Grief: Day 731

On the second anniversary of my father’s death I am ten weeks pregnant. Last night I dreamt that the baby was born, not in the hospital we have planned but rather a bougie one two hours north by the sea, with a window looking out at the water and a chic gray and midnight-blue color scheme. I labored quickly and easily, feeling soreness but barely any pain. I didn’t need any stitches, and our baby latched right away. She was beautiful with clear bright eyes and she met my gaze without hesitation.

Three months ago, on the other hand, I sat at the edge of the water outside the hospital on a cold sunny day thinking of my father together with a new baby in the wings of the stage of life. I cried a lot of tears then, thinking that this comfort – this idea that my father would meet our child after all – was grasped for desperately; but also asking that he not to wait too long in sending us our child. I cried harder knowing that we’d have to wait, feeling strongly that the universe could do all sorts of things to you, and that making us wait for this child was exactly the kind of thing it would. It felt inevitable.

Since two years ago, it’s felt so sure to me that the universe – having been so unbalanced – would only have tragedy in store for us now. Because my father, a man of great magnitude and importance, was gone, the cosmos was essentially and irreparably misshaped, its axis tilted suddenly.

Three months ago, I wept for a long time on a bench at the water and imagined my father’s amorphous soul-person leaning down to whisper wisdom into the ear of our child’s inchoate soul-person. I thought of the time that had passed since I’d seen my father, and the time that would pass still until I’d meet our child, and the former was growing ever longer into the past and while the latter felt like it must be an eternity into the future – years, probably. Maybe never. I was feeling pretty pessimistic, and convinced.

When I texted my mother about my thoughts she agreed this meeting of soul-people must be happening in some part of the cosmos – “Of course he’d be there. He loves babies.” I asked her what she thought Dad must be saying to our baby, and we agreed: “That it’s all about love. And donuts.”

It is all about love. It’s something that I think was important to my dad as his life went on, that he learned in a multitude of ways and tried to teach us.

And it all being about love is the whole essence of grief. Love of my father belies the swollen bitterness that took me over for so long, that darkened my gaze and convinced me I’d be barren and shielded my eyes from joy and optimism for all this time. It’s also behind the feelings that are coming after.

Because today, I am pregnant with a child that I imagine will enter this world with my father’s words in its ears, conceived only weeks after that sunny day crying on the bench. I woke up today with the image of a beautiful baby gazing up at me, and feeling strongly that this was a message sent from my father, that he wanted to say we’d be alright, that she was a gift from him and so he’ll see that things go smoothly.

These things, of course, require quite a bit of cosmic imagination, and imagination is maybe the label we should apply. Ultimately what they reflect, though, is a shift in perspective in myself. A burgeoning belief that maybe things aren’t determined to be so bad – that, perhaps, the universe is righting itself.

me and my father, c.1992

me and my father, c.1992

The Light Comes Back

I was lucky enough to request yesterday off months ago so that with Lumberjack, my best friend, and her partner, I could drive down to the middle of nowhere in eastern Oregon right near the center of totality zone on our momentous eclipse day here in the States.

Because we're the four of us busy people, we maybe didn't do quite enough to prepare (i.e., find a place to stay the night in totality zone before they were all booked). I'll tell you the four things that I think were vital to our success this adventure:

  1. We bought certified eclipse glasses
  2. I read Annie Dillard's essay on her experience of the eclipse in 1979 (available to read here at the Atlantic only for a short while longer)
  3. We made a playlist
  4. We set out very early

 

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Totality was spectacular. First the light turned greyer. The shadows began to fall wrong across the landscape and our bodies. I watched my husband smile nervously in a new shade of blue, the shadow of his face falling short and sharp across his shoulders — beautiful and otherworldly. I felt nervous myself, a base anticipation pervasive. We toasted then to our resilience in darkness. It descended heavily and suddenly but light could be found at all the edges, sunrise on every horizon. In totality the dance between sun and moon was spectacular and clarifying. We laughed and exclaimed. People ran in circles. Crickets chirped. Suddenly my heart ached knowing this tango between two epic celestial bodies would soon end. And then with a brilliant glitter emblazoned at once across both of them, triumphant, the sun came back. We toasted to the return of light.

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As we packed everything up, peed in the trees, and got back in the car, the sun was clawing again for purchase in the sky. I cried, then. I've been thinking all year about hope and how to hold onto it when you're plunged into a world of darkness. It turns out the light always comes back.


Then we drove eight hours home and we all sang loudly to Total Eclipse of the Heart, which is an excellent song. (I won't wax on the cheap and obvious metaphor for any longer, I promise.)

Books I hope you read: Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is an inspiration, and a really good example of how heroification isn't necessary to feel in awe of a person. Her book talks about tough, often academic feminist issues while never forgetting that feminism is personal. This means she schools on intersectionality, brings pop culture into it, and makes hard questions accessible. Above all, though, she never leaves out humor and never leaves out the profound. It's a hopeful beacon in a conversation that's way too often cynical. I cried on the bus...twice. I can't wait for what it might do for humans, i.e. you. Read it!