Cycling through again. I have stopped counting the cycles. I have recognized that they can come from unanticipated triggers. Notes and remembrances from loving friends, stories in the news of events that parallel our own unfortunate circumstances, days that have a fragrance or whose color resemble another that contains memories. There is no escaping. The speed at which they come has changed, the intensity has not.
I was very busy yesterday. In comparison to days prior to July, I was not really very busy at all, but my stamina is not what it used to be. I have less reserve. I was among people who are well aware of our loss and have supported me during the last six months. I didn’t have to be on guard. We had busy work to do. I am a member of an art co-op that shuts down for the cold winter season. All I had to do was pick up my work and transport it home. I am a prolific painter, and I paint large work. It was busy work and physical. It felt good to be focused for that short time.
This week another climber fell to his death near the same spot where my son died. I read the account in the paper and the comments by speculating climbers. There is a need for them to reassure themselves that it was something they, were they in that circumstance, could have avoided. I understand that need. Accidents can only be prevented if the accidents that happened are analyzed. Mistakes, miscalculations, equipment failure, a second’s lapse in judgement, a misplaced step and other factors I am sure I am unfamiliar with all have the potential of happening. Those who wish to continue in this sport are wise to pay attention and learn from other’s misfortune. Regardless of the outcome of each climb, ultimately it is the climber’s responsibility.
Unfortunately the family of the climber is not reassured when words that can be construed as negative are used regarding their loved one. The internet and the speed with which comments and speculation can be broadcast is merciless.
For the family, his wife and children and parents, my heart aches. They are in a dark place. The community this man served has sustained a great loss. I have been where they are now and I hope they can hold on. I understand their grief.
Without intending to, my own mind and body relapsed a bit with this news. Yesterday after my “busy” day I was exhausted. While driving home with my truck full of paintings, I ,for a moment allowed my exhausted mind to relax and it slid right into the slot of thinking, “perhaps my son is not really dead. Perhaps I just imagined that, dreamt it and he is there in his apartment in his recliner reading, cup of tea by his side.” It felt so good to picture him there. I let myself feel that for just a moment before reality shouted “no” and I realized there were already tears sliding down my cheek. I am angry I let myself go there again because it takes so much energy to pull back.
I realize how much energy I expend on not letting my guard down. When planning an activity, an evening out, or participating in a gathering I try to scout out who will be there. Strangers, newcomers make me hesitate. They may bring up the inevitable subject of children and I feel myself contract. I can’t always trust myself with a reply that will not evoke choking up or tears. I have to decide whether to simply reply “I have two children” and hope they do not pursue it any further. If they do push for more information, I dread the look on their face when I have to explain that our son died in July. I can tell they want to run away. They hate that they have opened that door and want to get away quickly. I expend precious energy on wanting to console them, they look so stricken. The cycle of avoidance begins again, carefully choosing where I will go, and who I will have conversations with.
Then I stay home, and that is a lonely place. There is little to distract me from the memories and so I look for distractions and on and on it goes.
The tasks of life, the day to day duties have not taken a vacation. I have responsibilities and things that must be done to sustain us as a family. Those concerns take energy to focus on when before they just were a part of the day. It seems like everything has been jumbled up into some sort of puzzle and I have not been given the rules for how to sort it out. Each time I gain a bit of ground I have to stand for quite a while, to make sure it is solid and going to hold me.
I spent a lot of good time with my son. We hiked Panthertown, Deep Creek and the Pinnacle trail together. We watched movies and listened to music. We sat shoulder to shoulder while he found videos on the internet to show me, watching together and laughing. If I announced that I was going to take a shower, he left me alone, otherwise if I retreated to my bedroom I could count on him coming down the hall, calling in a sing-song voice “mother”. When I painted he left me to it, coming with a cup of tea for me and and standing looking, waiting till I invited his comment. His critique was infallible. He encouraged me to overcome my fears and the things that potentially could hold me back. He challenged me with books, theories and ideas to help me grow. He quizzed me, lovingly and complimented me when I succeeded. Now I carry all of this and more around inside of me, afraid to put it down, afraid that it might fade. Before, I took for granted that he would be here to fill the cup again.
Someone said recently that they were afraid they were too much of a reminder for us of him. His death was just a moment, his life the unfolding of a flower. Everything reminds me of him because we were woven together. I cannot look into the mirror without seeing his face beside my own. I cannot see his father or sister without thinking that the building blocks of his DNA are all there, shared among us. I am a living repository of his memory, a mausoleum for everything I have ever loved. I am both blessed and cursed to have known him so well.
To my dear friends who have called to check on me recently, thank you. That effort really does help, even if I can’t find energy to talk much. To my son’s friends, please know that the fact that you are moving forward with your endeavors, that you are regaining focus is reassuring for me. Please don’t let his passing stop you from doing what you need to do. Neither he nor I would want you to use him as excuse to not do the things you were meant for and please know that for someone, you are as loved and cherished as my son and daughter. To my family, thank you for putting up with me, for giving me space, for allowing us times to talk without having to be guarded. For this weary person it is a relief.