On Tuesday my dad died.
The writer side of me watches and documents my whirling emotions with bemusement and a busy keyboard.
One moment I’m fine. Getting the kids to school. Doing the shopping. Eating breakfast. Showering. Helping my 9 year old with her homework. Everything seems almost normal.
The next I’m in floods of tears. Hot, bitter, unbearable, never ending tears.
Then, together with my sisters, I’m calling undertakers, sorting paperwork and making lists of who to call and what has to be done. The practicalities provide a focus for a brain that has lost its moorings. Drifting and uncertain, I check 3 times that the door is locked and still turn back halfway to my destination, unsure if I locked it properly.
The pattern of the week is destroyed, blasted apart by the shock. I don’t know what day it is, where I should be, or where anyone else is.
And I am angry. I don’t know why, or who with, but don’t get in my way. And I am overwhelmed by the love and support I have received from the moment I took that dreadful phone call with blank incomprehension.
Then the shaking set in, both mental and physical. I made phone calls, I accepted a lift home, I sorted details. People use the term “on autopilot” at moments like these, but in truth I don’t think there was even an automatic system in charge. I was following a logical pattern of things that had to be done, while my brain freewheeled in the sky overhead – refusing to come back, like a kitten bitten by a snake. Not going back there! That hurt!
The stages of grief are not a linear progression. It’s more like a random drunken walk. Lurching from phase to phase. Often inhabiting several at once. Denial. Anger. Pain. Anger. Denial. Anger. Pain. Denial. Pain.
Perhaps love is like a resting place
A shelter from the storm
It exists to give you comfort
It is there to keep you warm
And in those times of trouble
When you are most alone
The memory of love will bring you home
Perhaps Love – John Denver
This morning I find the last 25 years stripped away. I am 15, sitting at the piano and singing “Perhaps Love” with my dad. He had a beautiful tenor voice, and I loved singing harmony with him. We sang Perhaps Love, My Cup Runneth Over, Send in the Clowns, and probably others I have forgotten. My piano playing was rather on the fumbly side, but he waited patiently through my stumbles and sang as though accompanied by a virtuoso. Strange the things that come back to you.
Last night I lay in bed not sleeping, listening to my 5 year old crying “I want Pa” in her sleep. My girls are hurting, and it kills me that I can’t fix it for them, any more than anyone can fix it for me.
Grief and I are old adversaries. It will do its worst, but it won’t beat me.
But it hurts.