The Death of My Dad

What's polite? How do I properly express every angle of my grief when some parts are so dark?

I've felt unsettled since I heard. It's been surreal. Sitting on the couch next to my 13-year-old nephew who is playing Fallout 3 having just sent my 4-year-old daughter to the kitchen for a couple cookies for no reason. Recalling instantly that I had finished, only an hour or so prior, a painting that I'd been working on since last summer and with the dying of the leaves in the painting, I said another level of goodbye to my dad. Marking a sudden inability to carry on with a business planning meeting after an interruption from my daughter only 30 minutes prior. Seeing that my mom's dog hadn't been more than a few inches from me for a couple hours now. Fitting all these details into this one moment on the phone with my mom as she's telling me that my dad has died. For all the preparations and knowing it was coming, it still seemed so sudden which seemed bizarre. How could I be this shocked about news I was expecting?

I relayed the message to my nephew that his grandpa was dead. Can I say it so bluntly? Passed away seems so fucking nice when I wasn't feeling particularly soft-edged. What else does one do with death? Anyway, my nephew paused his game and sat there in silence. I hugged him. Then my daughter came back and knew something was up. So I told her that grandpa was dead and she would never see him again. That he wouldn't try to make her laugh anymore. And there would be no more candies from his pockets. Then we three sat there a while. I think I may have been babbling, vainly trying to comprehend what my nephew might be experiencing and how I might help him put this new experience into words.

Then I was up and going to the bedroom where my husband was napping with the girl following close behind. Remembering my nephew and inviting him to join us in the bedroom. I was already turning to head back to the bedroom to tell my husband by the time I registered my nephew's response. Time had absolutely no meaning. I woke my husband and told him and cried. My sweet girl started crying too, but hadn't joined us in bed until invited. Then we all cried together for a while with my husband holding his girls. There were words, but I don't remember them.

And again, I was just moving again, back to the living room to be with my nephew. I didn't want him to be alone. Then we sat and cried again. I described how surreal I felt and then my nephew expressed the same only this was a new feeling that he now had a word for. Surreal is unreal, it is a floaty feeling, not quite attached to your body feeling. It's still surreal.

My daughter expressed sadness that she wasn't ever going to see grandpa again. She was scared of him at the end (great evolutionary tactic there - kids are scared of sick people) so I was surprised by this genuine expression of loss from her. But there it was. She had felt it all along, but now it was time. She cried with us then. And then she was done.

Mom and my brother were on their way to my house and everyone was spending the night. I was so thankful my newly smaller family would all be together. Caught between wanting to hide away in my sorrow and get all the attention so I could not think about what I was actually feeling, I got everyone updated on FaceBook and Twitter and text, uploaded the best most recent photos I could find on short notice, and sighed relief at being done that part. Then I let the world support me with a hundred hands. The words didn't seem important, but that there was a lifting of me - a great trust exercise of falling backward because I did not want to stand by myself and being caught by the support of everyone I had reached out to online. Each hand of support letting me grieve a little more deeply because I was not alone and did not have to put on a brave face.

All this time, I was worrying about everyone else. What do they need? How can I help them? Then my sweet dog came in with a very big limp. If I was worrying about someone else, I wouldn't have to face the grief. So I did that for a while when talking with my family. Then I said it out loud when everyone was trying to convince me the dog was fine. I know the dog is fine! I just needed something to worry about since everyone else seemed fine! GAH!

The more I was focusing on others and not listening to what I needed, the more unsettled I became. Totally reasonable, right? Right.

Finally, I fell into bed, exhausted and, of course, unable to sleep. I just wanted to fucking sleep and escape the world for a while. Can I mention at this point that I completely love my husband for loving me so completely that even when I'm in the middle of me-me-me meltdowns, he can still see the woman he loves? Well, yes. That. I love him. After realizing I wasn't going to sleep, I started to talk and unravel the grief that I didn't want to face. There was the "how could he ...?"s that I previously faced a few weeks ago so it didn't take long to see the love in all he did for and to me. I think it'll still take some time for full resolution on those, but I'd be happy to be surprised on this one. Then there was the main disconnect - my image of him was that of my dad when I was little. He was larger than life and always there to protect me. He was my personal superhero who would always be there. Except now he wasn't. I could imagine dad on a slab in the morgue at St. Paul's, a skinny wisp of the man he used to be, but I couldn't make the image of him passing from life to death be real. I could imagine it. I knew that it must have looked that way. But it COULD NOT be real. Superheroes don't die. EVER. But mine was dead. My brother was kind enough to tell me the details of how it happened as he was there with mom and I wasn't. I'm glad he did because it seeming more plausible now, more believable that my superhero is dead. Fighting the truth is such exhausting work.

Still thinking about running away.

And I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.

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1 comments:

Cori said...

*much hugs and love*

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I'm quirky, confident and happy. My friends say I'm generous, warm, reliable, and dependable. My mom, dad, and angel say I'm beautiful. I'm not perfect, but that makes me human.
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