Mystery socks


I’ve been pretty quiet on the Internet these last few weeks.  Not gone, just quiet.

It’s hard to talk about grief’s gifts without sounding maudlin, or insensitive to others’ experiences.

Strangely, it was easier for me to find words for grief right after my Dad died in February. Before COVID. Before my kids’ school lives were obliterated. Before Chadwick and Ruth and George. Before the fires. Before the election and its twisted aftermath. Before other losses, too private to talk about here.

I’m sitting in the charred ruins of my plans. I see them for the mirage they were. Not useless, simply mental exercises about a future I don’t control. The smoke is clearing.

Time is exquisite.

Each day I wake up is a chance to try something different. Or notice what’s here. That’s it.

When I arrived at my parents’ house while Dad was in the hospital, I found his wool socks hanging in the guest bathroom. He’d used one of those plastic department store clip hangers as a sock dryer, and it dangled from the towel rack. I assumed he’d hung his socks there to dry a few days before. I unclipped them and put them away.

I can close my eyes right now and see those socks. They have come to represent the essential Mystery: we don’t know how long we have here, and we don’t know the conditions of our future.

A gift of grief is that I no longer ignore or hide from this simple truth.

I don’t always make the best decisions. I’m fallible and weak and have my own unique blind spots. I fritter away time, forget to call, and react too hastily.

Another gift of grief is that I see this clearly, without shame.

In its place, gratitude for the chance to try something different.

Happy new year, friends.

Photo credit: Jonathan Taylor

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One Comment

  • I think I kind of know what you mean. My dad was 74 when he died very suddenly 10 years ago, of head trauma from a fall. He stayed with us that weekend, as usual, and I called him on my way to work on Monday, also as usual, and the sheriff’s dept showed up at our door on Monday night with the news. And there was all this stuff that was his in our home that I couldn’t look at without thinking, for example— he’s gone, and his stupid bottle of Mylanta is still here. He’s gone, and the leftover chicken piccata from the dinner we cooked for him is still here. He’s gone, and all his opinionated T-shirts are still here (“I’m a Dad, This is as Dressed Up as I Get.” or — in Irish Gaelic— “I still hate Margaret Thatcher.”). 🙂 I got the T-shirts made into a quilt, but seeing those random little things around hit me about the uncertainty of life so hard for a long time.

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