“Do You Get Angry?” I Asked, My Voice Trailing Off
It was as if I needed permission.
Reaching out, I trailed fingers on blue velvet. My fingers flexed, tensed, cupping the top of the recliner, patting it in a shoulder pat I could no longer give to my dad.
He used to sit right here. I glanced at the wide flat seat of the chair below me. An upraised ridge sat off kilter on the cushion, barely possible given the thin emaciated frame of my Dad in his last months.
Framed photos of Dad stand on the wooden table to the left of the chair. He smiles out from one in his navy blue police chaplain uniform. Another frame shows Mom and Dad hugging, smiling out at us, and early on we never guessed he would die.
“Do you ever get angry?” I ask Mom, coming up behind her in the kitchen.
She’s standing on a cream-colored circle rug under yellow light, unpacking grocery bags and her suitcase from several days at our house.
Tears choke my words, cutting them off, and I start again.
“Not anger at God, but anger at cancer. Angry at death…”
Mom stops, looking up. She smiles and answers, in soft understanding.
I grip the wooden chair in front of me, staring out the window. Pink house finches swoop down for seed, and a brown juvenile cardinal stands in tall snow.
“I just miss him. The grief comes and goes, and usually being here in your house is nice, surrounded by all of his stuff, things that remind me of him, but today…” I swallow, tamping my jaws to hold it back a bit. “Today, it just hurts. He should be here. It’s been so long since I’ve talked with him, seen him. I hate that he’s not here.”
We’re quiet for a few moments, rustling paper bags to folded and flat, storing them in neat labeled cupboards. Carrying the snow shovel and a case of furnace filters downstairs, I stand them next to the tall silver furnace. Dad’s handwriting is taped to a paper on the furnace, checkmarks tallying when to swap in a new air filter for the old. Folding chairs hang suspended from a bungee cord in the far corner, Dad’s computer printed sign labels them Pinke in bold print. Everything is in its place and labeled. My Mom and Dad are orderly, neat.
My eyes trace his handwriting on cold metal, the months listed out, check marks accumulating. His handwriting has halted, and Mom’s check marks continue the count, and that about sums it up.
His handwriting has stopped. I am marked as one of his; Pinke is written in bold strokes across my life. I am honored, proud, and yet so sad. His handwriting fades, and I am furious that he no longer writes and moves and lives here.
“I hate that this life no longer has him in it,” I mumble to Mark an hour later. I have hugged Mom, and driven home in slow-moving, heavy-limbed grief.
“This is the hard grief again,” I explain to Morgan, my twenty-two year old daughter who leans lanky against the door jamb and watches me, her eyes concerned. “This is like the first year of grief — the slow-moving, no energy, just sit and stare grief.”
I’m not sure where it comes from, and why it hits harder some days.
Today –out of the blue– grief hits hard, and it leaves me slow-moving, heavy-limbed, and in quiet staring.
I like to be honest, speaking the hard things too. Trailing a happy day of Happy New Year, after wonderful weeks of savoring family and cheesecake, I want to peel back my life to you now though, and say, “You too?” about any grief you may have. “Me too. You are not alone.”
Feel free to tell me about who, or what, you are grieving in the comments below. I can be sad and pray with you too.