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at the bottom of the canyon

My brother Daniel died at the end of May. He’d been sick for a few years, and when someone is sick and dying, you get into the habit of living at the edge of the precipice. You know the cliff will collapse eventually, but you make your home there anyway. Where else is there to go?

And grief is a strange beast. Even when you know it’s coming—when the cliff has given way, plummeting you into the canyon below, and you can hear the beast’s pounding footsteps, the ground shaking as it approaches—you can never tell what it will look like or how it will impact your life. You find out what it looks like when it finally emerges from the fog and crushes what’s left of your house.

Well, one thing that’s happened for me is, I’ve stopped reading. I mean—I’m still reading for work. There’s a stack of 70 books on my desk, and I’m pushing through them. But I’m not reading for fun, anymore.

First, after Daniel’s death, I thought I could just keep doing the blog project. I thought, it will be a release (whatever the hell that means). I hung on for about two months before I decided maybe what I really needed was to read something I’d already read a few times. Something that would feel like an old blanket. I chose Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce. After I read these, I thought, I’ll return to learning. I got through the first book fairly quickly. But I’ve been reading the sequel for over three months. I get stuck on one page for a day or two at a time…and this is a story I love.

Ordinarily, I have no trouble putting down a book I’m just not into, even if I’ve loved it before. But there’s something in my head that refuses to walk away this time. It’s as if I don’t finish reading this book, I’ll never finish reading another again.

And although I’m not reading, I’m still buying books. I’ve bought Turtles All The Way Down, The Hate U Give, And Then There Were Four, and Beauty Queens, and they’re all sitting there, begging for my love. I think they’re a promise to myself that I’ll come out the other end of my grief, still loving reading.

But right now I’m afraid to start them, because what if I can’t get through more than a page a week? Will it kill these new books for me? Books have always been the things I turned to when I needed comfort or a retreat. Why are they so hard to connect with, this time? What if I open them, start reading, then close them and leave them crying on my reading table?

I want to curl up in the ratty old club chair in my office and spend an entire day—an entire week—reading for fun. Ignore everything around me, even the growling of my stomach and the kink in my neck I get from reading in my ratty old chair. Read an entire book, start to finish, in one day. Say (when it’s time for dinner), “hang on, lemme finish this paragraph…” and then read until the end of the chapter instead. Bring the book downstairs with me so I can read while I eat. I want this. I need this. I miss this.

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