Seven years ago we received the phone call in the middle of the night that my father had died. Pong. My mind has just send me back through time and it feels like I just woke up with my mother standing in the door telling me the terrible news. But seven years have passed. Pong, fast forward. I am in the room with my dad, his body, but he is cold. How can it feel so real? Pong. I just did another time jump. This time I landed in 2011. It feels like I am observing a scene from slightly above and behind myself. I am in a hospital preparing for the arrival of our first child. Within minutes the scene turns into chaos, lots of blood, so many people frantically rushing in and out. I can still feel the energy, the sudden explosion of activity and this dread that came over me. Hey, and there is my son. But I don’t get to hold him or see him rest on the chest of his mother. No, he gets passed to a specialist team and they keep saying “breathe little baby, breathe”. What is happening? Pong. It is a night in December 2012. We had friends over and made pancakes. We are expecting our second child. After they left we cuddled on the couch and he was kicking my nose that was poking his moms belly. He was so active that night. All was good. Until the next morning when we woke up and my wife could not feel him move any more. The endless long drive to the hospital in silence, waiting for the nurses to get the equipment ready, just to hear what we don’t want to hear. This is not possible. They have to do a second examination. The awkward waiting while noone is telling us anything. But they don’t really have to. He is gone. Pong. I am back.
Did I invent time travel? No, but I am grieving and that seems to be a similar experience. And grief can make one’s head spin. I never had the best memory, but since my children died I have trouble remembering what day of the week it is. However, I am able to recall specific details of events years past. They have been burned into my memory. At least it feels very real and I have no way of knowing if it really happened the exact way I am remembering it. My mind might play tricks on me. I can replay the scenes as if I recorded them. But I cannot always go there as it comes with pain. However, grief does not always let me take control. I might just jump at any given moment, without warning or preparation. Here we go again, some smell, song or thought must have triggered it.
At a recent meeting someone brought up an analogy: a paddle ball game. Do you remember this game? A ball on a string attached to a paddle and the player keeps hitting the ball which in turn is pulled back by the string. The ball always comes back. One might hit it harder and it will take a little longer, but it will come back. Whereas a player in a game can stop playing, grief is missing the stop button. Grief is playing me and my memories are the ball.
Time travel, what a fantastic thought. I could go back to a time that was easier, at least for my family and me. A time when we were spared from tragedy. Wouldn’t everybody jump to only the best times in their life? What an irony that I will never be able to separate those times. The moments each of my children was born were the happiest and sadest moments. They are inseparable. And I would not want to miss those memories, despite the pain. Keep on playing grief. We are in for the long-haul together.