In the months since my dad died, I’ve been in this weird sort of limbo. They say the stages of grief go something like: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For me, there have been no real stages. There have only been a series of “no longer’s.”
I oftentimes reach for the phone to call him to tell him about something one of the kids did, or just to simply check in and see how he’s doing. I reach for the phone to dial a phone number that is no longer in service.
A few weeks ago, my siblings and I proceeded to do, what the attorney called, “distribute personal property” – knick-knacks, framed photos, art, books – all of the things that remind us of home. In the process, I realized I have awards and diplomas that will no longer be hung in the hallway of my father’s house – or any house for that matter.
…for that matter. Do these things cease to matter?
This weekend, I will go to an empty, musty house to box up my dad’s clothing and personal belongings – his jeans that always bordered on hemmed too high. His 10 pairs of New Balance tennis shoes. The pairs of reading glasses that he was sure to keep in every room of the house, just in case. His weird shirts, the suit he wore to my wedding, the ties he kept over the years – a few of them gifts from his children. Things there’s no reason to keep. He no longer needs them.
Soon, the home I grew up in, and lived in for 23 years, will be sold to someone who is unaware of the memories held underneath the leaky roof. It will most likely be torn down to make way for another obscene mansion in the suburbs of Los Angeles. My childhood home will be no longer.
There’s this thing about mourning that I’ve found to be true for me – it never really ends. People tell you it will get better, that it will get easier, that time will make the ache less raw. But it doesn’t get better. There is no acceptance. How do you accept a loss so profound that you find yourself gasping for air at the most inopportune times? The no longer’s are permanent. I don’t believe in the “stages of grief.” There is only grief. And grief has no rhyme or reason or timetable.
So I do the only thing I know how to do – I look to my children and my husband to remind me that, yes, my father, the only constant I’ve ever known, is no longer – but those silly diplomas, awards, and photographs that hung in his hallway – they still have meaning.
They matter as my father’s high school diploma matters to me.
They matter as his childhood pictures matter to me.
And if I’m lucky, someday my children will come across mine, hidden away in a closet somewhere, and it will matter to them.