From Thursday, February 11th:

What really surprised me about grief is how literally clumsy and muddle-headed it’s made me feel, that the physical symptoms are so acute.

I’d had a headache that had defied ibuprofen and hydration and fresh air for several days running when I finally said to Cute W, “I think that this headache is actually a ‘my father is probably dying’ headache.” I did not know that this was a thing? But it seems to be.

Yesterday, after hearing that dad had moved into hospice, I tried to do a workout. Part of a series that I’ve been doing daily for more than two weeks, it started out same as always, with a light warm-up job. I’d jogged for maybe one Mississippi when my ankle twisted and I tumbled down, all the way down, until I was lying on the carpet, baffled. I shook it off and tried to continue, but an elbow joint bellowed in protest against push-ups and bicep curls and tricep dips. I shuffled through disconsolate squats and lunges until time was up. Then I switched to the post workout meditation, where tears streamed down my temples into the whorls of my ears as I shuddered through deep breaths.

Today, I pulled J away from online school so that we could do a drive-through drugstore COVID test to prepare for a trip to visit family. When we hit a bureaucratic snag that threatened our hard-won appointment (I’d filled in J’s nickname instead of the full name that appeared on our insurance card), I had a full-on meltdown with loud and heaving sobs. I pulled through, parked, and filled out more online forms, then circumnavigated the lot again to drive through on a last-ditch try. The sympathetic woman at the drive-through microphone asked me for J’s birthday and I looked at her, baffled, searching my brain, shaking my head, snot collecting in my cloth mask, as J patted my arm and called out the date from her shotgun seat.

Last night I looked at the dinner leftovers and woefully misjudged the correct container size, slopping goop all over the table, then moved it to the counter, spilling as I went, a trail of chickpeas and tomatoes on the floor, spatters landing on my feet. And just writing this, the first time, I typed “calendar” for counter. Close enough.

We have all been joking about not knowing what day it is during COVID isolation, but. . . I usually, mostly, knew. Now I’ve lost my tenuous grasp on the calendar, a normal daily schedule, the structure of conversation. At dinner, I will say the wrong words, shake my head and try again.

I was writing that on Thursday, and then Dad died on Friday, and we left for Savannah on Saturday, and now we’re back home. Sometime in the clumsy fog of grief, we developed a shorthand: I’m wearing a badge. I can’t remember where it started, maybe when I spoke the wrong words again or neglected to do something I said I’d do or tried to choose between ice cream flavors and decided on both. I said, “Imagine I’m wearing a badge that says ‘my Dad is dying,'” and then later, when Cute W would say, “Do you think we should just get take-out instead of cooking?” I’d say, “Well, I am wearing a badge, so yes, I think so.”

So after a long drive home and another poor night’s sleep, I have gathered what energy and wits I have salvaged to put the news out there on Facebook and I’m sharing it here, too. And now I am going to avoid responses for a little while, and possibly avoid posting, because I am only semi-functional, and it turns out that grief is also surprisingly exhausting. Please be patient with me and remember that I’m wearing a badge.

Here is his obituary.


  1. Claire

    Oh my gosh Katie, I am so sorry. I lost my father almost 5 years ago and similarly didn’t make it in time to see him. Losing a parent is a unique loss that is impossible to be prepared for. I can only imagine how much harder it is when it occurs during a pandemic. My heart goes out to you and your family. (And of course, I don’t expect a response. And take your time with future blogposts. You shouldn’t feel pressure from anyone to do anything right now.)

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