The Holidays Are When You Grieve


I spent a lot of time grieving for things that weren’t even gone.

Worrying, turning the same crazy silly thoughts over and over in my brain like beads on a rosary.

Waking up at all hours as I often do, fiddling with ideas that could not be put to bed. Mourning small losses: a tiny white cup of coffee in the morning, a scratch of wool blanket, a porcelain cat statue.

I was missing them while they were still there, while they were part of my TV screen of reality.

They’re gone now.

Things are perfectly alright until they’re not. Isn’t that how it goes? You can mourn those little cups of coffee and instead spend your days drinking from a days-old
pot. What’s the point of brewing a new one when it’s only you? You can wander the rooms of a beloved farmhouse alone and think about saying goodbye to the woman who inhabited it for all of your 25 years, but it’s much harder than that. Places hurt too. Maybe places hurt more.

You can do battle with things you can never erase, a 5:43 AM phone call from your dad saying your grandmother has died. No good news comes at 5:43 AM.

You can wake up one morning and realize that nothing will ever convince any boy that you are more than the sum of a city.

You will wake up every morning, look around and get used to it. We’re very resilient creatures, humans.

There’ll be sad songs to make you cry. Grief comes out of nowhere. It hangs out in the corners of your closet and in the trunk of your car. Grief hides like a quiet ghost in the whole of your day and it spooks unprovoked.

A boy who grew up behind the wheel of a pickup truck went tumbling into death in the dawn of a beet harvest, another one gone to gravel. They leave cans of beer and letters on his gravestone out in quiet North Dakota. Maybe the dead like those visits, or maybe they just want to sleep.

It’s the things you love the most that hurt you in the end, I think.

I measure the end, I used to say. I measure the end of things. I knew when I closed that door in September that my grandma would not live to see the winter. I measured the end that night when the wind whipped through the windows of my best friend John’s old Lexus and he was crying silently while I fiddled with the harmonies on the radio, singing both Simon and Garfunkel’s parts of “America.” I measured it in a mouthful of Jameson when I said goodbye to you forever, threw up my guts in the breakroom because you were actually leaving, getting on a plane and going.

I look for the end of things, because they haven’t invented a pill to induce amnesia yet.