I brewed the last of my Rouge Métis tea this morning. That tea I bring home with me from Paris that, with one sip, brings me right back to my terrace on Cité Veron, writing in the mornings. There was just enough in the tin for one last cup, and I stood there at the counter shaking the last of the dregs into a tea filter, trying not to read into the fact that I ran out of my comforting morning ritual on today, of all days.

The death of someone you love is a nightmare, and not just because coping with it or learning to live with it and live without them is scary. Proceeding with life after a death has all the hallmarks of a bad dream: the eerie nonsense where everything seems like real life but is off just slightly, strange lurches of time, impending fear, wanting to run but finding your legs can’t move.

It’s easier for me to write about losing him in the abstract. I cry less this way.

I’ve started and stopped this post countless times this week, barely making it through a single line before the tears would suffocate me and I’d have to retreat into a ball and let the grief run its course. It’s never done though, grief. After ten years, you’d think it would have relented, moved on, faded to a manageable degree, like an old bruise or the last vestiges of a summer tan at the end of September. Instead, my grief has become Grief, a capitalized, all-consuming thing that floats at the periphery of my vision, never letting me forget it’s there. Lurking, waiting until I see an old photo or hear a laugh that’s too similar or get too close to this day or his birthday or mine. Grief acts a lot like a migraine, leaving me feeling as exhausted and drained but with an ache in my chest instead of my head. What else can it want from me, I think, each time I’m swallowed whole by it.

I’ve gotten by okay, for the most part. I can function in society, I can get out of bed, I have a happy marriage, a solid relationships with others. But my dad’s death has seeped into my bones and shaped who I’ve become in last ten years in a way nothing else could or will. It’s also given me a stupidly optimistic outlook on life, in a way: whatever happens, nothing will ever be as bad as losing my dad.

I don’t want this to sound like I am unhappy all of the time. I’m not. But my day-to-day is tinged with an almost manic happiness, as if my brain is saying, “I’m so happy, look how happy I can be, I am fiiiiine.” I’ve always been an introvert, since I was a very small child, preferring my own company to that of anyone else’s, but it’s gotten more extreme in the last 10 years. There’s a line in my novel about one of the more seemingly resilient characters: “Even when he was down he was up.” I am literally the exact opposite. Even when I am up, I am down. Being alone now means I don’t have to be on for anyone. I don’t have to be up.

I am not blaming my dad for any of this. Thanks to a lot (a lot) of therapy, I’ve moved past the feelings of anger and abandonment and blame. If anything, still having this hulking amount of sadness a decade later is comforting. It’s directly proportionate to how much he meant to me, the kind of man he was, how ideal our relationship was. But that just means I will be dealing with this for the rest of my life. Because while it feels simultaneously like it’s only been a week and also twenty years since I last held his hand, saw him thumb his mustache while he was deep in thought, there is no way 10 years is long enough to have shaken this Grief from my system yet.

Today is my last day of work before I become a full-time, stay-at-home writer. I quit two weeks ago because I have been fighting internally for months, maybe even since the day I got back from Paris in 2014, between my urge to have an income and my need to just write. There’s a certain unmissable symbolism in today being my last day, and when my boss and I hammered out the specifics, it took me a moment to realize why August 5th sounded heavy. It never registers immediately.

I cannot wait to finish this novel. I will finish this novel this year if it kills me, and when I am done I will write “For CJG” on the dedication page. Because this one is for him.

I found another, full tin of tea in the back of the cabinet.

I love you, Daddy. I miss you every day.

17 thoughts on “Ten.

  1. That photo……….every time………in my mind’s eye seeing him twiddle his mustache, break off bits of delicacies and bring them to his mouth with his thumb and middle finger, finishing with licking each finger…..his humor….his generosity…..his love of you. Of course it still hurts. Look who he was….look inside, that’s where you will find him.

    1. Twiddling his mustache! My favorite of his quirks, along with sneaking around aisles when we’d go shopping to scare me with a gruff, “Hey little girl, want a walnetto?” I still crack up over that. I can still hear his voice, too. And I think of him every time I grab something and use my thumb and middle finger (who uses their index finger??). xoxo

  2. You write beautifully, and especially in the posts about your dad. He seems beyond wonderful and I’ve got no doubt he’d be proud of you. I hope to have the change to read your book soon, and I’ll be sure to look for that dedication. ❤️

    1. Thank you so much, Allyson. That means the world to me. I sometimes feel, self-critically, that my more emotional posts sound so juvenile and stinted, because the writing is the last thing I’m thinking about, you know? It is incredible to hear otherwise. One day (hopefully soon!) I’ll ask for your address and mail you off a copy of this book. xo

  3. I have been sporadic with my blog reading these days, but i randomly checked today and once again, I am tearing up at work. Thinking of you and good luck with the full time writing – can’t wait to read your novel. X

    1. Thank you, Emma. I’m sorry I always mess up your makeup at work! I can’t wait to finish this novel, and it means so much to have a cheering section like you. xo

  4. Erin, this brought tears to my eyes and sadness and joy to my heart. I’m so proud of the woman you’ve become and my love for you grows every day!

  5. I don’t know what it is, but I love hearing you talk about your dad. and it’s awesome that you two had such a special bond. i love that he was an artist and his influence has been so powerful on you, that you have the courage to brave enough to be a creative.

    It’s interesting too that you are at a cross roads and quitting your job to be a writer. and probably more than anything you want your dad. because you only get one.

    You starting a new journey and he would have been thrilled, I know it. Congratulations on the next phase.

    PS I still read your blog often..

    1. Oh, Erika, thank you so much. I don’t consider myself courageous, but it’s incredibly kind to hear you say that! I like to think this would have made him proud, me making the switch to being a writer first and foremost. He always struggled with the balance between wanting to be a full-time painter and being an architect by trade. I admired him so much. Really, this book is for him.

      I love all of your daily art updates. You are so encouraging in how committed you are to painting every single day. That kind of dedication, THAT is courageous. xoxo

  6. I so can understand your feelings. They are beautifully described. Still, you know – you have your missed persons inside. They are a part of you. Love!

    1. Thank you so much, Teruko. I realized a few years ago that I am 1/2 of him, genetically, and that surprisingly provided a lot of comfort to me. xoxo

  7. T”he death of someone you love is a nightmare, and not just because coping with it or learning to live with it and live without them is scary. Proceeding with life after a death has all the hallmarks of a bad dream: the eerie nonsense where everything seems like real life but is off just slightly, strange lurches of time, impending fear, wanting to run but finding your legs can’t move.”

    That is so beautiful, I am very much looking forward to your book. Your posts about your dad perfectly capture that never ending grief, always there. Several days ago was the 9th year of my dad’s passing. NINE YEARS? How has it been that long yet seems like yesterday. Thank you for this post. I am going to bookmark it because it just so very much explains how I always feel. Thank you.

    1. I’m so sorry I had to write this, and I’m sorry that you could relate to it. It’s something I’d never wish on anyone; it’s like a club you don’t want to belong to, but at least there’s comfort in knowing other people are struggling with it, still, too. Articulating this kind of loss is hard, and I never think I get across everything I want to say, but it’s so kind to hear that it touched you in some way. Thank you, A. I’m so sorry for your loss. xo

  8. Grief never goes away. It only fades with time. I lost my grandmother (I know it’s not the same thing, but she was my everything and i still wonder how life would be like if she was still here) when I was 14 and not a day goes by that I don’t wish that I could have had just a few more years with her. Or that I could just see her again, if only for an hour. I can’t even imagine the sorrow you’ve felt, and feel, but I’m sure your dad is up there, thinking about what an amazing daughter he created. He would be so proud of you for your insights and talents. And your book is going to be a bestseller because you have an incredible way of writing. So brave of you to invest in it!

    Ps, I hope we get to see each other again very soon! I really want to come visit but you know, money and unemployment and all that. *sigh*

    Love all the way from Sweden <3

    1. Oh, you darling, I had no idea you lost your grandmother. It IS the same thing, a loss is a loss and it hurts in all of the same ways. It never goes away. I’m like you, I wish for even just one more hour, one more afternoon, I don’t want to be greedy but even just a small amount of time would be okay, you know? You know. You are so, so kind, and I am so happy to know you! Your grandmother would be proud of the woman you’ve become, the brave world traveller with a heart of gold. I miss you so much, Christine! Hopefully we can see each other again soon. I want to come to Sweden so badly, you could show me around your favorite spots! Money is just so frustrating :( Missing you always! xoxo

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