My father, Mike, died by suicide with a gun when I was 15 years old. Before that day, he had not owned or even fired a gun. The day my dad died shattered my life. My family was already in turmoil because my parents were separated and my mom was struggling with depression and alcohol abuse. During that time – for my whole life until that point, really – my dad had been my rock, my constant. He was steady and strong, and I never doubted that he would always be there for me. Until he wasn’t. I was devastated when he died and spent many years afterwards feeling lost and alone.
My dad’s absence was, of course, noticeable during the major milestone life events that happened for me in the years following his death – my high school and college graduations, my wedding, career accomplishments. When my husband and I bought our first home, and I could really have used some guidance. When my son was born and eventually started asking about what happened to Grandpa Mike. But it’s actually in the everyday life moments that I miss him most. There are many moments that survive for me 27 years later … I think of my dad any time I hear Willie Nelson or Journey on the radio (because that’s the only music we could agree on when we were in the car together!), when I make my grandmother’s meatballs and sauce (my dad was so proud of his Italian heritage), when I hear someone make a corny “dad joke,” and when my birthday comes around and I think of the year my mom had moved out and my dad took it upon himself to buy my birthday presents, which for some reason included a postcard of Chubby Checker (??).
My dad was my hero. He taught me so much about life, love, hard work and family. For a long time I didn’t really consider myself a survivor, but over the last year I’ve really embraced what that means. I survived the devastating loss of someone I loved with all my heart, and my life – while rich and wonderful – will never be the same.
I love you, Daddy. ❤️