Since my dad died, I don't like the question, "How are you doing?" Because it's a very, very complicated question to answer -- especially to answer basically in passing as you bump into a friend in the store or on a walk or when you arrive at church. What's the 2 minute version of How I'm Doing? I'm doing fine. I'm doing, I'm busy, I'm laughing, I'm going, I'm organizing, I'm packing, I'm loving... The doing is going fine.
But what's not fine are my thoughts. They're jumbled and confused. The whole answer is: I'm doing fine -- I'm doing everything I need to be doing and should be doing. And that feels normal and good and fine. But my brain and thoughts are not fine. Trying to process how this all happened and work through it is not fine. It's hard. And there's not a lot of time to process. So it comes in bits and pieces mostly when I don't feel ready. Often when a song comes on the radio or random moments a feeling washes over me that I just want to cry. But most of the time I'm in the process of doing, so it's not convenient to be feeling and so I have to repress it.
I find myself talking through the meetings with the doctors and nurses again. Thinking through the timeline of the first time we took him to the hospital and each subsequent visit. (How was it only 3 weeks from "brain bleed" to "doing great in rehab" to "not doing great" to "he's going to die? How was it only 5 weeks from "brain bleed" to death?" How did we go in just two month's time from the shock of "I think a brain tumor means we only have a year!" to "they said we may only have 6 months" to "days or weeks." Also, thinking through the days and what we thought was progress and more time to the moment when we discovered there was no more time. But then there was 10 more days.
I find myself giving people the information that makes them feel better about him dying. "He had cancer. He was 75. It was a blessing he didn't suffer for long. We're grateful to have had time to say goodbye. Everyone's doing fine." But what I'm thinking is: "Remember last year when you heard he had prostate cancer and you said, 'prostate cancer is no big deal?' Well, turns out it was a big deal."
And, "he was FINE until just a few weeks prior. I'm still very unsettled at how fast it went."
"It was the most traumatic 5 weeks of my life."
"His actual dying was intense and unsettling and scary."
"No, I never felt anything spiritual about his actual passing or dressing him in his temple clothes."
"The viewing and funeral and everyone here talking and remembering and laughing was actually kind of fun."
"What's wrong with me?"
The thing is, there's so much to say that one sentence doesn't cover it. And the experience is too important and too personal to tell it half-way. When the telling gets interrupted it leaves me feeling raw. So it's easier to not get into it. Because I need to say all that I need to say or else I can only say nothing at all. So, saying nothing by saying "I'm Fine" is much, much easier.