I feel like I’ve spent a lot of the last year just trying to dodge well meaning people who want to have conversations that I don’t feel like having. I’m sure this is more my paranoia than actual reality, but I’ve found well-meaning words with little understanding of me or my situation do more harm than good. In fact I think I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid people’s input, after discovering at an early enough age that most people just don’t “get” me. Dad always did, tho, and Mum is the first to admit that he could figure out what was going on when she couldn’t. My way of grieving isn’t to sit around just feeling sad or regretting my loss. Feelings are feelings, and facts are facts, and so it’s not like those times aren’t present but I’d rather focus on the good memories and the ‘hope of the world to come’ than lamenting all that might have been.
I spent most of the 14th-16th bracing for a potential “onslaught” of messages. At first I thought this was sort of vain, but then when absently scrolling through Facebook to distract myself and noticing that someone, not in my immediate family, was using dad’s face as their profile pic I realized that I wasn’t completely off base. Nothing like trying to kill a few moments of boredom and having your dead father’s face stalk you around social media because no matter how many times you try to block or hide the posts they’re everywhere – newsfeed! FB messenger! stories! It was rather ghastly, until it became so incredibly pervasive that I had to see the humour at the level of awfulness this was. Well, thank God I’ve always been able to find something funny in most situations.
My actual plan for the “memorial” worked. As I remarked to David, people like us, who take big risks and have to push regularly beyond our comfort zones don’t get the “luxury” of taking to our beds when things get hard. I’m not negating self-care, and I certainly have had plenty of that thanks to my loving family, but I’m not in a position where I can really just take a few days off work so I can sit in bed and be depressed. I wasn’t happy, but at least going to the office and focusing on the mountain of work I want to complete before my impending maternity leave was something to do, rather than giving my brain any more excuse to rewire itself to find certain days/times of year depressing.
So, one year survived. Natural drive for analysis makes me want to “score” it, but that seems ridiculous. It was a year of survival mode, for more reasons than just mere grief, but it also had its glorious times. Most of January – April was a blur but then once life for the next year sort of had a settled pattern I could crawl out of the fog and, in early May, we took off on our vacation to Hangzhou. Climbing through the hills there and praying for dad’s soul at a mountain temple were what I needed to complete that first stage, to connect once more with the world around me. After that it was a matter of slowly cutting back on the bad coping tactics. I’m sure it has not been an easy year for my family, but fortunately they haven’t made me feel it. And there is something wonderful to be said for a husband and children who quietly pick up your pieces and just get on with it, never making you feel badly for what you can’t do, and always supporting you for what you can.
On the way home last week a local woman struck up a conversation with Walter, and as he expressed his adoration for his father I realized that the torch has been carried. I love that my children have a dad they can adore just as much as I adored my dad—
Woman: Why are you in Shanghai?
W: Because my daddy has a way good job. My daddy is way smart and he works hard so he has a good job and soon he’s going to have an even better one because he is so smart!