The Word That Shall Not Be Used

Posted on Jan 13, 2014
Kenneth Mars

My darling handsome dad

Dead. I hate that word. I do. I don’t think I hated it before my dad ____ (past tense of the word that shan’t again be used), but I don’t remember.
Before, I think I always used the word “____” when describing someone who had ____. (see above past tense)
The Academy Awards “In Memoriam” always initiated hot tears and a conversation:
“Elizabeth Taylor died….oh Peter Falk died” But now that it’s me, and it’s, “my dad,____.” Nope, I can’t do it.
Now, that word’s constant companion is a wobbly mid section.
I had the impression that over time I’d be able to use dad and that word in the same sentence, but coming up on three years now, nope. I still hate it. “I hate that my dad’s” (stomach gets wobbly) “____.”
I’m experimenting.
What are my other options? “I lost my dad.” That reminds me of the many instances when I actually did lose my dad. On our outings he had a habit of following whatever moved him without necessarily checking in with where I was, geographically, that is.
I lost him a lot, but not like this. He is definitely not misplaced.
“My father passed away.” That feels more accurate, but I believe that he’d soundly hate the softness of the idiom.
His death was soft and on the quiet side, so unlike him, although there was a Three Stooges moment that he would have liked to regale, if he was able. 
I’m not ready to share that one. Maybe later.
You know those signs that say: “314 Days Without An Accident” that you see at a work site? 
It’s a little like that.
“2 Hours Without Dad”
“24 Days Without Dad”
“4 Months Without Dad”
“1 Year Without Dad”
“2 Years Without Dad”
Informational and impersonal, yet as I write it my eyes get hot inside, that pre-tear build up.
Geez.
Time progresses and you expect your feelings of despair and anger to ebb…guess what?
Nope.
They ebb and flow, yeah, flow. You have NO control over them. Despair and anger just hang out and pop up whenever they are so inclined. SUCKS. Yes, it sucks.
Who knew grief would be so all- encompassing?
It wasn’t even a word that I learned to spell on Sesame Street: G-R-I-E-F- GRIEF, set to a maudlin tune, even though it was one of those “i” before “e” words; that could have proved a handy addition to that learning curve.
When I looked back at Mr. Rogers, I didn’t find him broach grief until September 11th.
How would I know that after my dad died grief would filter though each of my days?
The days. The dark just felt right for a while. Light was too whimsical and cheery for the heaviness that prevailed.
Then the light started to peek through, through the skinny venetian blinds; life shined right through those protective slats. Life began to find it’s way though, for me.
That’s the only person I can accurately represent. Me.
Grief is spectacularly personal, I know that much.
Those blinds provided relief, for me, from the bright sun of dear memories. A respite from it.
Holding hands. Walking. Disneyland. Movies. Going to work together. Cigars. Painting. Reading. Everything dad.
So, for now, I’m not going to use that word, and I don’t know when or if that will change.
I hate that word, and my kids can tell you that I don’t just throw that sentiment around.

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