I am not someone for whom grief is a constant companion. Instead, grief wanders in and out of my life, visiting unexpectedly and, most often, briefly, for which I am thankful.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my mom and dad, who died last year within months of one another. But I seldom grieve, thinking instead about baseball trips to Atlanta and Chicago with my father and long conversations with my mom while she battled cancer.
I remember too catching my lefty dad in the side yard when I was a kid and he still had a good breaking ball. I remember working at the tobacco barn with my mom; she handed leaves to my great-aunt, and the two of them were always faster than me and my grandma.
But grief sometimes visits, as did last Friday night. I was home alone, my wife at a book signing in Raleigh, when my daughter called. A student at Western Carolina University, she was at Claymates Pottery in the nearby town of Dillsboro. In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Claymates is a place where you choose a piece of pottery and paint it to your liking.
My daughter said she was making a tribute to my late parents. She had painted a rose for my mother because that was her favorite flower. And she was thinking a cross would be fitting for my dad because he was so involved in our church.
As I told my daughter that a cross would be good, I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of loss, so much so that I thought my voice would crack as I said goodnight to my daughter.
It had been a while since grief visited me, and it caught me when I was vulnerable, home alone with just my thoughts to keep me company. Fortunately, my wife’s car broke down on the U.S. 70 bypass on the way home, and I had something to distract me for the rest of the night and for much of the next day.
But that’s how grief is with me, coming when I least expect it and then going, it seems, just as suddenly. And I wonder if that’s better or worse than grief as a constant companion. I suspect it’s better, but then, grief always blindsides me, so maybe not.
Thankfully, most of us find outlets for our grief. My daughter paints pieces of clay; I write columns for this newspaper. I hope you have your outlet too.