For My Father and Perhaps, Our Shared Grief
“For My Father,
…and yours, for the losses we mourn publicly and those we don’t.”
It has been a difficult year on many fronts, for many people. I am alive to the harsh realities of the world we live in. A world that centers profit over people, where the countries we lend our allegiance prove to be uninterested in our lives, time and time again. I am aware of the entrenched systems and beliefs that dehumanize and harm many people in so many ways. I am constantly reminded of the deep despair of undoing century long institutionalizations. So I anguish over things that often seem out of my control. This piece of writing is an acknowledgment of all these facts, an awareness of the different pains, a sharing of my personal grief – and in some ways, an ode to my father.
As difficult a year this has been, truly nothing has been as painful as not being able to hear my father, to have him speak to me, to watch him ponder over an issue we are discussing. It is a tricky thing the way grief manifests. It is terribly inconvenient yes, but it is also humbling and inexorable. I miss my dad. I miss his laugh and the long conversations we had. I often try and imagine what he would say about this year, my graduation, the world sinking even lower. It gives me no comfort to speculate on what he would say or if he would say anything at all. I miss his corny dad-jokes. He had a way of infuriating while simultaneously making you laugh. I sometimes see that in my brother, and I suppose there is some comfort in that. I miss him with every fiber of my being. It is a pain so deep it consumes you, making it difficult to even care to exist at all.
Nonetheless, I must attempt to find the sunshine, even when there is no sun, as I am sure most of you are trying to do, on many days, for many reasons. I would never presume to be an expert on grief. I can only share how it has altered my life and how I am surviving it. There are many types of loss and this year, we are dealing with all of them. The ways in which we grieve are also vastly different as are the processes in which we deal with what we’ve been dealt. One of the things I most contest about myself, is how deeply I feel everything. It is as if every inch of me is always alive to whatever emotion I am feeling. I soak up joy and laugher when it comes – unabashedly. The colors are brighter then, the sun is warm and even the rain is a welcome addition. But when the pain and hurt come, I also feel them fully. They ache in my bones, slowly, the sort of way you want your favorite candle to burn. For this reason, I often try to avoid acknowledging pain, for as long as I can. It is however a careless arrogance to imagine that grief will fall in line.
I struggle to talk about my father. He was always here, until he wasn’t. I hold tightly onto my memories of him. I guard our conversations and I am cautious about who I speak to of him. I replay our conversations over and over, mowing over any details for tidbits I might need later, small signs he might have left me that I didn’t pick on. You see I am afraid, afraid that talking about him will cause me to come undone. That it will force me to reckon with what I have truly lost and this uprooting of my life that happened on 19th, May 2018. On the days I let myself speak about him, or write about him , the air is strange, cloudy even. I imagine that if you could see grief, that is what it’d be like, a sort of fog that makes it hard to see or breath, and one that you can’t quite push away. It is weird because you can’t touch it, but you can feel it as it seeps into your bones and causes aches and races your heart. It oscillates from hurt, to anger, to rage to nihilism. I like to think that the great irony of life is that this can only be a privilege. That to have loved and been loved by someone, even when they cease to be here physically can only mean that they would never truly leave. And so, I occasionally allow myself to believe that he has simply transitioned and occasionally pops by to say hello. On the days I catch a whiff of his scent, I am excited and carry my secret happily through the day. On some days, but mostly nights, my siblings and I will speak of him collectively, but never as if he isn’t here, always as if he were maybe in the next room. We are the ones who knew him, and it warms my heart that we remember him similarly. He was good, but that only makes me angrier that he isn’t here. He was kind, but that only makes my heart ache. He should be here. I catch glimpses of their deep loss as well when we do, but I acknowledge that I do not have the strength yet to dig deeper at it. You see, while some people grieve openly and communally, my grief demands no performance or grand expressions, it must be felt alone.
The thing about this feeling, is that it will be recurring. It is a certainty that is impossible to ignore knowing what I know. This year and all the anxieties that have come with a global pandemic and an eruption of layered violence is another reminder. Being alive to our mortality also means being alive to our limitations and the inescapable reality that we only have so much time. There is a potential there to full appreciate life, to seek out joy and pleasures, sometimes consequences be dammed. It allows for the sometimes child-like belief in things like purpose and in our ability to change and transform the world for better. We might not be here forever, but we are here now.
I find revelations of my father more and more lately. I see the traits of his I inherited manifest. His sense of duty and responsibility, his easy way of getting along with everyone, his escape into books and stories and even his tendency to shoulder too much, quietly. There are also lessons I am learning in the process although many of these I would have preferred to learn in ways that didn’t turn my world on its sides.
In this article that I write for myself and then for you who reads it, I write to say I understand that you are grieving and may you be able to come up for air soon.