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As long as I was depressed and surly, my father was still close to me. Of course there’s guilt for everything left unsaid, guilt for not making the most of the time you had, but the bigger, deeper guilt is for every moment you have after they’re gone.The idea of survivor’s guilt isn’t just about feeling unjustly lucky to have lived while someone else died; it’s guilt for going on without them, guilt for changing and growing and becoming a person that they never knew.He encouraged me to not let adolescence shrink me: “stand up and be proud,” he wrote, warning that young girls — “do you prefer young women?” he asked in parenthesis — sometimes hide their intelligence to avoid drawing attention to themselves.When I thought about the part of a typical wedding reception where the groom dances with his mother and the bride dances with her father, I seriously considered not having a reception at all.

I smoked cigarettes not in spite of the fact that they’d shorten my life, but hoping they would.And for when I went back to school that fall and felt like I was being talked down to by teachers who didn’t know nearly as much as my brilliant father, and he wasn’t there to validate my superiority complex.He started a letter to me during his four-hour bus ride home after our goodbye at the diner.I was deaf to any suggestions of sympathy for her, but she was right.She had to be the bad cop without a good cop to play off of — no wonder I hated her then.

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