I have been away from the blog for a number of reasons, some having to do with work (busy time of year for lecturers) but also for a very personal reason: grief.
My lovely father passed away in February of this year at the age of 86. I wasn’t there when it happened as I live so far away. I flew back to New York for the funeral and then rushed home to London and my “real life” a few days later. And because I live an ocean away from where I grew up, it has been tempting to kind of “pretend” that he wasn’t really gone. After all, I often went months without seeing him and in recent years it even became difficult to speak to him on the phone. So I saved up all my hugs and I love you’s for when I would visit him. Among his many accomplishments, my father’s true talent was simply being there. At every game, every play, every parents’ evening, at the end of every teenage party to pick up one of his six children, at the breakfast table in the morning and the dinner table at night. And at his home in New York whenever I came to visit. So while I have cried about my dad in the past few months I don’t think I really believed in the loss of him, believed in the possibility of his not being there until last week when suddenly everywhere I looked were signs and posters and television advertisements for Father’s Day. “For the man who has always been there for me”; “To my hero”; “For the best dad ever,” etc, much of it schmaltzy and sentimentalized and all of it stabbing me directly in the heart as I began to finally realize that he was really, really not there anymore. That there would be no more saved up hugs and I love you’s. And no more Happy Father’s Day phone calls.
On Father’s Day itself, strangely, another constant in my life began to slip away: my lovely twenty year old cat Miss Audrey collapsed, and yesterday she had to be put down. I’d had her since she was a kitten. And while I am not about to compare these two losses, it is interesting and sad to note how differently I have reacted to these two kinds of grief: one so far away that I could pretend it didn’t happen, and one so close and so unavoidable that there is no escaping it. We had to make the decision and say goodbye, pack up her kitty litter and cat food bowls, her cat basket and her packets of food: all useless now. I return this morning to my “real life”, work, meetings, emails. And when I get home tonight I will cry for the empty spaces in my house, and for the hugs and I love you’s I was too far away to give or receive and for the constants in my life that are no longer simply “there”.