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.