November 5th, 2011


Grief is Fog

Fog is the metaphor used to designate confusion, distorted thoughts, muddled perception.  It's supposed to hide important landmarks that tell us where we are, the direction we should take, the dangers to avoid.

But I've always loved fog.  When I lived on the California coast, it would sometimes creep in during the pre-dawn hours, and I'd feel as if I were waking up in a secret world.  Someplace special and between.  Other times, it would roll in slowly over the afternoon and take away the sunset, leaving instead a gentle, inexorable dimming of light into night.

When I lived on the farm, fog didn't approach.  It appeared.  The cooling day would raise smudges of white from the fields.  Without a breeze, the clean smoke would thicken and stretch to fill the valley pastures.  I couldn't see the river from my porch on those days, but I could still hear it.  I still knew it was near.  Fog forced memories to take the place of sight.

Dev just came out of his room a few minutes ago to give me a hug.  He said the father had died in the story he was watching, and he just wanted to sit with me awhile.  We cried a little, talking about how we missed having his dad around on Halloween--even though Ron hated Halloween.  And Dev talked a little about how he figured Thanksgiving, his birthday, and Christmas would have sad times, too.  Yeah, kiddo, it'll be rough around the edges.

But Dev is talking about his dad more and more, bringing up memories good and bad.  Asking to visit places we used to go as a family.  Wanting to know more about the life Ron and I shared before he came along.  Wondering aloud what his dad would think about how he's doing with school, with 4H, with his plans for the future.  He is sharpening his memories of his father, yet softening the ragged grief.

I mourned a great deal while at Viable Paradise.  There was finally the right combination of time, space, privacy and understanding.  Talking about it helped some as well, even though I was certain it wouldn't.  I'd always get stuck on explaining the situation--Ron and I were separated for years yet never divorced, and lived together again from his diagnosis to his death--rather than just saying what was true.

What's true is that I miss my son's father.  I miss the man who shared some part of my life for nearly twenty years.  I miss my friend.  And since coming home, the grief over what I miss has been a different sort of mate.  Less haunting, more companionable.  Less about loss, and more about love.  More like fog.  Special and between.  Gentle and inexorable.  Made up of memories that fill the empty spaces.