Processing, v2

My father has been gone more than a month. The days blur and meld together, and I always forget. I think of him, and it takes a moment before I remember: oh, yes, this world has no Dad in it anymore.

That’s a lousy moment.

I have a meeting with a lawyer next week. I’m the executor of the will—or executrix, actually, as specified in the document; gender binary is apparently important to The Law. His will is not especially complicated, but as I don’t speak fluent legalese, I’ve had to hire a translator.

My mother is managing. When I visit, she’s briefly mournful—she remembers that much, at least, which is something of a shame. But I natter at her and show her pictures, and she brightens with the company. She doesn’t say much—I think she still understands a lot, but it’s hard for her to summon words. She mirrors gestures a lot, and seems delighted when we join in; she’s making a connection.

I’m told she spends a lot of time in the common areas, around people. That can only be good, I think. And her cat is still stubbornly healthy, for which I am grateful.

Just shy of a month after my father’s death, I lost an uncle—not a blood relative, but an uncle by marriage. He also had dementia, so it wasn’t really a surprise.

People say that like somehow it makes everything afterward easier.

When I heard the news I sobbed and sobbed. I hadn’t seen him in years, although we had a nice visit pre-Covid, and I didn’t detect anything wrong with him then. He was a big part of my childhood. Almost all my memories of him are fond. My relationship with him was uncomplicated, and I think that makes it easier to access the grief.

With my dad? I still don’t get it, not really. I don’t get how he can be gone.

I know some time ago that stages-of-grief thing was debunked. As a general framework, though, I think it’s not without value. I am, in a sense, in denial: not disbelieving, but constantly disconcerted that he is really gone, forever inaccessible.

The best analogy I can think of is finding out, one day, that unicorns in fact are real, that everyone knew this but me, and that nobody else finds this strange or even remarkable. I’m stuck struggling with something I’ve always known was impossible and absurd, and the rest of the world is rolling along, unchanged by my newfound knowledge.

It is super weird, and not pleasant.

For some weeks I couldn’t write at all. I would try, and choke out a sentence or two, but it always hurt. My theory is that writing fiction requires a certain amount of self-comprehension, that the way I compose requires me to see myself with as much clarity as possible. Right now I’m a big, messy, battered thing that’s trying to traverse the world as if nothing has changed. Why would I want a clear look at that?

Yesterday ideas started knocking on my psyche again. I sat down and wrote. Not a ton, but it was a start. It still hurt, like pushing on a bruise, but it wasn’t unbearable. Today I’ll try a little more. This book is mine, written for me more than anyone else—they all start out that way, of course.

I want to say he’d tell me to write, that he’d remind me what it’s done for me over the years. He never heard the horror show that trade was for me. He’d have found the self-publishing process fascinating; he’d have wanted every detail of everything I did.

He’d have been angry, along with me, at the people who hurt me. He would not have suggested forgiveness, or getting past the injury. He would absolutely have told me to proceed as if they didn’t matter, and that would have been excellent advice.

Nobody gets enough time. Is that the lesson I’m supposed to learn here? We all know this. We all see, every day, people taken when they have so much left to do. Does it only sink in when it’s people we love?

Does it sink in at all, really?

I don’t want to be crippled by grief just now. I want to finish this book, and the next, and the one after that. I want to greet the next idea that becomes the next novel. I want to be open to it all, efficient and receptive. I want to do what time allows me to do.

Some days, still, I just can’t.

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