Red 40, Sugar, HFCS Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

The Man on the Metro

He didn't look like my dad, not at all, really. He had a full head of white curly hair, no beard or mustache and a completely different style of glasses.

But he was reading a Kindle.

The older kind, like the one I bought for my dad before he got seriously sick but when he was already not well. He needed extra large-print books — hard to find at the library, my mom said, at least the ones he wanted — and even the act of holding up a large heavy hardcover was getting hard on his wrists and hands. So I bought him a Kindle. He was reading it the last time I saw him, or at least the last time I really saw him, before the final sudden and rapid decline. 

The Metro was crowded and I had to lean away from the people standing in the aisle lest I wanted a messenger bag to the face. I glanced over at his Kindle and noticed he also had the text set fairly large. I didn't intend to be nosy but I immediately recognized what he was reading:

Act I, Scene I: Elsinore. A platform before the Castle.

"Hamlet!" I blurted out. 

He looked up, a little startled, then smiled. He hadn't read it in years, but had recently seen a production of it at the Folger Theatre downtown and decided to give it another go. He asked if I'd read much Shakespeare.

I explained that my father had taught Shakespeare for many, many years. So yes. 

"He passed away last year," I added, then paused to silently check my math. Last year? The year before? It feels like forever ago, most days. 

We continued chatting about this and that. Kindles are great, love that you can get the classics for free, etc. He asked if I'd followed in my dad's footsteps and I explained that while I wasn't a teacher, I'd minored in English and was now a writer. 

"Just online," I clarified. A weird compulsion, something I've done ever since a conversation I had with my dad in which he expressed his disappointment that I was wasting my "talents" on the little "web site thing" instead of focusing on getting published for real.

He apologized for that later, admitting that he didn't understand what I was doing at the time. He probably went on to tell me how proud he was of me and my writing accomplishments at least a dozen times, but still. "Just" online. A verbal tic that stuck.

He asked about my children's ages, and if any of them had inherited the knack for English and writing. I immediately boasted about Noah's book about the Scary Teacher from the Black Lagoon, a Frankenstein's monster type villain who frightens his students before being ultimately defeated by a single karate punch. 

I suddenly realized I was openly using this poor man as a stand-in, having a conversation with a surrogate PopPop and expecting a total stranger to be proud of my kid and the funny little book he wrote — but he WROTE it! he's WRITING! he's READING! he's just doing so GREAT, Dad, GREAT! if you could only SEE! — and was seized with a weird sort of panic when I realized we were at our stop. 

It was also his stop. He got up and left the train car. He immediately vanished into the crowd on the platform and I never saw him again.

I started choking back the sobs while still on the escalator. Jason was momentarily confused and then surmised that I'd been reminded of my dad, though I couldn't even dare explain the actual crazy thoughts rushing through my head at that moment — I wanted that man to come back. I wanted to talk to him some more. I wanted him to say goodbye to me. He should at least have said goodbye to me. Instead he just. Got up. And left. He left me. 

Come back. Come back!

He's not coming back. 

I know this. I knew this. But apparently I had to re-learn it on Friday night, through hours of ugly, raw sobbing until I had no tears left, but the grief kept rising and crashing, hitting me harder than even the night I got the phone call. I'd been expecting that phone call. 

I didn't expect to meet a nice older man on the Metro, reading Hamlet on his Kindle.

Photo (59)

I didn't expect it to hurt this much, still. 



I have no words other than Fuck Cancer. Forever and ever, amen.


This kind of thing happens to me all the time. You're normal. I once burst into tears at a football game because I saw a man in the stands who reminded me of my dad. I didn't even talk to him, but just that momentary mental flicker of "hey, is that Dad?" followed by "no it isn't dumbass, he's dead" was enough to crush me.

I had a dream just last night that I was away at some sort of summer camp. My mom, being the control freak she is, had written out all my postcards for me to send people while I was at camp, including address labels. So I was diligently preparing to post the mail, when I got to the one for my dad - which didn't have an address. And I was really mad, because I REALLY wanted to send a postcard for my Dad but I couldn't because I didn't know his address. I realized when I woke up that the reason I didn't know his address was because he's dead, and so of course I don't know his address...he doesn't have one. Sigh. This is four years later. It does get better, much much better, but there are still those moments you know?

PS - I'm pretty sure why the anger in the dream was directed toward my mother is because she just got a new in the dream I felt like she'd left my Dad's address out on purpose. Bitterness I didn't even know I had, thanks subconscious!!


Also, to Katherine above - so sorry for you and your daughter's sadness. Weddings are the worst. I don't even try to sit through father-daughter dances anymore. When I sense it is coming soon, I discreetly slip out to the bathroom and don't come back in until it's over. No one ever seems to notice. Honestly, it's not worth the agony. I'm not married yet so knowing my Dad won't get to dance with me at my wedding someday really hurts....maybe avoidance isn't the best policy, but I feel like me causing a scene is just distracting to the "bride's day" so off to the bathroom I go!


Oohh I hurt for you. There are still times when the urge to talk to one of my no-longer-around favorite people is so strong, I almost pick up the phone. It is almost a welcome memory "hug" for those who have been gone for a few years and harder to deal with for my MIL who just passed away in February. I wanted to call her so very badly last week to tell her about something my son did. I reached out for my cell phone and then had a quick cry session when I remembered I couldn't call her. I just knew it would crack her up.


Amy - you know by the comments that so many of us know exactly what you felt. EXACTLY. But Meredith, wayyyy above - made such a great point and why I try to remember all the time. I miss my mom so much because she was so awesome - and I was so stupidly blessed to have her in the first place. It doesn't make it easier - but its what I tell myself when I get caught wandering behind random women wearing my mom's perfume.

Big Gay Sam

Oh honey. I'm so sorry. There is no time limit on grief I'm finding out. I lost my brother last year and my mom a month ago.

I've learned that "a bleeding heart truly knows compassion."

The pain does fade with time. But it does become a part of you and who you are. This helps in reaching out to others and letting them know, "I know what you're going through."

I can tell you. It gets better. The ache goes away. You'll be hit with waves of nostalgia over the years but it slowly becomes a welcome friend.

Share share share! Write down and relate all the good things you shared with your father. Let them know what shaped you and helped make you who you are. Pass on the legacy. :)


Yep. That's the way it works. You're going along all lookit-me-handling-my-grief and POW! some little, old white-haired person just up and smacks ya right in the kisser.

My choir sings at a local seniors home from time to time. I have to be very careful when looking out into the audience lest I see someone who looks like one of my parents. If I spot a white-haired petite lady while we're singing the Irish Blessing, I'm done for. And my mom died in 1990. I don't know if this reaction ever goes away.


You are a lovely, lovely writer. And daughter. Take care.


My Daddy had been gone for six years, and every now and again I STILL expect to hear his key in the backdoor, to see him with his hair in disarray from the wind, and for him to tell me that everything has been a HUGE misunderstanding but he is home now.

I don't think those moments ever go away, to be honest. But at least they are not as frequent as they used to be. I was thirty six when he died, but I was (and am still) very much his little girl.

If I could give you a hug and a glass of wine, I would.


I lost my dad in July. I think-this is life. I knew it was coming. I'm ok, it's ok....

But I'm not and it's not.


I lost my dad in July. I think-this is life. I knew it was coming. I'm ok, it's ok....

But I'm not and it's not.


*weeps along with you*


Ah, jeez. I know, girl, I know. They don't have to look much like them to stir your heart. Just a similar gate, or maybe the same shoes...calls up this echo of incredible love and loss and longing. The loss of the physical connection is difficult and not often discussed; I feel like I am still searching for him whenever I'm in a crowd. It'll be four years this Halloween and while overall Dad not being here is "easier" than it was three years ago or two or one, I can still get hit with those stabs of grief that leave you breathless, or yeah, crying in the presence of WMATA employees. All it takes is one slightly crotchety old dude with a hearty laugh or wearing a chamois shirt.

I guess this isn't a very uplifting post but I've always hated it when people tell me, "It'll get better! Soon you'll just remember the good times! LOL" Just wanted you to know that you are so not alone, and that I appreciated this post.

Korinthia Klein

I'm so sorry. I wish you could have your dad back, even if just for a conversation to catch him up on everything.


I'm so SO sorry :(


Soon after my Dad was diagnosed with dementia, after some obvious deterioration . . .I saw my Dad's doppelganger in Wal Mart, a spry older man making conversation with EVERYONE same body type smile everything. He was about 10 years older than my Dad and exactly what I'd pictured him going to be in his golden years TOTALLY LOST IT IN WALMART- broke down sobbing and had to leave. I hear you. Hugs. Thanks for sharing - you are making me appreciate even more the short time we have left with him - and helping me prepare my heart for what is to come .


I've been there many times. Two days ago the 25th anniversary of my father's death past. I've been known to chase some poor man down in the mall and jump in front of him because he really, truly looked like my Dad. It never goes away, but it does get more bearable.


Thanks for your honesty and sharing.
lots of love


Amy, I'd be lying if I didn't say I felt something when I read this post. My Grandfather died this summer at 80 years old and when traveling recently I saw a man that actually did remind me greatly of him and it hit me hard once again that he was gone. I needed a minute to compose myself then, and found myself a little shocked by the fact that it hurt so much even now. Your words to speak to people and your work does matter, as clearly your father knew and that's a good thing. I'm sorry you (and I) are still searching for a little relief from the pain of these losses but I just want you to know one thing: I appreciate you sharing your feelings with those of us out here on the Internet.


Oh, Honey, I'm so sorry. It just rises up sometimes, doesn't it? Big hugs to you.

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