I initially started this blog in response to your death, thinking it might help me to process my thoughts, or work through some feelings as I tried to get used to life without you. They say writing is a good release for big feelings, and losing you certainly brought forth more than a few of those for me.
Yet, here I am, writing my twentieth blog, and I’ve still not been able to find the words to talk about you. I don’t know why it is; after all, you always used to comment on how much I could TALK, but, honestly for a while there, I was left a bit speechless. Some days, I guess I still am.
So, instead I’ve written about everything else: my job, my kids, the cat. Keeping my mind occupied enough with other things, so that the rawness couldn’t consume me, and I could show some of that resilience you were so proud of.
I thought I was doing pretty well, actually. I’d made it through almost an entire week without crying, even a little bit. I’d finally stopped picking up my phone automatically to call you, and I’d been able to visit Nan in the room you used to share, without feeling winded by the sense of your absence.
I was giving myself a big, fat ten out of ten for getting on with things, just like I promised you I would.
But then, out of absolutely nowhere, I found myself wholeheartedly sobbing in the shower today, for no reason at all, other than because I really fucking miss you.
Maybe it’s because decorating your plaque in the Church garden with Christmas decorations made me realise that this first Christmas without you is going to hurt. Maybe it’s because I know how much you would have loved to hear about our road trip, and I can’t tell you, other than by sitting on the cool grass near your memorial plaque, and whispering the words to the breeze. Maybe it’s helping Nan write out Christmas cards, and feeling my throat close over as I sign them off, just from her.
Whatever it is, today Pa, I realise, it’s time to write about you.
The thing about you, Pa, is that you were always in my corner. No matter what I did, no matter what I said, I could count on the fact that you’d be there, cheering me on. You were like that for all of us.
As a feisty teenager with a huge chip on my shoulder, you opened your home to me, and supported me, unquestionably, to grow into the person I needed to be. As a young adult, you celebrated my successes more than you did your own, and as I grew up and left the nest to begin my own family, you simply expanded that gigantic heart of yours to include my husband and children, sincerely and completely.
Nothing made you happier than seeing your family happy, and no matter what time of day, no matter what you were doing, if we knocked on your door to visit you, your whole face would light up with glee to see us. Genuinely pure, radiant joy. You used to ring, frequently, not because you needed anything, but just because you were missing me and wanted to talk. I know you did the same to all of our family, and I don’t have to tell you how much we are missing those calls now that you’re gone.
As a child, your home was a haven for all of your grandkids: the memories of all of the icy poles, and Summer cricket, and scrabble are so vivid, they feel almost tangible. I used to love it how when the noise and chaos of all of us kids running around the place started to test your patience, you’d kick us outside to play on the swing beneath the huge pine tree, but we could always see your silhouette near the window, as you watched over us to check that we were ok. We loved it, and we loved you. And we knew, without a doubt, that even when your voice was gruff, you loved us too. More than anything.
Pa, you always praised me for being smart. For studying hard, and getting good marks, and trying my best. And while I’m still absolutely trying my best, I don’t feel smart at all.
Because, Pa, I didn’t know about grief.
I didn’t know that it would turn me inside out, and upside down. I didn’t know that it would blindside me randomly in the supermarket when I see a jar of gherkins, and I didn’t know that even months down the track, it persists, ranging in severity from acutely sharp, to a dull throb. I didn’t know that the smell of the cologne you used to wear would make me weep, and I didn’t know I’d find myself in a shop, following a person who looked like you from a distance, because I forgot, just for a moment, that you were gone. And that person wasn’t you.
I’ve worked with birth, and I’ve worked with death, but I’ve never before lived with grief; not like this.
I suppose it’s one of those life experiences, like pregnancy, or giving birth, or being a responsible adult, that I thought I understood, at least in a theoretical sense. Until I found myself in the midst of it, and realised that the theory means nothing. The real deal is raw, and powerful, and overwhelming, and so full of love.
I simply never knew.
Pa, I’ve kept my promise; I’m not crying TOO much (you told me a little bit was ok, remember?) and I’m taking care of Nan, just like you asked me to.
I have no regrets about a single thing; you knew exactly how I felt about you, every single day, and I have so many beautiful memories of you. My sadness doesn’t stem from regret. But mate, I miss you.
The hole you’ve left in my heart can’t be filled by writing about my job, or the kids, or the cat today.
Today, this platform is all yours.
I love you.