A Little Bit Blue.

Funny thing about grief: it finds its own way.

It barges in sometimes, an unwanted, boorish intruder with a booming voice and bad body odor, and forces you into a confrontation. You’ve barred the door and closed the curtains and turned off the porch light, but that doesn’t matter. It’s here, and it WILL BE HEARD.

I was minding my own business this weekend, trying to find my desk under all of the stacks of mail and paper, when I found it.  The Book.  It’s a nondescript hardcover, coffee-table sized, with writing on the spine and section dividers.  It is the book that was prepared by my family’s law firm to provide personal portraits of my mother, father, and sister to people who never knew them.  It was intended to show them as special people who were loved, who were important, and who are deeply missed.  It does a pretty good job of it.  There are photographs, excerpts from our depositions and testimonial letters from family and friends.  It touches on highlights of their lives and then devotes the end of the text to their sudden deaths.

I had brought it down from the shelf a few months ago when Number Young Son had some questions about the train crash.  Having been so young at the time, neither of the boys have read the newspaper articles or seen this book.  Their knowledge of the crash has come from me and their dad. I hoped that maybe the book could fill in some of the holes and answer some of their questions.

Of course I had to open it.  I just thumbed through it, pausing to read a few lines here and there.  The tears welled up and spilled, and my throat was tight, but it was more of a release than anything else.  Reading those heartfelt words about my Pa, my Momma and my goofy sister made me cry good tears.  But even those tears just drip into the void.

I’ve done that ‘grief work.’  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy — it’s not. It’s horrible, brutal, cruel, painful, exhausting, punishing work.  It’s as tiring as hard physical labor. It drains every last bit of energy, spirit, ambition, and hope right out of you. It robs you; it takes you down to the raw nubs of your most naked inner self and leaves you with nothing.  I have spent way too much time there, thanks.  No need to go back.  These days, I have a sort of inner governor that kicks in when the going gets rough – it keeps me from the deep end of that drowning pool.

But that is not to say that I don’t mourn.  Believe me, I miss my parents with every cell in my body.  I miss my sister the same way.  I ache for their voices and yearn to be wrapped in their hugs. But fifteen years after the fact, the jagged edges have been worn smooth.  The peaks and valleys are there and the road is still bumpy in spots, but I’m no longer picking splinters out of my heart.  My sadness is a still, deep well.

So when I saw an item shared on my Facebook feed, a link to a post entitled Mourning My Mom, Before and After Facebook, I had to read it.  The author talked about how different it might have been had Facebook been around when her mother passed away in 2002.  I won’t summarize it here — you can read for yourself — but she made some great points and made me think about how we mourn and how people offer comfort.

I could write at length about my grief and mourning.  I could, but I can’t.  I can’t, because I still have some kind of block that prevents me, like that governor inside, from taking it too far. Self-preservation, I suppose. But that can be so frustrating, when I know that each time I write about it, talk about it, and read about it, it gets a little easier for me.  I really want to scream and holler and throw things and Get It All Out. Then I would feel so much better, right?

That’s a myth, though.  A pipe dream.  I could never get it all out.  It’s part of me now, and it’s changed me.

In the article, the author says, But grief is illogical. It never feels resolved.  She’s right about that.  I want to spit every time I hear someone use the term ‘closure.’  Like you can close the door on that part of your life, and it’s done.  Pfft.  Maybe there are people who can, but I haven’t met one.  I can’t close that door because there’s a big boot stuck in it.  Grief, that paragon of perfect timing, is not about to be shut behind that door.  It is going to show up unannounced and unwelcome, for the rest of my life.  When you least expect it, expect it.

I’m no expert.  I’m not here to tell anyone how it’s done.  I’m not here to wear my loss like a medal or trot it out as a trump card at the pity party.  It’s fact, and it’s my life.  Even my siblings, who had the same loss I had, don’t experience the same mourning in the same way.  I don’t want to carry it around as an excuse for what I do or don’t do.  In reality, it’s there; sometimes I spend time thinking about it, but most times I don’t.  When it was new and fresh and ugly, there was a part of me that wanted everyone to know, so they could understand the person pretending to be me.  I wanted justification.  I wanted reasons.  I wanted something.  Anything.

So I guess this is rather a pointless post.  I’m blue now, but it won’t last forever. I’ll pause and reflect and savor warm memories of the way Momma pushed up her glasses and how she answered the phone in her sing-song voice; how my Pa would perch on the stool in the dining room, peeling apples for the pies she made; and the taste of Wendy’s World-Famous Potato Salad.  I’ll wipe some tears and bite my lip.  I’ll think about what could have been.  I’ll wish I could wake up from this bad dream that’s lasted fifteen years.

And then I’ll be thankful to be as far down this road as I am, and I’ll pray I don’t have to walk that stretch again.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

photo credit perfect_hexagon

Part II – You Spin Me Round.

This is what vertigo feels like.
This is what vertigo feels like. Only worse.

(reposted due to problem with first post)

I suffered many bouts of vertigo over the next couple of years, events so sudden and violent that they would cause me to fall to the floor.  Some of these ‘drop attacks’ were quite scary.  Following an episode, I would sleep for 12 or more hours, waking up exhausted and foggy the next day.  I tried medication, but the Meclizine made me groggy, the diuretics had no noticeable effect, and the Valium only seemed to take the edge off of the anxiety I experienced with an attack.  It was miserable and frightening and hard to explain.  One MD patient described vertigo like getting really drunk and then getting on a carnival ride.  Sounds fun, huh?

My equilibrium was in constant flux; some days I would walk holding the wall to keep me from tipping over, and some days my horizon would shift and I had to tilt my head to the side to compensate.  Even on days with no vertigo, I never felt ‘right’ – it’s hard to explain, but it was almost like I was always in suspense, waiting for my next round of extreme spinning and nausea.  My drop attacks had been coming around once a month for quite a while, but it was unnerving when I didn’t know what to expect, or when.

Meniere’s disease can go into remission for weeks, months, or even years; unpredictability is its nature.  Finally, just as suddenly as they had begun, the vertigo episodes stopped.  It is an uneasy pause, though, because I don’t know if or when it will return.  I still have what I call ‘the woozies,’ where I get what feels like the precursor to a vertigo attack, but the vertigo never comes.  My eyes stop focusing, my balance seems to leap, and mentally, I fade.  Sometimes my ears feel full, like I need to yawn to make them pop, but they won’t clear.   These symptoms are very common with Meniere’s sufferers.

Hearing loss associated with this disorder is generally at low frequencies, or sometimes at both low and high frequencies.  Couple that with my existing mid-range loss, and I knew I was in trouble.  I began to worry about total deafness.

I found myself struggling more and more to hear people talking to me.  I hated to use the phone, I tried to avoid crowds, and I relied on the closed-captioning option on my television.  I complained to no one in particular that people were mumbling; and I started to rely on the ‘smile and nod’ to get me through conversations I couldn’t hear, rather than continually asking the speaker to repeat himself.  I’m sure that sometimes I appeared uninterested in a group conversation; people who didn’t know about my hearing might have thought I was rude or not paying attention to them. 

I knew I was missing a lot of things: my husband and sons would summon me to the porch to hear the frogs, or crickets, or owls, or coyotes in the night.  Rarely did I hear them.  The rain would have to be coming down in buckets before I could hear it from indoors.  I missed a lot of jokes and conversation because I could not keep up, and I didn’t want to ask and expose my disability.

Sometimes, I just wanted to be by myself with my silence; it was so much easier than straining to hear, and mis-hearing anyway.  Often my mistakes in hearing were pretty funny; the difference between what I thought I heard and what was actually said could be quite amusing.  I remembered Pa doing the same thing, and suddenly, it wasn’t as funny as I thought.  We would all laugh, but he was doing the best he could, and now, so was I.

Continued in Part III