Friday, September 08, 2006

Been a really rough last 1/2 hour, Dad

Saw an older gentleman getting out of his car
at the post office and that was all it took.

I started crying. Then I started trying to remember
what your voice sounded like, but I can't remember.

And I can't remember what your smile looked like
or your eyes, and I can't look at pictures.

20 weeks and 1 day now. I can't believe I actually
looked at the calendar and counted the weeks.

When will this pain end, Dad? When? I want to
just be able to think about you and smile
and remember all the things I loved about you
and you loved about me. But my heart feels
like it will never be free to do that.

I miss you, Dad. So terribly.


LKD said...

Ah, gee, Maggie, you're making me weepy.

I wish there was something I could say...

but there isn't.

Have you heard this quote before?

"After the first death, there is no other."

I'm not sure who it's attributed to, only that it serves as an epigraph to the novel "August," a book I read years ago. I've carried that quote around inside me ever since.

I was thinking about it last night right before I went to bed. I'd never understood what it meant until after my father died.

You say you can't look at pictures of him. Do you have a picture of him as a boy or young man, an image of him before he was your father? I know that the only photo I could stand to look at for months after my father's death was this beautiful black and white picture of him all dressed up in his Marines uniform. He was so damned young and handome.

I'm thankful for your blog, Maggie. I'm thankful that you're so open with your grief. The only way I felt comfortable expressing mine was via poetry. Thanks for letting it all out here. It makes me miss my father so keenly.

LKD said...

Oh, meanwhile, there IS something I can say. I mean, I know that there's nothing I can say that will assuage your pain but I can share this poem with you. Maybe you already know it. It was posted on Sam's blog (a blog I highly recommend if you haven't already checked it out) a few days ago:

Eating Together

In the steamer is the trout
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,
brothers, sister, my mother who will
taste the sweetest meat of the head,
holding it between her fingers
deftly, the way my father did
weeks ago. Then he lay down
to sleep like a snow-covered road
winding through pines older than him,
without any travelers, and lonely for no one.
--Li-Young Lee

Anonymous said...

hi maggie. i think the inability to look at photographs must be fairly common, though lord knows why. in my case, i couldn't look at a photo of my son for over a year after his death.

Maggie said...


Thanks for the poem and for the company here. Yes, I suppose I am very open in my grief, but it's easier here to be that way.

I'm not that way with my brothers and sister, and I can't be with my mom. My grief seems to make my brothers and sister uncomfortable and they just say things (when I start weeping and they're very quiet on the other end) like, "Well, we all grieve differently. It doesn't mean I'm not just as heartbroken, sad, missing dad, etc. as you." Or something to that effect. I mean, this is not a contest about whose heart is breaking more--it's a reaching out to know someone else feels what I am feeling--someone who lost the same father--so I just don't call them anymore. For years, I've been the one to make the effort to stay in touch. I can't muster the energy any longer

With Mom, I just can't go there. We were never close though I always, always wanted a close relationship with my mother. I am too much like her--in temperament and looks. I think when I was a child, I reminded her too much of the neglected, orphaned child she self-loathed, so she couldn't be close to me. Anyway, that's not the point I was trying to make. It just hurts me to see her there, and to be there at the house and to see Dad's chair and to still think I may find him in the garden when I know he's not ever going to be there again. My mom gets very emotional and weepy around me (which seems a bit odd considering the lack of emotion which has been as much a part of her as her eye color). Oh, she was a drama queen at times, but mostly she was angry or impassioned about something. I only saw her cry a very few times. So, she tears up and starts talking about Dad's deplorable treatment in the hospitals and how she'll never get that out of her mind and how she's always second guessing herself and wondering if things could have turned out differently if we'd all been more proactive or less willing to tolerate the treatment. I think we were all so exhausted at that point, our bodies numbed by the fear and constant worry at the thought of losing him, that we were walking around in something like a state of shock. Something that generally happens after the death.

So, I went to Lowe's yesterday and got Mom some pansies to plant in her large planters out front. I had already dropped off some black bean soup and a herb salad earlier that day, and I just wanted to drop off the flowers and leave, but she asked me to stay awhile, so I did. Ultimately, she ended up crying (which is not a bad thing), but I know what happens if she gets too upset (eye infections, nosebleeds, insomnia), so I said, "Mom, you need to try to stop going back all the time. You can't change what happened. I can't change it either. You've written to the DON (Director of Nursing), and I've written to the Joint Commission and we just have to let this go and try to remember what dad said when he came out of that three weeks of agony. He said, 'I don't remember anything about being at UHL. Nothing.' "

Then I had to leave because I could feel the anger rising again and the disbelief. So many emotions all the time.

I do have pictures of Dad when he was a boy and a young man. I have a picture of him in his Navy uniform when he was only 18 or so. It's an 8 x 10 my grandmother gave me. It's in a frame adorned with very small American flags (framed in 1942 or 43). I also have one of he and Mom on my piano. He's in his uniform, all smiles. Mom looks young and happy and beautiful. I pass these pictures every day but can barely stand to look at them.

And so, it's getting cloudy here, and I've done virtually nothing with my morning except lie in bed reading a Maria Callas biography and some Laux poetry. I did manage to get a 40 minute walk in, but I felt so lethargic and ready to come home and crawl in bed that that is what I did when I got home.

Just tell me, Laurel, that I will get better. Tell me if you went through these emotions. Oh, that makes me think of something my mom said yesterday. She said it really helped that my baby brother (he's 32) and his girlfriend come over for lunch every day (M-F). Mom said that gives her someone to talk to and that they discuss Dad's death. I told her I had several friends who had lost a parent and what a help they've been to me.

She said losing a parent was not something she could relate to. She was placed in foster care when she was six, and she told me she used to wonder all the time if any of the men she and her foster family passed on the street were her dad. She said at some point, she just stopped looking for him. And though she knew her mother, she had no relationship with her outside of sending Christmas cards and calling her on occasion.

That just made me sadder. So, I came home. Made a drink. Tried to do something mindless like watch HGTV, and then finally I just went to bed--at like 8:00. I was just spent.

Whew. Sorry for ramblng so.

By the way, I love all your pictures of flowers and your cats (yes, Bob is endearing, but Elmo was my dad's middle name, and he looks like one of my cats (Oreo), so am kinda partial to him). And your poetry has only gotten better. I enjoy reading your work. Thanks for reading me.

Maggie said...


Thanks for stopping by...I shall visit your blog.

How old was your son? I am so sorry to read of your loss. Losing a parent is one thing--a child an entirely different thing, I am sure.

In psychological circles, they use terms like "normative" or "non-normative" event when discussing grief and loss. But loss is loss, and each person who loses someone they love can testify that the loss of a loved one always seems like a non-normative event.

Again, my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your son. I do hope in time I can open up my picture albums and just enjoy seeing my dad's smiling face once more and just try to remember the good days.

LKD said...

You WILL get better.

And when you do, you'll miss your grief almost as much as you miss him right now, strange as that sounds.

I avoided my mother for months after my father's death because I missed him so keenly when I was around her that I couldn't stand to be around her. They were such a couple, so happy together, so happy whether silent or talking in each others' company. I miss very very much who my mother was when my father was alive. She's so different now.

The grieving process is arduous. It is as hard, I think, as the actual loss of the loved one who you're mourning. Everyone does grieve differently. My younger brother was very remote, every removed and emotionally unexpressive after my father's death. I don't recall seeing him cry at all, whereas my older brother was very open and cried hard on the day of the funeral, a day on which the rest of the family was literally cried out, completely dry of tears because we'd all been to my uncle's funeral (my mother's brother) two days earlier (he died the day after my father went into the hospital). I never beat myself up about how I was or was not grieving. I did feel guilty as hell and still do for avoiding my mother in those first months.

You WILL get better. It will get better.

But there won't be any closure. Closure is a fucking myth.

I miss my dad every day even when I'm not actively thinking about him.

I'm not much of a hugger, Maggie, but if you were here, I'd throw my arms around you and cry with you.

Maggie said...

Thank you, Laurel.

I am more the hugger with those less close to me--those I care about but don't have the vested interest I have in those I love as family and friends.

It is so easy on any given day to open up my arms and hug someone--at work, at dinner with friends, at gatherings in which you find yourself face-to-face with someone you haven't seen in years but once spent hours and hours together sharing the most secret and most obvious parts of yourself. That I can do.

The night Dad died, my mom actually hugged me before we got on the elevator, after we knew we had seen him for the last time before we would view him at the funeral home. The last time she had really hugged me before that was in 1976 at my high school graduation. And even that seemed a bit perfunctory. But she did hug me.

And yet, even with friends who are openly demonstrative and offer hugs freely, I often feel uncomfortable in the comfort of their heartfelt hugs, but oh how I appreciate them.

Sometimes I think I play the Blanche Dubois thing up too much--you know, the kindness of strangers. But it is easier.

There's a certain vulnerability I have yet to relinquish with those who are closest to me.

Even they know so little about me.
But I am grateful for their kindness and the expression of such.

Thank you, thank you.