Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
But while you debate half empty or half full
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown
- from the song “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab for Cutie
Last Thursday, June 10th, I hit the four-year mark. I anticipated it, I eyeballed the date for days leading up to it. I felt the fluttering fingers of dread rise up in my stomach. Four years since I watched my father take his last breaths, four years that have seen changes and sorrow and laughter and joy and struggles and anger. Oh the mighty anger. In the beginning of those four years, it felt like being in a blender. Nothing would ever return to how it was, the very essence of who I was had been forever changed, and even intellectually you grasp that, of course not, there is a dividing line between Before and After. But you want Before like never before. And you fear After and that it will erase Before and you also find out who your true friends are. People will tell you you’ve changed (and not for the better) and they won’t understand that the faucet of grief doesn’t shut off in three months. That priorities shift and change. In fact, it seems to just be getting started, the grief, because everyone else has moved on and you are rooted in the new reality, confused. And you feel your love and your life will all drown. Your head goes under. Sometimes you think about staying under, too. Nights in the bathroom, on the back steps, crying. Sobbing in the shower, weeping in the car, how can so much sorrow live and thrive in one human’s space?
I miss my dad. Now, though, when I dream about him, it is a comfort. A friendly visit, even if the dream is crazy. His face, his voice, his laugh and the memory of his hugs are etched into my soul. That, I must say, is the thing for which I am most grateful. As I’ve aged, details and names and memories get muddied, blurred, fall away. I feared so badly my father’s memory would follow suit. My grief was my hair shirt, one coping mechanism of keeping him alive, assuaging any guilt I felt about having a laugh or a moment that resembled normal. Eventually I realized my grief became less paralyzing. And in the middle of the afternoon on June 10, last week, I was busy working, as I had been all day. I looked at my calendar on my desktop and frowned. I said the date out loud and then it hit me. It was June 10th. Here and Now. That Day. I felt an instant stab of guilt that I had spent half my day without realizing That Day Was Here Again. Then I thought, wow. All of you people who have walked this road before me were right.
It really does get better.