I had a plan to blog regularly. In part to stimulate my actual writing, but also because the times that we’re in now required recording. It was important, I felt, to record everything from this pandemic as a nurse, and all my thoughts and feelings as a human being.
And then my dad died.
Loss is a strange thing. It’s a rug pull to the senses. One minute you’re standing on solid ground, the next you are upended, your whole world destabilised. I had described grief as an ocean to someone once – vast, seemingly unending, washing over you like waves. But the thing about oceans is that they have a shore. You can get a boat to weather the tide. But loss never ends because they never come back. There is no shore. Just regular reminders of what stability felt like as the rug is yanked and you land on your backside.
I am regularly reminded of my dad. I see him in me sometimes. I recently got a Big Chop and my short hair makes me look even more than my dad than I used to. I have his smile and his myopic squint, his nose and some of his facial expressions. I am unbothered like he was, feathers regularly unruffled. I am dry like he was. And sometimes I catch myself in these moments and I do not know what to do without a rug under my feet.
I think what’s worse is that you cannot prepare for it, no matter how hard you try. When it first happened, I used to say “he was sick for a long time, I knew it would happen.” But that was as much of a way to get people to stop giving me The Look as it was a lie to myself. He could have lived many years past the day he died, or he could have died the first time we thought he might, or the second, or the twelfth. It still would have been a shock. That he died in a situation where we couldn’t be with him until his final second compounded those feelings.
You know that look, right? The I Do Not Know What To Say look. If you know you know.
I do not like The Look. No judgement on people that gave it to me at the time, it’s not their fault they’ve not experienced loss yet. It just made things a little awkward as I tried to navigate their reactions and my own. I think the person that handled it the best was the Costa coffee guy who, when I told him, said “I’m sorry.”
“It’s ok,” I said automatically, preparing myself for The Look.
“No it’s not,” he said, and gave me extra sprinkles.
It’s strange how a simple acknowledgement of pain can work wonders.
I will say that it has been easier to talk about him. The other day my boyfriend and I were talking and I made a comment about a running gag we had as a family where dad would say he didn’t care about what his funeral because he’d be dead and we could do what we wanted, so Mum and I would threaten to leave him outside on Heavy Item Day for the council to collect his body (grim I know). Or the joke where one of us would say that our legacy was coming in and someone else would say “your legacy has legged it cuz you’re still broke!”
That last joke was from another friend of the family. He passed away too, many years ago. Sudden heart attack.
There has been… just… so much loss. So many lives, so many moments and memories and experiences and treasures all gone. I marvel at people who have never been to funeral, who have never experienced the communal feeling of grief with others who have lost what you have lost, who you have lost. The glimmer of joy as you reminisce with those people, laughing at all the best and brightest moments you had. My aunty Vero, she died in 2007, and she was my dad’s aunt. She and my dad used to fight like cat and dog but she’d always win because she was older (and quicker with a wooden spoon). My aunty Helen, she passed away in 2020 as well, my dad was her favourite cousin. Well, he was everyone’s favourite, but her favourite favourite. She would despair over his mischief but would always fix him a plate, and that food was GOOD man, you know? My grandma, my dad’s mother, she died in ’03. She used to despair about my dad too (I think many people did, especially women). She would say “Oui papa, is trouble you always get into Pads. You could have been anyyyything, but is sit and drink you want to do with your stupid friends.” My aunty U, she passed… oh god 2015? She was my grandma’s sister, and she didn’t mind sitting and drinking sometimes. I remember her telling me about the time a man came to visit my great-grandmother and she emptied a chamber pot on his head from the window above the front door so he would go away.
So much loss. So much lost. In a sense, losing my dad meant weakening the connection I had with those that have passed before him, you know?
But I guess with that comes memories, like a safety net to catch you as you fall, right? I know someday I will forget, but for now I hold these stories close to me like a security blanket. I can close my eyes and smell the powder my aunty would use, or the scotch and cigarette mix of my dad’s friend as he’d give me a big hug. I can hear my grandaunt’s laugh sometimes, can taste my aunty’s pumpkin soup like the spices are hitting my tongue right as we speak. I wish I could recreate some of those things, but all I can do is share what I have with those that are still here to enjoy it. I am generous to a fault, sometimes. Just like my dad was.
1947 – 2020.