past tense

This year has been strange.  I’ve had three babies now and the first year is always somewhat otherworldly, tinged with grief and depression and anxiety, fraught with tears of awe and the most tender sadness.  With each birth comes the knowledge that something has been lost and yet another thing has been found.  Life is forever altered.

As our daughter has grown from a blob to a chubby joyful baby and we’ve watched her begin to smile, laugh, babble, move with intention – as we’ve watched her fully move towards her life and her self, the gap between me and my dad continues to widen, moment by moment.  As he continues to die, over and over, and I begin to understand it a little at a time, so she learns to live.

There are two sets of milestones this year.  On the calendar in our kitchen I note down Daphne’s milestones.  In my headspace I note down my grief milestones.  Today is ten months exactly since my dad’s death.  It’s finally starting to feel like a real thing that’s happened.  He’s gone.  He’s not coming back.  Every day I face this reality.  It feels strange.  It’s starting to feel familiar.

Just two days ago I had the first conversation ever with a person that referenced my dad and not his death.  All this year the two have been linked; I haven’t been able to discuss one without the other.  I referred to my dad in the past tense, sharing a little tidbit about him, and I was aware I was talking about him in the past tense and I was thinking, “I’m talking about my dad in the past tense.”

And then, “Of course I’m talking about my dad in the past tense.  He’s gone.  He’s not coming back.”

The conversation ended and I thought nothing of it, until yesterday when I was driving and I realized what had happened.  I’d experienced a milestone and it wasn’t huge and groundbreaking the way it is when a baby achieves something.  No cheering.  No “good job!”  Just silence, a reckoning with grief, a head nod to the slow process we call moving on.

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