It didn’t take Google for me to know that the concept of complete cellular renewal in the human body every seven years is a myth. I know that no neurons are added to the cerebral cortex after birth. I know that the cells of your cornea are with you your entire life; they get tired and rigid and won’t focus properly and that’s why if you live long enough you will need reading glasses, the end.
Not gonna lie, though – I checked around just to make sure because it would be so damn poetic. But nope: it’s definitely a myth. Different types of cells die at different rates and some are never replaced. It is not a tidy thing.
Not that there is much tidy about life. Looking for a set of parameters that mean renewal, a fresh start – it’s tempting. And oh it would be so poetic.
My Dad loved poetry. He used to memorize it in school for extra credit. He told me that story often, after he’d rattle off “The Raven” or “The Charge of the Light Brigade” for no reason that I could see but sheer show-offishness. He loved poetry that told a story. He loved stories. He read me The Lord of the Rings when I was too small to protest at the boring battle parts. He recited poems. He read me Horton Hatches The Egg approximately 2309480398 times per my requests.
Tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of the day my father died.
It snuck up on me. That feels odd to admit. I didn’t precisely forget, but at lunch today with a friend it struck me that today is the 19th, which means tomorrow is the 20th, which means it will have been 7 years exactly.
At a time when my life is full to overflowing, it feel strange and sad to talk of loss or lack. But even without my full recognition of the closeness of the approaching anniversary, I have just lately been full of feelings of longing for something I cannot easily define. Rather than chide myself for insufficient blessings-counting, I am trying to accept those feelings to see what they may have to tell me – about myself, about the way I am in the world, about the way I may be better present for those around me.
I can’t really tell you what I’m learning right now. It is a work in progress and in many aspects it is for myself alone. There is the work we do for ourselves and the work we do for others.
My father did a lot of work for others. He wanted to help us all, so much. I frequently tell the story of him presenting me with sales circulars from his hospital bed, helping me find the best deal on the new mattress I was shopping for at the same time he just happened to be dying. There are things I’d like to ask my father now. They are mostly things about how he did the work of caring for himself.
I thought about writing another epistolary entry. I thought about talking again about how I don’t miss him every day. I thought about writing a story about my reaction to the anthropomorphized-afterlife comments on a Facebook post about reading the new Harry Potter book without being able to talk to Dad about it.
But I just wanted to sit down to write. To get it out. Not to create or craft. I have said lofty things about loss and important things about grief, things that have been a help to myself and others. Every year I am saddened as more of my friends join the “club” and must bid a beloved parent a final goodbye.
But right now I am trying just to be. To be full and empty. To be happy and sad. To be comforted by love and wrecked by loneliness. To live the extremes I contain. To know that it is absolutely fine that the anniversary of my father’s death snuck up on me, and to be shaken to the core that it did. To know I am not an entirely new person from the person at his bedside seven years ago…and that I am.
The title to this entry is from the lyrics to a Robyn Hitchcock song, “Airscape.” It is very beautiful. I am not sure my father would have liked it, but he always did appreciate eccentric Englishmen, so I feel it’s fitting.