At the end of the day, all we’re left with are the pieces of ourselves we attach to things. That is to say, we are left with ourselves. The others are gone.
I can’t exactly recall the last time my father said my name. For the last 8 months or so, I wasn’t even sure he knew who I was. It’s this slow stretch of the ties that bind that make you remember that sometimes the things we most believe to be true are nothing but smoke and mirrors and that life is really just a timeline with scrawled events leading to an inevitable end that will get forgotten. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell right now. This is the first time my father has died. I’m a little confused how to walk this.
When my brother died in 1991, it was a wholly different affair. No social media. No cell phones. There was no way for me to mourn privately while simultaneously grieving with the majority of my friends and acquaintances. It was more of a blunt tragedy, it hit me and I spun out of orbit and landed in different peoples’ laps for periods of time before they either grew weary of me or I of them and I moved on. Grief is fluid and inconsistent. And it is ever changing, depending on the circumstance. Your dad died? Did I know him? Oh, I’m sorry for you but here’s the thing: I don’t really feel that grief. When I tell you I’m sorry, I’m feeling MY grief. And I’m relating it to yours. Because, as humans, that’s all we know how to do. It’s not bad. It just is. And here’s the thing: it’s not your grief. It’s mine. And it’s not my worst. It’s pretty natural. And pretty okay. In the way that the fact we are all going to die at some point is okay. In that, it isn’t. But it is.
I did that thing where you tell the person dying that you are okay if they let go. I didn’t really think he was dying right then. I figured I was being melodramatic by even broaching the subject, sitting there in that shithole he was living in, smelling urine and decay all around me, a Rhett Butler poster across from the bed, violently unironic. He had been wheeled into the hospice section and they hung his clothes on a tiny pole with no label because they knew, better than anyone else, that he wasn’t going to need to keep them there very long. His pillow had the name “Ed” written on it in Sharpie and no pillowcase. But, fuck it, he’s dying. Why bother, right? These are the kinds of things I’m holding onto right now because I wished I could have wheeled him out of there and put him near the ocean and let him smell the water and hear the waves and feel the wind. Instead, I rubbed his forehead and kissed him and talked to him like he could hear me because I kept thinking...I don’t know what I was thinking. I was wishing the caregiver in the office across the hall would keep the volume on her computer down because I really didn’t want to listen to anymore fucking vine videos or snapchats of Fetty Wap. I don’t even know who the fuck Fetty Wap is and it was the second time that day he was in my orbit. But I get it. Her job sucks. Maybe snapchats are the only way to keep her sane. Regardless, my dad did not belong there. And I have to believe he wouldn’t have even known if he were elsewhere or my head might explode. I’m angry. Not that he died. But at the fact that he was sitting in a smelly room with strangers much of the time and the fact that life is not a fucking Nora Ephron film with a poignant ending and accessible pop soundtrack.