"My father died on November 14th, 1995, when I was 14. Every day since the day he died I am one day farther away from him than I was before. This is the truest thing about me. It is the most important and worst thing to ever happen to me. It is me. My father died when I was 14. I will tell people this forever. It is the truest thing about me. I was 14 when he died. My father. I was 14.
"I am what I have lost.
"I want to talk to you about how it feels to spend your whole life grieving, to have your ghosts precede your actuality, to feel that nobody you know will ever truly know you because they never knew him.”
"It’s strange, growing up with such a profound sense of brokenness, carrying this story with me from person to person like jumping lily pads, just an animal with a ghost on her back.”
(source: “Before You Know It, Something’s Over” which you should read.)
On a long, wonderful road trip back from a wedding, six of us told each other our life stories. It was awesome and a gift because I love everyone who was in that van and I wanted to know everything about them.
Eventually it got to be my turn, and there are some things I just don’t talk about. I also don’t like being dishonest. I didn’t know if I could tell my story without telling those things, but I nearly managed it. I told about my parents’ divorce and that my brother and I went with our dad. I started to tell about where we moved, and I thought, “Whew! I made it!” Part of telling, though, was answering questions, and my friend asked how we came to live with our dad. I tried to tactfully phrase a true answer. I might have paused and sighed and stumbled around, but then I just said it. “Our mom didn’t want us. She gave us up.”
By way of explanation, sort of, I told stories I didn’t mean to - two, four, I don’t remember. I heard myself say awful things, PG words of cruel content. The van - my friends - they were perfect. They listened and were kind and if I went too far in telling, they didn’t let on. I don’t have any idea what they thought or felt or if it changed their perception of me. I felt like I was destroying something. Our mom going is “the most important and the worst thing ever to happen to me”, and they didn’t know about it before, and so whatever they thought about me can’t have been true.
I know that’s not how it works, but that’s how it feels. Telling about it feels both necessary and impossible.
When I do tell, or when someone else puts words to part of it, I feel broken open. My experience is not like this essayist’s - I wouldn’t compare it to a death, ever. It’s just that some of these feelings, some of the words, they’re similar. To tell about it, or to read someone else saying it, makes me more real and less a ghost carrying around a ghost. Days and experience loosen its grip, but her going will always be a true thing, a fact that precedes and follows everything, someone else’s choice that both makes and unmakes me.
But to tell about it, or see someone else’s words about it, makes me more real. So it’s good to tell a van full of people I love, and it’s good to read someone else write my words, and it might even be good to put it on Tumblr, because it’s a thing about me that is and always will be true*.
*But not the truest thing – that’s Jesus.