Today is the birthday of Ian Malcolm Henderson.
He existed. He was here. Just as much as I am. Just as much as you are.
He once had his own hopes and dreams and fears. His own internal universe. A whole universe that I can never know.
And then he died.
Ian Malcolm Henderson should be 72 today. Instead, he's forever 56. I see his face and I see it as he was then. On bad days I picture it in his coffin. Him yet not him. Almost looking like he was asleep but the colour. The colour was wrong.
Either way, I can't picture him as 72.
I've aged 15 years and he hasn't changed a day.
And I can't let it go. I've struggled hugely with his death. I've felt sorry for me. Sorry for my mum. Sorry for him. Sorry for the shell of a family we were left with afterwards. And the hurt. The pain of grief is like nothing else. Truly. Like nothing else.
It's been here with me every single day of every single week of every single year since he died.
I apparently have failed to operate within the parameters of the 'classic stages of grief'. Therapists have told me a lot about the cycle of grief. The stages of grief. That I'm stuck. That I need to let go. That I need to reach the next stage.
Well, 15 years on, I think I've had to find my own way. I carry the sadness with me, but that also means I carry my dad within me. And that is the price of grief. You don't get to leave it behind, or move away from it. You have to absorb it and learn to accept the way it has changed you.
Next year, should we avoid political Armageddon and assuming that the world hasn't been obliterated in a Trump-induced nightmare, I will be marrying the best person I know. I'm delighted about this. Delighted to have found someone that makes me understand why people want to get married. It's an awesome thing. But I have a sadness that drags at the back of me as I choose a dress, and shoes and all the rest of the things that I had no idea you had to give a crap about when you get married.
My dad won't be there. I'll walk down the aisle alone. Much worse than that, he will never meet the man I marry. He'll never see that finally I got my shit together and chose someone worth it. Got past my addiction to feckless losers and found a man with integrity, kindness and intelligence.
I miss his voice. I miss his advice. I miss his approval and I miss him making me howl with laughter. I miss so much.
For someone who has no problem splicing words together to make whatever I need, I struggle over and over to find the right ones to describe quite how this feels. To suffer a loss that marks you for life is part of what it is to be human. The ability to adjust and grow through it is the hardest lesson I've ever had to learn.
One day I'll get there.
Happy birthday to my wonderful dad.