How would they comfort me grieving them?
For my Dad it isn’t too hard to imagine what he’d say, given that I started rehearsing his advice exactly 8 months before his death. Diagnosis Day.
I drove away that day knowing there was nowhere to turn. No one to turn to. My Dad was the person I’d’ve reached for, but I can’t exactly lean on him for support about His diagnosis. I knew Pancreatic Cancer was Bad. All cancer is bad, but PC has only a 7% survival rate to 5 years.
I also knew I would show a brave face, a hopeful disposition. I remember him telling me the words, his tone and timbre instantly etched onto my cochlea. Even now I hear it sometimes, an echo of him catching on the words. I remember we talked treatment plans, approaches. Logistics, tangible action plans.
Never what stage the cancer was.
Never the location, T-cell counts, none of that. He told me that day that he would keep me updated, but that he didn’t want this to dominate our time together.
I played along, for his sake as much as my own, never breaking face until I was alone.
In my head though I would hear him. His voice. That day as I drove home I began rehearsing. I remembered his reactions to every crisis, every conundrum or irritation I’d ever thought to share. I thought hard, concentrating on recreating his voice inside my head. The rhythms, cadences, how he’d shift his tone down deeper and feign a somber face just to tell me something ridiculous. How he’d laugh at his own ridiculousness, the jokes he made to lighten the mood when it started to weigh our conversations down.
I did all this so I could still reach you, talk it through with you, without burdening you.
How would you love me now, this sopping tear-stained shadow of a girl?
I think you would sit with me.
I think in your love you would let me cry it out, sob and scream and purge myself. I think if I’d only been able to show you, show me, how deep mom’s choice cut me maybe we could’ve talked it out.
I couldn’t. Wouldn’t. I put it away when I was with you. Her decision was not there with us, not after the morning I told you about her suicide. Your voice then seemed to mirror my own feelings. Angry at her choice, her incapacity to hope or believe in more. For her to choose death while you fought against it with everything you were, every fiber and breath…
But after I told you I pushed it away while we were together. As always your house was a place out of time, and when I’d visit whatever happened past the driveway didn’t matter.
In that place you’d care for me now, with coffee or cocoa or something to occupy my hands and my mind. Small and scared as I may be, overcome and overwhelmed just like I’d get when I was little. Those times I’d come to stay for the night and then cry inconsolably till I threw up or Mom came (sometimes Both).
Only now she’s not coming. Even if she did there’d be no solace in her presence. It would be like it was then. Her presence buying a temporary relief replaced by anxiety and shame for the want of it. For the selfishness sin of seeking comfort.
So Dad, you’ll see me, shattered and sobbing and scared, indifferent and numb, maybe you’ll even see me settled and calm.
That’s the hope at least