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  • Writer's pictureSofiya Pasternack

The May Update

Hey friends. This is sort of an unscheduled type of update, and not one that I ever really planned on getting into that much. I'm a relatively private person, but I feel like vanishing off the face of the Internet for a couple weeks warrants some kind of explanation. So here it goes.

Last year, May was a big month for me. My birthday is in May every year, so that was pretty normal. But things happened that weren't normal. Last May I sold my book to HMH Versify. It was an incredible feeling. I was walking on sunshine. The deal report went out on May 24th. It was a huge day. I got congratulations from every person in the world, it felt like.

The year before that, May was also a big month for me. My birthday was that May. Per the usual. I graduated from college that May. That was nice. After my graduation, after my birthday, my sister called me. "Congratulations. Happy birthday. Dad's in the hospital."

Dad had been in the hospital a lot in recent months. He had leukemia, and he was choosing not to treat it. I kind of rolled my eyes and said, "Yeah what's new?"

"No," she said. "This time it's different."

My dad and I didn't always get along the best. That graduation I mentioned up there? I graduated summa cum laude. Valedictorian. When I told my dad, he didn't congratulate me. He said, "Too bad you didn't get a degree in something honest."

I have a degree in nursing. But in his opinion, nurses are just shills for Big Pharma. So I was just getting a degree in Drug Shillery.

We fought about his healthcare. At first I was angry that he was foregoing treatment with an oncologist in favor of doing nothing. I looked up his leukemia. I asked the doctors I worked with. This type of leukemia was manageable. With careful treatment, he'd be able to extend his life by several good years. I yelled this at him until I was blue in the face. He didn't listen. He was in and out of the hospital. I was yelling the whole time about what he should do. He never listened.

He didn't need to listen to me. His life was his business. I let up after a while and just asked him to make a power of attorney for one of us to take care of his stuff, and an advance directive just in case he got so sick he couldn't make his own decisions. He refused to do either. I yelled again.

And then my sister called. "This time it's different."

So I flew home.

I walked into my dad's hospital room and knew it was different. I worked in critical care. Emergency. Disaster. When you work around a lot of death, you get an eye for it. And I saw it in that room.

The last thing my dad ever said was to me. He said, "You were right."

I didn't want to be right. I didn't want that to be the last thing I ever heard my dad say. I didn't want to hear that, but he needed to say it. He didn't say anything else after that. He went to sleep. My sister and my brother sat in his room for a while, and I interrogated the hospice doctor about why my dad wasn't getting more pain medicine, why he was still on oxygen, why a thousand things. We went home. I asked the nurses to call me if anything happened. They said they would.

The next day, my brother went to the hospital early. My sister and I were only half an hour behind him. He texted me as we parked in the hospital parking garage: "I think he's not breathing anymore."

My dad died on May 24th while I was running across a humid Florida parking garage.

I don't remember if I cried. I might have a little. But there was stuff to do. Things to collect. Paperwork to fill out. I asked my grief to take a rain check, and my grief said okay.

One year later, I sat in my car after work and bawled while I listened to my dad's favorite song, "House of the Rising Sun," on the radio, and my phone buzzed on the seat next to me over and over. Congratulations on your deal announcement, congratulations, congratulations.

I cried in my car for about 15 minutes, and then I asked my grief to wait some, give me some space, I don't have time to grieve right now. To my grief I said, look, I just achieved a dream I've had since I was 7 years old. Can you come back later? And my grief said sure. I shut the tears off. I responded to my messages of congratulations with thank yous and smiley faces and heart emojis.

It's almost May 24th again. And my grief has come back to cash in its rain check. It won't leave this time, no matter how polite I am.

I guess it's about time.

So I'm taking a little break from social media. Probably through the end of May. I have scheduled posts that will still go out. I'll keep posting my debut author interviews. But interaction is going to be hard. It's already hard. And I need to give myself a break. So I'll see you all at the end of the month. I hope your May is filled with joy and flowers and heart emojis.


meet sofiya!

Sofiya Pasternack is a mental health professional, the highly-distractible author of Jewish MG and YA fantasy, and prone to oversharing gross medical stories.

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