9 Years / Sisters.

9 years ago today my Dad died of cancer.

My family has had a lot of conversations about my Dad in the last nine years. We speculate about who he would be if he was still living.  We share the dreams he appears in.  We try to explain the brief, magical moments in which it feels like he might be trying to say something through a stranger or an animal or a snowball.  We laugh and cry and roll our eyes as we reminisce about who he was nine, eighteen, or twenty something years ago.

Nine years gone, he does not feel like a large part of our lives most of the time.

I was not thinking about my dad’s deathaversary a week and a half ago when my sister jokingly told me that I should tag along on their trip back to Chicago and I hastily packed a bag and got in the car.  Nor was I thinking about my dad’s deathaversary when I booked my flight away from Chicago for the morning of the 7th instead of the 6th or the 8th.

Not only was I not really thinking about the significance of today leading up to it, I also found that the conversations I had about him last night and early this evening felt a little hollow and unimportant.  There is only so much that can be said about a death and maybe nine years is enough time to say it all.

Regardless, Evie, Sarah, and I decided to have dinner together tonight, partially to commemorate our dad and partially because it is my last night in town.

The three of us looked around the table at each other. We had each just told a funny dad story and none of us was sure where the conversation would head next.

Evie said that she could not remember the Thanksgiving we celebrated before Dad died.

A moment pops into my mind. It is Thanksgiving and the conversation is moving around the table in an organized circle as each of us dutifully recites something for which we are thankful.

“Do you remember – ?”

I start and then stop and then start again, “Was it that year or the year before when he said he couldn’t think of anything he was thankful for?”

The pitch of my voice raises briefly before it breaks. I swipe at my eyes with hasty fingers and laugh over my tears.  “I didn’t expect to cry tonight.”

“It was that Thanksgiving.” Sarah’s voice is quiet. Tears flicker in the wells of her eyes.

“I don’t remember that.” Evie’s eyes skitter in their sockets. Her brows raise.

“It was so sad,” I explain it to them even though they already know, “It was so sad because that isn’t Dad at all. That isn’t something he would ever say.”

I haven’t talked about my Dad in the present tense in eight years. It’s a verbal tick I thought I had outgrown.

Over the next two hours the three of us share and share and share.  Some of the conversation is familiar. There are certain stories that surround Dad’s death that we tell often enough that we could probably tell them for each other.  Where were we? What time did we get in? Who was in the car? Did we sleep the night before?

But tonight we share peripheral moments and inner monologues that we’ve each held close for the last nine years. We have told snippets of them in the past, but never like this. Never to each other like this.  We let our regrets be regrets and our hurt be hurt in a way that I don’t think the three of us ever had together before.

We talked about being too close, too far away, too late, and too tired. We talked about the people who made us angry, the ones who hurt us, and the ones who gave us life.  We talked about how our situations were imperfect and draining and how awful it was to experience death so young. People who are the ages we were have trouble doing the right thing in ordinary situations, much less life-altering ones.

Like the northern lights, our stories dance and flow, contrasting and harmonizing all at once.  I am surprised that such revelations are possible after so many years. My own history seems a little clearer in the light of their stories.  At the end of the night our three stories hang as one above our heads and shimmer.

I am so grateful for the series of coincidences that put me in Chicago this weekend.

I am so grateful for the conversation I had with two of my sisters tonight.

I am so grateful for our shared stories.

I am so grateful for the shift in perspective that resulted that I think I needed.

I am so grateful.