Here’s the funny thing about grief: it’s a ninja.
Grief likes to enter the room when all is dark and quiet and unassuming. The grief ninja can take many shapes and forms, can bend and contort to fit into the small crevasses of my psyche. Grief ninja will crouch and hide and wait patiently while sweating in all its black garb until it has the perfect moment to lunge: when all other guards are down. Sometimes the ninja strikes with subtlety and grace, and sometimes it comes for me with hoards of shiny weaponry. It makes no difference. All of it hurts.
I’ve known this for years, and yet the ninja catches me by surprise with great frequency. Just when I think I am completely consumed and distracted by other emotions, the grief ninja finds an entry point and squeezes in to join the party. This happened to me last night, actually.
I was supposed to get married tomorrow, and I am not getting married tomorrow anymore. This is a wonderful, happy thing and was, without a single tiny doubt, the right decision. However, now that I am 24 hours away from waking up and saying to myself, “Wow. In another reality I would have been getting married today,” I am feeling a lot more emotional pulls than I anticipated. Sure, it would be weird if I felt nothing at all, but since I have been so happy and healthy since making this decision I am somewhat surprised to discover just how many strange feelings were lurking beneath that happiness.
Lying in bed last night with anxiety so loud it might have kept the entire neighborhood awake, I was pretty certain that I had all I could handle by way of emotional processing due to all of this non-wedding nonsense. And then, when all was dark and unassuming, the ninja slipped in. And he came with a single, simple message that floated silently into my mind and became my mantra for the duration of my sleepless night: “I miss my dad.”
I can no longer try to answer the question of how things would be if he were still here. The person I was when he was alive is unrecognizable to me now. I have been someone else for the last eight years, so to wonder how I would be or how life would be if he had survived cancer is an unanswerable and unnamable endeavor.
Still, the ninja and I curled ourselves into a corner last night, both feeling the heft of so many different kinds of grief, and both of us wishing that no matter how things would change or what it would look like, my dad is the only one who could make me feel better right now, and I wish he were here.