I have grown to be pretty desensitized of my dad's passing. It's not that I don't miss him or that he doesn't cross my mind on a daily basis, I just have grieved with him being gone in a different way.
I celebrate birthdays a little harder and appreciate wrinkles a little more. Growing old is a privilege that is denied to so many incredible people that I look forward to it. Not many understand that each tiny crease and furrow on our faces represents a moment in time in which we struggled, overcame, or simply lived. People are so set on filling in those crevices that they forget to remember how they ended up there in the first place.
Thirteen and a half years ago I lost the man who taught me what it meant to see the world. Not just with my wandering eyes but with the core of my being. We explored as much of this world as we could before he moved on to what people call, "a better place". I loathe that term. Devoted and a fighter, he would never have left his wife and children and considered it a better place. I hope everyone knows that about any loved ones they have had to say goodbye to. They are not leaving you, they are always around.
I believe in signs and feeling a loved one's presence but I thought for the longest time that I would never be able to feel my dad around me. Last winter, all of that changed. I went skiing for the first time in 11 years. Learning when I was two between my dad's legs, I loved the slopes. After a few ankle breaks (yes, a few), I stopped for the sake of gymnastics. It paid off and I went on to compete in college. The second my career was over, I knew I would be hitting the slopes that winter. The day came and I spent 10 hours out there. I could not stop. It felt magical and so right. For the first time, in my life, I felt like I was being embraced. A warm, familiar scented, embrace. I sat on a chair lift next to my friend, Joey, and knew that my father was sitting on the other side of me.
It was the strangest yet most comforting feeling I have ever experienced. Never lose hope that you will be able to fill an embrace you are longing for. It will show up in the most unexpected places.