It happened during a break from writing. I looked at my morning coffee mug at the corner of my desk, recognizing the stale smell of what’s forgotten in the air. The afternoon sun beamed through the slits of my office window. I glanced at my watch, knowing that the next hour required all of my attention before my writer cape switched to mother again. Since errant thoughts stockpiled in my mind, my focus failed. I scowled at the irony of squandering sixty minutes of uninterrupted time to write without juggling chores, my daughter and errands. “You can do this. Focus.” Sometimes we transform into our own self-help authors.
I allowed myself a momentary distraction. One click over, I landed on my Gmail account to check on a freelance assignment that I submitted earlier in the week. In and out, I told myself. Then I will resume writing again. Instead, though, a familiar name and a subject slowed my breath. The email came from one of my late father’s dear friends. He realized that Diwali passed a few weeks ago and he wrote that he thought about HB (a nickname he called my father). As one paragraph moved into the next, he conveyed the state of my childhood home, the happenings in the neighborhood and how the season reminded him of my father.
It took twenty seconds to read the message. By the end of it, my eyes welled up and one by one, the tears started to fall on my computer keys. In each tear, I reflected on a memory of my father. One particular instance flashed in my mind. When my husband and I returned from a vacation one summer, my father made a handmade Welcome Home sign that greeted us as we walked up the driveway. I still remember the rounded edges of the letters and how such a small gesture offered such happiness. The other moments trickled down too. Family carom nights. Eating fruitcake during Christmas. Long conversations about politics in our living room. The first time he held my daughter.
And then in a bold whisper, I said, “I miss you, Dad.”
Grief is that unexpected knock in the middle of the night. All is quiet and then boom, it feels like you are submerged in water, flailing your arms, moving around and using all your energy to try to not succumb to that particular kind of sadness. Although its been almost six years since I lost my father, when I remember him, my insides brace themselves to cushion the punch in the gut. The passage of time only heightens grief’s bullet.
The wound reopens.
I glanced at the clock and noticed that motherhood needed my attention. The hour passed with a caravan of memories of my father and childhood home. Perhaps I got too accustomed to the quiet. I needed the knock. To remember again.
The sun no longer peeked through with its goodness. Instead, an unexpected gray colored the desert sky. I grabbed my keys, stood up and walked out of my office.
That’s how it is sometimes. The unraveling is unexpected.