It’s Just One of Those Things24 October 2018
Content warning: grief, father’s death
You can remember when he used to sit there amongst the eucalyptus trees and the brown dirt. Coffee in that old white mug, words of some society or organisation faded from the ceramics and from your memory too. The air of your backyard entering his lungs becoming his heartbeat, slow and steady and sure. He’d watch over the house as if it were something new, that the fading paint and mess of items from another era weren’t an eyesore—sure to be eventually given to an op-shop and knocked down. Replaced with three new modern units made of reinforced concrete like that red-brick house around the corner was. He’d inhale the atmosphere and feel the wind prick at his skin, pondering the unfinished extension of the patio roof. You’d see him from your bedroom window and not even smile, just simply acknowledge that it was just another day following just another day following just another day.
Now you’re sitting there. You thought your favourite jumper would act like a woolen shield across your skin, but you can still feel the cold of a March morning cut away at you, as your shoes indent your forever lasting place into the mud. He was going to grow a lawn there, to soften the prickling dirt but the seeds never stayed or grew in patches. It feels like a theatre production playing out in your own house, the three paramedics wheel him away on a stretcher and you can see it in their eyes and the tightness of their jaws. Their seven in the morning calls probably all go this way. So, you wait and you wait and you wait for your mother to call from the hospital and tell you what you already suspect is going to happen. You know how this ends. It’s just one of those things.
And everything stops for a moment, you cannot walk away, you have to watch every moment in the slowest of motions and have it sink into your brain. The silent sigh of your mother, the hitched breath of your best friend, the whine of your dog as they try and comprehend how this could happen without a warning, without a crescendo. And you can feel their eyes rake over you, as if you have a FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE sticker struck across your forehead. You don’t really know. They can see you from a mile away, offer you a coffee to keep you on your feet, even though the bitter bean makes you wince, but nobody really has anything else to offer but soft muttered syllables and bouquets of flowers delivered to your door. You don’t blame them. It’s just one of those things.
The world seems to rotate slower than before, even though the clock ticks at the same pace and everybody else is moving to the same beat that’s at some sort of rhythm you heard once in a dream. You can’t keep up, your shoelaces are tied together and the wind hasn’t become any warmer—so you just sit in your woolen armour and wait for the tide to turn. It never does. Words slip out of your brain and clumsily fall out of your lips and that’s if they ever fall out at all. Sometimes you’re just left with the etymology of a word you don’t know that never quite reaches past the fence of your bottom teeth. You can’t tell anyone about it—because there’s no air in your lungs to form the words you don’t know. Well, either that, or you can grasp the words but you don’t know the order. You don’t know how to create a sentence that sounds like a sentence with meaning; how to tie those floating words with the ribbon from bouquets of flowers that have since decayed and are in your compost bin with eggshells, their words and your mum’s coffee grinds. Things never seem to end the way you start them.
You start to realise it’s not the world that’s rotating slower—it’s you. Your body stays in your bed, still cold from that late March morning even though it’s May now and you’re meant to be somewhere else. The world can go as fast as it likes and all you can hope is perhaps the draught excluder will fall into place and block any breeze that comes through. It doesn’t matter what you do. There’s always a crack underneath the door and the cold wind still seems to trickle down your back even when you’re inside and the heater is set on a comfortable 20 degrees and everybody seems to scream “it’s all in the past” at you even when it’s silent and you’re on your own.
It’s just one of those things. Like—you know—those things. People tell you to tell them if you need anything, ignoring the fact you can’t tell the time because you can’t read the clock even though the clock is in clear view and you’ve read an analog clock a thousand times before. Your tongue twists on itself as it attempts to find the words to make it real, to be able to cast its shadow, so you can compare its form against something else. But it’s formless, shapeless, it’s incomparable and it doesn’t matter what metaphors you use or analogies you make—so they say nothing and you lose them as they drive off with you in their side mirror. They leave you behind in the chilly March air reliving that morning over and over and over. That’s the secret cargo of the grieving daughter, robbed of words like you were a father.