I like to think of grief as a predator in a bar. There you are, all happy, enjoying life, and then it creeps up behind you and pinches you on the arse. No warning, no offer of a drink, just an emotional and physically disgusting assault on the senses. That was how I woke up this morning, pinched on the bum by the realisation that my dad died a year ago today.
For me, as a parentless, freelancing, only child, it was difficult to take time out to grieve last year. Too much to arrange; funerals, wreaths, calling distant family members, probate, oh and running a business. So when I knew the anniversary was coming up I blithely planned a day of work and meetings. The exact moment of the grief assault this morning happened in Sainsbury’s when I saw the ready-made sandwich section (one of my dad’s favourite spots, I would have to read him each label so he could decide on his pick. Every time he would choose prawn mayo and cheese and tomato).
The weird thing is that grief is always there. For me, it’s not sorrow that Dad has passed away, but more a feeling of loss and missing his presence. I’ve missed yelling at him about Brexit or asking for his advice on things. For the last few days, I’ve been wondering what he would have thought about the Jeremy Corbyn wreath fake news and how he would feel about Trump (for someone so right-wing, my dad thought Jeremy Corbyn was pretty awesome because he had integrity and thought Trump was a bit of a dick). I’ve realised that throughout the last year I have been pushing down any emotion about him. Like a gag reflex, every time he has appeared in my mind’s eye, I’ve swallowed down the grief. Too busy; driving; not the right time; with a client, the list of excuses for not crying have been numerous.
I deleted Timehop a few months ago on what would have been Dad’s 80th birthday. I didn’t want to be reminded of all the lunches where I would read the menu to him, or the pictures of him in an increasing state of decay but looking happy. Facebook assaulted me by accident this afternoon, I scrolled through 2 years worth before I sobbed. Last year a farewell to an amazing man, the previous year a post about how the skin graft on his head had meant that after years of baldness he now had chest hair growing out of his scalp. I deleted the memories that swelled up inside of me and that were pushed at me digitally, putting a brave and pragmatic face on it all.
Dad would be so pissed off that I didn’t go to work today, but would be proud of the measures of gin that I have poured myself this afternoon. In the year since he died, I have become more of a person, stepping out of the shadow of caring for an elderly parent. He would be touched by the people who have swelled around me and affronted by the idiots that I have encountered. He would be amazed that I haven’t spanked a load of my inheritance on a new car and touched that I have helped people (he didn’t believe in charities, but was always charitable).
Grief is different for each individual because our take on life is always so different. For me, my pragmatism and stoicism have come so much into play, I’ve almost made it invisible. So, for today, I will sob.