December 06, 2008

I don't think I like grief. It's unpredictable, illogical. If somehow my eyes don't burn, my stomach hurts instead, and if I'm actually having a moment of physical peace, I'm uneasy in my mind because I simply don't know what to do.

This wasn't supposed to affect me like this. It's not like there was a car accident, something swift and sudden, leaving us all shocked. This went on for years, longer than even the doctors thought it would. We said goodbye by degrees, brain cell by disappearing brain cell, always a one-way conversation, over and over and over again. I would have thought there were no more goodbyes to give.

Maybe it's the silence that gets me, the fact that the goodbyes are really done. The service is over, the condolences from old family friends received, the ashes scattered. We're down to our own memories now, dusty, imprecise things buried under the bitter taste of the last seventeen years. He left so very slowly we didn't know he was gone until he was different - mean and suspicious and silent and unengaged instead of laughing, hoping, caring. Now that this chapter is closed, can I find the happy memories again? The ones I can think of have the patina of oft-told stories but not the warmth of genuine affection.

"FTD" usually means flower delivery, but it will always first mean "fronto-temporal dementia" for me. It will always be the thing that stole my father, first his gentle, geeky personality, his ability to make sound decisions, his words. It took his memory of me, his eldest daughter and the first of the family members to vanish from his mind. It stole whatever joy he might have had in knowing Caitlyn, his only granddaughter. It took his dignity, the integrity of his body, then stripped him to essential functions and finally took from him the comfortable habit of breathing.

We knew a decade ago where this road would lead. And now that we've arrived, I've run out of map. The view from here is amazing, a wide open future, but I have no idea what I'm looking at. I'm not sure where to go next, which path to take, since I'm not sure where I'm going. So I sit here, unmotivated, sure there is something I should be moving toward or taking care of, but not certain enough of the next steps to make it happen. The days stun me with their hours, their endless minutes of knotted stomachs and prickled eyes, and the silence after the last echo fades.

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