Grief according to Google is defined as intense sorrow. I’m not sure exactly where I fall in this situation because I’m a ball of mixed emotions. I’m somewhere between not processing my feelings and volcanic emotional eruption. I’m intensely sorrowful that I don’t have my dad around to talk to and laugh with daily, but I’m also intensely relieved that I don’t have to worry about him. I know that last part sounds a bit morose but let me unpack that for you.
In the 90’s my dad had a kidney transplant, way back before technology was as advanced as it is now. During his recovery, his body rejected the donor kidney twice. That means it was highly unlikely that he should have lived for the next 20 plus years and it was most unlikely that my parents would have not ONE but TWO children after his transplant. I guess in a way I had more time with him than I should have but I digress. We’ll skip several years ahead for the sake of unnecessary reading and blah blah blah.
When I graduated from college, Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia circa 2010, we had a moment alone and he told me how proud he was of me. He then proceeded with telling me, all he wanted was to see me graduate from university and now he could die and be at peace. Ummm…. In that moment I didn’t know what to do with that information especially considering I have 2 younger siblings, neither of which were even to high school yet. In my typical defensive nature I quickly dismissed his death talk and found something to laugh about.
In the time following my graduation he retired from his tenure as a university English professor mostly because his health was declining rapidly. The routine of him being in and out of the hospital began and in the coming years my dad being hospitalized became an almost comedic calendar event. We could count on spending several holidays throughout the year at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. He would often call us laughing saying "Guess where I am?" but the number on the caller ID gave it away before anything. Through it all he had some truly amazing doctors and nursing staff. He was a very jolly patient and kept his doctors and nurses laughing.
Then came the end. Leading up to the time of my dad’s earthly departure he became very sentimental. Okay I’ll be honest, he was annoying as hell but in a sweet and funny way. He would regularly call me at work, in the middle of me teaching a class, on my work phone to talk. I literally mean holding the most random of conversations. Yes, I engaged in every single conversation. Mostly because deep down I knew and I also knew he needed an escape even if it wasn’t but for three or four minutes in the middle of my class. About a month before he transitioned he called me on my way to work, I don’t really remember why, but he needed me to come back home. I called my administrator from the parking lot of campus and took the day. I went back home and we literally sat and watched TV all day.
The last random call was on a Sunday while I was with my best friend on our way to Crystal Beach in Galveston, Texas. We’re sitting in the middle of traffic after downing two liters worth of juice and water (not a good idea) having to go to the restroom with rising urgency. We were literally at the point of the pee-pee dance with not a gas station in sight and through comes a call from my dad. Even in my own agony I answered his call, he began with the usual greeting and then proceeded to ask where I was. I’d already told him before I left but I reminded him again that I was going to the beach. At the end of the call my spirit was restless and I wanted to go home but in my situation I couldn't turn two cars of people around for a feeling. So we found a service station to take care of our urgent restroom situation and then we beached.
May 30, 2018 turned my whole world upside down. The man who loved me unconditionally, told me bedtime stories, wiped my tears when I cried over a boy, raised me to be a no-nonsense woman, challenged my thinking, showed me the value of believing on something, the value of community and supporting it, and encouraged me to reach beyond the stars was called home.
In the two years since my father's death I've learned a lot about grief and I've processed many of the lessons he's taught me. I've learned that you never stop grieving and that's OKAY. I read a metaphor that described grief as a ball in a box, some days the ball is big and fills the box and other days the ball is small (still there, but small). I've never been one for funerals and death, I get really awkward for some reason and I have no words, after experiencing the loss of a loved one for myself, I feel like I have less words but instead shared feelings. It's important to cherish each moment with the ones we love and even the strangers we meet because in the end all we have is the memories.