Of Dads and Dying
Posted October 21 2007
"You're back in Utah again," I write. "I hate travelling and working. I reckon hotel rooms are designed to be depressive. You work all day and then get back to this sterile environment with nothing that is regenerative or nurturing. Last time I was away' it was like "come back to the motel restaurant and eat"...nice enough, I guess, and then... go back to nothing. No people, no company, crap TV...I ended up logging into the client site and kept on working. Nothing else to do. And that's in good old SA!
"I imagine being in the USA is even worse. I reckon us Aussies get lulled by the apparent similarities between us and them, when really there are some very deep differences...let alone Utah type differences! Odd underwear?!! Man, we have differences that go much deeper and yet we seem to be so similar on the surface, with all that US TV showing on our screens at home.
"As for dealing with things... I reckon "dealing with it" is a load of crap. It's psychobabble that's come from Oprah or somewhere. (I heard a couple of drunks on the train one night talking about their partners... all the psych jargon in the world... They were covered in tats and as unreconstructed MCPs as you could wish for, but they knew the language. I could barely keep a straight face.)
"I have no idea what it is like to lose a parent really, but my dad will die soon. He's 86, and can't have long to go...getting frail and all. He's someone I admire immensely and love hugely, not that I'm able to really tell him as much as I'd like. I find him an enormous inspiration- I have no idea how I will "deal with it" when he dies. But my limited experience says grief and bereavement come to us on their own terms. We just get clobbered. No choice in the matter. No asking. It just lands on us and hits us with a body blow. "Dealing with it" always sounds to me like we have a choice- like we can call the shots... When someone dies, we don't get a choice. It happens. And it blows us away, visiting at the least helpful time. We don't deal with it- we live with it, and survive it as well as we can.
"I still have days when I almost weep over not being in a parish... ten years on. And I was in at work the other day... doing some consulting work for them... and they were having a staff meeting on the other side of the partition. I could hear them talking about what was coming up and I could barely keep working. I was so distressed at what I was missing...what I am no longer part of. On reflection, I'm glad I've left. Life is going to be miserable and very stressed there for a while- I worry for the young guy I have been working with. It will be horrible. That's the logical and the reality of it, but I grieve that I am not part of it... crazy. That's grief and loss. We don't deal with it... it clobbers us and we live with it.
"In theological college, you worry that if you don't "deal with it" they won't ordain you. Or, if you're already in a parish, you might not get another one. It's a crock... I get pissed that it's taken me past 50 to realise that there is no dealing with it. You live with it, you struggle, you cry maybe, you don't work as well as normal, and slowly it gets less painful. And then without warning it all comes back. Usually not as fresh and painful, but sometimes as sharp and fresh as the first time. So I reckon "dealing with it" just means we keep going as well as we are able, and slowly we get used to whatever it is..."
In reply he said "I thought a lot about your comment that "dealing with it" is a load of crap, and yes, I think you're right - "dealing with it" makes it sound like it's either avoidable or that we can "move on and put it behind us". I'm ok with moving on, but I'm not ok with "putting it behind me". I want to remember my father, warts and irritations and frustrations and all - I want to remember that he is dead and that direct involvement of him in my life is over and can never happen again. I don't want to put behind me the memory of seeing him in his coffin, and the funeral service, and sitting in silence with my mother as we both thought about what had happened. Like you said, "We don't deal with it - we live with it and survive it as well as we can." Is that one of the meanings of being human?"
I went out to the old van. There are still a couple of blood spots that didn't quite wash off. "You bleed at the drop of a hat," he said, "when you bump on anything." And I painted a little transparent acrylic over the top. I want to remember.
(c) Andrew and Trevor
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