If Ever I Would Leave You…

it would never be in springtime….

Bob rarely talked of favorite music but he listened with a practiced ear and knowledge of the beauty.  He even owned a bust of Beethoven, which I rudely relegated to the attic.  Shame on me.

Once, a very long time ago, he gave me a record—“If Ever I Would Leave You.”  The words are breaking my heart.  I miss him more in this moment than I have on any day since he did leave me–in autumn, our favorite season.

Every spring, we worked the place side by side, sometimes late into the evening.  I can hardly stand it right now, knowing that I have to handle it alone yet absolutely knowing that I cannot handle it without him.

Sam, age 4, is having a sleep-over and I have struggled with fighting the tears, hiding the emotional stuff.  About two hours ago, I saw Bob standing in the yard, dumb slouch farmer hat, hitching his jeans, and chugging water.  Talk about choked up.   About that moment, Sam asked me something about his water shooter and my answer stopped him short.

“What voice is that, Nana?  Where is your real voice?  That voice was crackly?”  This from a little boy who still believes that Papa will get away from those guys keeping him in heaven, that Papa will come back to us.

Maybe.  Maybe Sam knows something I need to learn.

…it would never be in springtime.  No, I could never leave in springtime…


A New York Minute

What I really need is a Randy Newman or a Tom Waite song, one of those dips into the core of truth, a raspy look into the ‘little bitty eyes’ of our lesser selves.  I need anger, shouted gut spilling anger.  Not gangsta rap anger but polite Catholic school girl anger gone rage.  Randy Newman or Tom Waite would know the words.  They would not be hampered by my ‘stuff’, my fear of anger.

This is grief, raw sadness.  Anger has been slower to come than have the other so-called stages of grief.  None of the anger is the expected kind.  This does not feel like anger at Bob for dying or for leaving so many stones, boulders, for me to turn.

It has been five months of processing and my expectation clung to the conventional wisdom that six months held some elixir of passage.  Every day is wrapped in death in some form or another and 30 additional days make conventional wisdom sound like a fool’s errand.

Each of my adult children  has done everything in his/her power to ease this passage.  When the anger threatens, I keep it at bay by concentrating on  them.  Their love and concern is constant and given to the degree that is possible for them.  If you read this blog on an intermittent basis, you have read of the generosity of specific friends and neighbors.

It has been a conscious goal to avoid living widow-like, lamenting, hiding or doing the dance of sighs.   My sons and my daughters-in-law have encouraged every effort to be alive, to set goals, to find joy.  They have done everything possible.

That should be enough, right?  Many people never come close to that degree of support.  So why the anger?  Why the New York minute need to spill what I will end up swallowing again rather than having the courage to vent?

Anger won’t heal.  Anger will just tear the scabs and open new wounds pushing six months into a lifetime.  Maybe this is the best I can do now, this lame attempt at speaking out–speaking to the hurt of indifference, the hurt of the assumption that being alone isn’t wrenchingly lonely, the hurt of expecting me to be who I was before part of me disappeared, the hurt of distancing because it is awkward when searching for words.

Lord.  Talk about lame.    Wish I had the courage to take the plunge.  Maybe that New York minute will explode later.



The Empty Forest

Clichés become trite from overuse because their truth is clear and concise.  Efforts to find a different way to convey the message are lame precisely because the cliché is right-on.

“She cannot see the forest for the trees.”   Absolutely.

If you know someone wading through the reams of conventional wisdom surrounding grief, searching for meaning in why any wisdom could give understanding at the moment, remember that an empty forest has no trees.  All the markers are gone.

Again, that imagery is cliché.  Specificity comes at too great a price, a moment of opening the soul and absolutely knowing that time will mean regret for the effort.  Silence is the only safe place.

During the last few months, I have made mistakes, some in a manic effort to escape.  Recognizable and safe markers were gone.  I rushed.  I ran.  I made mistakes.  The balancing was high and tight.  One moment of confidence fell into days of this strange new emptiness.

My immediate family stayed, always available, always careful of advice and supportive of my mania.  No one mentioned my responses off subject or the heaviness of spiritual inertia.  I absolutely know they would do anything in this transition time.  I also knew that I was the elephant in the room, big awkward, blocking the sun.

During the last storm, a neighbor said, “You know, Pat, we have more confidence in you than do.”  Backup.  Always  covered by my triad of neighbors.  Always.

This blog provided the opportunity to write about the generosity and caring of specific friends and neighbors.  That kindness is an anchor.  Each of these people meant it when they said,   “Is there anything we can do?  Just ask?  Let me know what you need.”

Some weeks ago, I resolved to avoid blogs about grief and the process.  Seemed so weak and self-serving to write about a universal life event.  The problem is that, to be universal, an event has to be specific and specific is my life of these days, weeks and months.   Death of a spouse is a consuming event even though I am adept at the facade stuff, going through the motions.

I read the paper and wonder what it said.  Pick up news magazines and later  find them as a surprise.  I forget they arrived.  NPR reports on Egypt horrify at the moment and a few hours later I think I ought to know more.

The point is that the conventional wisdom is not a cliché.  Family and friends are the anchor.  Offers of help and support are vital to finding the way through the forest.  Requests for any help would not be made if the need didn’t feel crushing.  Understanding long silences, blankness, inability to connect will end.  Until they do end, the cliché is “Keep on keeping on…”, right?

Sam’s Day

Met my unique and wonderful daughter-in-law at the pediatrician’s office where she had scheduled back to back appointments for her little boys.  Friday is my day to play with Sam so easy to join Mom and Boys at the office where I  waited for first appointment.  Sam would leave with me and we would start our weekly “What do you want to do today?”

The drive home was longer than usual and Sam was a bit restless as we started up the winding driveway.

“Look, Nana.  Who is here?  Look at that car in your driveway.  Who is waiting for us?  Who is in the house waiting for us?”

(Bob’s car sits in his spot.  I have not found the courage to attempt a new normal and drive his car.)

“No one, honey.  No one is waiting for us.  It is just you and me…just us.”

“Maybe, Nana.  But maybe??  Maybe he is giving us a good surprise.  Maybe he will be there.  Let’s go see.  Hurry.”

Three and one half years of being Papa’s Sammy and that love is deeper than many lifetimes of love.

Quiet.  The house was quiet.  Soon we were playing trains and clock watching until time for Union Station to open.  He loves the place from checking the number on our parking place (so we pay the right slot) to the down-escalator at the end of a perfect day.

Decorating for the holiday season necessitated the closing of our first stop, The Train Museum.  Sam handled it like a trooper and we headed towards the Vortex to watch our coins spin in the black cone.

“Pat?”  A quiet voice heard over the dim of multi-hundreds of kids visiting Science City.  My most excellent friend from Kansas City, Kansas high school days was volunteering at Science City.  Know what?  She looks so gentle and lovely, so like I remember her.  DeDe said what I needed to hear…the perfect words to open the maze of New Normal.

“I decided”, she said, “that I can sit around and wait to die, or I can keep busy.”

Simple.  Direct.  Logical and my new mantra.  Thank you, De, for a wonderful day, this unusual and very special first giant step towards New Normal.