I’d rather skip writing about grief. I’d rather write like poet Ross Gay in his, THE BOOK OF DELIGHTS. I smile as I read how he felt “delighted and compelled to both wonder about and share that delight.”
What comes as I write is not, as Ross Gay called his essays, “something delightful.” Rather grief stories flow, broken heart stories, sweet memories mixed with past “if-only-I had…,” with present “I-wish-I could-still….” and with future “I-never-will-again.”
Past. Memories of skiing appear, some with my brother Mark, some with high school and college girlfriends, boyfriends. Laughs. Rocking the chairlifts as we rode up. Whooshing, shooshing down. The lodges’ mammoth chocolate chip cookies and hot cocoa. I loved the freedom of choosing my trail, whether or not to attack moguls, whether to lead or follow my pals. I didn’t race like my friend Gay, could never track around gates, never liked being told where or when to turn. Everywhere and in all ways, I wanted to be in charge of my choices.
But now aging takes charge of life’s turns, and grief makes the choices. I miss Mom and Dad who loaded all seven kids into our Mercury woody wagon and drove us to Mt. Cranmore and Attitash while we kicked each other and staked out our don’t-touch-me zones in the back seats. Mom and Dad put up with our post-wipe-out tantrums on the slopes, paid for lessons and listened to us whine about that mean instructor who kept us out in the cold. For Christmas Mom and Dad gave us Norwegian sweaters with matching hats and stuffed our stockings with hand warmers.
On days with azure skies and bright white snow, I miss the mountain air on my cheeks, nimble knees quick over the bumps, the way Mark and I splashed a spray of snow at each other, screeching to stop just short of crashing, which also happened. We’d howl. Hey Mark, remember that time you T-boned into the class I was teaching; skis, poles, hats, and gloves spread on the snow like a yard sale? How you toppled those college ski school kids into heaps on the trail? Remember how we had enough energy to ski from dawn to dusk? That physical grit is past. All that mattered then was skiing hard and having fun.
Future: Grief is hard, too, not only for yesterday, but also for tomorrow. We may never ski again. If we do, it won’t be on Black Diamonds. If we do, there will be no Mom and Dad.
Present: Grief is here, now, filled with the fatigue of sitting recent vigil for Mom. Grief is sleepless nights before, during and after a parent’s death. Its fatigue cuts bone deep, heavier and denser than the fatigue of first-one-on-the-lift-last-one-sweeping-the-slopes.
One way to carry grief, or to have grief carry us, is to know we are not alone. On my solitary walks, I picture others also in this grief-container. Australians and their bush fires. Canadians and their loved ones killed in a plane crash. I feel not only my grief. This is the grief, human grief which dwells in all of us. Yes, I’d rather skip grief. Yet grief creates a womb in which we grow as we hear our mothers, fathers and ancestors whispering, “What really matters?” They advise, “Don’t worry about us, now gone, or whether you will have life after death. Wonder instead how you will live life before death. And wonder what you would say if you could write your own book of delights.”