I had hoped to send out a “Favorite Music of 2021” before the end of the year, but then my father fell ill. He’d been diagnosed with liver cancer on November 14th. The doctor was quite clear that there was no chance of sending it into remission, yet they said there were treatments that could give him months, or even years. But things progressed far more rapidly than anyone expected.
Once it became clear to me just how bad things had gotten, the teenagers and I canceled our holiday plans and drove like mad to Ohio. Thankfully we arrived in time to say goodbye. Then I dropped the boys off at a hotel near the hospital and sat with him and my stepmother until he passed away about twelve hours later. In the end, it was peaceful. He died at 6:30am on December 22nd, three days before Christmas.
It’s now about two weeks later. We’re back in DC. I’m listening to a gentle new EP by mydreamfever and watching the snow fall outside my window. The teens are at their mother’s house, and the dog is snoozing on the couch. I am grateful for this moment of tranquility. I wish it could last forever.
But the grief comes in waves. There’s that popular thing about the stages of loss, and I don’t know if it’s true, but sometimes I feel like I’m cycling through them in the space of five minutes: denial, anger, depression, acceptance (I’ve never been one for bargaining). It comes in ferociously like a summer squall, then just as quickly dissipates. I try to keep busy. It’s difficult to focus on proper work, but I am making a big dent in my reading backlog, the house is spotless, and the closets are immaculately organized. Of course sometimes I also do things like cry in the middle of Home Depot while trying to buy a vacuum.
Grieving for a family member is at once a deeply communal yet profoundly solitary experience. During that awful week while we were in Ohio, I felt closer to my stepmother and half-brother than I ever thought possible. And yet, there were also moments when I was keenly aware that the man I knew was not exactly the same one they knew. We have a shared experience of a family member, but also a deeply personal and unique one. Sometimes we can share the load of grief. Sometimes we cannot.
So anyway, I’m afraid this is all I can offer for this issue of the newsletter. I hope you had a better holiday than I did. Next time I’ll deliver my promised list of favorite music of 2021 for those among you who mostly subscribe for the music recommendations.
Talk soon, Kelley