Thursday, November 28, 2019

How I know it gets better

This week provides the reason I know things will get better for me, that this grieving will ease. I know because it’s already happened.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the USA, and it will also be ten weeks since Nigel died. That’s reason enough to for me to want to avoid the holiday, but I have another reason: My father died on Thanksgiving Day in 1979—forty years ago.

Forty years is a long time, and I no longer grieve my dad like I did back then. I laugh when I remember the funny things he said, I get appalled when I find myself saying things he did—or even standing like he did. How did I get that “old”? So, yeah, things did get better.

My dad’s death gives me one more piece of evidence that grief gets better: Thanksgiving Day 1979 was November 22 (the 23rd here in New Zealand)—last week. I didn’t remember. It’s true I have a helluva lot on my mind right now—trying to figure out what my new life might be, trying to get things organised to make that life possible, and all the day-to-day stuff I have to do right now (such as, for some reason the dogs stubbornly refuse to feed themselves). And the huge reality overshadowing all of that is my loss of Nigel. That’s at the centre of my thoughts and feelings right now.

There’s another fact about my forgetfulness, one that’s a little embarrassing. The real reason I didn’t remember the 40th anniversary of my dad’s death is that it was on Thanksgiving Day, which means I thought about him around that holiday, but the truth is that I didn’t remember the actual date—in fact, I had to look it up for this Note. Actually, my mother adds to this: I have no idea what date in 1980 she died—June sometime. Sure, I knew at one time, but the importance of remembering the dates faded as time went on.

Be that as it may, I doubt I’ll ever forget losing Nigel, and probably not the date. He was my husband, the one I chose to build my life with, who I loved and who loved me. We were soulmates. But there’s also the fact of time: My dad died forty years ago, and it took that long for me to actually forget about his death. I’m 60 now, and bad at arithmetic as I am, even I can work out I’m unlikely to live another 40 years. So, as long as I don’t lose my marbles, I’m unlikely to forget.

Because of all this, I can see that a time will come in which I won’t feel the pain as keenly, and I won’t be at risk of suddenly bursting into tears. But there will be one thing that will be different from my dad’s death: While I know that I’ll also remember all the funny things Nigel said (and he was very funny, though I seldom admitted that when he was alive…), and I know that I’ll also find myself saying things Nigel did, or even standing like he did, I know I won’t mind at all. In fact, I’ll smile.

So, I do know things will get better. The fact I forgot my dad’s death on its 40th anniversary shows that—and also why things are nowhere near getting better now. Nigel’s death is still overshadowing everything in my life right now, and it will for quite a while. But I still know it gets better. Eventually.

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...

Annoyingly, and gratefully, I almost never forget numbers. I remember the phone number I had in Binghamton. I remember other phone numbers, even defunct ones. I remember birthdays and death dates. My mom died on Groundhog Day.
Did I ever tell you this story? I had just joined choir in 2000. In September, we reconvened. I asked Peggy, a choir member, how her summer was. "Not good. My father died."
"My father died too,"
"He died in August."
"Mine too"
"He died on the 10th."
"Mine, too."
It remains an odd linkage.