Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kingdoms Rise and Kingdoms Fall

The past few months are slowly digesting, and as the pieces break apart and dissolve I find my heart heavy and confused. As many might have read, I lost my grandfather earlier this month. A prominent figure in my upbringing, a large portion of my tiny, knit-tight family, and, as my sister put it in the opening line of his eulogy, a second father. I think about him when I tie my shoes. I think about him as I'm sitting in bed eating pie for breakfast, eating pie for dinner. I think about him in the morning, staring at my damp reflection, two blue eyes staring right back that he passed along to me and only me. I think about leather jackets and cardigans and crossword puzzles and cinnamon rolls and chocolate milk and classical music and Cadillacs and Persian cats. I lost my maternal grandfather in the early summer; it was difficult on a different level, but we were never as close as I hoped we could be. Grandpa Lowell, however, was a daily fixture of my young life. I'm twenty-four and I've been blessed to never experience the loss of a dear, dear friend or loved one. Grandpa is gone and it hurts. I know certain things. I know that he's not suffering. I know that it's for the best. I know that time heals all wounds. My grandma will wake up tomorrow and feed the cats, drink instant coffee, and sit down at the dining room table to counsel and guide complete strangers for a living. I know that life goes on.

My good friend Dan attended the funeral with me. I didn't ask him to, just like I didn't ask him to drive from Columbus to Chicago and then straight back the night before the service to pick me up. I can only accept his actions, seemingly out of place given the years we haven't spoken and the history we've shared -- filled to the brim with good, bad, and downright heart-wrenching experiences -- as gestures of the truest compassion.

Anyone who has graced the McKeehen household knows that we are people filled with sensitivity and sincerity in it. We cry outloud, we laugh outloud, we overshare, and we wear our hearts on our fucking sleeves. My grandpa's funeral was beautiful and appropriate and funny and heartbreaking. That afternoon, I squeezed the breath out of my father, I held my mother's hand for dear life, and I felt all the pride and love and precious unity of my family washing over me.

When I came back to Chicago two days later to resume my normal life, everything felt opaque. I slapped myself together to work a 50-hour-week, filled as it was with demands and exhaustions and all of my innumerable doubts. This is my home, too, and part of my family, but some days, it really does feel lonely... some days it feels like I really am all on my own. Life is so strange sometimes. I wish it was easier for you and me and everyone else to understand.

As I write this post, I am challenged... feeling uprooted, sleep-deprived, headachey. I am piecing together a million emotions and putting them out there -- as I used to do with much more regularity, exploiting this format for sharing what I see and feel -- as a meager expression of something real. But simply, I am beyond thankful for the support and kindness of those near and far as I have struggled with many types of loss this year. I have experienced tremendous generosity in the midst of tremendous difficulty.

To close, I am too tired to be profound, but I do hope that my friends and loved ones know and feel how much it matters to me.