This week marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death. It’s hard to believe how fast a year goes by. It’s been more than a year since I haven’t been able to pick up the phone and call him, hear his voice, ask for advice, and give him good news about my life.
It’s been more than a year than someone from my family calls for the simple reason of knowing how I’m doing. Don’t get me wrong, I get calls from my family, but most of them come with side issues for me to solve. Dad’s calls were different, which may explain why I barely talk on the phone anymore. Never during my dad’s struggle with cancer did I receive a call from him complaining about his pain, about how miserable chemotherapy made him feel, about the times he thought of just giving up. Never.
My dad’s phone calls were always filled with joy and love, he never missed a chance to remind me how proud he was of me. He never missed an opportunity to give me advice, which is one of the things I miss the most. Now I can just hold on to the memories, to the way he guided me while he was still around, to those things he once said that now I can just try to mold into advice that will fit in other scenarios.
It hurts a lot. Many people have believed in me, but no one did it as strong as he did. When I came to him with a trembling voice and told him what had been one of my deepest secrets, his response was one filled with love. Unphazed by my confession he reminded me how much he loved me and how nothing could ever change that. It wasn’t just words. He meant it, and I knew he did.
A year has passed since I’ve been able to hold his hand, to hear him burp, to laugh at his jokes, to hear the joy in his voice when he reacted to good news I’d delivered. It’s been a year filled with emotions, feelings, struggles. It’s been a year where many, even in my own family, have not understood what I’m going through. While others have focused on material things I’ve had to hide my pain, put a straight face and remind myself of how Dad would’ve dealt with them.
One of my proudest achievements is not even something I did to be successful. One of my proudest achievements is that while my dad was around I strived to make him proud. I got my Master’s Degree in part because he had one, I left Puerto Rico in search of a better life, because he also did that once upon a time. You see, my Dad, as successful as he came to be wasn’t raised with a silver spoon, how could I having been raised with better things not at least attempt to be successful?
Dad worked his ass off to achieve success in life. Born in Florida, he went through foster home after foster home, hitchhiked through the states while being a teen, slept under trains and went through some very difficult situations that did not deter him. He enlisted in the Air Force, moved to Puerto Rico, was a high school teacher, a college professor with a master’s degree in business from Harvard and a top executive for an international company. He had open heart surgery a very long time ago, and while Cancer ultimately beat him, he fought it for years. David Duren was one hell of a fighter. Those are just some of the reasons why I too have always wanted to succeed, he was my closest example of success, and a great one at that.
While tears stream down my face I can find a certain solace and peace in remembering those times when he told me how proud he was of me. That peace is what I have been able to hang on to when my heart keeps breaking from not having him around. It’s one of the toughest balancing acts I’ve had to deal with. I never knew this pain before, the pain of an absence that will simply remain, knowing that I can’t grab the phone and call him, or get on a plane and see him. A pain that constantly shakes me to the core and that most of the time I can’t even explain.
On April of last year his phone calls changed, a lack of clarity seemed to start, and that’s when the first cracks of my broken heart happened. I knew something was changing, he tried to tell me things that he would forget mid-sentence, but he never once forgot to say I love you. Then on my last trip to Puerto Rico at the end of May 2012 my pain took a visible form when I saw what his once-strong body had become. His skin had turned to a ghastly yellow hue, his eyes lacked direction and purpose, his words had become grunts of pain and discomfort. But even in the haze that he appeared to be in, every now and then I would see him stare into my eyes and without words I could still see him communicate the love that he so often expressed with words. I would hold his hand and tell him to rest, to let go if possible, to not fight anymore so he could get rid of the pain, words that pierced my heart as each came out of my mouth. But I didn’t want him to suffer anymore.
Dad and I, we always had a connection. I knew he didn’t want me to suffer his death. I also know he knew his absence would create a deep void in my life, it hurt him deeply. Laying in his deathbed I saw him struggle to stay for one more day. The day after I arrived back in Dallas, he left. My world still seemed to crumble.
One year after his death, my heart seems to be in a deeper pain from the lost I have experienced. Maybe because it went so fast, but maybe because as I achieve happiness in other areas of my life it saddens me to not have him rejoice along with me.
As I type these things I have to look deep inside and say thanks. I’m thankful to God for he Dad he gave me. I’m grateful or the friend, the mentor, the teacher he allowed me to have for thirty years. I feel privileged and highly favored for being able to enjoy the company of the illustrious David Duren, a man of caliber, with a ridiculous sense of humor, who really liked good food and cold beer. A man who gave his relentless love to his children no matter how much pain they put him through. A man who fought for what was right and showed me that many things in live are worth the hard work.
This difficult year, there have been a few people who have stood by me in the midst of all the turmoil that my Dad’s passing has brought, and I am very thankful to those people. It would be hard to mention every single one of the people who have told me “I know it’s hard, I understand” but if you’ve said even a word to encourage me through this I thank you. I do need to give special thanks to some people that have stood by me, that have seen the depth of my heartbreak and that have held my hand through the pain. Natalia(King Boo), I am more than thankful for all the time you have been by my side, keeping me in the right mindset and allowing me to grieve, it is no coincidence we both ended up here in Dallas. Karen(Pechu Jr.) we have texted each other every single day for about three years now, and through the best and toughest times you were there, thank you. Rafy, my little brother, who texts me an “I love you” in our own made-up language at the most random(and needed times) ta mo paui. And Mark, you arrived in my life shortly after Dad left, and when my pain has become unbearable you have held my hand, hugged me and made me feel loved, I love you mah boo.
If you read this whole thing, thank you for taking the time, I know it was a long one. I just felt the need to let some things out that have been too hard to put into words this past year.
Rand A. Duren