You’re not supposed to make any sudden changes in the wake of a loved one’s death. The advice is not to do anything new, or rash, but to continue as you did before, as much as you can with what you did before.
It’s good advice. The problem is that before, I was a woman with a father, and now I’m not.
I knew he was dying. The actual death, though, was a shock. One morning I gripped his hand in Oamaru and promised to come back in two weekends to finish sorting out the stamp collection. It was a hurried goodbye. I had to leave. I had to catch the bus up to Christchurch. Anyway, I was coming back soon.
The next morning I got the call to come now. I flew to Dunedin, where a family friend was to pick me up and drive me back. Mindful of a friend’s advice, and not sure whether this was it, I packed my funeral outfit, just in case.
My sister was waiting at the airport.
“Why are you here?” I said, and then I started weeping, because I knew. Two women leaning into each other at an airport, hugging with bone-creaking force, sobbing into each other’s shoulders: strangers know what that means. They collected their luggage and dodged around us with gentle respect.
He died before I got on the plane.
In the days after my father’s death, knowing that I have a tendency to spend in times of stress, and refusing to feel guilt about that on top of everything else (I left and my father died), I gave myself permission to buy things that would make me feel better. I took $500 out of my emergency fund and placed it in spending. I bought books and games for my phone, Beyonce’s Lemonade, a new top for the funeral. I bought myself a massage. I bought the KFC Tower Burger* I’d been craving for three weeks.
I spent money to soothe my grief, and it absolutely worked. There is real, non-superficial, comfort in things.
It was autumn then. Now, it’s unmistakably winter. I hate these sullen mornings, where I wake up and inch my way to work in the dark over pavement slick with frost. I hate the damp cold that seeps through the cracks in my window frames. In any ordinary winter I shrink into myself and cut back on everything that takes effort. Thinking. Writing. Cooking, in the huge and icy kitchen.
This isn’t an ordinary winter. It’s a bad season for grieving. I want to be kind to myself, as I was when I was first bereaved, as others were to me. I don’t want my winter nights to be a drudge of soups and stews, or any of my weekends spent weaving through other harried customers in the supermarket. I want food to taste good and different. I don’t want to feel my body complain because I’ve gone too long without feeding it a fresh plant.
Last weekend, I signed up for Nadia Lim’s My Food Bag. I’m ambivalent about it. My first delivery is this Sunday.
I think this is a sudden change I can stomach. Let’s find out.
* Chicken fillet, cheese, lettuce, tomato mustard sauce, mayonnaise, and a hashbrown in a bun. It’s disgusting. I love it.