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  • Writer's pictureNazifa Islam

Three Years

I wish July 27, 2015 was just the day my dad died and not the day I watched my dad die.

When my dad died, my first feeling wasn’t grief or sorrow or unbearable sadness but relief because standing for forty minutes around a hospital bed watching somebody gasp themselves to death is horrible and I didn’t want to do it anymore. It still feels like that shouldn’t have been the way that happened.

A lot of people had opinions about taking my dad off the ventilator and it was annoying then—friends who had known him a few years, many years, for longer than I had been alive. It was beyond irritating at the time as family for them to offer insistent input. But I see it differently now—at least for those people who knew him long before I ever knew him and who knew him better than I ever knew him. They had more conversations with him. They probably got along better with him. They probably didn’t share so many sullen silences or explosive fights. How much thicker than water is blood really? No wonder they had opinions and wanted to be heard. Friendship matters. I don’t feel annoyed thinking back on all those conversations anymore—I can feel the panic and the grief—and I feel bad for those men who went to college with my father back in Bangladesh and wanted a say while he was unconscious and dying and didn’t really get one.

When I booked my ticket to fly home for this final trip, I accidentally booked it for July 2016. I was frazzled and I made a mistake. I didn’t realize my mistake until I was at the airport. The woman at the ticket counter had longer curly red hair and could sense my panic and she switched my flight without charging me anything. It was very kind of her.

Grief is so performative. This post is performative. Crying at the burial felt performative even though I wasn’t trying to be anything. Kissing my dead dad goodbye in the hospital felt performative even though I wanted to do it. There’s no getting away from the performance unless you sit in a room alone and don’t let anyone watch it happen.

I remember the bad things as easily as the good. I haven’t whitewashed my memories of my father and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. It’s just me remembering what happened while I was growing up—his buying books whenever we wanted and him having an awful temper.

He deserved more than sixty-three years. He ate really well. He exercised and didn’t drink or smoke and went to the doctor regularly. It’s a shame that he didn’t get more time because he wanted it. That surprised me when he was first diagnosed—how much he wanted more time. He never seemed like a “Live life by the fullest” kind of guy, but after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, it was clear that he desperately wanted more time. That makes me sad more than anything else. I’m not sad for myself so much as I am for him. He wanted time and he didn’t get it and that seems incredibly unfair.

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