I have been wearing all black because it makes me feel better. It is a simultaneous indicator of power and of something amiss in me. It allows me to show my grief without offering to share it by taking on the burden of the grief of others.
Dad’s death is like a stone in my belly that rocks back and forth, hitting an exposed nerve every once in a while. And when I feel that pain, I don’t grit my teeth and weather through it. I lean into it until it is such a part of me that it feels like it subsides. I don’t cry or feel sorry. I feel grateful and deliberate.
I have slowed down, because I want to be sure of my footing. I’m going somewhere I’ve never been before, and I am keeping a sharp eye out for the trail markers of intuition. It’s too easy to miss the signs if I rush through, and when I am being deliberate I feel as if I am continuing to unfold the gift of my dad.
I do still remember the feel of his scalp and the back of his head from the last time–the only time–I held it in my hand. And I remember loosely holding his hand and touching his wrist. I remember these things so vividly that when I see him in pictures I don’t recognize him at all. I see pictures before he was diagnosed and he looks like a stranger. I see pictures of him in the midst of chemotherapy stripped of hair and weight and I think, “I don’t remember him looking this sick.” Because I don’t.
I remember him looking alive and alert. I remember him still going to work and planning trips with Mom. I remember his unflinching resolve to start new treatments and more radiation, and I love him unendingly for fighting so hard in such a way that he gained and retained dignity in a no-nonsense manner that made these torturous decisions seem like only choice.
He is my dad. This is how I will remember him last, with the evening sun casting a warm yellow-orange glow and neither of us actually saying “good-bye”.