3 Years Later

And just like that, it’s been three years.

On January 15, 2016, I wrote a blog post called “Predestination is bullshit, but this feels real.” I apparently didn’t share that one during my lead-up to the anniversary to Dad’s death. I don’t know why I didn’t post it. Was it intentional? Did I accidentally skip it, since I had posts on the 14th and 16th too? Maybe one of these days I’ll share it, but for now, I’ll share an excerpt:

For years and years and years—since before I started high school, for sure—I knew that I wanted to leave here. I always said I’d go to school out of state, or at the very least, a few hours away. I wanted to live in a big city…or really anywhere but here. So how did I end up here? Why did I end up here?

The whole post is about how I’d lived my whole life in one place, wanting to leave. I’d had plenty of opportunities. I’d gotten into dream schools out of state with generous scholarship offers for both undergrad and grad school. Yet there I was, in the same place I was born and raised in, for what felt like no reason. As I daydreamed about adventures and lost opportunities, I felt some regret. I felt happy with my education and the path that it had led me down, but why did it have to be here? It felt purposeless until January 2016.

Dad was dying. He’d been diagnosed nearly 5 years ago, but it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time somehow. I’d seen loved ones diagnosed with cancer. I’d seen them survive it and I’d seen them die from it. Somehow I assumed Dad would be in the former category. Looking back, I can see his optimism, his protectiveness, and his denial, all which played into my underestimating the situation.

Anyway, in January 2016, I had a moment of clarity and thankfulness that I’d never left my hometown. My hometown was where Dad was living, where Dad was dying. At the end, I saw him every day. I came into his house after work, and whoever was sitting beside him always got up and motioned for me to take the spot nearest to him. I held his hand. I talked to him. He responded to me less and less. I fixed his cannula. He was grateful and heartbroken that I had to see him like that. I loved him. I love him.

The point of this now-teary reflection is to marvel at how dramatically my life has changed since that moment. I never told Dad I’d applied for the Peace Corps, which I regret, but about six months after I sat beside him listening to his breathing, I was on a plane to Nicaragua. That was the beginning of a whole new chapter of my life. 2016 is a year divided into Before and After.

It’s crazy, that I haven’t lived in my home country since the year that he died. So much has happened both in the world and in my life since I was last able to talk to him. I think about the nights that I sat next to him, wordlessly watching the news, occasionally commenting on the craziness of the presidential campaigns. I think about my upcoming wedding and though it still feels unfair that he can’t physically be there, I’m more angry that he didn’t get to even meet Thomas.

It’s hard to put into words how I’m feeling. On one hand, my life has changed so much in the last three years that I want Dad to come see me as I am now, but on the other hand, I feel like if he were to come back to see me for 5 minutes, he wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised with where I’ve landed. Ever since we were little, he’s had big visions of the things we’d do, see, and accomplish. I don’t feel pressure to live up to any of that, but I do wish I could have him here just a little longer. There are so many things I want him to see. I can close my eyes and imagine him saying, “Be careful,” just like he always did whenever I left his house.

Be careful. Dad believed that we were capable and strong and would do great things, but he also worried about us, and I worried about him. I worried about telling him that I was leaving to serve in Peace Corps Nicaragua. I worried about him worrying about me. I didn’t want him to worry about me in his final days; I wanted him to feel like everyone around him was safe, even if he wasn’t. By the time I finally convinced myself to tell him my plans, he was no longer able to have conversations. His health declined so rapidly in those last few weeks. I kept the secret.

So much has happened. In 2018 alone, I got evacuated from Nicaragua because of civil unrest, got engaged, and moved to China. It’s hard to imagine how much life can happen in such a short time, and how the last few years seem both like the shortest and longest of my life. I wish I could talk to Dad about it, show him pictures, and hug him on my way out the door. I wish he was back in Missouri missing me, wishing I’d visit more.

Three years. An absolutely incredible, terrifying, unimaginable, bittersweet three years.

I don’t know what else to say. These past three years have changed my life. I’m so grateful that I was physically present with him, especially in that last year, but looking back, it almost feels like a different lifetime.  

Anyway.

Miss you, Dad. I love you.

Last Words

Written on February 1, 2016 (5 days after)

Sitting in my cubicle, crying at my desk because my coworkers left me a sweet card with lots of handwritten notes.

Thinking about last words.

I got to the house. I kissed his cheek. He kissed my cheek for the first time in weeks. Usually he was asleep or too tired to do it. But that night he did.

He was semi-comatose. He didn’t really speak directly to anyone else except to say “let me out of here.”

I told him I love him. I told him Jasmine loves him.

I sang him “All Along the Watchtower.”

Before I left, I said, “I’ll see you soon. I love you.” I kissed his cheek.” He said, “I love you.”

I said, “I love you, Dad. I’ll see you soon.”

And that was the last time I saw him alive.

Semi-comatose, and he managed to give me one last “I love you.”

Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for that. I think you knew that would be the last one. I think you found the strength to give it to me.

I said I’d see you tomorrow. I said I’d see you soon.

It didn’t happen the way I thought it would. If I’d known, I would have stayed all night. I would have flown Jasmine in on a $1,000 flight.

It’s okay though. I may not have seen you the way I thought I would, or the way I wanted to, but I do see you. I see you everywhere.

One year after

I’m forcing myself to write today. I don’t feel like I have a lot to say, but I’m gonna throw some stuff out here anyway.

Yesterday, I felt pretty gross. Emotionally, I felt surprisingly…okay. Physically, I started to feel nauseous. I threw up in my family’s bushes. I felt better. And then I continued to be sick for the rest of the day until I finally passed out. I couldn’t keep any food down, so I just prayed and prayed that I could keep all bodily fluids inside me until I got off the bus in Matagalpa the next day. 

(Right, did I mention that I’d made plans to come to Matagalpa so I didn’t have to sit alone with my sadness on the anniversary of Dad’s death? I wasn’t about to cancel those plans.)

When the nausea first hit, I wondered if I was having a physiological response to my grief. I hadn’t eaten anything weird, and the sickness just hit me out of nowhere. And then I started thinking about Dad.

I thought about sitting in the waiting room every day while he was getting radiation. How he started off feeling fine and then eventually got thinner and weaker and couldn’t keep his food down.

I remembered being thankful that the doctor cut his radiation treatments short, because watching his weight fall below mine, below Jasmine’s…it was painful for all of us.

So last night, as I was feverish and nauseous and losing my food in all the unglamorous ways, it helped me put some things in perspective. Dad was going through that for months and months. He hated it. 

And today, which had the potential to be emotional and horrible, I was just thankful that I didn’t shit my pants on the bus. Thankful that today wasn’t as bad as yesterday.

In the last year, I’ve had so much support from friends and family. I’m sitting here right now—on a day when I thought I might be an emotional wreck—and I’m surrounded by friends who care about me. 

Where was I this time last year? Sitting, surrounded by people who love me, prepared to drive to pick up Jasmine by myself because I felt like I needed to be alone with my grief. Stupid on so many levels, when I have so many people prepared to step up and take care of things for me. Luckily, Mom wasn’t about to let me be an idiot, and she drove me to St. Louis and let me play the Hamilton cast album the whole way.

In the past year, I’ve tried to be more open with friends and family. I think that’s one way that I’ve really changed. Last week, in anticipation of a total emotional breakdown, I told some friends that I was planning to take a day out of site. I wasn’t sure how I was gonna handle today, but I knew that I shouldn’t be alone. It’s very, very easy for me to isolate myself, and I’m trying not to do that.

Saying, “This day may be hard, and I’d appreciate if you could keep me company” is a significant step for me. It would be so easy to shut myself off with my grief and regret and pain, but sometimes you have to give people a chance to be there when you need them. 

Even if you can only bring yourself to share little bits and pieces of your story. If you need a stupid distraction, or a hug, or a text that says, “thinking of you today.”

So today, like all days, I’m missing Dad a helluva lot. I’m thinking of the laugh he gave me, his love of westerns, the way he was always barefoot inside. Most of all, I’m thinking of how he loved me unconditionally even when I took him for granted. How he forgave all my faults and saw me as my own talented, smart, beautiful person.

Today, I’m seeing the good things. Memories of Dad, love from people back home and here in Nicaragua. Today, I’m not angry, and I’m not distraught, and I’m not bitter.

Today, I’m thankful for the people who love me. I can feel it so strongly. It transcends time and space. I can feel it from people sitting in this room, and from people back in the U.S, and from Dad, through memory and stars and his voice that I still hear clearly.

I have nothing left to say, 

but

I love you.

There must be some kind of way out of here

Written on January 26, 2016 (the night before)

I don’t want to write much, so I’m gonna keep it short.

I went to see Dad, shook him awake (which I’m honestly shocked that I was able to do), gave him a kiss on the cheek, and he kissed my cheek. Lately he hasn’t really been able to do that so I was glad he did. He was mostly out of it while I was there, and Bev mentioned that the nurse said he’s in a semi-comatose state.

Every once in a while, he would wake up and be anxious or agitated. Really the only thing he said all night was “let me out of here.” Over and over and over. Every time he woke up, that’s what he said.

While he was sleeping, I sang him “All Along the Watchtower,” and God my voice is awful but I like to think that he could maybe hear it or that it kept him calm.

Before I left, I told him I’d be back to see him tomorrow, and I kissed him on the cheek and told him I love him.

And he said it back.

Currently sitting at Dad’s bedside

Written on January 16, 2016 (11 days before)

I’m sitting on the bedside toilet and holding his hand. I came in and he opened his eyes and I kissed his cheek.

Adding to the list of words he’s said that I’ve understood:

“Hey, baby.”

(Twice)

Once when I kissed his cheek and once when Bev said, “Jade is here.”

Anyway, he stuck his hand out of the blanket and Bev said, “I think he wants you to hold his hand,” and I did and he squeezed it pretty tight and damn I want to remember this moment.

I took a picture because even though I swore I didn’t want to document his frailty or illness, this doesn’t particularly feel like either. 


After a while, he woke up and was a little confused about what was going on. He’d say things like “we should probably get going” or “do we have to be out by the 16th?” He seemed pretty focused on moving/leaving the house/paying rent, but I tried to ease his worries and talk about other stuff.

I asked if he had a favorite Jimi Hendrix song (which he doesn’t.) I asked the same question when he was in the hospital 3 months ago and he didn’t have a favorite song then either, but I do think Jimi is probably his favorite artist.

I asked if he’d seen the news about the Flint water crisis, and told him that the governor allowed these people to be poisoned. Mostly I was just trying to fill the silence, and eventually he closed his eyes and seemed like he was going to fall back asleep, so I told him I was leaving, and I kissed his cheek and told him I love him.

(Twice)

Predestination is bullshit, but this feels real

Written on January 15, 2016 (12 days before)

Before I forget: I have a couple more clear, understandable Dad things.

“Be careful.”

“Sorry.”

I’m trying not to be sad all the time, but goddamn it, I am. Dad saying, “Be careful” just felt so…almost normal? That’s what he always says when we leave, and I appreciated that moment, but I get the feeling that he has to put out a lot of effort to do that. I don’t know.

The “sorry” though. God, I hate that sorry. Dad apologized to me after I threw one of his snotty/spitty tissues away, and just…fuck, I hate that he hates this. And I just want to be able to pretend that everything is normal, but it’s not fucking normal. This is so hard for me, and he knows it, but he has to know that I would throw away his nasty tissues and fix his cannula and help him drink water and fix his pillows and rub his neck and give him more blankets every day if he needed it. It’s not a burden for me to do those things. I want to be there. And I want him to know that I want to be there. I don’t want him to apologize to me for relying on me a couple hours a day.

This blog post probably makes no sense but I’m not going to read over it before I post.

In the past, I’ve kind of resented the fact that I’ve lived my whole life in Springfield. I hated myself for my many roads not taken. I didn’t go to NYU. I hardly applied to or considered any schools outside of Missouri. I went to grad school in Springfield. I got a job in Springfield.

For years and years and years—since before I started high school, for sure—I knew that I wanted to leave here. I always said I’d go to school out of state, or at the very least, a few hours away. I wanted to live in a big city…or really anywhere but here. So how did I end up here? Why did I end up here?

Initially, I think I stayed for a few reasons: It was the safe choice, I had good scholarships, and I wouldn’t have to leave whatever boy prospects I had going at the time. Later, I stayed for similar reasons. It made financial sense to stay, but I always had one foot out the door and my eyes on the horizon. When I started at the Honors College, I didn’t resent myself for staying quite so much. After all, I’d found my calling, and if I hadn’t taken these particular roads, I probably wouldn’t have found myself doing this particular thing that I loved. (Of course, I may have found a different passion, but whatever.)

Anyway, I had found something I loved, and I used it as a reason to let go of any regrets I had about going to school in my hometown (twice), near my boyfriend (twice). I was happy with where I ended up, but a big part of me still felt like I had sold myself short for years, and that I was doing far too few extraordinary things, or even just above average things. I didn’t want to live the life that most of my high school classmates were living. I still don’t.

That said, I’m glad I’m here. And I typically don’t believe in fate and serendipity, but right now I kind of need to believe that all of my possibly-shitty decisions have led to me being here for this. Because if at any point I had left Springfield, I’m positive I wouldn’t have come back. I’m glad I’m here. Somebody has to be here.

I don’t know, part of me almost feels like I was predestined to be the one who stayed. I can’t imagine what it would be like if Jaz was gone, and Michael was locked up, and I was in New York or something. As much as I hate this place, and as much as I want to get out, I will never regret being here with him.

Also, just an FYI for future me who looks back at this blog post and cries: When I leave, I always kiss Dad’s cheek and tell him I love him. And then he tells me he loves me. And then I tell him I love him again, just because I need him to know that I heard.

I swear I’m ending this post, but I just remembered something. The other day, when Steven was leaving, Steven said bye and kissed Dad’s head, but Dad didn’t seem super aware/awake. As Steven was walking out the door, Dad said (pretty clearly), “Thanks for stopping by,” but Steven was already half out the door and didn’t respond, because he didn’t hear him.

I never want that to happen when I’m leaving. I want to say I love you, and I want to acknowledge that I receive and appreciate his love, and I want to him to know that I know that he appreciates me. Right now, honestly, I think he needs to feel heard. He is seeking validation. I’m sure he fucking hates it when people are talking all around him, talking about him, but not talking to him. Not hearing what he’s saying.

Well, I may not hear what he’s saying most of the time, but I’m damn sure going to talk to him anyway. And I’m going to make sure he knows how much I love him.

And I’m thinking about What Sarah Said

Written on January 14, 2016 (13 days before)

“Love is watching someone die.”

Heads up: this post is coming to you straight from Bummerville.

I’ve meant to write so many times in the last couple weeks, but I couldn’t really bring myself to open my laptop and write the first sentence. So here goes.

Dad is dying. I know, technically he’s been dying for a while. Technically we’re all dying. Right now, though…it seems imminent.

On December 11, Greg and Nancy had their annual Christmas party. Dad was tired. I sat by him. Bev would go fill his plate, and it was obvious that he didn’t have a lot of energy to run around the house, but he was there and aware and talking and mostly being himself.

On December 25, Dad slept for most of the day. Bev wasn’t there. In hindsight maybe I should have been more…helpful? But I didn’t want to make him feel like I was babying him. Throughout this whole process, I’ve tried to treat him the same as always, with the occasional health question thrown in. Anyway, he was tired, and he was in pain, but when he was awake, he was mostly the same as usual. Standing for a picture was difficult, and he was shaking the whole time, but he did it. I kind of hated making him stand for a picture, but at the same time, I needed it. I won’t apologize for needing it.


The next couple weeks, he looked bad. Way worse than Christmas. He fell asleep a lot, but he still asked us questions and talked to us about as much as usual.
The last thing I remember him saying clearly—I think this was the day after Jaz left—was in response to me saying I’d be back to see him soon. He said, “Please do. Your daddy’s wasting away.”

He also thanked me for checking on him (I don’t remember when he said that, but I’m cataloging as many of his words as I can.)

I am heartbroken. The next time I came to see him—maybe a couple days later—he could barely speak. I don’t know if he’s just too tired to talk or if the pain medicine is fogging his brain or what, but about 99 percent of his words come out as an unintelligible mumble. I try to talk to him as much as I can, but it is hard, because he’ll mumble back to something I’ve said, and I can’t tell if he’s really trying to engage in conversation or if he’s just kind of out of it. And I don’t want to talk over him if he is trying to say something, but I don’t want to constantly ask him what he said either.

Every once in a while, he’ll say something that comes out fairly clearly. I think it takes a lot of effort, so I’m going to store the memories and be thankful for them.

One night, after I helped him adjust his cannula, he mumbled, and when I didn’t respond, he turned to me and said, “Thank you.”

Last night, Bev and Greg helped him walk to his bed so he could go to sleep. I sat beside him and kissed him on the cheek and told him I love him. I’m trying to never let a day go by without telling him I love him. He replied, “I love you,” and then I think he was scared that I didn’t hear or understand him, because he said it again, louder, and that time I replied, “I love you too.” And then I left.

More than anything, I want him to know that I love him, but I also recognize that it’s important for him to know that I heard him, and that he loves me too. I’m trying to be there, but it’s hard to watch him die. It’s hard to watch him waste away. I don’t know what his last words to me will be, and I don’t know if I’ll understand them, so starting now, I’m keeping track of the ones I do understand.

I’m carrying those words with me wherever I go.

Thoughts on The Lion King: After

Mufasa: Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars. 

Young Simba: Really? 

Mufasa: Yes. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I. 

Today, as part of our training requirements, we had a movie night in our town. We planned to watch Frozen, but a few things went wrong and we ended up watching The Lion King.


Almost immediately, I started getting emotional. (Note: for me, emotional means feeling a tightness in my chest, remaining stoic, and shedding approximately zero tears.) I realized how long it had been since I’d seen this movie. I can’t pinpoint a day, month, or year, but I immediately, overwhelmingly realized that the last time I’d seen it was before Dad’s death.

(Remember how my life feels divided into Before and After? The after continues to be confuse me daily.)

Watching The Lion King today—after—I was hyper aware of any and all connections I had to the story. 

Like Mufasa, Dad scolded us very, very rarely and he was always quick to forgive. He had a strong, silent presence that I miss constantly.

When Mufasa died, I almost left the room. (And by that I mean I considered going outside but stayed firmly planted in my chair, eyes stinging but dry, and forced myself to confront my feelings, but my friends likely had no idea that I was having a silent breakdown.)

The way Simba runs to his father’s body, touches him, urges him to wake up, and feels extreme guilt for his father’s death…I’m not saying that’s autobiographical…actually, fuck it, yes I am.

It was a Wednesday. I’d been planning to see him that morning at 11. At 10:45, I missed three calls from Bev. I called back and Uncle Greg answered and said we’d talk when I got there.

I sped. I called Jasmine when I got to the roundabout and left her a voicemail, and then she called me back and I told her that I was driving to Dad’s but that I thought something was wrong. I didn’t know exactly what, but I felt like I needed to prepare her. She’d been planning on coming back home to see him in two days, and I thought maybe he’d gone into a coma. Maybe she’d never hear his voice again.

I got to his house, and people hugged me and comforted me, even though nobody had told me what happened. I went into his bedroom and sat in the same spot I’d occupied the night before. I held his hand as I had before, but everything was different. Now was after.

That was my moment after the stampede, and the silence was excruciating. It was just me and him…actually, maybe it was just me. There were no sounds of his breathing. No rustling of blankets as he turned in his sleep. He wasn’t going to wake up and say, “Hey, baby.” There were no sounds of old westerns playing on the TV. It was too quiet, life without him. Life after him.

I held it together for a minute, and then I sobbed, because I knew I had to call Jasmine. I didn’t beg him to wake up—at least not out loud—but I felt like he should just be able to open his eyes at any moment and give us—give Jasmine—one more day with him.

And then I felt crushing, crushing guilt, not because I felt responsible for his death, but because I’d led Jasmine to believe that there was more time. On Monday, I’d told her I had a feeling she should come home soon, but that of course she didn’t need to get on the train that night. Of course she could wait until Friday.

I called Jasmine and somehow the words “Dad died” left my mouth. I remember almost nothing else, except that I apologized to her over and over and she just kept saying “it’s not your fault.” She was so calm in that moment—she managed to save her breakdown until after she hung up—and I was sitting in his house and the funeral home hadn’t come to pick up his body and I felt the enormous weight of life After Dad. The rest of the world was going on the same as it had before, and I had to call Jasmine and Mom and I had to tell my boss that I wouldn’t be coming back to work yet, that my early lunch break had turned into a long weekend.

When my brother called and asked “How’s Dad?” I had to break the news.

I had to tell friends in St. Louis that I needed to drive up there and sit on their couch and wait for Jasmine’s train to come.

All I wanted to do was run away by myself, pick Jasmine up from the train station, and listen to Jimi Hendrix and Gil Scott-Heron on repeat. 

(To this day, when I need to feel calm, and especially during literal storms, I sing “All Along the Watchtower.” Over and over and over.)

I told Dad’s family that I was planning to go get Jasmine, and they all insisted that I take someone with me. That they could go with me. I said that I was fine, but obviously Mom and Daddy Mike and sisters and all the people who love me weren’t about to let me cry-drive into a telephone pole, so Mom drove me. I didn’t cry for the rest of the day.

Okay honestly I didn’t mean to go into that much detail about my equivalent of the post-stampede scene, and I am sobbing in my room and I gave myself a headache so I’m moving on.

(Mark your calendars, y’all: on October 8, 2016, Jade had her first cry in Nicaragua. I think the first since Dad’s birthday week, actually.)

Anyway, moving on. THIS IS A LION KING REFLECTION, REMEMBER?

When Simba asks Rafiki, “You knew my father?” and Rafiki responds, “Correction: I know your father,” I felt a tightness in my chest. When I speak English, I almost always, on instinct, refer to Dad in the present tense. Even eight months later, he feels present.

When Rafiki makes Simba look at his reflection to see his father, he says, “He lives in you.” That seems like such an obvious statement, but some days I need the reminder. I think if you’d asked Dad at any point during the last 2+ decades, “what are you proudest of?” he would have responded, “my girls.” Are we his legacy?

The weight of a legacy can feel really heavy when people have high expectations of you, but I never felt like Dad expected us to do great things; he simply knew we would. He has no Pride Rock. I don’t think he’d ever see my life as an extension of his, as something that he started and left me to finish. He just…sees me and believes in me. He sees me completely differently than I see myself.

He wrote that I’m a wonderful daughter.

That I’m warm.

Smart.

Charming.

Everything that one could ask for in a daughter.

I feel that I think pretty highly of myself, but for years, I’ve described myself negatively in the following ways:

Bad daughter. Cold and unemotional. Rude. Unfriendly. Selfish.

But damn it. He loves me. Loved me. Loves me. He’s never blamed me. He sees me for all the things I’ve done right, and he forgives all the things I’ve done wrong. And I’ve done a lot of things wrong. I feel like I did fine when I was a kid, but as soon as I got a whiff of independence, I spent a decade being a shitty daughter. Then two years being an okay daughter.

All he sees is wonderful. Everything one could ask for in a daughter. Can that part of him live in me? I want it to. I want to forgive. I want to see the best and let go of the worst.

Sometimes (often) I’m angry that I have to live the rest of my life without him, that I didn’t have more time to do better with him. That I didn’t do better with the time I had with him.

Sometimes I feel like I’m growing into a new person and he can’t witness it. Maybe…hopefully…hopefully I’m becoming the person he always saw. Maybe I can become more like him in all the right ways.

Funny without trying. Patient. Calm. Forgiving. 

(Okay this post used to be about The Lion King and now that I’ve stopped crying I think it’s gone waaaaay downhill and also it feels sooooo loooooong.)

It’s hard to compare much of my experience to The Lion King because Simba ran away in a way that I really haven’t, and he came back in a way that I haven’t needed to. (I’ve actually been pretty open with my feelings since Dad’s death. Mostly with Jasmine, but that still counts.)

I do see myself in Simba’s guilt, and even though I know none of this is my fault, I will probably always feel some regret. 

Maybe I should try to tie this up with one last cheesy Lion King reference about facing your feelings head on? (And maybe crying more than once in six months, you robot.)

Maybe I could say something about confronting your past (confronting years of guilt over being a bad daughter) and kicking it into the fire and allowing life to continue and flourish without the burden of that negativity?

SORRY Y’ALL, I’m tired and my comparisons fell flat a long time ago but this has been cathartic. Goodnight.


Antes y después: la linea de mi vida

Monday, we started Spanish class in a new location with a new teacher. The new location is the porche of my casa and the new language facilitator is the guy who did my initial Spanish language  interview a month ago in Managua. I was a little nervous to have classes with him (actually, we didn’t know who our new profe would be until he showed up at 8ish on Monday morning). We didn’t know what to expect, but it was fine.

We loved our first teacher (they say you never forget your first) and I was sad to change, but I understand the value of learning from people with different perspectives and teaching methods.

One of the first activities we did Monday was the linea de mi vida, so I had to make a timeline of my life—including all of the highs and lows—and stand in front of the class and talk about it in detail.

I haven’t cried in Nicaragua. I don’t think I cried in the 3–4 months leading up to my departure (but I came close on the day that I left my job and at the airport when I said goodbye to big sister.)

Anyway, as I was standing in front of the class talking about my life, I felt a little emotional, and it almost showed. I talked about how my parents got divorced, and I said that have a stepdad, but in my heart I have two dads who are equal. En mi corazón, mi papá y mi padrastro son iguales. Tengo dos papás.

Hablé de my favorite memory, cuando Jasmine golpeó a mi novio abusivo en su cara.

Mostly though, I talked about the two most emotional subjects in my life: Harry Potter and Dad.

I talked about how the end of Harry Potter marked the end of my infancia, and about how I had a complete emotional breakdown—lloré mucho en el cine—after I finished the last movie (because my childhood ended una vez más.) I talked about how Harry Potter changed my life, and how reading book one in Spanish is like a brand new experience, like I’m a kid again, living the magic for the primera vez.

The end of my timeline was Dad’s death. I don’t have sufficient words in any language to express how hard it was (and still is.) I purposefully ended my timeline there; in many ways, I feel like Dad’s death is still shaping me too profoundly for there to be an after. It still kind of feels like during, you know? Or maybe there is a before and after, but the after just feels like a weird blur that isn’t allowed to be real.

(Side note: I feel like every time I meet a new person, I have to work Dad’s death into the conversation immediately. It isn’t really typical first-meeting conversation, but also I still have a dad who is alive and living in Missouri, so I kind of need everyone to recognize that yes, I have an awesome dad whose shenanigans I’ll likely reference in the present tense, but I also have a gaping hole in my heart that will always belong to Daddy Glenn. Maybe I’d just rather explain it all now than deal with confusion later? [“Oh, your dad died? When did that happen? Weren’t you just talking about him tying flies with squirrel fur?” “No, the dad who ties flies isn’t the dad who died. I have two dads but for some reason I’m just now mentioning that.”])

Anyway, the first question my profe asked after I presented my linea de mi vida was “What about the Peace Corps?”

Fair question, but it’s complicated. I ended my timeline where I did for a reason, but I ended up drawing a point in 2016 for Cuerpo de Paz after he asked. I had to explain that I am happy to be here and I love Nicaragua, but it’s difficult to think about the Peace Corps so close to Dad’s death, because I never told him about my Peace Corps plans. Ten years of thinking about it and a year of application stuff, but I never told him. I was offered this Nicaragua gig on New Year’s Eve, and he died less than a month later.

I explained that I didn’t tell Dad about it because I didn’t want to give him preocupaciones at the end of his life, but después, I really wanted to be able to tell him. 

I’d give anything to tell him and have him say, “be careful” one more time.

For the record, talking about this in Spanish is about 100x more emotionally draining than talking about it in English, so I quickly got to the point where I literally couldn’t continue speaking. I think if I had, I might have shed a tear on my porch in front of my friends and my new profe, so I just said “that’s all.” Luckily, all of the other follow-up questions were about Harry Potter, and I was running late to my English class so I had to cut the preguntas and run across town to play Jeopardy with my 9th graders.


Sueños de su Risa

Last night, I dreamt about Dad. It’s certainly not the first dream about him; for about two months after he died, he made appearances in my dreams almost nightly. For a week leading up to his birthday, I had a lot of anxiety and a lot of dreams.

I think this is the first one I’ve had since I’ve been in Nicaragua. In the dream, I was sitting in a big backyard watching a home video with a bunch of people, and suddenly, unexpectedly, I saw Dad projected onto the wall, and I heard his laugh. I ran back to Jasmine, who was sitting a few rows behind me, and I smacked her, yelling, “Did you hear Dad’s laugh? Dad just laughed!”

In my dreams, he is always sick, dying, or dead. Never, even in my subconscious mind, do I get a moment of feeling like everything is okay.

I miss the sound of trains. When I was younger and Dad worked for the railroad, I used to see a train and imagine that it was his train, that he’d see me and smile and wave as he passed.

When I got older and understood where his route was (nowhere near me) I still felt that connection. Every train had the potential to be Dad’s train.

I’d hear them as I fell asleep, and I’d feel like he was nearby. Even when he retired, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and hear a train over a mile away, and I’d feel like he was thinking of me.

It’s been seven months since he died, and I still feel that way. His presence feels strongest when trains pass, and especially at night, they comfort me.

There are no trains here.

When I hiked to the laguna, someone told me that there used to be trains—passenger trains—but one derailed and fell into the laguna, killing hundreds (or thousands) of people.

Anyway, I miss the trains, and I miss his laugh. I don’t remember the last time I heard him laugh. I catalogued lots of “lasts” but somehow I lost that one.

La memoria ha huido.