“You’re crown will be so big, you aren’t going to be able to hold your head up.”
“That’s alright. I’ll ask for help.”
That is part of a conversation my mother had with my papa on what we knew, as well as him, would be his last father’s day. I was sad, but I didn’t grieve. I know the difference.
Grief comes from somewhere deep. So deep that I cannot put it into words. Sadness is on the surface. You wear it easier. It’s flowy and comes and goes like the wind moving soft fabric. Others can see you wearing sadness.
But grief, that’s different. You can’t wear grief because it seeps inside you. It enters through pours, you suck it in every time you open your mouth, you inhale it with each breath. You carry it internally and although its invisible, its heavy. Greif attaches itself to all your vital organs, making it seemingly impossible to do anything but carry it. Others can’t see it because it becomes you and you it.
I didn’t grieve for specific reasons.
First, I’ve come to learn that grief is a selfish act. Joan Didion talks about losing her husband and how she dealt with it like it was something that happened to her, not him. She writes, “When we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or worse, ourselves. As we were, as we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”
My papa was ready to die. He willed himself to do so. He put that energy out in the universe, and the universe responded. Nothing was wrong with him except as he put it, he was tired. And that’s it. He was 93 and tired. And had humbly, lovingly, and non-judgmentally led his life in such a way that he could meet Jesus. His last requests were of ice cream and a bath (he’d already had one on this day), but he wanted to fulfill his last earthly request and be super clean for when he finally got his chance to meet Jesus. And if you are a believer, then trust me, he’s there.
What’s to be sad about?
In 1981, Philippe Aries wrote in “The Hour of Our Death,” that “only the dying man can tell you how much time he has left.”
I thought of this quote as my mother tried to bake papa a pie. He responded that he wouldn’t be here to eat it.
The day after papa ate his ice cream, his soul left. He didn’t die, but he didn’t wake up. His body was just doing what it had always done and it took two days for his shell to realize his self had gone to be his heavy crown wearing soul in Heaven.
I also didn’t grieve because I know longer knew this person. My papa’s life had earlier consisted of beach outings, fishing and clamming, vacations, and many, many hours of socialization to anyone that would sit still long enough to listen and respond. But due to my grandmother’s agoraphobia, all that had ceased when he started to really age. My grandmother has reasons not to go outside, reasons to be unhappy, reasons to be mean. Excuses range from people don’t like her at church, she feels uncomfortable, she doesn’t have the right clothes, she just doesn’t want to go. Plus she’d have to put teeth in her head, and why do that when one can just sit. Inside. And once papa started to get where he couldn’t move like he used to, he didn’t want to leave her. So he just sat there too. And eventually needed a recliner to help him stand, then a walker, then diapers. And the animals inside used the front porch as their personal shitting grounds. And they fed the dogs table scraps, that if not eaten, remained floor scraps, on a 30 year old balding piece of trailer carpet. Then the floor of said trailer would sag and eventually give way. Not once, not twice, but three times in three different areas. Nothing was ever updated or cleaned properly. Chicken bones on the floor. Roaches so common that if you sat still for a few moments you’d see something move. And that’s something I stopped doing there long ago- sitting. It was filthy. It hadn’t changed since 1982. Every time I visited, something bit me. It was such a necessity to mentally psyche yourself to go through the backdoor due to the smell, that I was ready to go before I got there. And it all got worse as they aged and sat some more.
My uncle was part of the reason things are the way I describe. He’s gay and has never admitted it. And thus he’s done drugs for the better part of his life- I assume due to “hiding.” He’s not fooling anyone though and I can’t figure out why he tries to. In being this way, he’s never held a job, bought a car, a home, or really bought anything. He’s just mad. I suppose at himself. But he’s lived for so long this way, plus off his parents, that at 90 my grandmother still cooks for him.
I stopped being able to handle these things long ago.
I didn’t grieve for my papa due to his promise to me. Since he knew his time was coming to a close, he gave those around him advice, pieces of wisdom, and love.
Until about 12 years ago, they were able to do a lot for themselves, others, and me. I spent a month traveling around China on their dime. They traveled with my mom and I up the east coast into Canada. They owned four homes. I thought they had given to me all they could until this father’s day. He gave me a gift no one else could.
He was going to hug Daniel. He was going to tell Daniel how I missed him.
And for that I couldn’t grieve for him.
He was going to see Daniel.