“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S.Lewis

The black bar stool rests against the speckled countertop and my body swivels like it is drawing a circle on paper, but I never settle at a stationary point. When I do stop, my eyes dart toward my daughter who is busy with her rainbow loom, making yet another bracelet for a friend. My husband paces around the kitchen and extending his arms like he is throwing something into the rim of a basket. There is no basketball, but his arms try to punch the imaginary into the invisible basket.

It is during this random noise that I say these words, “I really miss my Dad.”  In the very same breath, I ask my daughter what she wants to eat for dinner and then I rattle out a list of all the things that need to be done before bedtime. The words, “I really miss my Dad,” repeat in my head, but my internal compass points toward doing, rather than thinking. I turn on the stove, place a pot on the coils, and start to scrub the dishes into the sink. The same words keep repeating, but they feel a little hollow, almost like that imaginary ball that my husband keeps dunking into the air.

In the last few years, the grief that simmered so consistently is dissipating. The angst of sadness is something that I consistently feel, but I am less inclined to try to explain it. Nor do I have that expectation for people to understand it. For years I’ve always felt different, not in a bad way, but  I am less likely to go with the crowd favorite. I can be standing with a group of people, but sense a loneliness that crawls up and down my skin. I tried fighting that feeling for years and criticized myself for not going with the flow or punishing myself for not being “carefree.” It is only in the last few months, I am actively acknowledging that thinking about grief and time’s passage is something that is etched liked the lines on my palms. It is a part of me. What I witnessed during my father’s illness and his death altered so much of my personal landscape that only I am equipped to cross my own monkey bars. Even my mother and sister’s sadness about loss is markedly different from mine.

It  is an epiphany of sorts. Knowing that pain. Learning that it is a part of you. The pain is your own and that empty space between the bars is one you have to navigate. Eventually your hands will move forward. And you will have no need to explain how you crossed over and grabbed that next moment.

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