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Long Awaited Post on The Death of My Father

There isn't one. This strikes me as indescribably weird.

A fellow livejournaler mentions that his father has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. In line with my general discomfort with this entire issue, I'm not pointing to his post. I don't know why. It just seems the sort of thing I don't want to point to.

I'm a gabby guy. I can't believe I can't write a post about the passing of my father. It's been over four months now. I can "mention" things to people. For example, getting in the mail the convenient year-end summary of his credit card activity for the year 2005. Foolishly, I opened it while standing at my mailbox in the lobby of my building. I scanned it even though I knew I should wait until I got upstairs.

It's the details that get you. All the little purchases he made, the dinners out, the golf games, the day trips to Mexico. All leading up to the Last Credit Card Purchase He Ever Made a day or two before he unexpectedly died.

My siblings and I talk about it sparingly. Almost never, recently. I suppose it's the Norwegian in us. You just go on.

I just can't see trying to put any of it into a post on a blog. And yet I could write in my blog about the death of my friend Shannon. Fathers are different, I guess. I don't know why, exactly. Because they're your fathers?

Except other people can write movingly about the death of their fathers, so it can't be anything inherent in the subject of your father dying. It has to be something about me and my father.

So once again, I will set the topic aside. It's obviously still there, waiting, otherwise I wouldn't be flirting with the subject again this morning.

Maybe it's this: I survive by play. I could and can always play with my friends. I couldn't ever really play with my father. Not in the same way. Writing is play. I can't play with this. And so I can't write this thing.

I don't know whether that is the true reason, but it certainly is true whether it's the reason or not.

I feel worse now than when I started this post. That's pertinent too, and compels me to aknowledge this further truth: I am my father's son in ways more profound than I can adequately describe.


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Not only does everyone grieve differently, I regret that I've had the opportunity to learn firsthand that grief patterns vary considerably even within a single person.

I was surprised and distressed when I had such a hard time writing about Chuch Harris after he died in early July, 1999. I'd never had any significant problems writing my way through grief before. Then, about six weeks later, James White died unexpectedly. I started out writing by extensively quoting from his letters to me, but was able to add some of my own voice to the process along the way. But I still haven't been able to write anything I could stand about Chuch's death, or his life, or our friendship since that cold, cold July.

Grief has taken on a whole new personality with the final hospitalization and death of my mother. Immediately following both my sister-in-law's and brother's suicides, eating was problematic. I knew I needed to eat, I just couldn't physically bring myself to do so. I could have a piece of food in my hand, and take 15-20 minutes of intense effort to bring it to my lips, then give up without taking a bite. I could taste the food I managed to taste, chew, and swallow, but the whole process was dysfunctional and distressing. The symptoms wore off after a few days and there was of course no lasting damage, but I found the pattern troublesome.

With my mother's death almost 2 months ago now, eating was fine, but talking to other people, especially in person, shut down. And that was an utter surprise. In previous times of grief, I've tended far more toward over-the-top talking. I could talk and talk and talk and talk.

Which is, in a way, one of the reasons I think I couldn't this time. I was afraid that I'd never stop talking if I even started to try to find words to answer the ever-present question, "How are you doing?" Fortunately, I found that holding my hand horizontally, tipping it from side to side several times quickly in a wavering, rocking fashion, and letting a single "eeeeeh" escape from my throat served as answer enough for most occasions.

Then there was the rage. There still is, from time to time. I'd experienced the anger of grief before, but not grief-induced rage. Wham. Still figuring out what to do with that, well, beyond putting a label on it, and fortunately (in the first, most intense case), figuring it out in time to not let loose in public the day the rage kept aiming itself at person after person, situation after situation, all of it out of proportion to the triggering events happening at any given moment. No, it was the great big triggering event that had happened six day before.

There are so many ways in which I never wanted to be my mother's daughter. Your final sentence haunts me as I find myself continuing to come face to face with all the ways in which I am.

May you go gently through the rest of your grief. May you find a path, with or without written blog posts, with or without playing, that works for you. It sounds like you are, albeit not easily. And that makes total sense, because easy just isn't part of the equation on this one.

Thanks for all that, Geri. I think it must be the case that our mourning for a lost loved one will somehow mirror our relationship with that person. How it will mirror it is impossible to predict, of course, because I'm not entirely sure we ever understand enough about the relationship before the person dies. There's always a certain amount of defining that goes on whenever the thing to be defined is suddenly gone. As is obvious, I think, I don't "feel right" about my mourning for my father, but I can't deny it feels "in character" with my relationship with him.

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