This blog was originally posted on my Medium page on July 7, 2014 on the anniversary of my father’s death. I’ve moved it here to give it a new home as the 10 year anniversary approaches.
My dad died seven years ago today. Seven years — on the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year. And on a Saturday no less.
07/07/07. Many people thought of that day as lucky — there were a lot of weddings, and babies born thought to be the ‘most blessed!’ Seven is traditionally a holy number, believed to be the perfect number.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
Seven is an integer first and foremost. Seven days; seven pairs of animals on the Arc. Factually seven is prime, always following six. Historically, it’s lucky, happy, and safe.
It’s perfect. Or at least it is to me. My ‘I just feel drawn to it’ explanation might not be pleasing, but it’s enough for me. I can remember as far back as sixth grade, my Language Arts teacher would play an arbitrary game with the whole class: ‘pick a number and something not so terrible might be yours.’ I’d always pick seven. No matter what (and I think I only ever won a D.A.R.E sticker) I’d always go to seven. One day the kid in front of me turns around and says, “You always say that!”
I shrugged, “It’s my favorite.”
I come from a big family by modern day standards: three sisters, one brother, myself, and my parents. There were seven of us — a fact that only drove home my love of the number. In the huddle of my seven I was protected, watched over, fed, made to laugh, and not laughed at for crying. I was praised for good doings; taught lessons for the bad. My seven gave me life.
My seven was my life.
So it should come as no shock that when my father finally lost his battle with cancer on July, 07, 2007 I was more than stunned by the blow to the only foundation I’d ever known. It took seven pliers to hold up our family; now we’d be forced to stand without our strongest.
It took a lot of sevens to break mine.
Strong patriarchs never hurt. They are never wounded or weak in front of their own. Because they can’t be. I’m not saying this is fact or that everyone should (does) adhere to it. I am saying it’s what he taught me. So when cancer won, I was mad. I was mad at him. And beyond the grief I actually tried to wrap my head around how it could happen on THIS of all days. I hated that day.
That day my favorite seven of all — was broken. It was ruined. It was made into a joke. It was different in a way I didn’t want.
My lucky number.
07/07/07 forever changed my seven. More importantly than that — it changed my life. Think about the impact your parents or just one has had on your life in the last seven years. The graduations, the good news, the jobs, the weddings, building a family of your own.
Think about how different that might be if a parent wasn’t there to share in it.
Living that depressing reality, I was angry. I still am when I think too hard about it: I was 19, changing universities and only semi-sure of what I wanted to do with my life. I was a child, sure, but I was living pretty simple ‘suburban’ existence with all signs pointing to success and a promising continuation of the usual but amazing trips home for the holidays. Simplicity should never be discounted.
Now I’m 26, working in a job I love across the country. I’ve met someone I feel I could share my life with. I’ve mature — I’m a woman. I’m a different version of the science-fiction nerd he raised. Not being able to physically share things with him — a phone call, picture, a hug of congratulations — in short, is the worst thing in the world.
I’m only ever really angry when I think too hard about that. I’m not ashamed to say that I used to pretend my parents were just sitting at home, watching a rerun.
But I don’t have that physical and it took a while for me to accept there would only be the metaphysical moving forward. Now, one of my greatest pleasures is the thought of my father watching over me, being allowed to experience life right now with me.
And everything’s alright.
And I’m alright. I knew I was alright when I wanted to get the tattoo: A strong, feminine script on the left side of my chest. It wasn’t a ‘close to the heart’ kind of ploy (If so, clearly I need an anatomy class). No; it just felt like it belonged there. The same way the number itself just feels like mine.
My tattoo is my forgiveness of the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year. It’s my understanding of the beauty in it; it’s my tribute to my core seven; it’s my tribute to the first man I ever loved. It’s a physical memorial to my father.
I grew to realize my dad had been called Home in an incredible way. He got to go home on the luckiest, and most perfect day. Like God put it all on seven (He never gambled and he would HATE that metaphor, but I’m leaving it). Even now I’m realizing why I was drawn to that number. Why it still manages to creep in after the worst day of my life; why it always seems to be the right one for me no matter the game or stipulation, or even death. Because it was his number. His number was my number.
So now I wear it permanently on my chest in memory of my seven, his seven and ultimately our seven.