One of the books I’m reading, Healing After Loss, by Martha Whitmore Hickman (Harper, 1994), quotes social worker Lily Pincus:
When I asked the orthopedic surgeon who treated me whether people often fracture bones after bereavement, he said, without even looking up from my injured foot, “Naturally, people lose their sense of balance.”
Oh, so that’s what’s going on.
Never the most graceful of women, lately I have been walking into a few more walls than usual. My elbows flail away from me, hitting door casings. Small bruises appear on my arms and legs, and I can’t remember how I got them. Walking along, suddenly I veer off to the side like the cliché of the drunken sailor. I haven’t fallen. Yet.
Unbalanced. That’s a good way to put it. Off-center.
Losing Dad three weeks ago, I sometimes wonder I’m dealing a little too well with grief. Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?
Then, leaving a restaurant, I encounter a little man, bent over his walker, wearing a WW II, D-Day veteran’s cap. Dad had a cap like that, but for his service in the Pacific. I bought it for him, but he was reluctant to wear it, and continued with his ratty Carolina Panthers hat. Dad didn’t like to draw attention to his veteran status.
The little man is toddling toward the restaurant door. Shockwaves hit me, but I smile, say “WW II? Thank you for your service,” as I hold the door for the little man and his companion. Then I turn away, hit with that stupid weight front and center, under the breast bone.
But it passes. A young man in a wheel chair rolls up, and I hold the door open for him, too. My day to be doorman, but that’s how we do it in the South. I pull it back together, and no one with me even notices.
Talking with my husband later, I told him that meeting the old man was an unexpected slap of grief. I should have been prepared to meet my first little man with a walker after losing Dad, but I wasn’t, hadn’t planned for it.
I’m dealing well with the grief thing, honestly. Just a little clumsy, the occasional crying jag in the shower, and the urge to hug little old men.
But that’s not such a bad impulse, is it?