It was not long after our son died that my husband went back to work. My husband is a hard working man. When he is “off” he still finds something to occupy his time. Our yard is well groomed. There is a huge variety of plant life that he prunes and cares for. He owns some old cars and other mechanical things that he works on. This activity is really no different than when our son was alive. The main thing that changed was his motivation. He tries to keep from thinking too much.
I know that while he is working he is still thinking. He is thinking about other things, avoiding thoughts about our son. My husband is a medical man. I have not asked him too many questions concerning our son’s death. At the hospital where they brought our son we were both told the same information. My medical knowledge is limited. Unfortunately my husband had a different insight into what had happened and what was about to occur.
I try to stop my mind when it wants to revisit that scene. I prefer to think about my son in a different context. The difficult thing for me is that I think about him too much. It may be a problem with all newly bereaved. I assume we all fear that we will forget our loved one in our attempt to feel better.
Some parents who have lost their children tell me that as the years pass it has gotten better. When questioned about what has gotten better the answer is vague. I hope it is the general feeling that surrounds the memory, not the lack of memory.
I assume that most bereaved parents feel as I do. I feel like my relationship with my son was very unique. We were very close in certain ways. I have stated before that he was a private person. I have mentioned in previous writings that I did not even know he was dating again.
Haircuts were an issue. He grew his hair out long for a while, before deciding to become his own barber. I noticed that he had a particularly nice haircut. It was obvious that it had been professionally done. He insisted it had not been. It became a silly source of teasing. He told me he had gotten a hand mirror and worked for hours in the bathroom cutting his own hair. It was nothing that mattered at all. It was something for us to argue over. If it got too quiet he would say “so, you don’t believe I could have cut my own hair!” The tactic reminds me of the way his dog comes and plops his tennis ball into your lap. Let’s play.
He could talk me into trying to cook anything. I have made homemade falafel. Great stuff, but there is a technique for letting the bean mixture set before you fry it up. If you don’t let it rest, it disintegrates in the pan. We made homemade flat bread to go with it. I remember rolling out the elastic dough that kept shrinking back on itself.
I made the most horrible vinegar pie at his request. He came up with the recipe and then, as I was putting it the oven, left the house. I still wonder if it was a joke.
The pie looked like something Ethel and Lucy would have made. The odor while baking was noisome. I turned on the oven light and there was a bubble as big as the diameter of the pie getting ready to burst in my oven. I threw the whole mess out . The odor was all that was left when he arrived back home. He showed me the recipe on line. I had followed it faithfully. The pie then became a source for him to use to pick on me. “You must have done something wrong!” he would indict me. Then at every holiday when I would begin baking he would ask, “are you going to make a vinegar pie?”
As I write this I realize how mundane these things are. Mundane or not they are the everyday things, the private jokes that I miss.
He used a car if he had to. When in Ohio he walked to school. When in Colorado he rode his bike as long as there was no snow. When home I was his chauffeur except when he went out in the evenings. There were places he liked to go shop where he could find outdoor gear. He was a fan of REI and Patagonia clothing. He wore his shoes completely out. There are many photos from over the years where he is wearing the exact same shirt. In the past few years he became a little more fashion conscious because of the need for more professional clothing. He had conferences he needed to attend.
He could usually pick out movies that I would like. The gifts he gave me were eclectic and usually tied to some private interest we shared. He payed attention to his family. That perhaps was his greatest gift to me. He gave me his attention. He listened to me and considered what i was saying. He was great at encouraging people, usually for me it was in a gentle way.
I don’t want any of that to fade.
I wonder if my grip will finally fail. Will the mind grow so weary of trying to keep everything vivid that it relaxes its hold on those memories? Will my son fade away in the background? I picture a movie scene. A figure on a lonely road standing while I drive away watching them grow smaller in the rear view mirror. That is a terrifying thought to me. The fact that it has been six months scares me. Soon it will be seven and then a year! How is it possible that it has been that long since I have been with my living breathing son? I can’t bear to leave him there. I can’t part with him.
To my friends and family who think I am doing so well I hate to admit that it is an act. I keep doing, hoping something will take hold and become natural again. I’m not sure I even know who that person is in the mirror sometimes. Grief has aged me or at least my perception of myself. My artwork seems bland and stale. Laughter happens in surprising bursts at random things, resembling a case of hiccups.
When my daughter calls I want to be cheerful for her. I want to be cheerful for my husband. I don’t want to add to their grief. All of us talk and cry together if the need comes. There is some heavy silence sometimes with my husband. He has thoughts he cannot share for the same reasons I keep my silence.
My son was not patient when he wanted something. Some times it was impatience over a movie he wanted to see. Computers and phones and electronic gadgetry was also something he liked. Plans for travel make him impatient, ready to leave now, unhappy with the anticipation. I share the impatience. I am impatient with myself. I want some sort of equilibrium to occur. I want to be able to retain all these vivid memories without them making me melt down.
I hope that is what people are talking about when they say it will get better, softer.
I think I can handle that. I suppose if I have days and months and years still left to live, I will find out. Just mentioning those days and months makes me tear up. This was not what I thought would be. I am so disappointed with how this part of life has happened.
I want his approval for how I am handling this. I want his reassurance that what I am doing is okay with him. The security of having his approval is missing and I second guess myself. I don’t have a choice but to wait and see how things go, just like everyone else.
At 10 yrs. and 8 mos. I do feel a sense of equilibrium. It didn’t happen overnight. I’m enjoying our 36th wedding anniversary this weekend on Cape Cod. We walked along a snowey beach the other day while taking pictures and having a snowball fight.
I realize and accept that my life includes the pain of losing my only son, a pain that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. The memories are safe in my heart, and he is part of my very soul. I believe we never “get over it,” we can only come to a peaceful acceptance of what is, while we choose each day to honor the child’s life, and our own, by how we live and love.
It takes a long time to get there, and it’s a process that’s as unique to the individual as DNA, like your own grief DNA.