When my friend Stef passed away several years ago – cause of death: cirrhosis of the liver (PSA: DON’T DRINK, KIDS) – leaving behind her two young sons and a funeral so full that it was standing room only, I remember being completely rooted the spot, my grief making the decision “do I have to pee?” as challenging as “Can you repeat the Fibonacci sequence in under 10 seconds?” I couldn’t make a decision to save myself and I could barely function for weeks (if you can call what I do “functioning.” Her death was so sudden, so unexpected, a gigantic piece missing, I could hardly handle brushing my teeth without bursting into tears.
I’d like to say that it’s different now, that I don’t still think of her and tear up, but it’d be a lie: she’s gone and she’s not coming back. So why can’t I delete a phone number she’ll never again answer? I suppose my best guess would be that it’s too final, too real, and it closes a door that can never be reopened. If I deleted the number, I could put it back, but then I’d be the creepy chick putting my dead friend’s phone number in my phone.
I’ve been thinking about her death a lot lately, since the book in which I was a contributor was published. In it, I told the story of Stef in words I could barely choke out; words that weren’t enough because there will never be enough words to capture who she was.
After she died, someone said to me (Dr. Phil? Maury? Oprah? Jerry Springer?) that we don’t lose people in one fell swoop; we lose them over a long period of time, and pop-psych as it is, it’s true.
Maybe it’s a whiff of their deodorant caught on someone walking by in the store. Maybe it’s the way their hair is adorably mussed each morning before a shower. Maybe it’s that one restaurant you went to and laughed for hours over the absurdity of life. Maybe it’s a smile seen in the crowd, so similar, or a turn of phrase you both once used, an inside joke that kept you chortling for hours.
I thought a lot about grief and grieving this weekend.
It’s taken me awhile to began owning up to the idea that I’d soon be moving from my home, and as such, I’d need to find those small inconsequential items; the things I’d never considered needing yet again.
That would be why I found myself stuck in place at Goodwill, looking at silverware organizers, while people desperate for a bargain I! might! steal! from! them! pushed their carts into the back of my ankles trying (nearly successfully!) to mow me down.
I nearly cried, not out of pain or the indignity that someone would actually consider that I’d want a Precious Moments knock-off, standing there and holding someone’s old silverware container, examining scuff marks and wondering – for a good long while – if this was something I should purchase new or not. It was then that it hit me what I’d be losing.
Sometimes, a cheap silverware container is more than that. Sometimes, it’s a reminder of the doors we close and the doors that are closed for us – some shut for good, others left ajar. (go ahead make the joke, I’ll wait here)
That’s when a door isn’t a door.
(when it’s ajar)
I’ll wait while you groan and roll your eyes wildly at my awesome joke.
Done? Good. On to more of my pithy (and low-calorie!) tripe.
I’m sure I’m not the first or last person to burst into tears in Goodwill, which helps a little with the embarrassment of crying in public (being an ugly crier means that public crying makes passers-by look at my wrists for the restraint marks – as if I’ve escaped from the local mental hospital, if there were such a facility close by. Plenty of Pantera’s but no psych facilities. We yuppies need our deliciously overpriced sandwiches on ARTISAN motherfucking BREAD more than we need proper mental health care, but alas, once again, I digress), because if I want to wail on and on like a psychopath about Justin Beaver having a girlfriend, I’d prefer to do so in the privacy of my own home.
HE’S JUST SO DREAMY.
It was there in that dusty store, being jostled from all sides by bargain hunters looking for that perfect tchotchke (or used candle, as the case may be), that I felt the pieces of my old life gradually begin slipping away. I’m not mired in grief muck the way I was after Stef passed. Her death was sudden phone call interrupting an otherwise cold, beautiful February morning in Chicago, whereas I’d watched the slow disintegration of our union once we’d decided to separate over a year and a half ago. I was reminded, standing there holding someone’s grimy old fork holder of grief, of grieving, and of loss.
However right for both parties a situation like divorce is doesn’t make it easier.
I know (some of) the challenges that starting over will bring. The losses I won’t feel until I’m out of the house; an interloper in a life formerly known as mine, someone starting over again. There will be times I’ll have to talk myself through a single moment at a time, reminding myself that it will, in fact, be okay – maybe not this moment or the next, maybe not this year or the next, but someday, I’ll wake up and realize that it is okay.
Because it is. Or, I should properly say, it will be.
There’s not a doubt in my pea-brain that will take a long time to process the complicated emotions (turns out I have an emotion beyond: “I’m hungry.”) associated with the dissolution of a union, I know this. There will be reminders of the good times and the bad that hurt anywhere from:
<->being punched in the armpit<->prick<->wasp sting<->arm tattoo<->natural childbirth and back again, while raging confusion will wind from:
how can orange be a color and a flavor?<->what kind of cell phone plan should I buy?<->who the hell reads tea leaves anyway?<->how can I survive the next three minutes?<->is this REALLY my life?
There will be tears and triumphs in this new life of mine, of this I can be certain. There will be the things that blindside me and leave me gasping for breaths while other things, things I’ve feared, will be as smooth as a baby’s dimply ass. Such is the nature of grief
Such is the nature of life.
Howdy Pranksters! How was your long weekend? Do you do shit for Labor Day? I want to be the person who’s all, I DID AWESOME SHIT, but really, it was a nice simple weekend with friends, antics and a healthy dose of debauchery.
Do please forgive these occasional things inside the posts – I’m simply trying something out (also kinda coveting those shoes)(I DON’T NEED MORE SHOES, BAD AB, BAD!), which I’ll explain sometime when we’re all very, VERY bored.
(Um. I have a new addiction. It’s right there)