Monday, July 18, 2011

Dreaming of him

I had a series of bad dreams last night, and as I remembered them this morning, I realized they were all pretty obviously triggered by various stressors in my waking life.  There was the recurring dream I have about driving my car off an embankment into a lake (sometimes it's a bridge); I've never quite figured out what that one's about.  There's the one immediately following that where I survived, got out of the car, and walked out of the lake, only to be barely able to walk and ending up in a clinic talking to someone about my pain and being unable to move, and asking my brother to go back and get my shoes and socks.  That's about the chronic pain I have that has been worse this past week than it has been in a long time.

And then I dreamed about A, which I almost never do.  And it wasn't a happy reunion dream.  It was sad and desolate.  It was like one of my trips out to visit him, and we were doing things we always did, but he barely spoke to me, and when he did, it was like he was out of it...nothing he was saying seemed like him, or made any sense.  He barely seemed to notice or care that I was there.  I remember being worried about him in the dream, that he was going senile or some such, and what was I going to do?   It was all so sad.

The interpretation of that one seems clear enough:  he is far away from me, and I can't reach him, and he won't reach me.  I can't get through to him now.  And he either can't or won't get through to me.  I kind of hoped for an irrefutable sign this weekend; I didn't get one.  The dream I got is not one I would've hoped for--one where we could be together and happy for a little bit of dream time; instead, it manifested the insurmountable, depressing distance between us now.  If nothingness can be palpable, that's what I feel--a totally one-sided love.  I want to believe he loves me still, wherever he is.  And I think that I do; but it's a hope I think about, not a fact I can believe.  Sometimes I get angry at him, and think, "Well, if you're going to ignore me, I'm going to ignore you, too."  And then I wonder if that's exactly what is supposed to happen so that we can get on with getting on with it. 

Where's the handbook on all this?  He's dead and I'm alive, but I'm in limbo when I try to reconcile those two facts with the love I still feel for him.  I don't know what to do with all these loose ends that I thought were tied to him, but no matter how I pull on them, I can't get him any closer to me.  Do I tie them off in a knot and hang them up somewhere? 

Friday, July 15, 2011

5 years

My sweetie died 5 years ago today. But 5 years ago today, I didn’t know that. I didn’t even start to worry until 5 years ago tonight, didn’t panic until 5 years ago tomorrow, and didn’t know for sure that he was gone until the day after that. In the aftermath of A’s death, and all these years later, there are 2 things I still have anger about, when I let myself think about them: 1) the stupid apartment manager who wouldn’t be the least bit helpful in finding out whether A was home, or if his truck was in the lot, when I called 5 years ago tomorrow, and 2) his family’s seemingly cold dismissal of my feelings, needs, and their own promises, in the end. I can almost forgive his family; they probably did as well as they could under the circumstances, even if it wasn’t nearly as good as it should’ve been. The apartment manager I can’t forgive. The combination of stupidity and laziness (she said that despite my concerns that he might actually be hurt or dead, she couldn’t tell me anything because of policy, and she said she couldn’t check for awhile because she was going to lunch) added up to a cruelness that meant my sweetie lay dead in his apartment for 3 days. If she could’ve been a thinking human being for five minutes, she could’ve helped me spare him 2 of those days. It’s unkind, but I hope it haunted her after the fact, because it haunts me. I hope she realized her mistake and vowed never to be so stupid, thoughtless, and lazy again in an emergency; however, my faith in humanity is not so robust as to believe that happened.

But I try not to think about it.

I’ve spent the entire week waiting to fall apart, and it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve been in considerable physical pain since last weekend because of my stupid back, and I suppose that has been a pretty significant distraction. Any whimpering and whining this past week (and there hasn’t been much) has been about that. My back is worse than usual due to some random mechanical factor I can’t put my finger on (as usual), but it also gets worse in the damp and when I’m PMSing, and I’m doing the latter while we’re full into monsoon season; it also occurs to me that while I’m not feeling consciously stressed about this impending milestone, perhaps it is subconscious, and contributing to my back problems. My body fell apart completely in the year after A died, and I’ve never really gotten it all back together. It’s not impossible that I’m revisiting the physical as well as the emotional this week.

I have plans for every day of this ugly weekend. The usual Friday night hang-out with the girls. Concert of a favorite artist Saturday night with a pal. Usual Sunday night dinner with the girls and E. And my back is what I’m most worried about ruining my good time Saturday night; it’s general admission. A would like it that I’m at a concert, rather than home moping.

It’s trite, but “it is what it is” is mostly my feeling regarding this stage of my widowhood. I accept that missing him is what I do now. It isn’t at the forefront of my thoughts most of the time, but it is never entirely gone, either. Nothing I can do about it but shrug, in any case. Not because I don't care; not because I don't miss him. But because I can't do a thing to fix it, or feel differently about it, and this is my new normal.

You can get used to anything. Anything at all.

Then again, there's also the possibility that it's all just roiling under the surface. I found myself particularly easy to enrage after work today; that kind of irritability is usually a subtle sign that grief is at work on me, even if I think otherwise.

There are 2 As now: the one in my head, and the one he really was. Sometimes I get a clear memory, or reread an e-mail he sent me, or a chat transcript, and I remember exactly who he was when he was alive, in astonishing, unadulterated vibrancy. But a lot of the time, it’s the construct of him that sticks with me, one that is necessarily informed in every part by my perceptions, my loss of him, my grief, my feelings about his absence. There's a bit of distance to that one, too, and perhaps that's why it's my more constant companion: it's safer. They are similar, of course, but the real one is better; and it's the real stuff that, in remembering, that makes my mouth smile, my eyes tear up, and my heart ache. The real man provokes the real feelings that I can't afford to feel constantly every day.

I often feel like I want to tell people all about him, because he was such an awesome, amazing person, but every time I try to sketch his character in words, I fail, because there was so much to him, and I can’t convey that totality with any justice. And even if I tried, it wouldn't matter to them because they didn't know him. They didn't love him, like I do. In the end, I fall silent, because in remembering who he was, all of it, I am forced again to reckon with how much I go without because he’s not here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


A note went around at work today about a coworker's wife; a couple of months ago, she had horrible back pain that wouldn't go away, and now she's in hospice, and her stay there isn't expected to be a long one.  This is a coworker I'm friendly with, though I wouldn't call us friends; but he's a nice man, and they've been in love for 34 years, and I feel terrible for both of them, for the end she is facing, and for the widowhood he is.
Granted, I've only experienced a long fatal illness with my dogs (who are my kids), because my sweetie died suddenly, but even that experience taught me that the time you spend waiting when there is no time left is miserable, a special kind of hopeless.  When my A died, I imagined I wished I'd had more time, time to say things that needed to be said, time to say goodbye, time to say "I love you" a hundred more times before the last time in his presence.  And maybe, in fact, I would prefer that.  Maybe there is some peace to be found within the dread.  I don't know.   I pray I never have to find out.
In some ways, I know what he's going to go through.  In other ways, I know I don't have the first clue.  All I know is that another family is hurting, and is going to be for a long time, and there's nothing to be done for it.  Mostly, my heart breaks for them, and this empathy probably couldn't have come at a worse time; then again, it probably couldn't have come at a better one, either.
It's that time of year again.  Basically, when I flipped the calendar to June, I started to feel the dread, and more and more, I curse clocks and calendars.  If there were no calendars, no named and numbered days to tick off, I would no doubt recognize that another year was about to pass, but there wouldn't be this relentless feeling of movement toward a specific day, the build-up to which is an emotional burden as I'm constantly taking my temperature.  How am I feeling?  Am I sinking?  Am I not, and if not, is it going to hit me further down the line?  When?  How?  And what does it mean if it never does?
Without this "anniversary" date, I would remember that he died in high summer, and there wouldn't be this funnel of time sucking me down to a specific point where despite having no conscious plan to do so, I seem to have expectations about my feelings.  Without that date, without labeled time in sequence, I would merely recognize that the day formerly known as July 15th is probably going to be no different than the ones before and after it in terms of how I'm feeling about A, and his absence.  I seem to have settled in to a manageable missing him; it's pretty much the same day to day.  Sometimes it brings a tear to my eye; mostly it doesn't.  I'm done wishing.  I'm done begging.  I'm done blaming, myself and him.  I've given up all hope for a different past.  I just miss him.  Quietly; consistently; every day.
As it is, the thing that bothers me most is that nearly 5 years have passed.  5 years has always seemed like such a long time to me; I've seen my life change again and again in the span of 6 months; 5 years is an age in one person's lifetime.  For almost 5 years, I've been getting along without him, when for the 2 years prior, there was rarely a day when I didn't talk to him multiple times.  It still sounds like a long time to me, and while I'm fine now, if I could measure time emotionally, it doesn't feel like nearly that long.  I don't know how long it feels, other than "not that long ago."  I've been around the sun 5 times since he died, hurtling 2,934,600,000 miles through space.  Shouldn't it feel like longer?
It makes me wonder if I hold him too close, if I would be better off hiding the pictures and the keepsakes and putting away the candles.   Because wherever he may be, I don't feel like he's holding me that close, not like right after he died.  I can't hold on to him; I feel he's gone.  So what am I holding on to?  Where is the line between keeping space for a true love that I still feel, and keeping one foot in the past to my own detriment?  Does that line actually exist, or am I thinking too much?  I had something brilliant and wonderful with my A, and I don't anymore.  But that doesn't keep me from still wanting it.  And wanting an impossible thing is as sure a recipe for heartache as I know. 
If there is a healing task that remains to me, it must be this:  figuring out a way to stop wanting and missing what was.  Figuring out how to cross over from wanting what I can't have to appreciating what I had with true acceptance of its impermanence.  Figuring out how to have the love without the yearning.  It is the difference between begrudgingly accepting that I can't have him here anymore because I have no choice, and being Zen about it, and cutting the ties that continually bind me to that past where I was, admittedly, happier, healthier, more loved and more loving.  I guess what I'm saying is that I am not living my inner life in constant grief anymore, but I do think there's a pretty constant undercurrent of regret when my thoughts find him.  You can only regret the things you accept as having happened.
I have to think it's possible.  (And if it isn't, I'd sure like someone to let me know, so I can let myself off the hook.)  But I don't have the vaguest idea of how to make that move.  I've never done this before.