Everywhere on the page where the word “dad” had been, it was crossed out in black sharpie, the word “grandpa” written above it in its place.

The daycare staff were trying to be kind, to provide a way for my son to participate in the craft making for the upcoming Father’s Day event. And to my son, it made no difference; it was simply fun no matter whom he was making it for.

But something inside me hurt to look at it, all those black lines and their substitutions, as if an attempt at erasing the man. As if the “dad” had never been, instead of merely being no longer.

Erasure. A thing I have never successfully done, not with the man who died, not with the things I lost with his death, not with the friend who disappears later, not even anytime in the five months it has been since I’ve seen that friend’s face, never have I learned how to erase anything so that I might no longer miss it in its absence, so that I might forget it had ever mattered in the first place.

In the last message I leave for my friend I tell him that I am struggling. With grief. With stress. With anxiety.

It scares me to say those things, to willingly let myself be vulnerable with another person. But I am trying to grow, and part of that means taking risks, speaking a thing out loud in my own voice to a person I care for, because I need my life to change. Because I need to change. And I need help, and what was that message, if not me asking for help?

2.6 miles away from my office his house sits. 2.6 miles away, and though we drive some of the same roads and probably shop at some of the same stores, it might as well be another country, another world, given the way he has removed me from his.

How am I supposed to do this again? Take the risk inherent in trying to build a true friendship with someone? Isn’t this what I lose when I leave that message and never hear from him again? The hope that I might be seen as I am, flaws and all, and still be valued?

Like that black sharpie drawing smooth lines across a paper, how easily I had been erased.

As if, instead of no longer, I had simply never been.

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