Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grief, Revisited

I started to write about this year's Thanksgiving tonight. A Thanksgiving that was, once again, so full of love, laughter, phenomenal food, and inappropriate touching! I have the pictures to prove it. But my head and heart are being pulled in a number of directions and, when I went to go search for a previous post to link to, I found a few posts from last year that told me plainly where my fingers were going to travel with or without my consent.

I sat at Acr0nym's dining room table in pajama bottoms and a sweater, icy fingers thawing slowly as I wrapped them around the steaming mug of joe he'd poured and doctored precisely to my liking. Curlicues of cigarette smoke rose lazily around our heads.

Have you heard from [redacted] lately?" I asked.

"Not recently. But even [redacted] is now poking him about work."

"Really? [Redacted] might join the team? I didn't know that! Does that mean he'd move back here?"


"I hope so. I always liked [redacted]. Honestly, I had a HUGE crush on him back in the day. But I was shy and I was with Andy then and..."

I burst into hot, silent tears. I turned my face away, staring out the window toward the nothingness of suburban townhouses across the street, saltwater dripping from my chin onto my chest, trying to hide my outburst of angst from Acr0nym's eyes. He'd seen it before but I was embarrassed to catch him off his guard like make him uncomfortable at the start of what was supposed to be a pleasant, relaxing afternoon.

"I'm sorry. would have been his 37th birthday on Tuesday and I've been trying really hard not to think about it or acknowledge it in any way. It...he...that just caught me by surprise."

That was yesterday. Friday. I didn't cry for long and was able to recover from the shock of piercing grief for a few hours - long enough for us to enjoy our afternoon of errand running and decluttering before we would head out on the town for a night out with friends.

However, when I got home last night, I was rooting around in my desk drawer, looking for a long lost office supply, when I stumbled across a letter...from Andy.

Andy didn't write letters. He didn't write much of anything. While he was well-spoken and a voracious reader - someone who put even Devo Was Right and Owen and the Divine Dayna to shame - writing, with dyslexia, was an extraordinary chore for him.

I consider myself lucky to have two letters from him then - one from the very beginning of our nearly decade long dance with one another lost in a box of memories tucked away for safe keeping in storage and, the other, from his last stint in jail, stuck haphazardly, almost deliberately so, in the bottom of my desk drawer.

I unfolded and began to read, once again, the 4 sheets of one-sided, double-spaced lines written with black, felt tip ink in his unpracticed scrawl:

The days aren't bad. I'm working on a street crew so I get to get outside most days. Nights are worse. But it's not all that long before I'm done and can get home. When can you come visit? It was good to talk to you. I always loved talking to you. You know that though. You know I always loved you.

Tears pricked behind my eyes, threatening to spill out from under my control again.

And then? Then I got mad. Madder than maybe I've ever been with him. I wanted to yell and scream at him...maybe even kick his shins for being such a damn dunce!

And also for being dead. I can't seem to forgive him for that.

High on wine, my heart started breaking all over again, that heavy weight of nostalgia and pain and overwhelming love bearing down on me. I couldn't breathe with the weight of it and I needed to tell him how mad I was at him. But there wasn't any way to do that. Not where he could hear me. So, instead, I opened up Google + - Facebook too public for what I had to say - and I posted this:

Actually no, I don't know. You presume too much.

That's right. Last night, I decided to talk to my dead ex-fiance...on a social media site. Sounds crazy, right?

And yet...where would you say it where he or she might possibly hear you? Although it would have probably had more of a chance of getting to him via Facebook. Lots of dead people still use Facebook...or so it would seem.

Anyway, I deleted it early this morning. It was cryptic to everyone else and I, for one, hate cryptic posts. I rudely judge people for making them. Besides, in the pre-dawn hours, I knew it didn't make any difference.

He can't answer me anymore. Even if he wanted to, even if he still has any awareness of me or of his past life here, he can't tell me anything. Fucker.

Sorry, Mom.

The fact is I didn't know he loved me. Not for a very long time - YEARS! I held onto him, held onto my love for him, clinging desperately because I was desperate, at that time, for any kind of love from anyone. When he finally acknowledged that he did love me well...then I clung to the hope that he would somehow change into what I wanted...nay, needed...him to be. Gainfully employed, goal-oriented, happy, not racist.

He couldn't live up to my expectations - my pre-determined resentments. I suspect no one could. I saw his person and super-imposed his potential onto him without his knowledge or consent. When he didn't live up to my idea of his potential, I was disappointed, frustrated, ANGRY!

I'm still angry. I'm still heart-broken. I still love him.

I miss him.

I didn't publicly acknowledge the anniversary of his passing this year. It corresponded, quite conveniently, with the American Gods and Roadside Attractions road trip and seemed, somehow, out of place. I didn't talk about it in the blog or in person to anyone - not even Acr0nym as we drove across the mid-west. But it was always in the back of my mind, simmering like spicy marinara sauce.

Maybe the road trip was less about looking for America and more about looking for a way to escape me...and Him...until the grief had passed unceremoniously in the background.

Maybe I was self-conscious about the fact that I am still grieving for someone who's been gone for more than 2 years. Someone who, for all intents and purposes, I have no right to lay claim to anymore - even before he died.

And yet, I grieve. I grieve as though we'd been married. I grieve whenever his mom would say, "I wish you'd gotten married and had a little baby so I could have a piece of my Andy living and breathing beside me". I grieve whenever I sense there's some date impending that is significant to remember about him...the anniversary of the day we met (October 18th), the day he died (September 7th), the day he asked me to marry him (December 25th), the day he was born (November 22nd).

I grieve and, right now, I'm mad...

At myself.

It wasn't his fault he couldn't be what I wanted and needed him to be. It was my fault for having unrealistic expectations of him. It wasn't his fault that I wasted(?) an entire decade on a relationship that was doomed from the start. It wasn't his fault that I didn't pursue other prospects for potential love.

It was mine.

It was all my fault.

I should have let him go that day long long ago...the day he got on the bus to go back to California and back to his die.

But I didn't.

And here I am, crying, for love lost, life lost, potential lost.

While he gets to be here...

I'm here where I wanna be.
7,000 miles from infinity.
No one knows where I am.
It's quiet here with me.
I'm filling in the spaces where the killings used to be.

There's no phone.
And no way home.
Been a long time come late.
Been a long time.

I'm here.
Where I wanna be.
7,000 miles from infinity.
No one knows where I am...
But me.
         - Meryn Cadell

And I'm sad...and I'm angry. I hate him. And yet, I love him. Inexplicably. Always? Forever? I don't know.

Inspired by these after the other...from last year:

When It Falls Into the Sea
All I Can Do
A Strongly Worded Letter...To No One FYI: if you're offended by particularly strong language, you should not click through on this link. I was pretty mad and I swore...a lot.


alienbody said...

I'm going to have to click the links, but not tonight. I say American Gods and thought you might have been talking about the Neil Gaiman book. Then I saw how lots of dead people use Facebook *still*, just like my friend Karen who's page I visit every week, who died after a 2 year battle with breast cancer in September. It is eerie and weird that she's still one knows her password and sometimes it is hard to look at her picture, but I can't help looking at her feed and identifying with people who miss her. Boy, you hit the nail on the head with that one. And...and...I had to remind myself that this wasn't a gripping novel and that it was your life. So, when I didn't want the writing to stop I had to remind myself that I'm glad it did, because it isn't a 'story', it was (is) your life. I'm sad for your loss. I understand, fully, the wanting of someone to be what you need them to they aren't. I can't imagine this was easy to write, but thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't hate him if you didn't love him. Instead, there would be bland acceptance.

I barely know you, but I do know one thing. Acceptance will likely come with time, but before that, you need to feel whatever you feel for however long you need to feel it. When you do come to accept, I doubt that it'll be bland, and for my money, that's a good thing.

Elizabeth said...

oh my...this was beautifully written. I'm sorry for your loss, for your heartache, lack of closure. Oddly, I can relate to a lot of this with my ex-husband. Its been a little over 2 years.

Masked Mom said...

"Maybe I was self-conscious about the fact that I am still grieving for someone who's been gone for more than 2 years. Someone who, for all intents and purposes, I have no right to lay claim to anymore - even before he died."

Grief doesn't care about time and love doesn't care about "claims." You feel what you feel and instead of hiding from it, you put it out there for all of us to share and, maybe, learn from. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Wow, a powerful piece. I am guilty of love fog, where I don't see the reality of the person, just my fantasy of what I believe they are. It hurts when a dream that we've invested so many years of our lives into is gone for good. So many what if's, and if only's.

Lucy said...

Gosh, I just cried while reading this, I could feel your pain and I wish you didn't have it and I know there is no way to ease it, you have to find your way through it on your own time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Word Nerd said: "You couldn't hate him if you didn't love him."

Two years is a drop in the bucket when it comes to grieving for the ones we love. Especially when we love them so completely. Especially if there are unresolved issues.
Be angry. You have every right to be so.
Be angry with him for dying. Be angry at yourself for holding on to the relationship for too long.

Don't beat yourself up for having these emotions. They are what they are.
Examine them, look at them, feel your way around them. Heal from them. Let them fade.

Every year or so, gently acknowledge the scars that this wound left.

Know that all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

* - pardon my presumption in writing this - I hardly know you and I'm all handing out advice.
But, I know how this kind of hurt lingers. I know how it creeps in and takes hold if you aren't paying attention.

Margi said...

Hugs. Love to you. Grief is a bitch.