I couldn't sleep so at 3 o'clock in the morning I turned on one of my favorite British murder mysteries - Inspector George Gently. George is played by the intense and lovely actor Martin Shaw. It started with him (an older gentleman) getting a doctor's exam. The doctor tells him he is very fit. Then the doctor says, "When does it hurt most? In the morning or the last thing at night?" They cut away to a totally different setting: his partner being called to the scene of a murder. I'm thinking...if George is healthy why is the doctor asking him when it hurts? Two seconds, it takes me. Oh. The doctor is asking him about his wife's death. When does that hurt most.
They cut back to the doctor's office. The doctor says, "How long has it been?" George says, "4 years, 3 months and two weeks. I don't miss her less, I miss her differently. I think what gets at me is the never again."
I got the code. What else hurts first thing in the morning and last thing at night? Someone you love has died. I open my eyes and I remember. My husband is still dead. I turn over to go to sleep and, by choice I guess, I'm alone. I'm sleeping with ashes and a Yankee jacket. Still. That's when I usually say, "Come back. I know you can't but please come back." It's the silence at the end of the day. It's the time when we would be holding each other and sharing all our stories of what happened to us.
It's a 4 and half years for me. I know Martin Shaw is and actor and George Gently is a character but there is a writer writing this that knows grief. A writer who knows 4 years isn't such a long time and yet it is forever. A writer who knows that you don't miss someone less but you miss them differently - that never again is impossible to accept and yet we have to accept it every minute of every day.
December 11th was my husband's birthday. I did the usual post on Facebook asking people to do something kind for themselves or for someone else in his memory - to keep his smile alive. I heard from some of his friends I don't usually hear from. I went out with my daughter and granddaughter and had a good time. Then I had a bang up fight with my daughter about something to stupid to even mention. It continued the next morning and she said i was "too easily wounded."
Damn straight. I am too easily wounded. I always have been. When my husband was alive I would say "I can't do it, it's too hard." and he would hold me. He was my buffer against the world. He was my anchor. He was my safe place. I want to change all the "was" to "is" but I have been feeling too easily wounded for a long time now. Part of me stopped breathing when he died. I have to keep pounding my heart to keep it going.
I bore myself sometimes with the repetition. I tell other people to accept themselves where they are. I know that people deeply miss the ones they love 40, 50 years after they die. Yet part of me now asks, "Still?" I don't miss him less, I miss him differently. There is a trajectory from the night he died until today. I haven't stood still. Yet some days it is just too much to bear. Then I bear it. But there's a certain tiredness that goes along with it.
There are still days of falling backwards with no one to catch me except myself. I have so many friends and so many good things in my life. Yet I am drawn back to the malcontented part. My granddaughter is going to be 2 already. She is so smart. She makes me laugh and love. We took her to a Rod Stewart concert at Madison Square Garden and she danced and jumped and danced. I have work that satisfies me. I have done a lot to make my husband proud.
But when does it hurt more - first thing in the morning or last thing at night?
Dates and holidays and memories and hope for reunion some day and being present in my present and creating meaning and round and round.
Grief and I walk hand in hand. Sometimes I can dance with it, sometimes it still thwacks me upside the head and I lie down rather dazed.
I have a cold. Colds are miserable. Not serious but miserable. Once I had a cold and I asked Artie to buy me some chicken soup. He went to the store and came back and said he couldn't find any. When I got better I bought about different kinds of chicken soup and didn't say a word - just piled the cans up on the kitchen counter. I miss stuff like that. All the little private jokes that no one else can really understand. We had a code too. I liked that code - the one where we understood each other the way no one else ever could. Where being too easily wounded was okay because he could be my protector.
I wish you ways of creating new traditions and memories to carry you along through the holidays. I wish us all the ability to remember the smiling part of us - the laughing part of us. Now that we know the code...maybe we can be extra tender to ourselves so that even if the hurt doesn't go away we are able to be fully alive with it as a part of us - not the whole of us. Don't make the hole the whole. I guess I wish us silliness as well and the ability to look at the world through the eyes of a small child - with wonder.
What I really wish is that I had a magic wand that could bring all our people back even for a day. The planet would be very crowded that day but what a precious day that would be. With love. xo
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