The way the calendar falls this years mimics the year 1988. Specifically the fact that January 13th once again falls on a Wednesday. Years ago that date took a turn that colors the way I look at things. It was the day I went from being a kid to an adult with a phone call at 1:15 in the afternoon.
I was home alone, having the day off from school due to snow. Lots of snow that meant I couldn’t get where I should have been. I actually should have been there under any circumstance, but weather is sometimes a cruel determiner of fate.
Patre’s death was the thing that pushed 15 year old me into 40 year old in a moment. The emotions were more than I could handle and I didn’t handle them for years. If I could get in the way, way back machine with Mr. Peabody I’d go to that following Saturday. The funeral.
Very recently someone told me that the only thing people should have done is come up and give me a hug. Hold on to me until the waterworks started and I let go of my guilt and pain. My being “the adult” in my social circle wasn’t the right thing. And it has effected me for the past 28 years.
Why would someone want to go back to what is an extremely painful moment, just to relive it and do something differently? Every time I have faced death since then, I can’t show an ounce of emotion to anyone. Even after my daughter’s death, leaving the hospital with a tear stained collar was the only time anyone ever saw me cry again.
In the silence of my office, car, or now empty house I can muster only fractions of moments where I allow myself to let go. Holding in all of that hasn’t led to a very healthy relationship with myself.
As I sat handing people tissues at Patre’s funeral or placing a hand on the shoulder of someone else who was brave enough to show something besides a motionless face, the pain was incredible. The car ride to the cemetery, luncheon afterwards, even the quiet later in my bedroom as I re-read notes passed between classes or listened to some tapes with her voice, I couldn’t express myself.
Years later a friend happened to pass on the same day and I locked it away in the same manner. Another instance where I should have just let someone, anyone give me a hug I walked away. And later when I couldn’t deal with all the pain, I walked away; actually ran away across the country to live.
Everyone grieves in different ways, there is no correct method I could have followed. Years later those words “Someone should have just grabbed you and held on” hurt deeply. I don’t know if it was me or the people around me. The fact that no one knew what to do, so we did nothing?
Nothing about grief makes sense to me. I can understand it from other people and know how to handle their emotions. Flowers, cards, just picking up the phone and asking if they would like to grab a cup of tea and talk about comics, movies, anything other than the pain in front of them. Mostly that is what we all should do for others, but I do it because I know that talking about the pain means letting the crack widen and show my own discomfort.
Maybe if I had been smart enough, brave enough, or even stupid enough to show others what I was feeling rather than hide it away forever I might have been better. Anger wouldn’t be the emotion that has replaced everything else.
It’s weird to think that I would go back to a death in order to be able to better handle death in the future. I know that I could go back to lots of other things, lots of things about my daughter or friends. If I really think about it I need to go back and deal with death better so that I learn to live life better.