Friday, October 07, 2005

The madness of fearless

My flight is on time. I board the plane, sit down, situate myself and wait. When we start down the runway and into the sky, I notice something missing from me: fear. There isn't the slightest change in my breathing or my pulse. I'm not closing my eyes or clinging to my necklace. I'm not off balance from the loss of earth beneath my feet. I'm not gripping the arm rest and imagining the plane tumbling from the sky. I couldn't care, actually.

This is one of the many changes in me since losing my father. This is the side of grief that no one tells you about. Whatever your fears were, you won't glance their way again. Maybe it's because my biggest fear was losing him, and knowing I'd be handicapped to surviving that loss. Maybe if you survive what truly terrifies you, then you are empowered against your other fears. Or maybe you just can't be bothered to give a shit because a large part of you is numb and you've grown accustomed to the lack of feeling.

I gaze out the window at the wide and connected pattern below. Houses, fields, woods. Winding rivers that look like snakes, lakes of blue, roads like a web holding it together, circles and squares of varying shades green and brown, pink and blue. The tear on my cheek surprises me. I touch it and pull back my hand to look at it fall along its new path down my finger. It looks familiar. It feels like failure. It feels like fear that if I can heal this grief, I leave him behind.

A friend says that I am out of sorts. A doctor offers that I have a reactionary depression. Sterile words. I hold fast that this is grief. Still.

Grief has helped itself to me like the growing mold in New Orleans. Or the fog in San Francisco. It's thick and rolling, reaching its fingers down the hill and into the city, obliterating the sun. Grief is like that. It's so unlike sadness, so distant from what I thought it would be. Grief takes the shine off the world, the lilt off the laughter. It unravels the lines of connection. You move forward and grief calls you back. You wake up and grief calls you to sleep; you sleep and grief awakens you. You drag your feet to your goals, and cannot recall what your dreams for yourself were. You escape but it's there when you come back. And you always come back. You feel sure it's written all over your body, flowing in hues of steely grey and purple. You feel sure everyone can see your broken colors. Until you find that you're invisible.

I look at the calendar. Another month. How can that be? The seasons change. The seasons of my father. We're leaving water and boats and fishing memories and moving into geese and ducks, decoys, thick red corduroys. We're moving from one Orvis catalog to another. We move into the winter images, the holidays, a cup of hot coffee, the fire he's made in the fireplace, warm and close and safe, like looking into his eyes.

Eight months he's been gone. Eight months. It's nothing, really. A spec of time, a fleeting thought, a wisp of hair in the wind. It's an eternity spent figuring my way in a new world.

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