Grief is weird. Just when you think you’ve got it all washed, dried and neatly tucked away in a little compartmentalized drawer called “The Past,” well, something happens and suddenly, everything is dirty and messy again. I sat down to write yesterday and this came out. So. This is me answering the question: “How are you doing since your grandfather died?” Warning: salty language.
I don’t know how to answer this question out loud. I certainly can’t answer it in the three minutes we have while standing in line at the coffee shop. I mean, I guess I could say: “Do you have four hours?” Because maybe in four hours I could accurately answer the question: “How are you doing since your grandfather THE CULT LEADER died?”
Ok, ok. Nobody asks it like that, really. But that’s how I hear it. That’s the subtext. That’s how I’ll always hear it, I think. Even when people are trying to be kind and polite…..
So I just say: “I’m doing better.” Which is true and also not true. In the immediate aftermath, I mustered something respectable to write. But now, all the impolite feelings are pouring out and I guess that’s how I’m really feeling: messy.
Is it ok for me to admit I’m happy? I mean, I know that sounds horrible. How can I be happy someone is dead? I’m not happy-happy. But I’m happy he can’t hurt us anymore. He caused so much pain. And all those years of silent denial was him hurting us again and again and again. He fucked up every single relationship he ever had. He damaged every single relationship *I* had! He tore apart my family. He destroyed the church he built. And then he strolled away from the nuclear disaster site and lived comfortably for eleven plus years. What a horrible way to end the story. So, yeah. I’m happy he’s gone because he can’t hurt us and I’m unhappy that it ended this way.
Can I admit that I’m worried he’s in Hell? And that gives me nightmares. Despite everything he did, I don’t want him to suffer. He used to love Dante’s works–Inferno, Purgatorio…maybe he’s in Purgatory working things out. Dealing with his shit. I believe God is just. I believe God is merciful. Maybe God gave him diaper duty in Purgatory. Or washing dishes for eleventy-hundred eternities. Whatever. I just hope he’s not in Hell. I know he’s not. Actually, scratch that. I don’t know that for sure. Only God knows for sure…..and even that–the not knowing gives me nightmares. I wish I knew. For sure. But I don’t. And I hate that.
Is it ok for me admit I’m terrified? I’m his flesh and blood. I have nightmares that I’ll turn out like him. That I’ll make mistakes like him. That I’ll fuck up my family and all my relationships. I’m terrified it’s inevitable. I’m terrified I won’t be able to break the cycle. Do you know how much endurance and strength it takes to break the cycle of violence, fundamentalism and terror in a family? It takes so much energy. I’m always exhausted. Sometimes I just want to give up, runaway and start all over. But I know better than that. I know that wherever I go, that’s where I’ll be–and THAT reality? The reality that I’m George Geftakys’ grand-daughter? That reality will never go away.
And that is really hard for me! This whole situation is showing me how desperately alone we all are. This is the human condition that even when surrounded by love and family and children and All the Things–we are still so very, very, VERY alone.
God, relieve me from my alone-ness! God, relieve me from this terrifying loneliness! The only relief I find is gentle, loving service. To be exhausted on behalf of others sometimes blots out the pain of this deep, constant loneliness.
Is it ok for me to admit I’m angry? Outraged, really. My grandfather wouldn’t have been able to do what he did without the help of all his yes-men. And yet, when the shit hit the fan, all these dudes backed away as if they did NOTHING wrong. “Well,” they said, “we didn’t REALLY know what was going on. We were as shocked as everyone else!” Bullshit. They knew what was happening. They chose to ignore it. When everything was imploding, they pretended like they didn’t directly aid and abet his abuse. Like my grandfather, these “leading brothers” walked away totally oblivious to the hurt they caused. Now they have the audacity to leave Facebook posts praising my grandfather and urging the rest of us to “forgive and move on.” To let go of our “bitterness.” What utter bullshit.
Is it ok for me to admit I have unceasing anxiety? People don’t understand that when you’re brainwashed from infancy to age 25, something permanently breaks inside you. I have to work hard every single day to think differently, live differently, BE the me that’s always wanted to be ME. Just managing my emotions and trauma and “moving on” and dealing with ongoing family drama and trying to raise my own kids DIFFERENTLY takes every ounce of energy I have. I am doing OK because I admit there is something horribly wrong. I admit something broke inside of me and I choose to face the wound every single day. I accept it. I surrender to it. But it’s never easy. I don’t know how to explain this to people.
So when people ask me how I’m doing, I just say: “I’m doing better.” Because that’s all I can say. Even when things feel stupid and broken and hopeless, I raise my tiny little fist against the inevitable and I live anyway.
“We’ve got to live no matter how many skies have fallen.” –D.H. Lawrence
Epilogue: After I wrote this post, I walked away from it. I slept on it. I read it again briefly this morning and what I realized was that I felt much lighter, much freer for having put these feelings into words. Today, I feel released. What I felt was true and real–and I released it by writing it down. Maybe next week I’ll feel something different. Maybe I’ll feel heavy with grief again. Maybe the words and feelings will build up again. But as long as I put my feelings into words, I’m gonna be a little less broken….