My world has significantly changed since my last post. Christmas was difficult, being the first Christmas Eve I’ve ever had without my Granny Hatcher. Her presence and her home defined that holiday for all of my cousins and me, so it was hard to celebrate without her. Shortly after a mournful holiday, I returned to Michigan, ready to turn over a new leaf in the new year, but it wasn’t long before I was called back home for another painful turn of events. My father had fallen ill. He was diagnosed with lung cancer, and it was only a matter of weeks before he passed away.
It’s difficult to write that. I still haven’t fully processed the fact that he is gone, and seeing it in writing adds weight to it, makes it more real. The grieving process is a strange one, with many twists and turns. You do all of the things everyone tells you to do in order to cope with loss– counseling, time with family, time off from work as needed, crying, looking through old photographs– but what you realize is that while the pain of loss becomes less frequent, it is still so sharp and searing when it comes over you.
The thing that has made the loss of my father the most manageable for me is preserving a living memory of him. One of my favorite memories of my dad is the time we spent in the garden together, and I still attribute my love of digging in the dirt to him. I recently prepared my garden bed by fortifying the soil with compost, and I sowed some of my early crops, spinach and carrots. It was meditative to move the soil around, and has been hopeful to see the seeds sprouting.
A couple of Christmases ago, I made a quilt for my dad from the old suits and ties he wore at the beginning of his career as an attorney. My mom thought I should have it, so I brought it back and put it in my trunk full of quilts.
I’ve been taking it out every now and then, thinking about the people he advocated for while wearing those suits. When I made the quilt, I thought it would be neat to keep some of the pockets in tact just to provide visual interest to the quilt. Those are my favorite parts now, because they remind me they were real garments with a real person behind them instead of just squares of fabric.
I had hoped some day I would inherit the quilt back from my dad, I just never thought it would be this soon.
This post is a tribute to my dad. I shared this poem with him the day after my grandmother (his mother) passed in October, and he said that the poem, in his opinion was about “the absolute importance of appreciating life while it is lived.” He went on, expressing his sadness about my grandfather and grandmother’s passing: ”The poem calls it ‘that yearing.’ Oh, how I do miss him and will her. They were my lifeline and what life was all about. Take from it nothing more than that, embrace each moment, and pay it forward. Let your mind paint her nails this Xmas and comb her hair and then if you feel it, cry from the memory. That is the grieving process and how we heal.” Today I am feeling that yearning.
What the Living Do, by Marie Howe
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,
I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss–we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.