The first year was filled with ritualized “first withouts” – birthdays, excursions, holidays – around the calendar to the first anniversary of his death. Attending sporting events and concerts I thought he would have enjoyed, as if the experience could invoke his presence; finishing work on the house and yard I had hoped he’d live to see. A much-too-soon attempt at finding someone new in the absurdity of online dating, before his stone was even laid.
Displacement activity. Avoidance. Failure to yield to the grief and let it have its head.
The second year was filled with blogging, writing the book and redecorating, as if a coat of paint and some rearranged furniture could fairy-godmother us into a life beyond mourning. Kidding myself that our daughter was finding comfort in activity, new skills, greater independence.
And then Father’s Day – Fatherless Day – the awkwardness of people who asked us what we’d be doing in observance, resisting the temptation to tell them we’d be visiting his grave, and watch the shock and embarassment – those came anyway when Angelic Daughter answered the only way she knew how – “Dad’s in heaven.”
That day, all the busy-ness of the previous year and a half hit the wall, and demanded a do-over.
We quit, came home, and sat with it. Our “days without Dad,” our house without “his” chair, “his” room, his cooking, his man-presence.
Weeks of dark winter nights filled with tears, then silence. Then restlessness. I felt my broken-open heart closing again. Retreating into routine, bleakness instead of gratitude, loneliness instead of love. Not much laughter.
This was not the plan – not the “don’t waste another minute” life I thought I learned, from losing Mike, to live.
I want to fix it, but what I have ended up with, right now at least, feels like a never-ending procession of milestones to be got past.
“I can take care of that, once I get past this…”
Just get through it – the holidays again, the wisdom teeth, the job search, the doctor’s appointments.
What then? Just another hill to climb? Another hurdle, another hoop?
I’ve told my daughter the necessary – that we are always going to miss Dad, that every day for the rest of our lives with be a day without Dad – but never without his love – and that we must find a way to carry grief with us without letting it weigh us down.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Because it does weigh me down.
Every time I do a half-assed job of cleaning the Bulgarian-built kitchen, still lovely, but not longer new.
Every time I try to make a meal that he used to make for her, and do an adequate job, but never an identical job.
Every time I have to make a decision by myself without him here to bounce it off of, even if I know he would have said it didn’t matter either way.
It takes me way too long to finish a book these days.
I’m watching too much television, in my “boudoir” for one.
Not getting enough sleep.
I keep thinking, if I get that job, things will normalize. It will be more like it used to be.
We’ll hire a wonderful new person to stay with her, to get her out more, expand her range and just help her have more fun. Something I’ve never been very good at.
But Mike was an expert at it. A really fun Dad.
So of course it won’t “normalize” things. It will never be like it used to be. Because it won’t be Mike taking care of her, taking her places, listening to music with her, goofing around.
And now, Memorial Day is coming.
Just get past it.
Then medical screenings – routine, but requiring anesthesia.
I’ll update the emergency information – part of the deal, now – and send it out to the brothers, and this time, the sisters-in-law. If by some mischance it’s not me, she’ll need another woman to understand her needs.
Just get past it. I’ll be so relieved, when I wake up.
But then, Father’s Day again.
Then the Fourth of July.
Occasions for visits to his grave. A picnic on the Fourth.
Just get past it.
No trip to Maine this year – can’t afford it. Maybe that will give us a break, from the next one and the next one, this endless pummeling by rituals and reminders of grief, gotten through, only to see the next one coming.
The writer’s conference was good, encouraging – and then I get home and feel like I’m losing my nerve, like I want to curl up in a little fetal ball and hide.
I regard counseling as a form of self-indulgence.
Maybe I should just get past that.
Spinning my emotional wheels, I remain,
Your sad, skeptical, stuck,