We owe one another our attention

Posing badly for photos since 1997

Today is the eight year anniversary of my dad’s death. I’m happy(?) to report: it doesn’t hurt the way it used to. The last couple years, I’ve been struck less by how much I miss him and more by how much he has missed.

I notice big things he missed, like my wedding, and smaller things, like books he would have enjoyed. Since his death, I’ve traveled on five continents, my brother and I both moved abroad (in opposite directions), and my mother retired. I also spent several years in Boston working at the Museum of Science, and my dad would have thought that was the absolute coolest job.

I wish he were here to see what I’ve done, but his death influenced so many of my choices. My life would be totally different if he were still alive. It’s this weird paradox of wishing he could see who I’ve become and knowing I would be different if he could.

If he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t be working on a memoir right now. I hesitate to say I wouldn’t be working on a book because I think I would have found my way back to writing even if he were still alive. But the book I’ve spent the last couple years working on is about him and his death and me and my travels. And feelings. (So many goddamn feelings.)

I’m almost done writing it. I feel like I’ve been almost done for months now. I’ll get there eventually, and I’ll let you know when I do. But, for today, I just want to share something from my current draft. I wrote it recently, and E thought it was good. And I decided it’s worth sharing because it’s what’s on my mind this anniversary.

When a loved one dies, don’t we all wish we listened more closely to their stories? We regret all the things we didn’t ask. People’s stories matter. And we owe one another our attention while we’re alive to appreciate it. To see and hear and touch and recognize each other’s humanity.

My dad has missed a lot of my story, but I also wish I’d listened more closely to his. I’ve spent so much time thinking and writing about him since he died. It makes me wish I’d given more of my attention to our relationship when he was still alive. It makes me want to give more of my attention to my friends and family who are alive.

All of this is to say, if you’re interested, leave a comment or send me an email (egholliday@gmail.com) and tell me a story about yourself. You have my undivided attention.

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.


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