starting today, we just go on living without keeping track of anything anymore.
But the memories will never go away.