Have you ever noticed that the things that you DON’T say are the things that are usually the most important? The hardest stuff to swallow?
For someone like me, who, according to my own father “talks paint off walls” NOT saying something means a lot. A whole lot.
On Friday I spoke with Steph’s mom, who had recently gotten the results of the autopsy, and I could barely bring myself to tell The Daver, let alone admit it to myself or The Internet.
She died of natural causes.
At age 26.
She died of NATURAL CAUSES.
Relating, of course, to chronic alcoholism.
Grief isn’t a linear process, nor would I expect it to be. No, all of a sudden, it’s like a rain cloud comes quickly across the previously merrily shining sun, and then you’re sobbing as you pick your son up from school and have to explain that you’re crying because you miss your friend.
It sneaks up on you like a well-oiled fart and leaves you suffocating and panting for breath and wondering why the hell you’re not over this already.
The short answer is, of course, that you’ll never be “over” this. Not ever.
You’ll walk away from it a different person than you were before the phone rang on that Sunday morning, never to be the same.
Lunches will still have to be made, asses wiped, dog fed, Easter Eggs dyed festive colors, but nothing is the same anymore. It’s all a bit different, kind of like a carnival, where every now and again something (typically a mullet, sorry Meg) pops up and scares the hell out of you.
Eventually, you tell yourself, the hurt will fade with time and effort, but it will never go away, content to throb in the back of your psyche like a sinister toothache or minor burn.
But for now, it hurts like a bitch. It hurts like a fucking bitch.
I’m not egocentric to believe in my heart of hearts (burned and blackened as it may be) that I could have done anything in my power to save Steph.
But I keep going over and over the last time I saw her and wonder if I noticed anything to tell me that this would be THE last time I ever saw her.
I was out and about in my neighborhood, about 20 weeks pregnant with Alex, trying to focus on the song on my iPod and NOT kill my neighbors grass with vomit again, while telling my pelvis that it didn’t need to expand quite yet, when she pulled up in a car with her mom and her two kids.
At the moment, I was so focused on not puking on THIS block (it was my own mantra “if you can make it to the next block and not puke again, you can rest for a minute” and I liked it), I barely noticed the van pull up and someone pop out. When I realized that that Someone was talking to me, I immediately assumed that one of my neighbors had tracked down That Puking Girl to yell at for killing her flowers, but no, it was Steph.
We chatted for a moment, making plans to catch coffee, I complimented her children on being particularly gorgeous, and we parted ways.
I never saw her again.
Maybe I’m not egocentric enough to ever believe I myself could have changed the outcome for her, but I wish I’d said something better. More meaningful. I wish I’d told her that I loved her tremendously, that she was more than “just some friend from back in the day,” and that I thought of her quite often, really, I did. I attribute a lot of who I am from how she shaped me as a person.
Yes, she was well more than a friend.
And now I sit here, 10:30 on a Sunday night wracking my brains for any clue as to what I might have said, but, based on the fact that I don’t talk about my feelings unless I’m suffering a head wound or madly hopped up on pain killers, I’m sure it wasn’t much in the way of anything.
But oh, how I wish I’d said more. Anything. Just more than I’m certain I did.
I suppose that I’ll get my chance when I join her in the afterlife, and maybe then I can apologize to her for not telling her how much I missed and loved her like I should have. Because both are the truth.
I miss her more and more every day.
I’m sure I always will.