As a student in high school, set apart from the students on the more advanced placement track, I was left to take Finance, a class taught by a woman whose finances themselves were centered around the income of her husband, judging by the clothes she wore, which were certainly not purchased on the salary of someone teaching kids to write checks in a small, white-flight private school. There in class I learned of the Law of Diminishing Returns, a concept centered around a law stating that if one factor of production is increased while the others remain constant, then the overall returns will relatively decrease after a certain point. In other words, as Mrs. Carraway explained it to a bunch of freshman, Thanksgiving turkey wouldn’t be nearly as gluttonously appealing if eaten the other 364 days a year. Like most everything at the time, I had thought I had it all until I lost it.
Right just before turning eighteen, six weeks from high school graduation, my mom woke me in the middle of the night to tell me that my father was dead. Not of a heart attack, or car crash, as I later said to people in college, when it was easier to lie. I learned quickly there’s no quicker way to shut someone up and make them as uncomfortable as possible than the word suicide. And let’s make it tougher, harder, while we’re at it: he died of a gunshot wound to the temple in a carbon-monoxide garage. What are you going to say to someone when they tell you that? Oops, sorry. Must be tough. But now, ten years later, I can finally say it out loud, without any excuses or shame, or feelings of need to explain the selflessness of his death, or trying to explain something I may never know the answer to. I was left to grieve, and it made me grow.
When you lose someone so close to you, you learn how personal an emotion grief is, maybe even more personal than love, though with out the latter, the former may never exist. I belive, without a doubt, that it is the most personal of emotions. Grief builds inside of you like a syndrome, it’s stages evolving and growing upon each other that move and eat at you from the inside out. So how does ninth grade Finance class fit into all this? I like to think the loss I’ve experienced makes me appreciate those around me that I love so much more, and that when I get to meet my father again I will appreciate what I’ve missed. It’s certainly made me appreciate my own life more.
I miss my father, who I called Poppy, every single day, and am often left to wonder what things would be like if he was still around. I can only say that for whatever reason he chose to leave this earth no longer matters to me, in knowing that his loss has made me the strongest person I know. This I believe to be the greatest lesson he taught me: the diminishing power of grief and loss makes you appreciate what you have while you have it, and you should never forget our time here is temporary.
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