The Early Bird Gets The Worm

The early bird gets the worm.

My Dad said that a lot. Too much, in my opinion. I mean, really, if you’re repeating any little cliche like that more than once a year or so, you’re saying it too much. Sentences lose their meaning when they’re repeated in a sing-song voice every time a family member oversleeps or procrastinates.

It has meaning, I guess. Do things early so that you’ll get the results you want. If you don’t do something early, someone else will. Wake up before your stupid brother eats all the breakfast. But I stopped thinking of any of that stuff when I heard that saying. Whenever I hit snooze on my alarm a time too many and Dad poked his head into my room–Wake up, Kaya. The early bird gets the worm!–I pictured a robin hopping about on the grass, desperately trying to find an earthworm to feed its babies in some nest on the fringes of my imagination. I wasn’t at all inspired to move more quickly.

Now that I think about it, there’s no reason to assume that bird is a robin. It could just as easily be a blue jay or a chickadee or a sparrow. But in my head it was, it is, always a robin.

I said “was” just then. Did you catch that? Like that saying exists entirely in the past, when in reality I’m sure that there are grandpas and uncles and other less-than-creative adults saying it right this second. Someone will definitely say it to me again someday–probably one of my teachers, trying to get me to turn in an assignment early. I know I won’t escape it forever.

But my dad won’t say it again. He won’t say anything again, actually, because he’s dead now. Killed in an intersection when a semi ran a red-light, just last month. So you see that I’m not quite used to it yet. It’s hard to tell what exactly is in the past and what isn’t. Dad–in the past. Stupid shit Dad said–not necessarily.

I’m visiting him today. It’s the first time I’ve come since the burial. I meant to come sooner, but it kept raining and Mom had the car and well, Christ, I think you can understand if I put it off a bit. It’s hard enough to get used to life at home without him, but if I try I can pretend he’s away on business. He never went on business trips before, but it’s not a difficult scenario to conjure up.

This, though, this sitting on a bench in this park and working up the nerve to go find his…spot. His stone. His grave. This is a lot harder than laying on my bed scrolling through Twitter and having a pain in my chest every now and then. This walking down a paved path and reading all these names and dates, remembering that they buried him under a maple tree and that someday my mom will be buried there, too, and maybe I will be, too, but right now it’s just dad…this is different than being at home.

His name is right there, etched in the stone that is still clean and light. It’s obviously newer than most of the headstones here. I guess it hasn’t had time to get dirty yet.

I kneel down and place the flowers right underneath his name. I cut them from the peony bush at home and wrapped the stems in Saran Wrap–they aren’t fancy, but Dad would appreciate my frugality. They do make the headstone look a bit cheerier.

“Miss you,” I whisper, because it seems like I’m supposed to speak to him. I did come all this way. “Mom does, too, and Caleb. And Charlie, ugh, he won’t even go outside.”

Like we weren’t depressed enough without having to deal with our sad fucking dog. It’s like, we get it, Charlie. Our lives will never be the same. Stop reminding us of it every time we look at you.

“I wish you were still here. Life is really different without you.”

I’m starting to cry now, heaps of tears, but they won’t be stopped. I’ve got to keep talking.

“You know, dads die. It’s something that happens. But I wish you didn’t have to. I wish you had waited longer. I wish you hadn’t gone so soon,” I tell his name, sobbing.

The early bird gets the worm, he tells me, and I laugh too loudly and too long for a girl in a graveyard.



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