Anthony died last week.
I’ve not wanted this writing to be all about grief and dying, but it’s hard to think about many other things this year.
Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of my father’s death. It was the first anniversary of our cat Gilbert’s death last year.
And in a moment of joy that has lasted a day more than a year and is going strong, it was the birthday of the son of friends of ours.
It’s difficult to answer the question, “how are you doing,” because I’m not the one that died. I’m not even related to the one that died. And I was on a brutal job last week that was averaging 16 hours a day. So when I say that I’m tired, but basically okay, that’s true. It was difficult to verbalize Anthony’s death last Friday night and Saturday morning. It’s not so difficult now. I don’t have any confidence that this represents anything substantive. I might just be at the peak before I hit the trough. I’m not really thinking that hard about how I am. It’s very complicated, and it doesn’t seem very relevant yet. But to respond that way is… dickish.
My sister-in-law is defending her thesis this week. My friends’ baby boy is one year old. Cling to joy.
Because that’s the kind of year that 2010 is – can’t give something nice without balancing it out with something… not. Hello’s to Isaac and Millicent! Goodbye to Lucka (note: “hello” comes with an exclamation point, and “good-bye” with a period).
Let me start by saying that I am not a natural “sharer.” The reason I can write about my vasectomy? I don’t really care about it, and I figured it would be funnily shocking. Easy peasy. Grief? No problem – I’ve been wandering with that for so long it often feels like a second skin. Love, like, closeness? Those are harder. Maybe I’m just playing defense.
Anyway. Here’s the great thing that happened yesterday, in the midst of my sporadic morose-ness (morosity?).
I got an email from Jen’s parents. Last week I mailed them – finally finally – the DVD of Decaffeinated Tragedy, along with some mugs my former pottery instructor had thrown based on some of Jen’s art, and I also put in some mounted versions of a multiple choice quiz Jen had once sent me in campus mail. I have to say, every communication I share with her folks is fraught with some trepidation for me, because of how well they know I couldn’t meet their daughter’s expectations and desires as a friend 20 years ago in the six months preceding her death. Having let them down once indirectly, I think I’m scared to do it again.
This doesn’t stop me from talking to them, and they’ve never given me any indication that they hold anything against me. But the feeling is there.
And they didn’t hold this against me either. On the contrary, just like on all previous occasions, they were warm and enthusiastic and appreciative.
So why is this relevant, except insomuch as it was a wonderful thing to read.
I feel like it’s a guidepost for living, for keeping going after losing someone important, or just after losing anyone at all. We’re marking trails that we have to find on our own. But as Marit sort of indirectly said to me this morning, they’re not trails that we have to find on our own.
Let me tell you how this is going to be.
Pick your poison. Coffee? Coca-Cola? Cigarettes? Some shade of alcohol? I know. Ice cream. Orbit gum, mint-mojito flavor. Whatever. Pick it. What do want every day, most days? Ring-Dings?
Got it? I can wait.
You can’t have it any more.
You’re done. Which of course means that you want it a lot. A lot more than a lot, because the fact that you can’t have it means that it’s hard not to think about it. And now your little addiction is starting to take up precious mental space, because it’s hard for you to think about anything else. I mean, I really like coffee. I really, really like coffee, and I look forward to my one-to-two cups a day with sick anticipation. But I can’t have any. And now there’s a headache that’s making me nauseous, and just a little caffeine would make it go away, but nope, no coffee.
Remember, I didn’t quit in this scenario. I can’t. It’s not available to me.
And after a while the headaches go away, and I stop thinking about coffee every hour, then I stop thinking about it every day, then occasionally a whole week goes by without wishing for the taste and the smell. But the dull resentment that is the blunted reminder of the sharp pain of coffee being taken away from me is still there. Anger shifts to bitterness, and not the good coffee kind, and it fades to a nagging GRIM. Because I really, really liked coffee.
That’s what it’s going to be like for me when Anthony dies. And that’s not even the worst of it. The worst part of living – right then – is that nothing slows down. The world keeps turning, like we weren’t even here.