Sunday, June 11, 2017

Grief in Short Form

Perhaps the strangest part of grief is the waves that it comes in. When it actually hits you, and the ways that it hits you. About eight months in, I've been struck with the strange notion that my phone is going to ring, and his face is going pop up on the display- the picture I took in Starbucks after my birthday dinner seven years ago. The idea fills me with a weird fear, bordering on a paranoia that's been mimicked in recent dreams. Is he still alive? Was this all some elaborate hoax, perhaps tax evasion? 'The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated?' ...Do I answer?
The last dream included the supposed footage of his last moments in life, involving a 20-30 years younger-than-he-actually-was-at-the-time self, walking down a highway in a black motorcycle jacket, with a stormy sky as a backdrop, and the overall tone of surveillance footage.

I can still hear his "Hi, Vaness" in my head, and on my computer, since I've hoarded the majority of his voicemails in their digital format. Due to a technical blip, I almost lost all of them recently, and when the customer service rep asked why I had so many stored on my phone (two out from the max), I had to bite back tears. I've since backed them up several times.
I've started doing that for everyone that I love.
I wonder if it's unhealthy.

Now, presently, or really about ten minutes ago, as I'm standing in the kitchen eating peanut butter swirled ice cream out of the carton, one of the first brands to offer a quart of the vegan stuff,  I think: Dad would get a kick out of this. While I'm packing for my annual reprieve, I think about all of his comments on how he felt when I left for vacation on my own. I think about the 1/2 pound less of fudge I'll have to buy from our old favorite candy shop. I think about not having to scour the endless, sappy, inapplicable and disingenuous father's day cards to find just one that's right. It's not a relief. I think about his laugh when he was impressed. His use of 'be that as it may' to transition a conversation. How he'd repeat the same German potato salad story over and over. That insipid diner he insisted on going to when we'd visit; the old-people diner, with the jukeboxes in each booth and a glowing case full of desserts that looked so perfect and shiny as to be fake. How, later in life, he'd always ask 'Do they appreciate you?' about work, about a partner.

Grief is a living, breathing animal. It wraps itself around you like a snake, not maliciously, not with the intent to hurt or devour you, but never forget that it can; and if you let it, it will. As it sheds it skin, the feeling changes. You become angry, this was preventable, this didn't have to happen, it chokes you with the intensity. Other times, its grip can be warm, comforting. That person is always with you, the memories of them a light in the dark, a constant presence, even a guardian. As time goes by, the grief becomes a specter itself. A shadow, lighter, ever changing and shifting, but still present. Whispering on the edge of your perception, sometimes encouraging and warm, and other times, quite frankly, a dick. It becomes part of you, this shadowy and moody appendage. It fluxes and it wanes, and it constantly reminds you that you can't change things, you can only change how you respond to them.