It's Monday morning, and I'm about to begin my twelfth consecutive year of teaching summer session here at Pasadena City College. Am I too young to begin asking, "Where have all the years gone?"
I'm fighting a cold, one whose symptoms first showed up on Thursday afternoon shortly after my father died. It's not a big surprise -- I'm certainly one of those people whose body manifests grief through illness. "Somatizing", I think they call it; no doubt it's a sign I've got more work to do on getting "in touch" with those pesky emotions.
Frankly, four days on from my father's death, and I'm not even sure I should be blogging. In the past few weeks, I've been wondering, as I am wont to do, whether I'm experiencing the "appropriate" emotions as my Dad went through the final stages of his battle with cancer. Yes, I've felt very sad -- but at other times, I've felt perfectly calm. I've cried for my father quite a bit; indeed, he and I were able to weep together as we said how much we loved each other just a few weeks ago. But at other times, I've felt numb. It's not the numbness of denial, I don't think (and believe me, I can recite Elizabeth Kubler-Ross from memory), it's just as if I have an intellectual understanding of what has happened but not yet a full emotional one.
On the other hand, my father would probably tell me that all of this worrying about having the "appropriate" emotions is a sign of two mild character flaws: impatience and self-absorption. I'm impatient because I want to "get through" a grieving process that will surely take months if not years, and it is undeniably self-absorbed to spend so much time wondering (and blogging!) about whether I'm feeling the "right" thing right now. For an interesting perspective on male grief, let me note this post by David Morrison, who lost his own father just a couple of months ago.
I can say with total conviction that I adored my father. He was a remarkable man who gave an extraordinary amount of love. I'm not ready to eulogize him on this blog (I may never be, though I will do so at his service this coming weekend), yet I can say that among the many things my father did well was balance extraordinary gentleness with an equally admirable and keen sense of response of ethical responsibility. Though my father was many things: a philosopher, a teacher, a musician, a devoted member of his family, at his core he was so remarkably kind and so actively good.
My father, raised in England from age three, was not a "typical American" Dad. Though he was quite fit and active all his life, he had little interest in organized sports, particularly those played in this country. We never went to a baseball game together. Unlike so many of my friends, my happiest memories of my father will not be of the things we did together. Though up until the final weeks of his life we took countless walks and hikes together, visited museums and galleries and cafes, I'm grateful that we always, always, talked. I've inherited from my father a keen interest in describing and discussing the inner emotional terrain of family members and friends, as well as my own. We talked so much!
My father gave me some of the phrases I've used on this blog: the suspicion of one's own fraudulence and the "lie of everlasting novelty". He was good, very good, at quickly and pithily identifying emotional quandaries! He gave me a remarkable vocabulary for talking about feelings, and in doing so, helped me to understand that what I had thought was my own unique pathology was actually pretty darned universal. Like any good philosopher, he mapped the human experience so well; as a great father, he was able to use his understanding of that experience to comfort and inspire his children.
Sorry this post is so jumbled. I'll be easing back into regular blogging, but I can tell that I'm not fully "okay" just yet. Please, however, don't suggest I take an extended hiatus away from this blog -- writing here is a source of tremendous comfort, even when I'm unclear as to what it is that I need comforting about!