“As I turned the car for home, I called my sister in law. I was ready for a meal and I knew that the hardest part of this day still laid ahead. The end of 2008, the year of my husband’s death, was fast approaching…
This hard day was entering into night….”
My sister in law was waiting for me when I arrived at the restaurant. I felt such relief to see her face.
I needed the warm hug that was at the ready for me when she saw me coming in the door. I needed that hug more than I needed food.
The first thing that she saw was the gash on my head. By this time, the bandaid had fallen off and the wound was exposed for all to see. So, the waitress was curious about what had happened and I was too tired to go into detail. I passed it off as a loosing battle with a car door. It was.
Today, the car had the better of the score. Car- 2, Me- 0…
By this time, I was all out of decision making ability and deciding what to order was just too much for me to do. I ordered soup….That was something that I hadn’t eaten for a long time.
Dan had been on a clear liquid diet for over a month and I had eaten what he could eat. Soup was eaten on a daily basis, until that moment of indecision, I hadn’t wanted to see another bowl of soup. Tonight, soup and a sandwich was a safe decision to make.
It was good to sit and talk about the day. She listened and her eyes welled with knowing tears as I explained how I just couldn’t shake the never ending tears. I knew that I didn’t have to hide anything. With her, I could be as transparent as I needed to be.
I don’t think that the average person comprehends just how much of a mask that people in grief must wear. If you allow people to see the deep pain and terrible sorrow, they run away as fast as they can.
They don’t mean to. They are just so uncomfortable with things that are not controllable. They are helpless in the face of such pain and, in their empathy, they become as overwhelmed as your own heart.
Transparency of the heart is like walking in on someone coming out of the shower. Embarrassment seems to be the first response such full exposure. It is the natural tendency to turn your head and leave the room. So it is when people see your breaking heart. You are fully exposured. They are totally embarrassed.
At least, at this moment, in the presence of my sister in law, there was no fear of over exposure or transparency. It felt good to let down my guard.
I finished telling her about all of the vexing details of this day. She shared her heart about her heartaches with her son and his family. It was good to share the things that we hide from everyone.
She shared her heart about missing my brother, the things that she said at Dan’s Memorial Service and how much she loved watching him with his children….it was good to be able to talk about Dan and my brother.
Dan and my brother were very much alike. The two women that knew them best had no problem seeing just how much their hearts were similar. Their personalities were made from the same cloth.
The main difference was where Dan was not shy about his opinions and extroverted, my brother was more cautious and more reclusive with his thoughts and opinions. That didn’t mean he didn’t have them, he just avoided conflict as much as possible.
As we recalled how both men believed that they walked this earth without a friend, we recalled the scenes from my brother’s funeral and from Dan’s Memorial Service.
My brother had people who waited for hours to come to his viewing. The line outside circled the block. Both, my sister and I thought how ironic that my brother thought that he didn’t have a “friend”.
Dan’s inner heart was always looking for a friend, a man, who he could trust to always be in his corner. He had “friends”, but I think he was looking for that bond that he could trust wouldn’t be betrayed.
As we remembered the outpouring of people at the final event in their lives, we wondered how could they not know the hundreds of people who counted them as friends?
I believe that their inability to believe that they had true friends was rooted deeply in their childhood. Each had learned to keep their scars hidden. They both missed having a close father/son relationship. The emotional scars visited upon them from living in the families that judged their own rather harshly had caused them to place high walls around their willingness to allow people to know them. I saw that it was their way to survive those who they loved.
The day continued in its stubborn and annoying irritations. I asked the waitress if the coffee was fresh. I needed a cup of good coffee. She replied that it was 30 minutes old. She called it fresh. Not in my opinion, but she said that if I didn’t like it she would fetch me something else to drink.
She brought the coffee. I tasted the coffee. I said that it wasn’t fresh. She took it back and brought me something else to drink.
When the soup arrived, it wasn’t warm enough to melt the cheese on top. I sent it back to be “zapped” in the microwave. When she brought out the BLT sandwich, there wasn’t any tomato on my Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich. I sent it back….
I don’t know why I expected that my string of minor irritations should end just because it was later in the day. It was just a continuation of whatever this “string” of annoyances was all about.
After about the 4th correction of my order, I just started to laugh. It was just a “BAD DAY” and it had nothing to do with me, the waitress or the date. It was just one of those days that the simplest of tasks was accompanied by a complication…
I don’t know how those kind of days occur. Is it a manifestation of the person’s state of mind for that day? Is it just a phenomenon of events lining up that are determined to not go smoothly and like a intricate domino string, once one thing is knocked over, each one sets the other toward a cascading misadventure? I don’t know and I didn’t have the emotional or mental energy to contemplate it.
We left the resturant for home and a wonderful welcome awaited from Mozart. He was so excited to see his “aunty”. He loves my sister in law. She stays with him on the weekends that I have to work.
As she brought her things into the house, he followed her everywhere. He even refused to go outside without her…
I still wanted a cup of coffee, so I fixed a pot of coffee for us. As we drank the warm brew, we talked. We talked about this year, the past years, Dan and his heart, and my brother. Even after 19 years, my sister in law still has the pain of loss and the longing for my brother to be with her.
Yes, everyone says that time will blunt the acute pain that I feel now, but I also know that it never goes away. My sister in law told me of how, not long ago, she passed a place that she routinely passes on her way to her mother’s house.
For years, she has seen the old stock cars sitting in the garage area of the neighbor who still races. But on a day, not any particular day, she passed the location and seeing one of his stock cars, she burst into tears.
It was one of those unexpected waves of grief that she didn’t know was creeping up on her. Nineteen years later, this kind of pain surfaces out of the blue…grief…
Grief is sneaky. I thought that it is like an amputated limb. Your eyes tell you that that it is gone and you work towards rehabilitation and compensation so that you can go on and live life. No matter how long it has been since loosing that part of your body, you can still feel it. In the middle of the night in a half sleep, you reach down to scratch an itch on a limb that is no longer there.
The medical world calls this phantom pain. It can be maddening. You continue to have feeling as if it is still there, then, you remember, it is gone. A part of you is missing, but you still feel as if it never left you.
As I tried to understand why all of this hit me on New Year’s Eve, I realized that it didn’t matter. A very real part of me is feeling, but I am missing what has been real, a core part of me. And I shall feel the phantom pain. Always.
By what my sister in law shared, I know that I will never get over being left behind to spend my life alone. I don’t know why being alone is so frightening for me. I think that it is something that reaches back so very far in me. Maybe it stems from being a very lonely child and remembering what it was to find Dan.
There was such a soul tie between Dan and I that, even when we were married to other people, we were still bonded. I don’t understand this kind of emotional tie, I just know that from, the time I was 17 years old, I have been a part of Dan and he of me. I wasn’t alone as long as Dan was in my life.
The night was uneventful. My sister in law and I talked, we “cat napped” to wake up in time to see the ball drop in New York. Then, we slept the first few hours of 2009 away…
New Year’s Day became just another day again. A day that caused our minds to think about the upcoming day of work and I began to realize that the luxury of doing nothing was over.
I know that this month may have more difficult days ahead. It is the month that Dan and I dated for the first time. It the month of our wedding anniversary and it was just last year that we celebrated our Wedding/Renewal-our last anniversary together.
Three weeks later, it is Valentine’s Day…memories and milestones in time. That is what is ahead and I must be better prepared and more aware that grief is waiting in these early days of 2009.
Janurary 1st….Dan died 6 months ago today…