I still hear his voice, almost a decade since we last spoke. Sometimes, I imagine it’s over the airwaves of amateur radio, an interest he rekindled and mentored me in. We come across each other by chance, calling out into the darkness for another soul to connect with, and pick up the pieces of what we once had, one tiny hurt at a time.
Reality sets in, and I remember the hard lesson: time does not heal all wounds.
It’s a truth I’ve learned, on more than one occasion, that never gets easier to bear. Two people entwined can grow apart and not realize – or accept – it until near the very end. When that schism rips them apart, there is unavoidable and certain collateral damage to all around them.
Mutual friends choose sides more often than striking a balance. Inherited family members revoke the bond that once made you kin. Words and actions are cutting, brutal, and without remorse.
What follows is a kind of grief that can last a lifetime. You nurse that pain along, indulging in it once in a while if only to quell its discontent for a time. Occasionally you reach out, via email to minimize the risk of hearing the anger in their voice, but the tone of their response is enough: you are not one of us, you were never one of us, you are no one to us.
Eventually word comes, through word of mouth or printed in the black and white text of the local newspaper, that there is no chance of reconciliation nor hope for forgiveness. Death is final.
The grief I feel for the man who was once a father to me is harsh. It brings with it a pain I wasn’t prepared for. And yet, I feel guilt for experiencing it. I am an outsider; a blemish of history. Their grief is real and immediate while mine is an echo of the past that was; a timeline in which I no longer exist.
I would love to tell them I’m sorry, and that I share in their pain, but much like the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, both griefs are true but diminish each other. Nothing I can do or say can express the sorrow that I feel; to do so would be to sow anger in the fields in which they now reap their grief. Instead, I’ll find a way to celebrate and honor that life, making sure that the memories of him that I cherish carry forward.