Aging grief

Dear December 16th,

You snuck up on me this year. Usually I watch the calendar and see the days approaching you tick by, counting all the time since After began. But this time I didn’t. Maybe it was because I was distracted, busy traveling, applying to grad school, and finishing up my class. But maybe it’s because After has become the new normal.

I haven’t forgotten though. I haven’t forgotten how we sat on the daybed and watched, counting breaths until there were no more to count. How the man from the funeral home was a living stereotype, with cold hands and a black suit at five in the morning. I haven’t forgotten how they asked if I wanted to see her one more time, hidden by that bright quilt, and I said, “No, thank you.” But what I really meant was, “No, thank you, because if I see her one more time, it will be the last time and I will know it, and I will never be able to put myself back together again.”

You snuck up on me this year, December 16th, but I haven’t forgotten. Because as soon as I saw the date this morning I was back in a little room in Tennessee, looking at a pink nightshirt neatly folded on the seat of a vacant brown recliner.

And I remembered. Six years.

Six years After

When After comes
it elbows its way in
uninvited
pulls up a chair
and puts its feet up
as if to say
“Get comfortable.
I’m not going anywhere”

At first
everyone notices
and nods
awkwardly
trying not to make
eye contact
because nobody
likes After.

But something happens
along the way
and After becomes
familiar.
Expected.
Like the weird uncle
everyone would miss
if he wasn’t there.

Until a word
or a laugh
or the Christmas lights in
a fancy hotel
or a calendar date
remind you again
that once –
there was Before.