Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Don't Know What I Expected of Grief

But it wasn't this.

Where do I start writing?

I've lost people before, but no one nearly as close as my dad.

I'll just say that the overwhelming feeling, the one most constant in the three months since he died, is disbelief.

In the past when I would hear about the "denial" stage of grief (and I want to be clear that I don't believe at all in the "stages" of grief) I naively thought that denial was somehow by choice. As though the person would be telling themselves "I know my dad has died, but I choose not to deal with it yet, so I'm going to ignore it until I can bear it." As though it was that cut and dried and premeditated.

Never did it occur to me that the most difficult part of losing Dad would be my inability to believe that he's gone.

So I guess what I expected of grief was the dark and ongoing gut-punch of missing him. Aching for the chance to see his face when I drive to my hometown. The chance to feed him his dinner, wipe his mouth, clean his teeth, give him a neck trim, put lotion on his face. The endless small things, communicative but not in the usual way, that our relationship had become.

The oddity of the whole picture is that I do have the gut-punch, even though I'm still waking up in the middle of the night and realizing, freshly, that he's gone. I forget it by morning and have to learn it again. I'm tired of learning it and I'm tired of it being true.

It reminds me of a news story I saw decades ago about a former concert pianist stricken with a brain disorder that left him with aphasia. Each day he "met" his wife. Each day his wife offered him a cup of coffee and each day he accepted it, saying "Oh, I'd like to try it. I've never had coffee before." And each day he proclaimed it delicious.

Though major parts of his memory had been thieved away by the illness, this man was left with his ability to play the piano. So there he sat, magnificently playing Chopin, lost to the world around him.