We are “on vacation.” We have rented a house at Hilton Head. Your dad has a conference at the end of the week. He finds it hard to take a full week for himself without including something that relates to work. That has been his pattern for all the years you have known him and it has not changed with your departing.
We never leave you behind. I don’t think any parent who has lost a child ever leaves that child behind.
My friend just passed the 18th anniversary of the death of her daughter. I cannot imagine that since we have yet to pass a year. I don’t want to imagine that. There are still times when I am not sure how I will make it through the day.
I know it appears differently to most folks I meet. They have not seen me when I rail against your death. Even your dad and sister have not seen that. It is a horrible dark place. It is when I am trying to believe that you are really gone. I cannot comprehend it.
I had a week when I felt like I did right after your death. It was made more difficult because I recognized the symptoms. The feeling of being weighted down, the lack of joy. The bridges I had built over the chasm that opened up when you died seemed to crumble. I miss you so much.
Being here, in this place where we have not been before in someone else’s house among their possessions is a good thing. We need a break from routine. It is good to step outside our boundaries and do something a bit different.
We spend all of our life trying to avoid pain. I take medicine for my headache or arthritis. There is no avoiding this pain. We try to dress it up and make it presentable but it is still pain. Sharp and rough and ragged.
When you had the lipoma surgically removed from your arm I think you felt the most physical pain you had experienced in a while. I remember how annoyed you were when we had to go to the pharmacy to get your prescription for pain med. Even then I convinced you to take a non-narcotic medicine first. It proved to dull the pain enough for you to sleep. We drove the five hours home that evening, you with your arm propped up.
I remember talking into the evening as we drove home. I got you settled in the “guest-room” and wrapped you up like a mummy in cellophane so you could shower. We annoyed your dad because you wanted me to re-wrap your arm when you finished bathing.
I remember after your surgery when they had to keep you in the recovery room because your room was not ready. I hated leaving you to go home to that dark house. They kept telling you not to cross your ankles as you wanted to do as you lay in the bed. I remember you complaining about the man in the next bed when they finally did get you to a room. I still have the pictures the doctor sent you with your arm marked for surgery and then the picture of the exposed lipoma.
You worked hard to strengthen your arm after your surgery once they gave you the okay to begin exercise. That Friday in February when I fell down the stairs and dislocated my arm you were coming to do some climbing. Instead you took care of me. You brought me food and drink and helped adjust the sling for my arm. I know you were thinking about your surgery and I how I cared for you. You walked with me down the stairs on which I had fallen to help me past my fear.
I have used the memory of my fall to help me deal with your fall. I know they do not compare, but I know that feeling of confusion tinged with fear. You know I have thought it, though I have yet to say it. I could have died that day on the stairs. If I had, perhaps you would still be here. We were not given a choice in the matter, but had we been I know what my choice would have been. Maybe that is not fair to anyone else. But this is not fair either. Maybe it is my unkind way of saying that I don’t like having to deal with this. I have heard one bereaved parent refer to it as a life sentence.
Aftershocks of grief that come unbidden rattling everything in my life again. I can see them hit your dad and sister at times. We cut wide circles around some things because we know the misery they trigger. Reminders of the way you died are very difficult. Imagining scenarios without first hand information haunts us. Simple shopping trips where we encounter those “things” we would like to buy for you or that you would enjoy having even hurt. Watching your dog perform the tricks you taught him sometimes breaks my heart. There are articles of your clothing that your dad could wear but cannot bring himself to do so. It was okay to wear your discarded tee shirts when you were living, but not so now. It seems presumptuous.
We watched Osprey hunt on Monday. One small bird struggled with a fish. When it finally took to the air the weight of the fish in its feet made its flight erratic. Suddenly a larger bird appeared and began to chase the smaller bird which flew back out over the water and dropped the fish. A wild form of catch and release. The smaller bird flew south along the beach. A second larger osprey joined the first large bird and the pair began to hunt together. You know that both your dad and I wished you had been there to watch with us.
The dogs are enjoying the walks on the beach. I can tell that I have been to inactive for the past year. I have aches and pains from the exertion. I know I need it.
Maybe that is part of the mental pain too. We are flexing parts of our memory that we have allowed to lay dormant. We have avoided touching spots because they are too sore, or we are afraid of the pain. Because every thread of our life has become tangled up and interwoven with you and your sister everything expected and unexpected reminds us of you.
We are trying to face some truths about how we feel and what we want. Avoidance does not work unless you intend to lock yourself in a closet, but even there the thoughts and memories invade.
I’m going to take the dogs out for a walk and then I am going to paint. Daddy has gone to the conference and the house is very quiet. The house has been very quiet anyway. We spend a lot of our time together in silence.
I have met too many people who have had to live through this kind of loss. Sometimes I think the mutual pain is like a cloud that grows at times to become a storm of grief. That seems to be the season we are in. We miss you so much babe.