Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Call Me

Dear Rach,

I've come to the conclusion that try as I might, I have no control over my grief. It's one thing to intellectually understand that certain objects, conversations and events will bring me sadness, but it's another to know it emotionally.

I've been preparing myself for the holidays ever since we returned from Virginia last June. Every book on death and grief mentions the difficulty families and loved ones face during the first year, particularly during the holiday season. I was fully prepared to fall apart as I hung your ornaments on the Christmas tree last week, but surprisingly I was fine. No tears, just nice memories of you and all the Christmases we spent together as a family. I was also expecting to fall into a blubbering mess when I hung your stocking with the others. Nope. That emotional landmine blew up in my face back in June when I came across the picture of you pointing to your stocking. Christmas carols don't pose too much of a problem since I decided early on to avoid the radio until after New Year's Day. I broke with tradition and wrapped gifts listening to Tom Petty, Lyle Lovett, Alan Jackson, and Van Morrison. This was not the year to listen to George Winston or Nat King Cole (your dad would say every year is not the year to listen to George Winston).

See. You just have to plan and prepare. Mind over matter. Complete control.

Wrong. Yesterday my guard was down. I hadn't prepared. It was my birthday. 44 years old and for the first time in my life I feel every bit my age.

I had a lovely day. I got to sleep in and go to work a bit later than usual, thanks to my very considerate and thoughtful brother and sister-in-law. I had fun playing with Miss Maddie and Emily, both of whom were perfect little angels for their Auntie's special day. I had several phone calls, messages and birthday cards from friends and family, helping make my day extra special. I treated myself to an hour-long massage which was pure bliss (so much so, I booked another for next Friday). Your daddy took me out for a quiet, romantic dinner followed by cake and gifts at home. It was one of the nicest, most peaceful birthdays I've had in a long time.

And then it hit me. As we were getting ready for bed, I was overwhelmed with uncontrollable sadness. I know you're dead and I know I will never hear your voice again, but in my "year of magical thinking" (to borrow from Joan Didion's book of the same title), I so wanted to hear you wish me a happy birthday - on the phone - as you always have, year after year. I don't think I really expected you to, but the absence of your call was lurking behind every corner of my day, waiting to catch me unaware and prove to me that I am not in control.

This morning, swollen eyes and achy head, I thought about the unbearable sadness that came over me last night. And then I thought about Rod. You and I talked and emailed fairly regularly, but not nearly as often as you and your daddy. He spoke with you several times a week (and much more frequently in the last year, as you were gearing up for graduation and a job search). I can't begin to fathom the agony he must feel every single day when those phone calls don't come.

And then I thought of Debbie. How she must feel, after almost seven months of waiting for you to walk through the door and shout, "Hey, Mom! I'm home!"

Didion states, "Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be." I don't know what I expected, but this is so much harder than I ever imagined.




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