In hindsight, it really was a bad decision. And honestly, had I given it any thought at all, I probably could have figured out it would be a bad decision in advance. These days, though, I’m more or less on auto-pilot, simply trying to get through each day with a semblance of normalcy.
There were a few things Mom wanted from her condo in Winston-Salem. I knew I would be passing through there this weekend, on my way to/from Raleigh en route to a bat mitzvah. Traffic on Friday was heavy, and I was concerned that if I stopped, I wouldn’t make it to Raleigh in time for the Shabbat service.
So this morning I planned to stop there on the way home to Asheville. It would break up the trip, I could get the things Mom wanted, and I could start packing up Dad’s study, which we hadn’t had time to do before we moved Mom.
You probably already see why this might be a bad idea to do on the first Father’s Day after Dad’s death. Unfortunately, I was focusing on how practical it would be for me to pick up the things while already on another trip, instead of making a special trip there.
When I pulled up to the condo garage, the tears started flowing. Ever the practical one, I thought, “I’ll spend a hour here, say hello to the neighbors, and get back on the road.”
I wasn’t prepared for the punch-in-the-gut feeling when I opened the condo door, and walked into an almost empty unit. I wasn’t prepared for all the memories of the last few months to come flooding back all at once. I closed the door, leaned up against the wall, and allowed myself to cry, to sob, to remember, to grieve. I slunk down the wall and sat curled up on the floor, simply crying, missing Dad, missing our life within these four walls. Missing experimenting with cooking low-sodium, low-potassium meals for Dad. Missing scrubbing up and preparing a sterile environment to change his bandages. Missing turning on the gas fireplace, even when it was warm outside, because Dad was always cold. Missing the one spot in the kitchen where we hugged goodnight every night and said “I love yous.”
After I thought the tears were done (note, the tears are never done), thinking I was okay to do what I had come to do, I rose up, and walked into Mom and Dad’s bedroom to get something from their closet. Again, that feeling. Of not being prepared for the wave of grief. Instead of an empty room, I saw Dad, curled up in the bed in excruciating pain, that Thursday morning that I called 911 and requested an ambulance. I remember the utter helplessness, of seeing him in pain and not being able to help. Of watching the paramedics lift him onto the stretcher and pleading with them to be careful.
I sat in the one chair that was left there, and just allowed myself to cry. And cry. And cry. I felt my Dad’s spirit in the house. Or maybe I imagined it. Or maybe I wanted it so badly I believed it. And I realized that grief is not going to allow me to be practical. I’m on its schedule now.