You may know that it’s coming; you may tell yourself that you know that it’s coming; you may tell others around you that you know that it’s coming; and yet it will always comes to you as a stranger. Unrecognisable … vaguely familiar … oh yes! It is grief.
Iv’e missed our Little One most often at night since she moved into her own home. We shared many small rituals throughout our days, as she has a great delight in repetition of the routine. At about 9 pm we like to drink black coffee together, and so I find our two small, stainless steel cups and saucers on the shelf. Here they are! Two, but I only need one tonight. Our evening routines were a finely tuned pathway toward sleep – something with which Little One has had a complex relationship since birth. A relentlessly restless sleeper; sharing the bed with her required desperate endurance. We often found her sitting bolt upright in the corner of the cot, sound asleep. On a memorable night she climbed out of her cot, aged only two-ish, and found me writing an essay in my study. That was the end of my years as a student. Throughout her life she has needed to be put to bed, and only in recent years have we been able to leave her room before she was actually sound asleep or she would simply follow us back out. In her adult life I have generally been able to get her in bed by 11 pm, and I almost always stay up another hour, just till I’m sure she is asleep. Not to do so risks being awoken at 1 or 2 am to a house full of lights, music, talk, dance even. Not to mention sounds of industry emanating from the kitchen.
So, here it is nearing midnight once again as it has each night since Little One left home a fortnight ago; but I have no responsibility, no charge to care for. I’m awake out of long habit, but it’s a weary and lonely wakefulness without purpose. Bedtime has been my favourite job, and certainly my joy, for more than thirty years. Throughout all the years there has always been a child who needed me to put them to bed! But, no longer.
Perhaps it’s the unique nature of today, Fathers Day, that makes my melancholy tale so raw. Or perhaps it is that the life of a parent is the deepest, fullest, most precious, most wonderful path we ever tread.
The leaves are falling, falling as from far,
As if far gardens in the skies were dying;
They fall, and never seem to be denying.
And in the night the earth, a heavy ball,
Into a starless solitude must fall.
We all are falling.
My own hand no less
Than all things else; behold, it is in all.
Yet there is One who, utter gentleness,
Holds all this falling in
His hands to bless. – Rainer Maria Rilke.