Grief sucks. It’s sneaky and unkind and robs you of your joy and sense of vitality. I’ve decided in the midst of the misery (I just lost Daddy a few weeks ago) I’ll commit to learning something from the grief that creeps up in me a few times a day. This will at least make the pain useful and not just the huge, overwhelming glob of ugh I felt when Mama died so many decades ago. For instance: one thing I’m observing is how good it feels to tell strangers that I just lost my father. Their condolences are swift, their words rote and cliche, but still it was nice when the Safeway cashier said “I’m sorry for your loss” as she added up my eggs. I loved it yesterday when Rob the teacher in New Jersey told me how his Italian grandfather was a good old boy just like my father. His grandaddy knew everybody too. His funeral was SRO too. His laughter round and fat, too. It was like we formed a little club right there on the spot, the membership free and unquestioned. I’m also learning some people don’t care that I just lost my navigator, my protector, my biggest cheerleader. LaQuisha at Rite Aid looked at me like I had four really boring heads when I told her the other night. Her so what stare stung for a fourth of a second then I thought about how many aunties and cousins she’s probably lost. Maybe she’s numb to it all. Maybe she just left the repast, the smell of potato salad is still fresh in her hair. Then I felt bad for her which is good and most likely the whole point of life. Who will I tell next? (Or is it whom?) Whom will I tell next? Who will tell me? How will I respond? Will I listen or will I wait for the light to turn green and drive away? Will I be so tangled in my own stuff that I overlook the tear-stained eyes of Bob at the bank? God I hope not. Let my compassion be as long and wide as 95 North. Let me never forget that night I cried so fiercely after Mama’s death that I thought my throat was bleeding. Let me never fail to recall that for years I couldn’t sit in McDonalds because I was afraid a mother and daughter would walk in and make my heart crack open. It’s healthy to share misery, even if you slip up and tell someone who doesn’t seem to care. Just speaking your heart lightens the pain a bit. Daddy loved to play Spades. Saturday nights would find him at the card table with his work buddies Smitty, Stokes and Nosha. The bottle of beer at his elbow would tremble each time he slammed the winning card WHAP! on the wobbly table. He taught me how to play life’s games and even in his death, I’m still winning. Still learning how to lose.