Last week I learned that my grandfather has advanced, aggressive cancer. He’s ninety, and he’s lived a good life, but neither of those facts make this easier on any of us.
This news comes at a time in my life when I’m finally working toward getting through my dad’s death. As I’ve said before, my father’s death is something from which I’ve been running for almost six years now, so to have this put on top of me when I’m finally trying to move forward makes the whole process feel that much more daunting. It’s just too similar. The waiting. The long, drawn-out agony of waiting for the death you’re so afraid of. I feel myself picking up pieces and sprinting as far away from this as possible, but I’ve already started my journey in the other direction, so it’s too much of a disservice to myself to abandon the effort and run away.
I’ve been led to remember some pieces from my past lately, mostly concerning my dad. I’m amazed by how little I remember about my childhood and those years in which grief fogged up my life. I’m startled as to how little I remember about him, but it makes sense. It’s a defense mechanism, sure, and I’m not sure if I’m ready to remember. I’m not afraid of what I’ll find–I know there are things in our past that are painful–but I think I’m more worried about the nostalgia that comes with the territory. If I remember what it was like, I might want that past to be my present again. That’s an impossibility, obviously, so why put myself through the pain of wanting something so completely unattainable?
I get that I should honor his memory just like I should honor the time my grandfather has left with us, but it’s all too painful and close to the surface at the moment. I’m dreading Father’s Day even more fervently this year than I usually do. My entire family is going out to lunch to honor my grandpa, which is a nice idea, but the restaurant they chose is the restaurant we went to right after my dad’s funeral. That is the only time we’ve been there as a family, and it’s pretty much the only time I remember ever being there. I don’t want to be back there, especially since it’s going to be another time of pain. It’s going to be hard for everyone, but it’s going to be the worst on me. On the surface that kind of sounds selfish, but for once I actually carry some kind of resentment and anger. It’s so unfair that my mom and her siblings have had their father for more than fifty years. I had mine for fourteen. It’s just not fair.
I hate that petty “it’s not fair” stuff because it doesn’t get my anywhere, but that’s where I am in relation to this process. I’ve never been allowed to be angry or frustrated or emotional. I realized only yesterday how silent I was forced to be in my dad’s death. Lawsuits really do complicate things, and I was taught to be suspicious of almost everyone. I was told not to talk about it, and somewhere along the line it really stuck. That’s at least part of the reason why thinking and talking about it now are so foreign to me.
This is all disjointed and not nearly as eloquent as I usually like my work to be, but nothing in the grieving process is neat and tidy. It bleeds over into everything, leaving stains and marks you try to scrub out but never truly can. There are no rights and wrongs, no do’s and don’ts, no map to follow. I find my journey is a series of starts and stops. I picture myself as a sprinter, but one that doesn’t have enough energy to clear the hurdles, so every time a hurdle appears in my lane, I crash into it. Then into another, and another, and another until I sit down and wait for my muscles stop aching enough for me to run again.
As I said before, everything feels too similar, and it’s jogging memories of what life was like when my dad was in the hospital. Yesterday I was reminded of how little support I had in high school, at least in the beginning. I lacked true support in a lot of ways, and I didn’t find really helpful people until my junior and senior years. By then a lot of the damage was done; I had taught myself how to suppress feelings and memories, so that support didn’t do as much as it would have when I was 14 and 15. This time around though, as someone was smart and kind enough to point out, I’m not alone. I do have an abundance of support at this moment in my life, so if ever there were a right time to work through grief, it’s now. My fear, as always, is overburdening other people, but right now my need for comfort far outweighs the guilt I might feel. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ll be able to repay them later somehow. I really have to believe that, and then I’ll feel more comfortable with what I need to do now.
I’m lucky, though, to have so much support. That’s what I choose to focus on a lot of the time, especially now when things seem to be so difficult. For now I’d rather write and think about the amazing relationships I presently have and how they’re helping me along. Later I’ll be able to think about the relationships that I’ve lost or are about to lose, but gaining strength is one of my main goals at the moment. I’ll do what I need to do to get there. I’m not weak by any means, but I’m not yet strong enough to clear the hurdles.
And you know what? Right now, that’s completely okay.