Doing it for Dad

By Lucy Jackson

We’re running a story this issue titled “Coping with grief” about the ways in which teenagers deal with the death of a parent. Faire Davidson wrote it, and she did a great job, but what surprised me about the article was that all of the sources in it wanted to be anonymous. It surprised me that the topic is too taboo and even embarrassing for a lot of teenagers to speak openly about it, but then it hit me that it shouldn’t have been so surprising at all. I was the same way.

I’ve been shying away from writing this column for months. I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to touch on, and yet in the last few weeks I’ve written six other senior columns instead, ranging from the influence one of my best friends had on me this year to how I feel about the bureaucratic inner workings of Harvard-Westlake. And then, at 4:40 in the morning going into what would be my last day of layout for this publication, arguably my biggest accomplishment in high school, I realized that I had to thank the person who got me there, even if he would never be able to read it.

My dad died in January of this year, but not before influencing everything I did at Harvard-Westlake. A senior column that’s supposed to somehow encompass six years here can’t be written without acknowledging him – he showed up in a suit to every softball game, and when I dropped that for Chronicle he shifted his focus from batting to article proposals at the dinner table every night. When I was too tired to drive home after Monday night layout junior year he picked me up instead, and the same went for shuttling me to and from the valley as a sophomore during layout.

And now, in the last Chronicle piece that will have my byline across the top, my dad’s influence has shown through one final time, (hopefully) giving this column a greater purpose.

As journalists, we’re taught that anything can be accomplished through writing, and as a member of this paper, columns have always been my outlets for demanding change, though I may not have always been successful. When I told one of my best friends months ago that I wanted to write about my dad, she responded that my choice was a bold one. And at the time, I agreed with her. But she’s wrong, or at least she should be.

The death of parent, while certainly not an everyday occurrence in adolescent life, isn’t as rare as people may think, either. The psychologists in Faire’s story indicate that it helps to talk about it, more so with friends sometimes than with adults, and in my experience, they’re right. So the students featured in the article — or any student, for that matter — shouldn’t feel like it’s something to hide. It’s a personal choice, not something that the status quo should get to determine, but for a long time, I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t think there was an option.

So, my last column for this paper is for my dad, who meant more than 600 words could ever say. But I think it’s for more than that, too. There’s a social stigma that goes along with death, and for my part, I think that should change. So I did the only thing I know — and the thing my dad would have told me to do — and I wrote a column.