Thursday, November 10, 2011

my backwards grief

Grief is a funny thing. Mom died two months ago, Dad two years and two months ago. In my day-to-day life, thoughts of them arise regularly. These memories range from the time immediately before their deaths to the farthest edge of my childhood horizons. Most times, my brain seems ever reasonable in its reaction. Almost Spock-like on the emotive scale. The same is true when Mom & Dad come up in conversation. I can easily talk about them -- about nearly every aspect of them -- without becoming sad. In fact, so many stories are happy that laughter isn't out of the question.

I've wondered if maybe my ability to grieve correctly is broken. I mean, Mom's only been gone a few weeks. Shouldn't sadness be the norm for me at this time? Why am I able to go about living my life with any modicum of cheer in my smile and sunshine in my heart? Am I doing it wrong?

My friend, Maria, is originally from Croatia. Even though she's lived in the U.S. for many years now, her family still follows Croatian custom closely. When her father died, it was expected that she would mourn for three years. Three years of wearing a black scarf. Three years of not attending any social events like weddings. Three years lamenting the loss.

My Mom had been gone three days, and I was back at my office. Three months will pass, and I'll have Christmas decorations adorning my home when I invite family and friends in for a holiday party. I can barely imagine how well I'll be three years from now.

Yet, I do have grief. And without fail, it catches me by surprise. It's when I'm just strolling along living my life, and an unexpected reminder pops up. Tonight, it was this note above - the message on the back of a photograph of my brother when he was an infant. Dad had written, "Little Gerry... He will hate us for this... ." Seeing Dad's handwriting pushed me off a cliff and into an ocean of grief. Even though what he wrote was funny! How does this make sense?

I always loved my father's handwriting. It was artistic, graceful, individual, carefree. It may as well have been a picture of his soul. I still have letters he wrote to me when I was in college and after I'd moved to Seattle. Some of them barely say anything at all. "Enclosed are photos of some of the latest bird carvings." "The grandkids are getting big." "We can't wait to see you at Christmas." But the elegant, sweeping script written with pen and ink was beautiful and unique. More importantly, he was beautiful and unique. And tonight, I miss him so painfully that I'm nearly drowning in tears.

Why this reaction? Why now? It's been more than two years? Shouldn't big sadness like this be reserved for Mom moments because she's so recently departed? Shouldn't Dad moments be more reserved reflections because I've had a couple more years to adjust to the idea that he's gone?

I don't get this grief thing.

No comments: