grief & writing

courtneyfall for anything, personal, writing

My grandfather has this sweater he’d wear constantly. Blue with black patterning. It’s hard to conjure up a memory with him not wearing it. He had it so long, the wrists wore through and my grandma had to sew them up. After he died I asked if I could have it. I wear it sometimes.

The last week of May always reminds me of trips to and from the hospital, navigating the back streets of the city in the car with my mom and my grandmother. One trip stands out. I am not sure how close he was, if we were right in the middle of it or nearing the end, but it was a beautiful day and I made a mental note to remember that. I can still see the houses, the trees and the shadows they cast in the sun. I don’t know why I told myself not to forget that exact moment but it’s stuck in my head and it is so vivid.

Waiting rooms. Soft cushy chairs and couches, the carpets. Standing outside the hospital at night, watching people go in and out. How the air felt out there. I remember the breeze exactly.

This is probably so morbid, but if there is one subject I think I could write about over and over again, it’s loss and grief. The way it transforms us. I will never stop being fascinated by the inescapable reality of losing people and the the things we carry after someone we love has gone. How we cope. The questions that kind of loss inspires.

I try to carve out answers in books, one published, one to be published, lots not, knowing full well I’m not going to come away anymore satisfied than I was when I started. I just end up with more questions, which almost inevitably become more books. But there’s something in asking those questions out loud, I think.

Sometimes it’s not just asking those questions, but trying to articulate a certain feeling–physical and emotional–so it can be more understood, so there is less loneliness in having it. Like, I’ve always wanted to know if everyone’s throat gets so constricted it aches right at the top and it’s like there’s something there you can’t even swallow around? And it hurts so much you can’t even speak. But in that exact spot. At the top of the back of your throat? It’s sort of like how I get brain freeze except not, which is totally weird, I know, but the best way I can describe it. Or how grief can make your skin feel like an electric bruise.

Fall For Anything is a book about grief and loss. It was a hard book to write. Sometimes it would veer left when I thought it should be going right and other times it was just the opposite, but in the end I think it did what it was supposed to and I think everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be on the last page. Mostly, I wanted it to be honest. Peeling off a band-aid. At one point in the book, Eddie thinks, I think to find some kind of understanding, you have to be as close to the truth as you can get to it. I believe in that, whenever I write and whatever I write. Otherwise, what is the point?

I drafted Some Girls Are at my grandparents’ house, that summer. It is not a book about death, which is sort of funny because I was surrounded by my grandfather’s absence when I wrote it. I wrote in the kitchen all through the night and I always had a bottle of water, a cup of coffee and a can of coke next to my laptop. Sometimes, when I was stuck, I would wander into the dining room, where there are photographs of him. I would look at them. I would go back into the kitchen. I would sit in his chair. I would get back to work.

It will be two years this Thursday.

We put a solar light on his gravestone. I like to go past it when we’re in the car at night and see it.

safe passage