The past two weeks are quite literally the longest I have gone without writing since I started writing, Amazingly, I feel like last moth, had someone asked me that question – “When did you start writing?” – I would have been able to answer it in a year and part of a month. Now I have only the vaguest impression of the story and the circumstances.
I have found that with the astounding clarity of the memories past thirteen days has come a dulling of things that once stood out sharp in my mind thirty years ago and more. I am hoping it is exhaustion coupled with emotional strain, rather than a permanent loss of things that came before. I don’t really know how I’d cope if I started losing my past.
In those past 13 days, I have done more than I thought humanly possible. I lost a father, driven more than a thousand miles, coordinated details, mortgaged personal stakes in life and family, tried to keep what remained of my immediate family together, balanced those needs against the needs of my extended family, and navigated the treacherous dangers of the outpouring of love, sympathy, and sincere admiration for my dad which washed my way.
I have not written.
I have birthed words in the way of survival – texts, emails, business. It is my livelihood to write – to communicate. I have written plenty, but none of it with meat. I have been a typist of bones only for almost the past two weeks. I haven’t been able to reply to any of the genuine beauty of some of the expressions of sorrow sent to me with anything approaching eloquence. I dare not try to get any of the things that have flooded my mind, for fear that once I open a valve in the skunk-works, I might never be able to close it again the the deluge that would follow.
I am not a danger to myself, or others, but fucking hell do I know what I am doing is dangerous.
I left my job to deal with my father’s death in the absolute worst seven-to-ten days of the 365 we so name a year on account of our sun and the way we revolve around it. I have paid for that, since returning to work, but not nearly so much as those I left behind paid for in my absence. I carry guilt for that, despite a sure knowledge that it is a stupid thing to feel guilt about – a legacy of my father’s, for good or ill.
I’ve focused on the minutia of death – on logistics and business and the _process_ that follows the demise of a person. I have completely barricaded away the loss, or the grief, or the pain – I keep telling myself there will be time enough for those things once the business end is taken care of. When my siblings and mother don’t have to worry about houses and rents and cars and insurance and obituaries and memorials anymore – then I’ll be able to find a quiet corner and fall apart.
Only now I am not so sure I can do it.
There will be a memorial service for my dad in a couple weeks. It is going to be a watermark for me in my life the way nothing that has come before ever has been – it is going to be a time where I finally relieve the logistical self that has been at the helm since the morning of Friday the 13th, or it is the point where I am the former helmsman goes to a watery grave, in the murk and dark, like so many other things I have buried in the past 13 days.
I’m torn between trite imagery from either of my two favorite fantasy series – in the Wheel of Time when one of the protagonists loses an arm, and doesn’t even pause before moving on after he is healed from the wound. Someone slaps him and tries to force him to mourn the loss – his response was simple – he had too many things to do to spend the time and energy on mourning something he could not change. A dangerous perspective.
In Game of Thrones the men and women of Westeros labored to create an impenetrable barrier between that which nearly destroyed them upon a time – a nimbus force of dread, death and superstitious fear that could easily be forgotten behind hundreds of feet of glacial barrier – never melting, never faltering. Time and change and corruption leave the once-noble upkeep and defense of this barrier a punishment or peril for criminals or those who have no other choices in life. The barrier turns on itself, in more than one way. What was once a great bastion of security is a liability of weakness.
And so poorly manned, by the time the reader encounters it.
Maybe that is what I am worried about the most – why I am sitting here trying to find words around my lost arm, and the secret tunnels beneath the internal glacial walls – I know that down the road, not dealing with what I have subjected myself to at a distance will have far more dire consequences than dealing with it.
The lesson of the book in the Wheel of Time where the aforementioned protagonist loses an arm is that true strength requires laughter, hardness, and flexibility – the riddle of steel, in a different turn of phrase. Too humorless, and it will not matter how hard or flexible, you will lose your purpose and be swallowed by oblivion. Too hard, and not flexible, and you will shatter under pressure. Too hard and humorless, and you will crack under pressure. Flexibility is the key – mutability – my greatest strength in all my external interactions with the world.
I feel like I am losing that mutability with my past, with my father. I need to either rediscover channels to it, or reinvent it, or I am going to lose more than a father – I am going to lose myself.
I recall in the midst of the dying of my grandfather, which was neither sudden, nor surprising, how overwhelmed my father was, in the face of all the things he was trying to deal with. Ultimately, one of the things that caught him most off guard was the fact that he felt like he was too young to have to be dealing with the loss of a parent – nearly two decades before my mother had to cross the bridge and, amazingly my grandmother – his mother – lives on to bury him.
I don’t know what that says about the perspectives on age and death. Maybe something – maybe nothing. I just remember with no small amount of sorrow more than six months after he buried his father, him holding the phone in his hand as he teared up, still in shock that he couldn’t believe that he had halfway dialed the number to ask for help with a mechanical issue we were having with rebuilding a pump engine.
My father had some time in a hospital to prepare for what he had to deal with. Not that he was prepared when death finally skated in in black sequins to bad music – he could not have been, but he did not go from parked to fifth gear and stay there for a week and a half. He saw what was coming, even if he hoped against it. There was a part of him that was prepared – banked for the turn, braced for the g-forces, and better able and capable of weathering it.
I was not so prepared. I am younger by more than a decade than he was at the time. I feel like I am doing so much alone, and whistling in the dark – hoping I am doing the right things in the way that ends the best for the most people – for other people.
I don’t know what the fuck I am going to do.
For now, I guess I am going to write. Most of it will not be public, but this will be, both as a reminder to myself, and as a goad for those few who still read what I write, to kick me now and again, and remind me of all the important things I will be squandering if I just box this up and move on.
Too many years of too many things boxed up. I’m out of room in the warehouse.
Time to move some crates, I guess.