It’s been a quiet week here on the blog because it’s been a noisy week in my head. Sometimes it takes a while for the words to align.
The subject of death has been on the table. Relying upon predictions, my father did not evacuate Florida. By the time the predictions changed it was too late to get him out even if we could convince him. As of this morning the hurricane is headed straight for him. I’ve had a week to prepare for this reality, as he has, and as my siblings have.
Pleas were made for him to leave. He decided not to leave. At a certain point it made no sense to get stranded on a highway so we accepted his decision and moved on to the next step of preparation, such as it is.
Cutting through all the conjecture, the brass tax is he might be fine or he might die. There’s no way to know. He will lose power and cell service shortly and we won’t know which is the case for an unknown period of time. And of course, he’s not the only Dad still down there.
His last check-in reports the rain and wind have arrived. He has taken some neighbors into his home who fled the shoreline. He describes the slow progress to be approximately the speed of a Mardi Gras parade. He promises to report until he can’t.
In the last 48 hours I said the things I wanted to make sure he knew. I listened to the things he wanted me to know. We said I Love You one last time, just in case. Now we wait. Unlike accidents and unforeseen mishaps, we get to see this one coming. We have time to prepare. There will no sudden shocks. No blindside.
I struggle with the topic of grief in general. I have issues with the conventional treatment of grief in American culture, and my views are offensive to most. The few times I have shared my thoughts I felt bad afterwards because the sharing accomplished nothing good and made people angry. My conscience bothered me. Making grieving people angry contributes to their suffering, even if my intention was the opposite. Our collective conditioning regarding grief is so deeply ingrained; my challenges only serve to do more harm than good when grief is already present. And there is little value in broaching the subject any other time because no one ever wants to talk about it or even think about it. So I typically hold back.
People have advised me that my feelings will/would change when it happens to me. No. It has happened to me. My convictions were formed through experience, both the see-it-coming kind and the blindsided-by-it kind. One is no easier or worse than the other. My father would be a monumental loss for obvious reasons but also because with the exception of my siblings, he is the only blood relative left in my life. When he is gone my physical connection to a generation will be broken.
If my beliefs about grief feel controversial then my thoughts on anticipating grief are only going to sound the same. Justifying my feelings robs me of the comfort of expressing them, so I sit here in the paradox. My strongest and healthiest coping mechanism is to write. All that feels reasonable to write on this topic is my purgatorial dilemma. Oddly, it feels more appropriate than silence during the wait, though I am not sure why I care what is or isn’t appropriate right now.
I sit here in the morning sunshine 1000 miles away from the storm and wonder about the phone calls to come. Who would call me? Will they call me first? Will I have to call my siblings with bad news? Will one of them know before I do? What would I say? What should I say?
After the hurricane passes over Dad it is supposed to move north over Georgia toward all my siblings living near each other. The storm will likely be weakened by then but they may lose power and cell service too. It could be a while before there are any phone calls from anyone.
Time to think about it means time to consider all the What Ifs. It’s what we do while we wait. Odds are less that I could lose all of my siblings in Georgia too but the scenario did cross my mind. Everyone is in the path. Imagine losing my entire family in the next 36 hours. Or not, but not knowing. What does one say about that prospect?
Best case, everyone will be fine (well, not everyone — people have already died) and my next post will be the proverbial all clear. Less best, no news. Bad case, bad news. Worst case, loss of life. I have been afforded time to wrap my head and heart around all of them, which is sobering and provocative and compels me to face the things I know are possible outcomes. We don’t do this in our culture. We pretend we can’t imagine it. We pretend we don’t have words. We shut down and prostrate ourselves in predetermined helplessness. Even when we know it’s coming. I’m grateful for the time to think about it, whatever happens.
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