I have become aware of something recently in my life.
I know grief is a process, that it takes time to adjust to a great loss. Days, months, years. Yet, I never realized how sneaky grief can be. It sits quietly in a corner until you forget about it, and then it makes its move.
One night last summer, I was sitting on my couch. The TV wasn't on. My kids were not home, and my wife was at work. As I sat there in the silence, reading a book, I started to hear something. A scratching sound. It was quiet at first, but, over the course of about an hour, it got louder and louder. The scratching became a chewing sound. I finally realized that I was hearing a mouse somewhere behind the couch.
Now, I am not a fan of rodents. The next day, I went out and bought a couple mouse traps. Within two days, I had rid my house of the source of that sound. But, when I'm sitting on my couch and it's quiet in the house, I remember that night last summer. I sort of sit and listen for that sound. The pulpy gnawing.
That's the way grief sneaks up on you, I think. Like a mouse in the wall, nibbling away until you become aware of it.
Yesterday, driving home from work, I went by the cemetery where my sister was laid to rest. I pulled into the entrance and drove to her grave. I sat and just stared at her headstone, and I thought about how different my life is now because of her absence. Slowly but surely, my family is stitching itself back together, but there are still large holes that remain unmended.
My son is going to be making his First Communion this year at church. My sister was his godmother. It's strange to think that she won't be there, sitting in the pew with us, watching and smiling.
Saint Marty wishes he could go out and buy a grief trap. Something quick and painless to remove the sadness clawing apart the walls of his house.
Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by: Sherman Alexie
The morning air is all awash with angels—Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”
The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.
I wonder whom I should call? A plumber,
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?
Who is blessed among us and most deserves
The first call? I choose my father because
He’s astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. “Hey, Ma,”
I say, “Can I talk to Poppa?” She gasps,
And then I remember that my father
Has been dead for nearly a year. “Shit, Mom,”
I say. “I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—
How did I forget?” “It’s okay,” she says.
“I made him a cup of instant coffee
This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—
And I didn’t realize my mistake
Until this afternoon.” My mother laughs
At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days
And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.
Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.
Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.