Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dear Dad,

Where did three years go? Back in 2010 I stopped writing this blog because I got the check from the final settling of your estate and it felt like the final, dangling piece was sewn up and it looked as close to "closure" as I'd ever get. That and the fact that writing those letters to you was both cathartic and incredibly difficult. I think I was soaking in my grief a bit too much; it was coloring and shading so much of my life that I couldn't separate even the most mundane moments from the monolithic presence of my loss. Three years later, I am not in the same place as I was then. But "closure" is a slippery state at best, implying something tidy, final and closed. But I see it differently now. There was a sense of closure on Father's Day three years ago, but it was a closure of one aspect of this larger state; one door closed and a seemingly infinite number left that may never be closed.

When people talk about grief or trauma or pain, there's often a component about needing to "get over it" or "move on"; both of which are comically impossible and point to a great deal of either ignorance or denial on the part of whomever is suggesting such actions. Personally, I think "move forward" is a more accurate term. When you move forward in life, actually walk/bike/drive/whatever in a forward direction, you aren't actually eradicating what's behind you. It's still there. The movie theater I walked away from on my way home tonight still exists even though I'm not inside of it. Much like my grief and sadness over your death still exists even if I'm not as inside of it was I was three years ago. It's funny how this is both a positive and difficult thing. There are times when I feel guilty that I am not as consumed by grief as I was before. Last year I let the anniversary of your death pass by almost completely unnoticed; caught up in my daily tasks and barely cognizant of the date until the day was nearly over. But then I know this is good, this is forward movement. And then other days, like Father's Day and the days leading up to it, it's as if the intervening years vanish and I am very close to where I was when I first lost you.

Today at the salon, a longtime client told me about attending a retirement celebration for his father and spoke at great length about how proud he is of his dad and how it was a further revelation of what a great man he was when he heard his father's colleagues speaking so highly of his manner, accomplishments and impact. It was a curious experience because I simultaneously felt moved by my client's clear love and respect for his father and also could experience myself actually disassociating from the whole conversation and becoming especially absorbed in the task of cutting his hair. At almost the same time I overhead a coworker speaking to her client about her father and their relationship and the sensation of drifting out of my self became even stronger. I realized that sometimes I can't believe anyone else still has a father now that you're gone. Don't they know the only dad that matters has ceased to exist? How is it that Father's Day still even has a market to sell to? All of this sounds ludicrous of course, but it's the closest I can come to describing the disconcerting, disconnected, alien experience of listening to people rhapsodize about their living fathers.

On top of all of this, my friend and housemate lost his father just last weekend. It's an interesting thing to witness someone else's loss once you've experienced your own. In the past, I always felt a sense of powerlessness and of being too inarticulate to express my sympathy, support or concern. Now I feel such an instant connection that I simultaneously want to give them anything and everything of myself so they don't feel alone or abandoned in their grief while also being wary of wading too deeply into their process because there are whirlpools of my own I can succumb to. But at the end of all of this analysis and intellectual insights there is just this: the grief is still there. The ache is never fully soothed. "Closure" is not a permanent state in the least. I can move forward, I can heal, I can carry my grief in a different place and even become unaware of it for longer stretches of time. But the one thing that doesn't change is you're not here. And when I look behind me I can't see you in the distance no matter how much I want to.

I love and miss you so much, Dad,
xo C.

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