Grief is a tormenting thing, sneaking up on you out of nowhere and demanding your attention when you really don’t want to give it. It’s a possessive, bossy emotion. There is no hiding from it when that hand reaches inside your chest and squeezes your heart like a vice-grip will a grapefruit.
It really does hurt physically. You can’t breathe properly, words get choked into squeaks and blurts inside your throat and that excruciating pain in your chest gives new meaning to: a broken heart.
Grief is ugly, too. People don’t cry pretty crystalline tears that ever so gently roll one by one down their cheeks to pool at their chin before disappearing into the next scene. Oh no. There are gushing sobs; one’s face becomes a battle field of twisted anguish while a flood of saline turns any hope of seeing straight into a pathetic underwater blur of hazy reality. A red and snotty nose causes further breathing problems so that taking great gulps of air in-between any attempt at gaining self-composure becomes absolutely necessary for survival.
If you wear make-up, you’ll wish you’d forgotten that extra layer of mascara as now, you don’t even look human. You’ve transformed into some monster covered in a layer of runny foundation with a lovely coat of black trailing crooked stripes down your once serene face.
It isn’t always this way but sometimes it is.
He wrote me a letter once, close to 30 years ago when I was but a girl. It is full of spelling mistakes, sentences that aren’t real sentences and difficult to read scribbles but I knew what he meant. He missed me. He missed his little girl and he wanted me to know that he was ok and that I should take care of myself because as I was in college, I needed to eat properly. I think he thought that I wasn’t. I guess I was rather skinny back then.
In broken English, his concern was disarming, sweet and heart-felt. When I happen upon it and read those scrawled words, I forget. I forget about the drunken rages, the threats and the resentment towards us. I forget about all the horrible things he did and just see a man, worried about his young daughter living by herself…for the first time.
I see love.
He signed it: Dadd…. Just like that. I smile now at things like this but there was a time when I couldn’t read it without that grief overwhelming me with lost possibilities and opportunities. He died painfully twenty-two years ago this August. I have pictures of him in my spare room.
I say hello to him almost every day.