After my father died seven years ago, I went into “get things done” mode. We had to figure out the family finances, what to do with his car, and all the many things he quietly did without us realizing.
I didn’t process much emotionally partly because I wanted to support my mom through the changes she was experiencing and help her understand the household and financial fallout that occurs after someone dies. This was new to all of us, so I hustled to make it easier. But it was also because I wasn’t quite sure what there was to process. My dad was quiet, and while I have grieved him as a silent parent, it took quite some time to get there.
Now, seven years later, I realize his purpose and love for his family more and more every day. His quietude and somewhat boring nature no longer stick out in my mind anymore. Now I remember his smile, his jokes, and the ways he fought for me.
But it has taken me this long to see that, which seems ridiculous. I knew him my whole life, so shouldn’t I know all this already?
I think I did know a lot of it. But what is buried beneath our current state stays buried until it is triggered to rise. The process is never complete.
They say “grief comes in waves,” and, while I believed it whenever anyone said it, I never understood it until I had to. I saw a therapist and even spoke to a clairvoyant shortly after he died, and they said I was handling his death quite well. I was impressed with myself but also a little disappointed that I wasn’t feeling the grief I thought I should feel after losing a parent. After losing a father.
I attributed his humdrum nature to the lack of intimacy we shared, and I was okay with it. After all, it’s not like I could do anything about it. I tried asking him questions about his youth, but his answers were always short and empty. He didn’t seem to want to share, so I didn’t push. I always felt that he was mixed with a little cement but probably not by choice. Nonetheless, there he was. Mostly human, partly stone.
But the absence I felt was actually presence. It was the bass line that rooted us — rhythmic, consistent, and in the background. And the only way you know what’s in the background is when it’s gone.