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Grief in the Shower, Or A Rambling Mess Of A Post About My Dad

Getting the dough ready for the har gow

Everyone thought I'd lose it at the viewing. I didn't. Then everyone thought I'd get a case of the ugly cries at the funeral, maybe during my delivery of the eulogy. Aside from my voice breaking a teensy bit at the end, I held my composure at that point, too.

So I guess it's bound to happen sometime, right? For me, it's the shower. In the privacy of a cozy bathroom, left to my thoughts uninterrupted by toddler demands, I grieve. I mourn the loss of his delicious shrimp har gow and cha siu. I miss his chuckle and the way that he he would shake his head in mock disapproval at something I said or did. I miss hearing him call my name with his gruff voice. Heck, I even miss his socks with sandals.

Today, when the cool cross-breeze blew through my daughter's bedroom window, I drank deeply the scent of budding summer. In my mind's eye, I was transported back to the shaggy burnt red carpet of our family room, where many of my summer days were spent lounging in the sunlight, reading a book or watching TV. The buzz of the lawnmower being pushed back and forth was soothing, and I felt so relaxed that I could nearly drift off to sleep. Glancing out from the screen door that led to the backyard, I could see him pushing that machine in straight lines over long grass, sweat dripping down his brow. As he brought the mower to a standstill to empty the bag, there was my father: a white "wife-beater" top worn with shorts and a belt pulled over his slightly round belly, his striped sport socks hoisted nearly to his knees inside his sneakered feet, and his hair still perfectly coiffed in a gentleman's cut. I could see the contrast of his jade-pendant necklace against his tanned skin, and his watch catching and reflecting the bright rays of the sun as he worked to empty another bag of cut grass. When he finished, he took a big drink of his cold Chinese tea out of the glass barrel-shaped beer mug that we had bought him. And then he started the mower again, and continued cutting stripes into our back lawn.

And as quickly as the breeze brought this vivid memory to life, it blew it away again, leaving me with just a sting in my heart and some tears in my eyes.

I'm still new to this grief club, so I don't quite know how things are supposed to work, and what "rules" I need to observe. I have no basis of comparison to measure my own grief against, nor do I necessarily think that apples and oranges can be compared anyway. My sister's grief looks different than mine, as does my mom's. My friends who have lost fathers will also mourn in a different way than I do, and those who've lost loved ones at different ages and stages probably lament different aspects of their losses. I know that he lived a good long life, so my journey through grief looks nothing like that of someone who lost a loved one in their prime.

But I'm sad. My daddy would be 72 on Saturday, but cancer has robbed him of the chance to celebrate it. No matter, since he's with Jesus and we all know that it's just one big ol' party every day up there, anyway. On most days, that hope is enough to sustain me. Sometimes I even forget that he's really gone. But for me today, there's a real void, and a deep sense of loss. I blame the wind.

So what do I do on his birthday? How do I commemorate it? Flowers seem so trite, so impersonal. And even visiting the grave site (which is not happening since we live a province away) doesn't seem any more meaningful, since the guy's not there. His body? Yes. But my daddy's not there, not really. And it's not like he needs anything now, so I can't just go run out and buy him something. I have no idea how to properly celebrate his life when he's not around to celebrate with.

And I don't quite know what to do with this grief, except let the tears flow in the shower.


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