Nobody’s Son

Mark Slouka, writing for The New Yorker:


It’s interesting how unsteady a process grief is; the conveyer belt taking me away from him shudders and stalls. Reverses.

“It gets better, right?” I asked a woman I met recently, who’d lost her own father three years ago.

“It changes,” she said.

I can believe that. In the first weeks, especially when I was alone, his death was surreal: late at night, sitting up reading, I could feel it there, just past my sight, like a river seething by in the dark. I couldn’t look at it straight on.

Four months later, I began, once again, to do what I do. Every writer is an anatomist by trade. At some point, it was simply time—time to hack through the rib cage, palp the heart, assess the damage. Hearts, like rocks, can only take so many blows. His had given out once, then cranked up again, run for another twenty-one years (the exact age of our daughter, whom he loved unreservedly), then quit for good. Mine was just stunned.

The writer in me thought this essay was a mess; all over the place in time and space and emotion. The human in me thought: perfect.