Grief is a funny thing. It hits you at the strangest times. There’s the obvious initial response to the death of a parent that is emotional and jarring and raw, but then that gives way to daily life needing to move on and that’s when grief creeps up, bubbles up, bursts forth at the oddest of moments. Seemingly odd at first, but very fitting upon further observation.
James’ dad died in the middle of February. It was sudden and unexpected. He wasn’t the healthiest of people and seemed to be aging rapidly, but no one would have guessed he was going to pass at 62 years of age, not yet two months into his retirement. I’d never experienced anything like that before. My husband hadn’t experienced anything like that before. We’ve lost grandparents and a few people on the outskirts of our lives, but never someone so close and dear and…there. Having to tell the kids their beloved Grandpa, the man who would pick them up and take them for pancakes and read to them was gone was one of the hardest things to do.
I found that because James is the eldest child and his dad was alone and we had children going through their own grieving process I shelved a lot of my emotion. After Pat died, after the room cleared out, I sat there and just thought about the mountain of things that this meant. What this meant to everyone, all of the things that had to be done and taken care of. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom and have been for a long time now, but the list grew instantly and I went into ‘care’ mode.
But now I find it creeping out or bursting forth at bizarre moments like when I walked into Safeway the other day. It was the first time since he died. Pat had called James from Safeway because he felt dizzy and short of breath. It was the last time they talked. The manager had called Pat an ambulance and by the time James got to him he was unconscious. I put Eli in the buggy and walked through the doors and an instant flood of emotion came over me. “He’s gone” I just kept repeating in my head.
It also caught me off guard when I put a dish of rice pudding in the oven to bake. The last time that I had made it was the day he died. The connection to a time when he was here was too profound. The absence of the person is felt so deeply. Too deeply. But it’s good. I need to feel it. I need to care for the people around me during a time like this, but I also need to wade through my own emotions and let them break the surface so that I can work through them.
I imagine it will be a long road of these sorts of things. We will never fully recover from a parent dying, they are linked too closely to our lives. They mean too much to us. Especially if they have been the type of parent, like Pat, who, despite his flaws and our flaws, has loved us greatly and unconditionally.