Standing in the bite of winter, I peer down at the waterbeds etched on my five year-old palms. I look up as another hand–bigger, darker and tougher–grabs mine. The crooked smile, worn-out leather jacket and receding hairline only mean one thing–it’s my dad.

Light peeks through my blinds and wakes me up from my dream. Rewinding the scene of being with my dad, I sit up and bury my face in my hands. I start to cry–not just because I miss him, but because remembering what he looks like overwhelms me.

On November 7, 2008, my dad passed away after polycystic kidney disease (PKD) suddenly took his life. After the first anniversary of his passing, my mom asked me if I remembered his voice. I sat there, thinking long and hard about it. Eventually, I replied, “No, not at all.”

My dream made me realize that the good memories of my dad are still rooted somewhere in the deepest parts of my brain.

From then on, I started to gradually forget my dad’s face, the shape of his body, the color of his skin and how far his smile stretched. His face is printed in photo albums, but it became harder to recognize him as I grew up. Looking back at these photos to reminisce always felt more like looking at a stranger than my dad.

There are parts of my dad that I remember, but my memories of him aren’t the happiest. I remember his swollen feet, the lumps on his arm from dialysis treatments and watching him open a cabinet stacked with medication for his kidneys. When I think of the days he was still alive, all I can see is pain hidden behind a smile that I can’t remember.

Perhaps I subconsciously blocked my old memories as my responsibilities began to distract me. Due to school and my social life, I made no room in my mind for the past. The present was all that really mattered to me, but I ended up hurting myself in the end because I forgot about who and what made me the person I am today.

This picture was taken on my 2nd birthday. If you look at my dad's arm, you can see large lumps–a result of dialysis treatments.
On the night this picture was taken, my dad felt weak and went to the hospital. The doctor told him that one of his kidneys stopped working and called for immediate dialysis. If my dad didn't go to the hospital that night, he would have passed away before my first birthday.
My family used to live in Los Angeles, California. There, my dad worked on a cruise ship. The load of work they gave him was too much for his body; his feet would swell and there was blood in his urine. He later found a job as a banquet worker in Las Vegas when I was four years-old.
If I were given the opportunity to go back in time, I would revisit my childhood in Los Angeles. Life seemed easier for me, and I wish I remembered my time there.
My mom likes to point out all of the similarities my dad and I share; from the way we walk, to our bubbly personalities. However, her words always feel like empty comments because I don't remember my dad enough to make a connection.

My dream made me realize that the good memories of my dad are still rooted somewhere in the deepest parts of my brain. I never forgot him entirely. He is no longer just the embodiment of pain and weakness; he is a man with happy eyes and a bright smile–most importantly, he is my dad, the person who I can finally remember a little more.

As you get caught up with your own life and more responsibilities start to pile up on you, remembering someone you thought you’d never forget becomes difficult. The braided rope of old memories that connects you to someone you love will stretch. Eventually, it will snap as a new memory replaces it.

Enjoy your time with everyone before the limited storage in your brain throws out those memories for new ones. Take pictures with your loved ones, record videos of your favorite moments and write about them someday. You’ll later regret not doing so when all you can say is “I don’t remember” as you try telling someone about the most valued time in your life.

Do you tend to forget important people and events?