There’s nothing so exquisitely painful as the unintentional grief you cause someone in in effort to right a lot of wrongs. Every action you take affects someone else, usually someone you love. It’s just how it is. There are days when death would be preferable to divorce. The death of the other, not yourself. Widowhood is so much easier to understand. There’s sympathy built in to its very nature. But when you remove yourself from a bad situation, well. The losers lie at the side of the road, moaning and nursing wounds. And they are the people you least wanted to hurt.
I had a week with Red that had promise but she was sick for 10 days. One night, she slept for 12 hours; so long, I had an awake-dream that she was dead. What else could explain it? She never came to my bed, there were no fever-induced nightmares, no sleepwalking. I saw myself discover her body, check for rigor mortis. I went over all the plans that would have to be cancelled. All the people who would have to be notified. All the papers that would need to be filled in, signed. How would I possibly live through this? Should I bury her or cremate her? How would this be paid for? What it I just never told anybody?
And then I got up, still absolutely certain this was the only reason I hadn’t been woken in the night, to listen at her door (she keeps it closed against monsters), too afraid to open it to see. Either I’d find her dead or the creak would wake her up.
The door was ajar. The bathroom light was on. She’d gotten up to pee at some point and left the light on as she tends to do. I stuck an eyeball up to the crack. I could see her body rise and fall as she breathed. Alive. Still alive. Of course she was. Of course. This was just a virus. A summer malady that took 10 days to get over. It’s not fair. Life’s not fair. Nothing’s fair.
Our week was marred by her feeling bad, by her up and down fever, by my having to work all day, by her toughing it out at drama camp even though a better mother would have nursed her better, stayed home and sucked up the vacation time, watched movies on the sofa for five days straight while fretting over the lack of food being eaten.
On Sunday, the second day of her return to sick-free earth, she was sad and cried. I was unable to coax a reason out of her and just hugged her – even while forcing her to take a bath. Told her she could say anything, tell me anything. There were no bad thoughts, no wrong feelings. But what I also wanted to say was, “Hey, my divorce was so much worse than yours! My dad didn’t have a room for me! My mother couldn’t get past her own victimhood to care about my pain. You’re the lucky one!” But, it’s not true. Our joys are shared but our sadness is our own. It’s unique. We have to own it and name it and cry it out and then throw it away. We have to tuck it in an envelope addressed to ourselves.
So, I tried to open all the doors and windows I could and can only hope that she is one day able to name her fears, her sadness, and tell me. Or write it down. Talk therapy or word therapy.
Not a lot else got done today. I had made these long, long ridiculous lists of musts (as if I’m planning to die soon and know there’s no time to waste) and only a fraction got completed. Yes, I turned the neglected apples into a pie. Yes, I attempted to make some kind of pickles out of (half) the cucumbers. Yes, pesto was made for dinner and tomatoes added but jesus, they keep coming. A waterfall of tomatoes. A terrible problem to have.
There’s a bedroom to paint and dishes to wash and a yard to mow. And every time I change something around in the house, I worry. Is it too much change for them? I personally can’t seem to get enough of it but I’m not the only one living here.
But the laundry got done and the guinea pig cage got cleaned and the dead mice were finally taken to the dump in a bag inside another bag filled with shards of glass that had once been my favorite pyrex dish I broke on the stove because I forgot to turn off the burner. It shattered right in front of me. A cascade of glass that was startling and kind of amazing. More amazing if it hadn’t burned the vinyl flooring and been another mess to clean up but still….a thing you don’t mind seeing once. But it meant yet one more thing to replace, to buy, to spend money on.
Life is drudgery punctuated by deep sorrow and small peaks of hope. It’s the goodness of too many vegetables. It’s the frustration of not enough time. Of half-attempts and second guessing. Of accidentally destroying something you wanted to keep.
Of wondering when you really won’t actually care what other people think and cutting off people who aren’t your friends and never will be no matter what you’d hoped would be the case. Of not letting snubs hurt. Of saying “fuck it” to a day that was going to be filled with getting things done and instead became a day of comforting someone more confused than you and hurting and unable to verbalize all the feelings inside her and letting that be as it should be and enough of a day. Of letting go of the guilt that you’d wanted it be more, that you’d wanted to wallow in your own grief and weren’t allowed to, of remembering that it’s often more about others than yourself.