Saturday, March 25, 2017
The calendar moment.
Hmmmm. Well, I guess grieving takes its own time, doesn't it? It meanders along and some days, maybe even for weeks, it doesn't utter a sound in the soul. Just sits quietly, much like a polite guest, listening to your story, letting you talk and do your thing. Then, it clears it's throat and speaks out loud and like a punch to the heart, it's as if you'd just lost that someone all over again.
My father took to technology surprisingly well for a man coming to it as late as he did. In fact, by the time he passed, he had a big old Mac desktop setup and all kinds of goodies, and he knew how to use them! Every year, he would set up a calendar for my brother Brian and his family. He meticulously inserted photos in all of our special dates, photos of us on our birthday square, photos of us on each header page, larger collages that changed with each month. It got to where I'd depend on that calendar to tell me who was doing what and who's birthday was when. I'd go, look over the month and know if anything special was coming up.
This week is my niece Grace's 14th birthday. I have difficulty remembering the specific dates of most birthdays, and went in to the kitchen where that calendar has hung year after year, grasped it and peered at it and realization hit me. This was NOT the calendar. Oh, it was a calendar, a generic store bought item that, while perfectly useful and commonplace, was not THE calendar. I stood for a few heartbeats, confused. Seriously, I was confused. And then I remembered, dad died right before Thanksgiving, and there had been no calendar this year. I felt like I'd been punched in the chest.
I took several steps back, my face beginning to screw up in horror at the realization that I was going to cry. Hard.
I've spent the week house sitting and staying with my nephew, Ethan, while Brian was off on a training mission with the National Guard, and our evening had been unremarkable up to that point. Ethan stood, uncertain, his eyes widening as I slowly tipped over the edge and informed him, hands to my cheeks, that I was going to cry. He shuffled his foot for a moment, uncertain as to my level of need for comfort, but being who and what he is, I found myself swept up in a huge bearhug. I'm not extremely physical, but it was just the right thing to do. He's grown so tall and smelled of motorbike fuel, sunshine and laundry soap. He let me babble about how I've struggled so desperately with the feeling of loss, how, as long as dad was here, I always, ALWAYS felt so safe. It was always ok as long as dad was there. Nothing was insurmountable, and now that he's gone, I feel so lost and alone. I have never felt so alone in my life. It's like I'm on that same tightwire, but now there's nothing underneath, just this dark yawning nothing. That man hung the moon for me. I could never find words enough to express how much I loved him. And now, he's gone and I don't think I'll ever feel right again. Brian calls it "the calendar moment." He said they'd all had one. Odd how the simplest things make such an impact, and that one yearly ritual could become so important seeming.
Ethan and I spent the next hour and a half talking about everything that popped into our heads. He amused me greatly with stories of his friends, his daily life, his philosophies. I talked about heritage, family and told him stories of his great grandfather, and their brother's. Ethan and Brian are much as I was with my father, head butting and buddy moments, riding together, laughing, connected in ways many fathers and sons are not in this day and age. But, this is West Virginia, and things are different here, family is something more than it is in other places. Everyone has someone who hung the moon for them, and losing that, well, there's no words to cover it.
I'm sitting with sadness again this week, and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it, so I settle in and let it come. Someday, I'll be able to think about that darned calendar and not feel that awful grief that carries me away on a river of tears. But not today.