It was a hard Thanksgiving.
Sure, there were a lot of really nice parts. I was home, uninterrupted by business travel, for 10 straight days. As a result, plenty of time with Erin, Kim, the little dog. Our little family. Our pack. This, on the heels of having been grounded in Arizona by pneumonia and away from them for just short of a month, was a good thing. The best thing.
Under sad circumstances I nonetheless got to spend a good chunk of time with family, immediate and extended. 2016 was a rough year for our tribe. Jill. Richard Wedge. Both Bob and Lois Wrede. Lots of light left us this year. But though we were all grieving it was wonderful to have the opportunity, via the memorial service for Bob and Lois for the families to come together. Those families have grown and expanded so much over the decades...I can't recall the last time we were all together, something that was relatively common for us as kids. Of course, I’d known that it had grown, but something about seeing all the vines interconnecting us down through the generations was comforting. I don’t know why.
Along with the extended family, I got to hangout with Mom and Rod and Bob. And Peggy, Allie, Caroline, Mark. Always good. Always needed. Never enough.
But there was that absence.
I hadn’t known that absence could have such a presence. That a void could carry such weight. Her absence was there. Sitting next to me. Memories of her touch, her taste, her sound dancing in the shadows at the corner of the room. That’s not a metaphor. She’s always there just at the edge of my peripheral vision. That void felt like a big rock chained to me. While the gatherings large and small were good, were wonderful, the undercurrent, the constant hum of sadness buzzed along lightly underneath. Went to sleep every night fighting off or succumbing to tears. Woke up every morning the same way. I don’t like losing my shit in front of people but I don’t have a hang up about crying in private. I think I was fighting it because I am so damn tired of doing it. I know, I know...it’s supposed to be all cathartic and stuff. I’ve always found it to be so in the past. Not now. It doesn’t do anything. It’s just tiresome. It just hurts.
I found myself getting pissed off, really livid, at platitudes. Perfectly sensible platitudes but I guess I was tired of being mad at me so I needed to direct it somewhere else.
“Grief is just love with nowhere to go”
It makes me see red. It sounds so simple and kind and vaguely enlightened. The first thought in my head every time I see or hear it (it seems to be making the rounds on facebook) isn’t even a thought. It’s a long howl. And I agree with it. I agree with it and it sends me into a rage. Maybe because it so accurately nails it but it is always delivered in such soothing and reassuring tones. Yes! Yes, you’re right. That’s exactly what grief is! What about that t-shirt slogan you just spouted do you find comforting? To me it’s a life sentence, no parole. Just think about it. If your love for a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend...whatever...is eternal, those 8 words (accurately) predict that you are now in an endless spiral of sadness. Of feeling incomplete. Of anger. Of crushing, crushing, never-ending loss. Thanks for pointing it out.
I’m aware that I’ve always had anger management issues. The biggest disappointment post-Jill (I mean, aside from the fact that the term post-Jill exists) is that the years I spent training myself to keep that crap, that anger, that cutting hateful streak that I have inside has crumbled so readily. It’s showing up again in everything I do. I always really hated that guy. I look in the mirror, I hear myself talking, and there he is. Thought I’d buried him a few decades ago.
One of the shrinks I’ve seen told me “time and remembrance...hold on to that. Time heals. Remembrance keeps her alive”.
That’s when I knew I was done with him.
Time heals? A little over nine months in, I’m not healing. I’m not better. I’m worse. What does healing even mean? Are you with someone right now that you love beyond the ability for words to express? Stop whatever you’re doing and hold her. Just hold her. Turn your brain off for a minute and hold her. Memorize that feeling, her touch, her smell, how when you relax into it you lose track of where you end and where she begins. Dive into that feeling, that indescribable joy of feeling like you are whole. Disappear into that for a few minutes. Now imagine it’s gone. Just gone. She’s just gone. However bad you imagine that to feel, square it and multiply it by forever.
Remembering someone doesn’t keep that someone here. It is not in our minds that we keep them alive. It is in what we do and who we are. That is why the re-emergence of the angry young man I tried to stop being so many years ago is so jolting and disturbing and disappointing. I won’t keep Jill here through my thoughts. If I can keep her here it’s through what I do and who I am. The Jill I choose to remember and keep alive didn’t sit around thinking. She did things. She took action. She incorporated that which she loved and admired about others into what she did every day.
To keep her memory alive is really quite simple. Laugh a little longer. Smile a little broader. Sing a little louder. And love a whole lot better.
I know that. I see that. I want to be that.
But my laugh is forced, my smile is fake, my voice has left me and my love has nowhere to go.