I don't have another blog post about grief--I wrote one last year that I liked fine, and I find that I don't have much more to say. Six years gone, I still don't know if it's truthful to say I miss him--there are moments when I do, but they are very far apart. But six years ago tomorrow, I got a phone call telling me my father had died the day before.
A month later, at his memorial service, I fled from the surfeit of well-wishers--people who knew this man who seemed to share a great deal with the man I knew, but couldn't possibly be the same?--and scrawled out words to try and make sense of the emotional mess I was.
The following spring, on an impossibly bright sunshiny Vermont day, my brother stood by my side and we spoke words over stone. They weren't necessarily welcomed by all who stood there--stood apart, stood on the other side--but grief is a process and rarely a pretty one. The poem had taken a few small revisions, but largely remained the thing I had carved out the previous summer.
And each year, this day or the next (the anniversary is a strange one--do you honor the day it happened or the day you found out?), I reread it, and maybe I'll stop when I stop loving it.
So here it is.
Grieving the Whole
Though in a crowd, I sit with silence
listening to strangers unwind memories, stories
of You I Don’t Know.
Later, one asks if I learned anything new about you
and I stumble not to say, “Everything,
but I think I already knew that.” I only smile. You see, still
my civility holds me back and stills
my tongue, giving me only clichés and thank yous.
After years of bitten-back words, now I have only silence
to speak to. This You I Don’t Know
doesn’t deserve the fury that lingers in histories,
but if you don’t hear it, I have nothing
to say, nothing
to say it to. I have no
confidante for this aside, no eager stillness
expecting my words, no hushed-silent
audience waiting for this soliloquy. You
are gone, and that is a truth stronger than stories.
There was a time in our history
when I knew you as Daddy, when even in silence
I knew you as mine, as everything
you were meant to be. Would the friends of This You say you were still
that way? Would they describe to me a man who didn’t know
how to leave? Because you did--you
left. And the friends here know you only as The You
After Me. I am anecdotal, still
a footnote in your story.
You wanted better, I know--wanted this thing
that stood between, this unsteady silence
to come undone and disintegrate. I know
you wished it gone--the same way I know
it was immovable, a thing
impermeable to time or change. But I also know it is not a thing you
made. It is a thing as fragile, as fundamental as history,
a thing drawn out of missed phone calls and father’s days, fermented in stillness
and outlasting every You there is but this, the one who sits here with me and silence.