There’s something special about the ability to laugh at the unexpected sensation of cold water seeping through socks on the bathroom floor.
It’s a small-scale metaphor for the way the world can jar you out of comfort zones. Out of peaceful moments. How suddenly things can change. The last year of my life was rife with both quiet and loud tragedy. I still spin sometimes. I have moments when a scent or sound or memory – sometimes it’s a word in the crossword - brings up that familiar, indescribable ache. As the season changes and summer approaches, I feel a pull to the garden of the hospital, to sit among the herbs and budding flowers, listening to my Dad spill drug-and-impending-death induced wisdom in long, slow sentences.
“You don't have to talk about forgiveness. You can talk about all the reasons to do it. But we already know why. You just have to walk through it. You gotta forgive."
“When I look at you guys, and how you see the world... I swear I've never seen anything so beautiful in my whole life…”
I feel that sense of limbo creeping back in. That silent, still, empty feeling. (It’s strange how we can feel so empty, and so full of love at the same time.) I remember how I felt separated from the world and myself – and yet so completely attuned and aware of the massive transformation that was coming.
I was not going to be the same person when this was over.
I was no longer the person I was before he shared the news with me.
I remember vacillating between the quiet reality that sometimes, breaks don't come - Instead, the last petal falls spinning, as fast as the world seems to be spinning out. And with that thought, part of that thought, was the welling in my chest of how fucking beautiful the world is, and life, and how deeply I loved everything. They were the same thing.
But then, too, were the moments a panicked child would scream from some depth I never knew existed for someone to please, please come save her dad.
Once I was very particular about where things went and how things looked. Some assume it’s an issue of control, perhaps leftover from growing up in a chaotic household with many kids and little-to-no privacy. But in truth, for me, during times of emotional distress, order in the rooms I find myself in helps my mind stay quiet enough to function when I shouldn’t even be able to. These days, the temperature is rising and sun is slowly becoming a more regular occurrence. It’s all the same. Soon-to-be summer breezes, slow jazz sounds, saxophone buskers, old-friend-run-ins, on-the-water views... all except the hospital visits. And my residence, that’s changed. I live alone now, save for my canine BFF. My home is in disarray most days. And I’ve noticed, I don’t care. I’ve learned, part of this transformation is valuing the time spent away from creating order. The freedom of not needing to fix something. The acceptance of all these human tendencies to become annoyed or disgruntled on the fly at a look from a stranger, or a confrontation at work, or a bad driver. Or, the most baffling of all - what I think someone else might be thinking of me. I catch myself carrying that one around and it gives me a good chuckle, now. The fact that I can come home from running 3 days full throttle at work for a special occasion, step in dog faeces, groan and genuinely laugh out loud about it…
it doesn’t fucking matter.
None of it.
What matters is how you see the world.
My friend mentioned last summer, regarding our family and my father’s final days, “I know the world can't stop, but sometimes it could slow down a little to let those who need more time have it.” It was a beautiful thing to say, and I felt the love sent through it. But the truth is, the world doesn’t do that. We have to find the balance between feeling the things we need to feel and sucking shit up to be present.
This moment will never come around again.
Someone at my work who has borne witness to this life-changing loss of a parent, as well as other hardships of the past year involving difficult loss, described me as one of the most “durable” people they know. It makes sense that he used a word to describe long-lasting home appliances, given that in large part I’ve intellectualized a lot of what’s happened while delaying the process of feeling it through. I would say the term “robotic” would also apply to the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. I hear this is normal for people experiencing fresh grief. Now that I have thawed out somewhat, I’ve discovered this ability to laugh at the small misfortunes I see others getting strung-out over. I’m seeing myself more social, and although in some aspects I’ve become more self-conscious, I’ve also come out of my shell, so much I don't quite recognize myself some days.
Although I’m still figuring out who exactly I have become or am becoming, mostly I’m learning how to stop figuring that out, and just be. Because Dad’s parting gift was teaching us that as terrifying as it can be, it's ok to show some of your messy.
He taught us how to die with grace and dignity - which is to say, he taught us how to live.