I often catch myself staring at staring at nothing.
“Nothing” is easy to look at when your other senses are occupied by the invisible storm inside your mind.
In the months following my dad’s passing, it has been the thing I crave the most- staring at nothing. I can sit perfectly still and freeze a memory in time. I can hold it in my hands and look at it from different angles while trying to recommit details to fill every inch of my brain.
I have felt the need to make sense of how these memories have added up to that very moment the world became different; the same moment I truly understood the meaning of the word mortality. Turns out that the word applies to everyone eventually, even the people who represent everything safe and secure in this world. The day my dad passed on, “we lost a training wheel”, as my brother said. He told me that we have to try to stay upright, on a road we’ve never traveled.
Staring at nothing
It seems that sometimes when you lose half the team responsible for shaping your character in life, the story of you can start to fall apart and the pages of your past, your life story, can begin scattering to the wind. When that happens, the moments of staring at nothing can actually be a desperate, mental scramble to grasp onto those pages of your history. They are precious scraps of time jotted down as a narrative in your own voice. They are priceless pieces of who you were that add up to who you have become. It can feel like a childlike panic for a time, which eventually gives way to a certain resolve to hold on tight to every tiny piece of yourself.
This storm will pass?
People tell me the storm will pass and that I will get used to life without one of my training wheels. They say it will get easier with time and I believe something like that to a degree, but it scares me. It’s not supposed to be easier without him, ever. I don’t want it to be easier. The little girl part of me doesn’t understand adult counsel. Far-off thoughts of the grief fully subsiding doesn’t comfort me. His death casts a long shadow and on some days, not even the promise of light on my face makes me want to seek the sun.
Throughout the storm, clinging to the loss of my dad and the loose pages of my past anchor me in a suspension of time. Lately, the wind will calm for a short time, but then it picks back up without warning and the struggle begins again. Sometime’s it starts all the way back at the beginning when my mom told me his diagnosis and reality slams my chest again. I panic, I stare at nothing, and the desperate searching and clinging to memories inside resumes. It’s exhausting, but at least it feels like I’m fighting. At least it feels like I’m taking swings in the air at the cancer that took him. It’s an aggression that had seemed so futile before, because it was against a future that had already been decided.
I guess I am left with no choice but to continue on this path that feels nothing like the one I grew up on. This reality hurts deeper than I thought any pain could go. It rocks my core, pins my heart to the ground, and is made heavier by the relentless forward motion of time pulling me through to the next day. It feels as if I am on a moving walkway, sometimes standing still, sometimes turned the wrong direction. I have come to the conclusion that the sun is going to keep rising day after day, and people are going to continue to mow their lawns and answer emails despite the serious threat of mortality. It’s life. So be it. I will keep on, but I’m bringing my sweaty armful of crumpled pages with me. My pain is in the passenger seat for the duration, and my grief and anger are sitting in back. I won’t pull over or let go until I reconcile my past with this unfamiliar future and get my story sorted out. And I’m quite alright with that.
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