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June 26, 2006

Comments

Mermade

Hugo, if there is anything I've learned as a peer listener, it's that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Like you always tell me, don't apologize for how you feel. It's wonderful that writing here helps you to grieve! If you're numb, be numb. If you're sad, be sad. Again, there are no right and wrong stages and ways to grieve at this point. You are always in my prayers, and I should be visiting you soon!

anne

Your words are not jumbled, Hugo. They may feel that way to you, but they're real, and they're honest.

Reading about your father - the person he was, the goodness he embodied - is another gift he gives to those of us who never knew him. Thank you for that.

Your family continues to be in my prayers. Give yourself time; the blog world will still be here when you get back if you choose to take some time away.

jeffliveshere

Sharing how you're 'dealing' with this also benefits others--most of us will have to go through what you are now going through; talking about your grief, and your healing process is not a self-absorbed act, as far as I can tell. Please share, to the degree that you feel comfortable, how you are feeling while going through this. I think we don't, as a society, talk enough about grief (or actual death), and it's refreshing that you may want to.

Also: Months? I still experience grief from time to time from my grandmother's death, 8 or so years ago. Maybe I'm an exception, but please try to just give yourself room to grieve in your life...

mercedes

You know, I love those two lines: "the suspicion of one's own fraudulence," and "the lie of everlasting novelty." They are great!__I think that getting back to work and to your routine helps in adjusting to grief. You are probably very busy today with the first day of summer school and haven't had much time to dwell on this, but I assure you that your dad's memorial service will be an emotional experience for you and all your family. It's a time when you all remember and dwell on your beloved father, husband, brother, etc... that day will be your day to show emotion. Having gone through it myself, and getting up in front of a church full of friends and family, and taking the time to talk about this wonderful person helps everyone to grieve together and remember....

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Grief is complicated. When Dad died, in some ways I hardly felt sad, because it didn't seem as if he was really gone, but my anxiety level and blood pressure went up, and I started screwing up on managing the family finances for a while.

Vicky Sadler

Hugo, I am so sorry that you have lost your Dad. Mine was also a kind of philosopher to me - putting things in perspective for me.
My Dad passed away on the 22nd June this year and I too am having doubts about whether or not I am grieving "correctly". I echo your thoughts about "correct" emotions. I also have this fear now that my friends' predictions, that I have been putting it off and will have a fall, will come true. It is however of some comfort to find a connection between my situation and yours-whilst it would be better in nicer circumstances.
Best wishes to you and if blogging helps you express your grief and bounce ideas off people - carry on!

Don Boekelheide

Hi, Hugo,

I'm deeply saddened to hear about your dad's passing, he was a wonderful man and tremendously appealing character. I didn't know him well (more on that in a sentence or two - in some strange way, I suppose you and I are related?), but I always liked and admired him. I just found out, googling around looking for a way to contact Carol and your dad, since I'm coming out to Los Angeles for a conference this week, and thought I might drive up to Santa Barbara for a visit. What a loss, for you and for everyone.

My mom died under somewhat similar circumstances just a couple of years ago, and you are right, the grieving and accepting process just seems to go on and on. You appear to be a gifted teacher - like your dad and step-mom - and I wonder if practicing your art might not help, if only to give you a place to shelter and breathe a bit. I had to design and edit a book right after my mom died, and that work became a sanctuary of sorts, although I can't say I was always terribly efficient as I worked. And - like your dad, I'm an enthusiastic amateur musician - I practiced cornetto a lot. Since it is an impossible instrument anyway, that helped too, I suppose. Practiced cornetto down in the basement (it's not my wife's favorite instrument, nor the dog's), and listened to Monk a lot.

My mom never was able to return home, sadly, but she did spend her last days in a hospice, with family gathered around her. The hospice staff was thoughtful and caring - I can't imagine how it would have been without them. After finding she had inoperable liver cancer , she, a nurse herself, decided to check out of the hospital and pass her last days with dignity, surrounded by people who loved her. She was herself, to the very end. It did take some doing to get her out of Kaiser in Los Angeles, which was a hellish ordeal of beeping machines, needles, catheters, and a bewildering and everchanging cast of technically competent but utterly detached doctors and staff. Another story, but the hospice truly lived up to its name.

Now, a couple of years later, stories help. My dad, brother and uncles and aunts tell tales about my mom, who grew up in an isolated cove in the Appalachians of western North Carolina. They make me laugh sometimes, ache sometimes, but the stories give me a sense of contact and presence, and comfort.

When I was an undergrad at UCSB, I first heard about Hubert after Carol became a philosophy student, and she began talking with starry eyes about Wittgenstein and Kant. I had been an opportunistic grazer on whatever philosopher seemed most useful in nourishing my dislike of the Vietnam war, and suddenly here was this feast of delicious questions. Your dad was, in his kindly, sparkling way, the one who laid the table, for Carol, for me, and for countless other students and colleagues.

Divorce is a complex business, even without children - certainly a transformation up there with the most intense human changes. You've studied this? In any event, I'm Carol's first husband, Don. Our relationship was nothing close to a conventional marriage by the time Hubert and Carol fell in love, so it was fairly easy to put the old marriage aside - California in the 1970s, do-it-yourself divorce! - and let the two of them be together. It made perfect sense at the time, and I suppose their many happy years together shows clearly it was the right thing to do. I suppose I more-or-less loved both of them, from a safe distance - within a couple years, I was headed to Togo as a Peace Corps ag volunteer. Over the years, we were in touch, but not closely enough; dear friends are precious, even when things like divorces and oceans get in the way. I did hear about you and your brother. I still haven't told Carol about my mom's passing, though I keep meaning to. It's on that long 'list' that you have after a loved one dies.

It just must be heartbreaking for everyone who shared Hubert's life, especially for you and for Carol, for the girls, for your brother. As my Quaker friends put it, I hold you all, and Hubert's spirit, in the Light.

In Togo and Ghana, there's a custom I still practice; I found myself doing it a lot after my mom died. Whenever traditional Ewe people drink spirits or even beer, they often pour a little taste on the ground, 'for the ancestors'. As they understand it, the dead are still with us though we can't see them, and they might be thirsty. So, next time I quietly let a sip of Dos XX dribble to the linoleum for my mom - trying not to embarass my wife Nan and our kids, who have to put up with my occasional Africanisms as well as Early Music - I'll pass a second sip for your dad too, who may well be off playing late Beethoven quartets with some angelic violas and violins. There's always room for a good cellist, and a great soul.

With deepest sympathy,

Don

Hugo

Don, how wonderful to hear from you.  Thanks for sharing your memories.  You and I never met (at least not that I remember), but I've grown up hearing your name spoken, always with affection.  And yes, as far as I'm concerned, as my beloved stepmother's first husband,  you are part of our extended family network of love.

My sincere condolences on your mother's passing.

I have written about divorce quite a bit lately.  See here and here.  Let me quote you a section:

As we shared the experience of Dad's death together as a family, I thought to myself over and over again how damned grateful I am that my parents separated when I was a boy of six.   (Yes, I was hurt by the divorce.  Indeed, the wounds of that divorce stayed with me a long time.  But as a young adult, I got to know plenty of people whose parents stayed in unhappy marriages for the sake of their children; I found that these folks were no better equipped for adulthood and maturity and mental health than I.  Look, on some level, Phillip Larkin was right!  No matter what parents do, together or apart, they inflict wounds.  The wise child grows into the adult who can forgive.)  The point is this: my life would be so much less rich if my parents had stayed married!  I can't imagine life without my gentle and kind stepmother, who has loved me unconditionally for thirty-plus years.  My sisters, now grown women of 27 and 24, are beautiful, talented, loving, wonderful human beings.  They are my dear friends today, and without my parents' divorce, they would not have come to be.  I cannot think for a second of my own childhood hurt without thinking of all that I have gained.

Thanks again for your loving thoughts, and for sharing the tradition of pouring the first drink on the ground.  Funny, I learned that same thing -- from gang bangers here in Los Angeles, who poured malt liquor on the concrete to honor fallen brothers!  (And though I don't drink any more, Dos Equis was one of my two favorite beers.  Strange, our life coincidences.)

Email me at dochugoboy@hotmail.com if you want contact information for Carol in Santa Barbara.  She's in the white pages, too.

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