Dear Reader, Throughout the month of October I, along with a small group of other writers, wrote about loss in “Write Your Grief Out” with Anne and Maria Gudger. Here is one excerpt from that period, based on the prompt “If you took your grief out to lunch, what would you talk about?”
If I took my grief out to lunch, we’d talk about the way things used to be. How the other day I saw a small child sending crab pots off the dock into the ocean with her father. The way we used to do that before you became a vegetarian. Before you quit crabbing in the wintertime and raising rabbits for meat in our backyard. We’d talk about way before the tofu and carob phase, when you ate burgers and drank Budweiser. But that was never you, so I was glad I got to see your next phase too: your altars and spiritual books and how a real live guru came to visit us and stayed in our home and went on long walks with you in the woods.
If I took my grief out to lunch, we’d talk about the way things used to be. How half the pictures from when you were a boy show you at the top of some tree. Or expertly showing your hog for 4-H. Or snug in the middle of three sisters, volleying between tormenting them and being the soft shoulder they could cry on. How you had so much lived life before me, but it took you dying for me to really see that. The boy you’d been–wild as they come. The teenager you’d been–different, but popular and carefree. The man you’d become–a young, single father, your biggest challenge yet.
If I took my grief out to lunch, we’d go up river afterward. We’d blast Johnny Cash through the redwoods, roll down the windows, and stop for a drink of spring water gushing from Carter Falls. I’d take my grief inside the culvert under South Fork Road, where the runoff pours into the river in wintertime. We’d steady ourselves on the rocks, crouching just to watch the water run. Solely for the meditative purpose of it. We’d have no agenda. We’d have no to-do’s. We’d see a bald eagle and raise our hands to our chest in prayer. We’d skip rocks. We’d drive up further and park by Rock Creek. We’d travel up creek on bare feet. We might see a wild animal drinking from the stream; or a fairy ring of mushrooms, undisrupted. We’d awe.
If I took my grief out to lunch, we’d talk about the way things used to be. The time we rode elevators to the tops of the tallest buildings in San Francisco, just to look out the windows. Danced with other Hare Krishna devotees at Golden Gate Park, real ones who lived in the temples year round, not just for a few weeks in the summertime like we did. Venice Beach. Berkeley. British Columbia. All the food and the flowers and the strangers. How we’d come back to Crescent City in September tanned, hair windblown and faces happy, just the two of us. No mom in sight and all the freer for it.
If I took my grief out to lunch we’d talk about the way things used to be–because it’s the best balm to the way things are now. Less colorful. Less natural. Less free. I don’t know many daughters who can claim that the best gift their parents gave them was freedom and exploration–just for the sake of it. Without agenda. But if I took my grief out to lunch, we’d talk about that.