There must be a first step after loss—that moment where you get back up and say, “I guess I’m going to work.” Then there are the dishes, the laundry and the garbage to be hauled. The leaves to rake, the window to be fixed, the child to wrangle. Every motion is dragged from your body like an unwilling slug making its way across glass strewn pavement. One gets used to the sound of their tiny, anguished screams.*
I am an automaton clanking through my day with the occasional grace note of pain as thoughts pass by. “I should call him…oh…” “Dad will laugh at this comic strip…” and finally, I slip into past tense as I buy a Bigby’s pomegranate green tea: “Dad would have grumbled at the expense.” Days spent wondering when he would be gone are now chased by the ghost of that moment.
In photos, I can revisit the man I somewhat, but not quite, knew. He would smile upon command, but caught unawares, usually was bowed with thought, twisting a strand of his hair so it stood up, Alfalfa-like, a shrubby cockscomb on the back of his head. The pictures are faded, pink or yellowed, erasing the certainty of who he was and leaving me with an afterimage I stare at and wonder, “Is that really him?” And then I will see a hint of that smile. The ear-to-ear, sh*t-eating grin with his eyes closed in pleasure at his own cleverness. The smile I sometimes wear whenever I feel the same.
I will shake this fugue state, I know. It is a sadly familiar road I travel. I plod the path where death greets me like an old friend. “Oh, it’s you again! Has it really been that long? Where does the time go? Shall we go past the park or down to the river this time?”** As I walk, I am cocooned by sorrow. It is like putting on a heavy cloak that I wear to winter the pain. Eventually, the sun peeks out from behind the clouds and I can take it off, basking in the surprise of warmth half-remembered. For now, I await the thaw.
I spent the day after he died digging a ton of rocks out of the wedge of dirt alongside the house. I planted enough bulbs—seasoned with cayenne pepper to deter hungry rodents—to choke a bouquet. When the sun does finally reappear after a winter that is decidedly too long, I will count the daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths and measure my grief in petals.
“He loved me.”
“I loved him too.”
“He loved me.”
“I love him still.”
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Warning, my metaphors are squishy (like worms after a rain) and make little sense (ditto); it is a common side effect of grief.
**Death is overly chatty and loves to reminisce. The bastard.