This morning I woke up feeling heavy, not really sure why, not able to concentrate on anything. It took less than an hour for me to remember, despite barely being able to think of anything else for the last month.
One year today since he died.
There is a cocktail gathering in Denver tonight – the same gathering I was getting ready for last year when Kathy called me to say that Dad was dead. I’m not going. I have no interest in talking about him with hoards of people that I don’t interact with regularly. Maybe that’s wrong and I’m overly sensitive. Maybe it wouldn’t even come up unless I brought it up. Maybe…just maybe I’d be even sadder if no one said anything. I’m not going.
The truth is that I have passively resisted the holidays this year. For the last month I’ve been in an utter fog and haven’t been able to figure out why. Ironic, I know, for someone usually so acutely able to deconstruct their misery. I’m tired, I’m working too much, I’m hungover… It can all be true. But I know that since his birthday on November 30th that he has been lingering in my head while I have grown anxious over the impending anniversary. I guess there’s no hiding now. Today there is no avoiding it.
Sometimes I think I am coping with it all and that the loss has become easier to deal with. I think about him less. I break down in tears less. But then I wonder if that is really true and whether or not those things are genuine indicators of emotional growth; is it actually possible that I cry less and think of him less because I have just become better and not dealing with it?
Take, for example, the 13 voice mails from him that every three weeks I have to re-save. When that time comes, my finger hovers above the ‘9’ key on my phone so that as soon as the electronic message manager is finished reciting his number, I can press save without ever hearing his voice. I can’t listen to it, but I can’t delete it either.
Or consider how I make sure his memorial slideshow is on every device I take with me, everywhere I go – my laptop, my ipad, my ipod… But I never watch it. But I can’t be without it.
And I’m matter-of-fact every time someone approaches the subject with me, perhaps to a degree that is offsetting:
Are you asking me a dead Dad question?
Um, well, yeah.
Yeah. It’s tough. Sometimes better, sometimes worse.
And then the conversation is over, I’m sure with them feeling as though I’ve rapped the back of their knuckles with my grieving ruler. And there’s me, on to the next thought, on to the next conversation, fraudulently feeling as though my ability to be blunt is indication enough that I am dealing with it, that I am ok…that I’m not just pushing people away.
But callous as it sounds, what’s really going on is my emotions hovering just beneath my skin, susceptible not only to my own mental weather but to anything I see, anything I touch. A picture, a song, a father and a son passing by…any of it can send me reeling without warning. The difficulty I already have focusing is compounded and exponentially present; I look at the computer screen and have no idea what I am doing; I open a new window every time an idea hits me and soon I am lost in a sea of fragmented intentions; I sit for hours and accomplish nothing.
If anything positive has come out of the last year it’s a renewed awareness in my own mortality. But again I wonder what that means and if it is good or bad…or both. It’s good because I am hyper-conscious of my health and (some of the time) I make better decisions as a result. But it also weighs me down. I have frequent bouts of depression and anxiety that wrap around me at certain, unforeseen times and they squeeze.
Today my biggest fear is dying before my kids are old enough to deal with it. I have nightmares of them hurting, growing up without me, developing a thick skin and never being able to get close to anyone. During lunchtime with Ava I sit in the cafeteria of her school listening to the do’s and don’ts of kindergarten social order. While she ministers, I try and hold it together, losing years by the minute, ticking backwards in time until I am six years old too, and evangelizing to a hologram across the table that used to be my father. Lunch is over and by the time my foot hits the parking lot asphalt tears are streaming down my cheeks. I hide my head from others and pick up the pace, not wanting the heaving to start until I am locked away inside my car. And then it doesn’t stop.
What do I do with all of this?
I don’t know. I don’t even know what I am going to do with the rest of today.