Daylight savings time begins this Saturday. Tonight is the opening reception for the artists of Blue Ridge Watermedia Society at Haywood County Arts Gallery where I will have some work on display. If the weather permitted, potters Brant and Karen Barnes of Riverwood Pottery in Dillsboro will unload the kiln. I am one of their students and we will get to see how our pieces turned out. I worked my day at the Asheville Gallery of Art where I am a member this week – another first – not having worked since there since my son died. I am getting my taxes ready to go to the accountant. I am taking my dogs to the groomers today. We are going to Atlanta next weekend to view the international car show. I am staying busy.
It is difficult to figure what is supposed to be helped by all of this. Much of the time I am going through the motions and I am waiting to see when it stops feeling so forced. I attended a shower for a sweet young lady who is getting married at the end of the month. I could feel myself unraveling a bit as the evening progressed. My laughter became a bit too loud. Sometimes I feel myself almost off to one side of my own body watching myself. There was one person who attended that I had not seen since our son’s death. She spoke to me and I noticed she positioned herself as far from me as she could. I don’t blame her, but I am still amazed when I see it happen. A woman I had not met before attended. She was busy at the bride’s shoulder so there was no personal conversation with me. I avoid personal conversations with new people most of the time.
One of the chat moderators on the Compassionate Friends on line chat mentioned that she had during her early days of grief allowed herself thirty minutes a day to dwell on and grieve her child. I tried it yesterday. I will need to stock up on tissues for that event. I thought about the idea of the thirty minutes and it clicked with me. When my son was alive we probably spent about thirty minutes a day on the phone when he was at school. During those days, once he had called or I had called him I could relax for the rest of the day.
My daughter and I check in like that. Perhaps it is a part of the modern phenomenon. When long distance calls were so expensive you were tied to a land line where calls were delegated to the weekend when rates were lower. Now, as long as there is a signal we can be in immediate and constant contact. It has changed some of the dynamics of life and apparently dealing with death.
There were times when he was home – usually for about three days. After that, we both, like the old adage, began to stink. Those days still claim themselves, when I battle the pain of separation from him, longing for conversation, laughter and hikes with him and the dogs. I will give those days space too. Thankfully they were not entirely connected with specific holidays, though Thanksgiving and Christmas will take a bit more sorting out this year. Our seasonal holidays occurred during the time when all of us were still a bit numb in 2011.
I will allow myself thirty minutes a day, though I reserve the right to not necessarily take them. I will not, however, allow the pressure to build up so much that the valve blows off. In other words, if I skip a day, I won’t allow myself to skip another. The pain can become overwhelming. This is my plan right now. It is subject to revision.
I have pictures I allow myself to look at only now and then. There are two short video clips of him. One taken right before he died. Strangely they are very calming to me. Hearing his voice helps sometimes.
He was real. He was mine. He was gentle and good. He was intelligent, quick-witted, straight-forward and a champion for equality. He did not flinch from standing up for what he thought was right and he would not enter a fight unless he intended to see it to the end regardless of the outcome. His battle was always, only with words and reason and logic. We liked each other a lot. We enjoyed each other’s company. We were comfortable together and derived strength from knowing we loved each other unconditionally. We provided a safe place for each other.
I am so very fortunate, some might say blessed to have known someone as well as I knew this man.
I know people in my situation worry about how they suddenly find the urge to pull away from those they love that remain in the world. I think it is because we know now that they really will die one day, and it could happen before we die. Our other children could die. We know the unthinkable can happen. The unconscious need to avoid any more pain might make us want to distance ourselves, “just in case.” I accept that fact with resignation, and refuse to let it keep me from having the full and rich relationship I love with my daughter and husband. It would anger my son if I were to let that happen. I struggle with it. It is self protection to draw back, but I am making headway.
My children and my husband are a part of my everyday life. They will be until I leave this life. I listen to my daughter talk about her grief and coping. My husband is working through his grief in his own way. Being present for each other is perhaps the only thing we can do right now, acknowledging each other’s right to feel and express the things we need to.
There is no formula or right answer. There is no solution where one size fits all. There is just a daily sorting right now, trying to find some way to stop dreading the next day before it comes.
I cannot say I am hopeless, though I am not sure what I am hoping for all the time. I have expectations for the future, many of which have the potential to bring joy. Perhaps it is joy that I hope for. Gentler days where joy may come in whatever form it may.