Recipe for Overcoming Your Grief After Your Father Dies
- Preheat the oven if you’d like. Some days the fire will burn hotter than normal, and other days the oven will stay surprisingly cold.
- Take a bottle each of scotch and Drambuie. Mix equal parts over ice to make a batch of Rusty Nails. As you sip them, smell your father’s breath, the honeyed smoke. Hear his voice, a smooth baritone with a hint of country, saying the words Rusty Nail.
- Open a bag of Cheetos. Eat so fast that your fingers stain orange, that the fake cheese powder crumbles over your jeans. Picture him in his La-Z-Boy recliner, enjoying Cheetos while watching a John Wayne movie. Eat the whole bag, then throw them up twenty minutes later.
- Combine your weeping mother and your dumbfounded siblings. Incorporate cousins, aunts, uncles, friends from the church, actors from the community theater, former patients, adding one at a time, gradually removing all air from the mixture. It will be dense and heavy. Leave no space to breathe, no time to cry silently. Continue mixing for days after the funeral.
- Squeeze one drop of your soul into each conversation, every time someone says He was so young or What a terrible loss. Squeeze two drops when someone mentions your grandmother, how she outlived her oldest child. Squeeze until your soul is dry.
- Measure the days since he left. Then the weeks. No need to be precise here.
- Add heaping teaspoons of guilt, one for each time that you meant to call but never got around to it, one for each time you meant to say I love you but the words didn’t come. Two for each time you visited but didn’t stay very long. You had friends to see; you were busy with your own children.
- The mixture keeps forever. With time, it will lose some of its texture, its potency, but you’ll turn to it without thinking, when you have a toothache and wish he could tell you what to do, or when he’s not there to crown the tree with the angel, or when you play trivia and he would know the answer about that pivotal World War I battle.
- Now share the recipe with others; your kids, who will have forgotten him in a few years, your spouse, who will need it all too soon, and your siblings, who might, in turn, share their recipes with you.
Jill Witty writes novels, short fiction and essays from Richmond, Virginia. Recent work can be found in Catapult, Baltimore Review, Pithead Chapel, CRAFT Literary, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. Find links at jillwitty.com or find her @jillwittywriter on Instagram, @jwitty on Twitter.