Who is in heaven,
Hallowed is his name
This week, as part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I got in the pool to swim laps. My goal was twenty minutes. I am not a swimmer, but I move my arms and legs in order to stay afloat and propel my body, so I burn calories and use muscles.
I swam for ten minutes in some version of a doggy paddle, then flipped onto my back.
Heaven. The water covered my ears and the voices of others in the pool area receded. I was back in the womb, but with language. This, I thought, was a good reason to come back to the pool, beyond resolutions or calories.
Then it hit me. My father and I in the pool at our apartment complex. I’m somewhere between three and four.
My father was an amazing swimmer, having spent summers at his parents’ cottage on a small lake in northern Michigan. His young face, more cleanly shaven or maybe just stubble less obvious because not yet gray. His hair dark black and full, even fuller because it was the 70s. Sideburns. Going underwater without plugging his nose. Demonstrating. Eyebrows crazy from rubbing the water out of his eyes. Snot in one nostril blown into the pool, making his daughter laugh at her naughty daddy. Then putting her on his back, her hands clasped around his neck, forearms on his shoulders, feeling his muscles move beneath the skin as he swam back and forth across the pool, careful not to let her face dip into the water. Her strong daddy. Her protector.
And tears. A grief bomb and a gift. Time retrieved.
And so I keep swimming.
And hoping for another trip around the pool with my dad.
I’ve regressed from fine
The internet says we move
In and out
Of the cycles.
I think I’m between
Anger and depression.
I can’t even read about
Daddy still visits me in
Just a short post this morning that leaves grief for the moment and celebrates love and joy. It’s a snow day for my part of the world today, which means pjs, blankies, daytime tv in the background, and work on the laptop interspersed with visits to Facebook and the kitchen.
On one of my Facebook visits, I glanced at the left column and saw those tiles of Friends and realized, in one of those lightbulb moments, that my two older children, the ones to whom I am stepmom, have photos I took as their profile pics and they have had them there for well over a year, nearly two.
Why was this such a lightbulb moment?
Because I realized, when I saw those two tiles side by side, that they have chosen to identify themselves, at least in this venue, by moments I captured, moments in which I was involved. I see those images and immediately recall those moments.
And I realized how far I have come since I began this blog. I no longer interpret myself as part of the periphery. Now I see the bigger picture, a mosaic in which I play a part.
Perspective, interpretation. How we construct meaning.
That has made all the difference.
These revelations are not new.
Except to me.
Culture gives us the space, the permission, to wrap ourselves in grief for a series of days–the wake, visitations, funeral–and then expects us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back to the business of life.
And mostly we do. We get busy. Stay busy. Hide in busy.
But then grief breaks through.
When you see a little girl at the airport snuggled into her daddy’s neck and want to warn her that one day he will leave her.
When you are drifting off to sleep and memories and loss sneak up on your relaxing mind.
When you see that smile.
And grief breaks through.
My dad passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 18 at the young age of 62. I’m not sure where I’m at in the stages of grief, but it feels like something between numb and raw. Last night’s countdown was seven kinds of conflicted for me and it’s stupid, really, for a rational person. It’s a night, a time on the clock, just like any other night. An arbitrary division of time within an arbitrary division of time . Here’s the rub. 2013 is a rotten bitch because it’s now The Year My Dad Died. So good flipping riddance, right? But it’s also the year of my last memories with my dad. And 2014 is also a rotten bitch because it’s the first year of my life that there is no Dad.
Time and tide wait for no man, they say.
They also say a bunch of other stuff, some of which makes me feel better and some of which makes me feel angry.
Ok, breathe. Recover.
Time heals all wounds.
Another balm that I know to be incompletely true, but true enough.
So 2014, you arbitrary unit of time, it’s time to make you my rotten bitch. Tomorrow I’ll think positive. In ten arbitrary units of time I’ll think positive. Right now, in this moment that needs no definition or tag or title, I’ll just mourn.