Bereavement can be strange.
It’s been more than four months since Dad died. Immediately after his death, I was bone tired, contemplative, somber without being sad. Having a day stretch ahead of me felt like a balm. I could think what I wanted, feel what I wanted, do what I wanted.
For a time after that, I ran away, though not consciously. I had a backlog of people I wanted to spend time with. It was suddenly feasible to visit them rather than ask them to visit me.
It no longer feels strange not to be caring for Dad, nor unsettling when awareness comes suddenly upon me that I am no longer his caregiver. I’ve stopped startling when I realize I can be without my phone as my constant companion; I can take a walk without carrying it, or go to the movies without it turned upside down against my knee, on silent mode, so that I will feel any urgent texts or calls. We can eat dinner when we want, and linger at the table for as long as we want. I’ve stopped listening for the click of the brakes on his walker, mentally following his path to the john during the evening and night to make sure he safely settles back into bed.
I am untethered. But now I feel directionless. And I am restless.
I’ve known restlessness in the past: intellectual restlessness, physical restlessness, even sexual restlessness. This restlessness has a different tenor.
I am pent up, ready to do something, something else, but what? I have the attention span of a squirrel. (Which, when combined with ready access to Google, can be downright dangerous. I just learned, for example, that a squirrel has an attention span on normal things of about one second and about four minutes on acorns and nuts.)
I want to hike. I want to learn to sail. I want to create a template from the strategic planning I’ve been doing for nonprofits. I want to write.
I know that I am fortunate to have this time of freedom. When my mother died after four months in hospice, my employer at the time was clearly unhappy with me; that “take all the time you need” turned into “get back in here and start generating revenue!” I was thrown back into a political maelstrom at work, settling in to a new house, and worrying about my newly widowed father.
Time to think, feel and figure things out is a luxury. Time is something I’ve never had much of. It makes me uncomfortable.
An old friend who specializes in organizational development used to say, “Break down, break through.” I have disassembled the pieces of my life and am looking at them like so many Legos, wondering what to build.