Even if you have not lost someone close to you, you know what Grief is: you know Grief means you miss someone. You had memories with them, of them; those memories now cause pain and longing.
You wish the person could see you hit milestones: you want that person to see you get married, have children, get tenure, win awards; whatever it is, you want them there.
But those of us who have lost someone close to us know – especially if we’ve lost a parent, and more specifically, a parent with whom we had a complicated, enmeshed, beautiful and, at times, tumultuous relationship – that Grief takes so many forms.
Sure, there are the forms you expect. When you seem to be doing fine, and then – I am rolling my eyes as I write it – “a song will come on the radio” and you have to pull over so that your sobs don’t cause you to drive your car into a lamp-post. Or when you get box seats to a Dodgers game as a gift and the very first thing you’ll think is, “I have to call my dad and ask him to come with me!” and then you remember he died. He died and you buried him, the dirt stuck under your nails from burying him by hand. Right. He can’t come to the game. He is dead. He died. He died. He died.
Or you will be at a joyous event – say, your son’s first-ever soccer game – and the thought will insert itself into your brain in a way the neuroscientist in you knows is impossible (because we create thoughts, they don’t just ‘come’): “He never got to see his grandson play soccer…” and then you shake your head to shake it off and you blink back the tears and you cheer for your boy, the boy who looks so much like the Zaydie (grandfather) who will become farther and farther away from his conscious memory every time he blinks his blue, blue eyes. Go, son. Go.
But lately, Grief has taken a sneaky, insidious and dark form. It is unexpected. No one told me about this Grief. This Grief is the smoke monster from “Lost” level of mystery and misery.
Suddenly, Grief is making me grieve things I didn’t even know I would have to grieve. She has taken my attempts to distract myself and laugh again through Television. Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime…Grief has invaded these spaces, diverting me on my way back to normal. I wanted to feel normal again. And sane. She has taken that away.
The bloody ‘golden age of television’ in which we live has revealed itself as Grief embodied. My dad and I used to watch sports together. We didn’t share a love of many comedy or drama shows in common as we both got older, but sports was always something we loved to watch together. And now I see all of these new shows coming out; shows about sports figures. The OJ documentary series on Netflix and also the ESPN one; films about Muhammad Ali…
So many of our disagreements could have been avoided if we had something to do together- we could have watched and enjoyed some of these new TV shows and documentaries about things we both loved together.
We could have had time together.
My father and I could have had more time together.
God, please. We could have had more time together.
And please don’t tell me my father is watching with me. I know you mean it in consolation, but I don’t find it comforting. I don’t want that. I don’t want him “watching” if he is not sitting next to me. I’m a Jewish person who puts a lot of weight and importance on THIS life as my tradition teaches. This is the life I want with my dad. Not in the next world. Not in my mind. Not in my dreams.
I wanted him here with me. Forever? “That’s absurd,” some must be thinking. Well, you know what? I wanted him with me forever. Yes. Yes forever. I wanted him to never ever die. I wanted to have my life with him in it. Period. And you can’t make me not want that.
And also, please don’t tell me he had to die because he was suffering. You don’t know how much he suffered; so please don’t say it. Did I want him to keep suffering and living? Of course not. But this is my Grief, not yours. And my Grief mocks logic and truth and ultimately, She is a thief and a liar and a cheater and I hate Her.
When I watched “Last Chance U”’s season 2 finale which was SO SO GOOD, I hated it the second I loved it. Because I wanted him to watch it with me. My dad would have loved “Last Chance U.” It had so many things he loved best: stories of teachers giving kids a chance to be more than they dreamed they could be (one of his best skills as a public school teacher for 40 years in some very tough neighborhoods). He loved a good football game; the way games are filmed now makes it feel like you are right there; he would have loved to see games up close the way technology now enables.
So F you, Grief. Screw you and your dodging and hiding and lying and sneaking. Screw you for coming into my life uninvited and proving to me in new, disgusting, intrusive, horrendous ways that You will never leave me.
I will keep watching Netflix and HBO and Amazon Prime, and I will stay loyal to my love of watching team sports, because just as I am stuck with You, You are stuck with me, Grief.
Through every touchdown and slam-dunk and home run I cheer at, every Akira Kurosawa film I marvel at, and every documentary about something weird and bizarre and hilarious, You will be watching with me. Stuck with me. Grief is transformed as we live through Her; Grief becomes more than just tears and sadness and rage.
Grief, You will watch me cry and struggle, but Grief will also watch me laugh and love being alive again.
Because You, Grief, You are a part of this long journey back to my new normal. Whether I like it or not.
(This is part of an ongoing series by Mayim Bialik chronicling her journey with grief following her father’s death in April 2015. For previous pieces in this series, click here.)