After my dad died, it felt like the whole world started going downhill.

Tom Petty, whose music helped me get through my father’s death (I guess I shouldn’t use past tense there – clearly I’m not through it), died 20 days after Dad. Barbara Bush, whose name was on the hospital wing next to Dad’s. Aretha Franklin, after whom my family named our emerald-green Ford Explorer because, as my mom said, that car “could do anything.” John McCain, a man my father very much admired. When McCain cast his last big Senate vote – the thumbs-down on Affordable Care Act repeal – my father was overjoyed. At that time, late last July, I think Dad knew he was dying. And he knew that when he died, my mom and sister would lose their health insurance. And he knew that John McCain’s vote would allow them to continue getting health care through the exchanges.

There was the Las Vegas shooting. The Parkland shooting. Santa Fe. Sutherland Springs. Hurricane Maria. Dozens of men, some of whom my family had admired personally (Morgan Freeman! Garrison Keillor!) were revealed to be harassers and abusers of the worst kind. Hundreds of children were torn from their families at our borders; many remain imprisoned. There’s a giant, growing garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean.

In my own family, my grandmother died (suddenly and unexpectedly). My uncle (not suddenly, and very much expectedly, but still sad. Cancer). Our dog (also cancer – who even knew that dogs could get skin cancer?). I descended into the depths of alcoholism and am only now clawing myself out. And, for some reason, the electricity in our bathroom shorted out, and now we have to shower by candlelight (not a tragedy, to be sure, but a cherry of inconvenience on top of the manure sundae of this year).

I have now lived a whole year without my dad. One full rotation around the sun. Wednesday, Sept. 12, was the anniversary. (It was also my 26th birthday. Thanks for that one, Dad.)

It’s been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I hate it. I don’t want to have to do it again. But I have to keep doing it forever, and that feels too big to wrap my head around, like when I’m trying to imagine how many earths can fit into the sun and how small we must be. I get the same feeling when I try to think about going the rest of my life without ever having a glass of wine again. When I get the too-big-too-scary-everything-is-spinning feeling, I look down at my feet. I focus on getting through the day. I do what I can to make the world a tiny bit better for someone, even if for just a moment.


I’ve written 30 columns for this paper; I’ve mentioned my dead dad in 15 of them. This column wasn’t originally supposed to be a weird public form of journal therapy, but I guess that’s what happens when you hire a grieving introvert. And more than that – I wanted to keep sharing my dad with the world. He wasn’t a perfect person, but he was a good man. The world pretty clearly needs more of those.

My father was Ross. He was an optimist. Like another lawyer with a great beard, he believed in the better angels of our nature. He believed in education and being kind to animals and in the healing power of Jimmy Buffett music. One of the only times I ever heard him use a swear word was when he found out Willie Nelson had cut his braids off. He loved gardening and barn swallows and watching green things grow. He always cheered for the underdog (he was a diehard Red Sox fan, after all).

The world is dark and loud and scary. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed. I want to free fall out into nothing; drink too much and leave this world for a while. But I can’t. I won’t. I won’t back down. My dad’s not here; I still am. He can’t fight for what he believed in, but I can. And so I have to. And so I will. I will keep this world from dragging me down. I will stand my ground.

And I won’t back down.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial

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