“I have nothing to give you,” was one of the last things he said to me. We were standing in his hospital room and it had been about eight years since I had last seen him. He was unfamiliar to me having spent the majority of my life without him around but my usually quite shielded heart broke a little upon hearing those words.
“What are you going to give her? You’re broke,” joked my Grandma, our family’s signature sense of humour poking through the awkwardness. My parents laughed and I felt myself pulling the corners of my mouth back to feign a smile. By that point, I had already recoiled from what he had said and built up my stone walls.
When he passed, I wasn’t there. I was on the other side of the globe back home living life as best I could as an empty husk. When you’re the problem, you don’t really know you have a problem. Life was going okay.
I had just come off a barely emotionally maneagable series of events. I had closed my business. I cancelled a wedding. I left my partner of five years. I moved away from home into a place which was supposed to be ours. I had a new job. Then I had another new job. All this, within the span of less than twelve months.
I thought I was handling it. And then he died.
The majority of that day was spent watching everyone around me through my glass room. His 90th birthday was playing over and over again in my mind. He had been brought home for his birthday from the hospital and my Grandma, still so much in love, had been talking about seeing him for days.
We sat him in a chair in the living room of his home and I watched as people began filtering in. My aunts and uncles, my cousins and their children, and their children’s children filled the room until I could no longer tell who was related to me and how. I remember turning to my partner at the time and saying, “Wow, I can’t believe all these people came from them.”
His death compounded on top of the grieving for the life I had burned down. Change was the goal but I didn’t know how to get it and had hastily thrown away the entire thing. He showed me what I wanted that day but I had no idea what was in front of me. His death was the first step: my porcelain veneer cracked.
That life wasn’t what I wanted: it was The Default. The Default is the life you get if you don’t try very hard to put into motion what you want. The Default was what I had ended up with. When you figure that out, you need to escape but escape is never easy. I realized I didn’t like my life but I never realized the depth of the dislike until he died. After he passed, I re-evaluated everything. I needed him to help me with that.
The last three years have been rough; it has been spent tearing down who I was headed to be and forcibly changing the direction of my life. I’m still defining a clearer vision for what I want to see but I know I’m headed in a better direction. It hasn’t been the easiest journey but every step forward has made my universe just a little bit brighter.
In his death he gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever received: clarity. Thank goodness, because he’s more broke now than he’s ever been.
↩︎  The Tran family gene strikes again.
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