I can no longer push it into the background and move on to other things, and it won’t let me. Oh, it goes away when I demand it but slitters into the background and grins at me in its malevolent way as I take its whole meaning. I can contain it for the moment, but it will be back. And when it does, it will come back harder, more potent, and more demanding for my submission. It knows, eventually, I will have no choice but to deal with it no, regardless of my avoidance attempts.
This necromancer will eventually have its payment from me, as it does from any mortal. I will have to face the fact that I can only contain it for so long. Eventually, I must deal with it. No matter how much I try to avoid it, Mesophiles will get his payment.
No, I did not make any bargain with the Devil like Faust. But I have postponed dealing with my father’s death this past April for as long as possible. But, today, there was a chink in my armor. Sitting at the table, drinking my coffee, and munching on toast, I saw my gaunt father in my mind’s eye. I recalled how taken aback I was seeing the man who brought me up, taught me, and guided me so weak, laboring to breathe.
I recall saying to my wife, ‘that’s not my dad, that’s not my dad.’ But it was, and now I realize how much I was stunned at seeing him that way. As we sat there, I asked the nurse attending to him if he was in pain, and she informed us they were making him as comfortable as possible and receiving a morphine drip to ease the pain. She told us that he didn’t have long and expressed her belief he was hanging on waiting for us.
As we sat there listening to his labored breathing, I finally found the strength to rise and go over to him and say my goodbyes, telling him I was here and everything was okay; he could let go now. My wife told him to be at peace and that she would see him at the resurrection, a belief I have long since discarded, along with my faith in religion. We stopped by the desk, and I gave the nurse my cell phone number to call me. That call came at midnight. Dad was gone. They said they would hold the body if I wanted to come by and say goodbye. I told them I’d said my goodbyes earlier and to release the body to the corner. The rest of the week was pretty much a blur.
Nine months have passed since his death. Why now am I feeling remorse and grief? A question, for the moment, I cannot answer. Perhaps it is because I’m waiting for the call to inform me my mother has passed.
When dad died, it hit me I would have to be the one to tell my ninety-three-year-old mother her husband of sixty-plus years had passed. I recall telling my wife I didn’t know how I would do this. As always, she was practical in her advice when she said, ‘she will know.’
Mom has dementia. There have been moments of clarity, but our first visit wasn’t one of them. All she could do was ask me for water and kept thanking me. Our second visit wasn’t any more productive, but as I was about to leave, she grabbed my hand and looked at me as if she recognized me and understood why I was there. When we left, I told my wife when Mom held my hand, it was as if she knew, and she responded by saying, ‘she knew.’
For the past nine months, I have pushed grief to the background, not allowing it to overtake me, but how much longer?
Grief is a patient monster that knows it will eventually get what it is due and descend on you when you least expect it. It lays traps, and ultimately, one becomes ensnared. It is the reason every time I see a 315-area code on my cell phone; I take a deep breath before answering. It is the nursing home caring for my mother, and I wait for the words that she has passed but exhale when they want to know if they can give her a flu shot. After consenting, I see the Cheshire cat’s grin from Alice and Wonderland and subconsciously hear the malevolent voice of grief telling me,
“Tim, I have you already. No one escapes me. You will deny me as you’re doing now. You will be angry with me. But eventually, you and I will bargain, and my price for your defiance will be depression. How long you stay in that state is up to you, but you will spend time in depression jail. But eventually, you will be free. For I am not the monster so many believe I am. Unfortunately, I am the journey one must take to move forward. So if you feel the need to fight me, deny me, do so, but know you will soon embrace me.”
There is no forestalling grief, no matter how much I try. My father is gone, and my mother will be soon.
Perhaps I’m hoping that when the nursing home calls, it will tell me she has passed, and then I can envision her in the loving arms of her husband, my father.