For most, Groundhog Day is the first sign that winter will soon be ending; that from Feb. 2 forward, the sun will become brighter and warmer, and things might start looking up. For me, that’s the day after Valentine’s Day. Now, I know disliking this Hallmark holiday is nothing original. Even folks in relationships don’t particularly look forward to the day but merely view it as an opportunity (or obligation, depending on the longevity of the relationship) to demonstrate their affection for the one they’ve chosen to call their own. And yes, we’ve all heard time and again from the legions of heartbroken and disenchanted who feel marginalized and excluded by all the superficial declarations of love. I’m with you guys on that. But for me, it’s personal in a different way.
Feb. 14, 2011, was the worst day of my life. It actually didn't start out too bad. I had the day off work, because my friends and I were going to see Del The Funky Homosapien that night. Before heading to the show, we all went over to Maggie's place to pregame, because Maggie was the coolest, and that's what we always did.
Everyone loved Maggie, she was that mellow, carefree girl with a great sense of humor who you could do no wrong around. I really loved Maggie. I'd told her so months earlier, but she "wasn't looking for a boyfriend." It was that evening, as we all sat around drinking wine and getting excited, that I realized how close she and Dan were. When he leaned over and coyly pecked her on the cheek, I began to realize what everyone else in our group of friends had managed to figure out long before: Maggie wasn't looking for a boyfriend because she already had one. I wish the story ended here.
I was in the passenger seat of Tyler's car, pulling out of Maggie's driveway half an hour later, when my phone started ringing. The last coherent memory I have is wondering why my sister would be calling me at close to 1 am, her time. I'm not sure how many times I asked, "Hello?" to the sobbing on the other end of the line before she started croaking, "It's Dad … He's gone."
I don't know if I hung up on her before punching the glove compartment and repeatedly screaming, "FUCK," until Tyler pulled over. The only thing I remember clearly about the rest of the night is walking home, in the rain, sobbing, wanting to scream, "MY DAD IS DEAD!" at every passerby, so they wouldn't assume I was some pathetic loser who had just had his heart broken on Valentine's Day. But I was. I was that, too.
I heard the concert was awful, too.
It's been close to five years now since that awful, shitty night. I still miss my father on a daily basis. But weirdly, I feel like in the last five years, we've been closer than we ever were in the five years before his death. Every time I've wanted to share something with him, or talk to him, I can hear his answer as clearly as my own voice in my head. I can't exactly remember what Maggie's face looks like.
I probably still haven't totally gotten over that night, but over the years, I learned something about loss: If you knew what you had to begin with, nothing can ever take away the way that person made you feel. Because if what we share in life is real, we start to become part of one another.
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