Ten days ago my cell phone rang four times till I cared enough to look down to see who was calling. It was my sister. I still didn’t answer. I’d have answered any other day. But something inside me didn’t want to pick up the phone. So I didn’t. Ten minutes later when I got around to calling her back, I learnt why.
She sounded nervous. Like how one would sound before they were about to jump out of a plane.
“Come on man, jump already.”
Psyching themselves up before finally....they jump.
“Daddy died this morning.”
We are both 29 and 35 years old and we haven't seen or spoken to the man in over a decade. Why we still refer to him as “daddy,” is so strange. But that’s his name to us I guess. Was his name to us. Like Ralph’s Ralph. And Joan is Joan. It’s just a name.
I didn’t really have much emotion.
She had more to say then I did.
Clearly she’d been thinking about it on her own and had time to fish out some ideas of how and what she was feeling. I on the other hand, had just received the news and had no clue what to think, so I just listened. At first.
I have yet to experience death. My cat Joe died years ago. That was rough. But other then that, no one close to me has passed.
The two of us discussed how we “should” be feeling. Shoulds and shouldn’t shouldn’t matter when it comes to “what is.” And what was....was that I wasn’t feeling much in that moment.
I walked around my backyard listening to her talk while staring at the tall trees, following them with my eyes. From the tips of their naked branches, right down to the muddy grass that met their roots. I squished my runner into the earth and felt the suction of the mud try and steal my shoe.
“Not today mud.” I thought to myself as I popped my shoe from it’s grasp.
The snow was melting. Everything was damp. The sun was beaming down on my face as I switched my holding-the-phone hand.
“One day we’re here. One day we’re not.
One day there’s snow. One day there’s not.”
I knew from my thoughts my brain was trying to make sense of what my sister and I were talking about. It was doing a pretty good job considering it was dealing with death and old childhood baggage.
“Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust”
“Closing time. Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end”
I felt a little pressure to feel something. Anything!
But I hushed myself. “We can walk and think after the phone call. Focus on your sister.”
I knew our conversation went well. I knew I had said things that spoke to her, and she had left me with some things to think about. But neither of us were rushing ourselves to decide how we felt. Feelings don’t work like a menu, where you pick and choose what you want because it’s time to order.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I’m good.” I said.
I felt capped.
When those words fall out of my mouth like that I know I need to be alone. We both hung up and I continued to stare at the trees. Then my eyes met living and dying shrubs, then geese in the sky, then the mud once more.
The circle of life was everywhere I looked, begging me to ask all those “where do we come from and where do we go after” type questions.
But I’d had enough with the circle of life for one day. Even though it was only 2:30 in the afternoon.
I told myself Lui and I would go for Pho for dinner and I’d deal with everything the next day. Instead I went for a walk and began tackling everything bit by bit. Piece by piece. Day by day.
I never listen.