Six months without Dad. Six months of dealing with his death. That six month marker doesn't really reflect how long I've been facing it. I've been facing it since I noticed the DNR bracelet he wore during his first hospitalization, and since I noticed during the second hospitalization that he wasn't wearing one, and asked him about it.
I told him I was one of them, and he smiled.
Noticing and marking these monthlong intervals is one way a new death is like a birth. In the days after a birth, a child is days old, then weeks old, then months old. We note developments keyed to these increments and compare the child to other children we meet of the same age, though we know we're not supposed to.
I've noticed some developmental milestones of my own since January 11. I no longer start all conversations as if I'm continuously in the middle of a thought about my feelings about Dad, or completing an interrupted story about him, or sharing a memory of a moment that keeps sticking in my head.
I no longer arrive home from the minimal obligations I was able to uphold and curl up with snacks and beer on the couch to take a break from the voices and noises inside my head. Not every day.
I no longer feel haunted by his face in the last moments, when the only question that came to mind was, “How will we know he's dead? How do we decide?”
More rarely than in earlier months, a wave of grief washes over me, and I have to surf it to shore. This week, I deleted Dad's email address from my “Family” list, and though I knew I wasn't deleting him as a member of my family, that one hurt. This time.
This time, so clearly marked. Each month counted marks a success, like keeping a baby alive.