I walk across the pavement, while I watch the green hummingbird flitting its wings, moving in no discernible rhythm. The second it lands in one place, it seeks refuge elsewhere. My eyes fail to follow the hummingbird’s trek across the desert. Instead I keep moving, admiring the pink flower sprouting from the cacti, the leaves fanned out on the sidewalk and the sun’s rays extending its stretch.
The arrival of spring is hard to deny, but it also means the landing of another moment.
March 22 marks eight years since I lost my father. Even typing this single sentence pushes me to move my fingers away from the keys. What if I hit backspace and delete every word? It may disappear from the screen, but the fact still remains. I am still fatherless. But who do I tell? And who wants to listen? Grief continues to baffle – I’ve failed to solve life’s ultimate Rubik’s cube. I recognize the order I seek. But my feeble attempts to align my emotions in one definitive direction doesn’t work. So, I continue to shuffle the squares, trying different combinations, giving up and then trying to solve the undercurrent of what it means to excavate grief. To sit in it. To say aloud, “Oh my gosh, he is gone.” Would you believe that sometimes I don’t believe he’s not here? Perhaps it is denial or an undying hope for a different outcome.
Then, I focused on the physical aspect of grief, letting the tears fall without measure. I’d hide in the bathroom to mask my sadness from others because this kind of melancholy is one I didn’t have the capacity to put in words. How do I explain what I didn’t understand myself? Then, life became living without my father, learning to navigate early motherhood, transitioning out of a legal career, moving to a different state and losing the pieces of scaffolding that offered a sense of place and belonging. With these transitions, I carried grief in silence, in noise, in joy, in sadness, in the midst of the carpool drop-off, and in the quiet of early morning.
Grief wouldn’t forgive me. No matter how much I begged, it remained. Then, I fought it. I’d say, “Get over it. Move past it and keep it to yourself.” I tried this method and outward appearances indicated I’d managed to push the grief down like the puppet in the jack-in-the-box, but this only meant, the sadness popped out without notice, surprising me, even though it always lingered in the background. I paid less attention to honoring the goodness and asked all the wrong questions, running into metaphorical walls, like a young child navigating a maze with no exit. Then, I didn’t understand. Then, I was a little girl mourning her father. Then, I realized, I moved from little girl to an adult within a single second.
Now, I don’t ask grief a single question. I accept it. Now, I welcome how my father’s death shifted the entire trajectory of my life. Now, I understand the lessons with a clarity I didn’t recognize before. Now, I understand the risks he took as a young man, embarking to a new continent with less than seven dollars in his pocket. Now, I recognize his lessons – sitting with uncomfortable feelings even if it meant not finding an immediate solution, finishing endeavors, and working hard with a focused perseverance. Now, I understand all the little things – why he brought home donuts every single Sunday, why we went to Braum’s as a family and why he insisted that we always had dinner together.
Then, I didn’t know the lessons. Now, I understand, but can’t convey my gratitude to him.
Grief, then and grief, now – one constant remains – I miss him.
The restlessness of this thought will likely never disappear and like the hummingbird, I’ll keep darting from one place to another.
Image: Hummingbird by M. Shattock via Flickr.