Mission critical elements.

I think it sort of surprised me that I somehow skipped over the depression and anxiety for Thanksgiving… but it found me anyway. I talk about what I am thankful for.
Really it is always there… but the intensity and tone might vary quite a bit. Sometimes it is quite manageable. Thankfulness helps.
I made it through three courses of food I shouldn’t eat in the amounts I ate them… and I slept very, very well.
And the next day I climbed a mountain… not metaphorically. Literally… two miles up to Echo Canyon with family.
And then the Japanese American National Museum. We have come so far… And then then the UCLA game. Which they won.
And the next day, watching Fresno State… who also won. I know he would have watched and cheered loudly at the screen.

I’m okay.
And if I said I wasn’t missing Ethan every step of the way, I would be lying.
My brother has the tubby Corgie named Coda… and Ethan used to pick him up… which was never easy, nor enjoyed by the dog… yet he did it every time.
And I think I can do this… Turkey. Stuffing. Sitting and wondering if he would have beer or wine with dinner.
It is neither depression, nor anxiety to wonder these things… what would he be like four years down the road… If he would have resolved his demons and found something, or continued lost… If he would have finished college and started a career or continued on for a Master’s…

We get a week off for Thanksgiving… and so I kind of kept busy and really didn’t get pulled down into that vortex that seems just beyond the curtain.
And then the week ended.

And going back to the usual routine… the thing that feels like anxiety and depression isn’t wondering about Ethan, or missing Ethan, or thinking about all the what ifs… It is continuing on. It is going forward missing a mission critical element. Carry on Carry on. Carry on… And trying to think about why? Why bother? What is at the end of this all, all the effort? Wasn’t the whole point about being a father… that the children would carry on? So now what?

I’m running on a treadmill… not a metaphorical one… a literal treadmill. Yesterday, I couldn’t find a rhythm. So I did two solid miles and then cooled down… Today was better. I’m carrying on. The mission continues even without this critical element.

And I am thankful for what I have.

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And then we lost Paul…

I wake up before my alarm every day
And for a moment I have forgotten that Ethan is gone.
Marquita sleeps.
In the dark… I have this moment of peace and the world is not totally fucked.
Then the moment is gone.
And sometimes in the quiet of the house
I cry.
Not all the time. But sometimes…
And then the alarm goes off.
And the world is as it is…

And last year I lost my brother Paul.
And I think about what a life he had…
And how it seemed that something was taken from him…
And how I lost him when I was seven years old.
And how we all lost a bit of him here and there along the years.

And that morning moment before the world is totally fucked…
I hope you had those moments too.

I am thankful for those moments.

On Grief and Love and Fear

Grief is love. And grief is fear.

And grief is that anxiety that I wake with.
I sit in silence and stare at the pencil marks on canvas
Knowing that I want to paint in the lines I have drawn
And I know that my shoes and the dog are waiting.
But I sit here trying to catch whatever breath I have left
Part of me wants to quit and lie down.
And not just do nothing…
but be nothing.
So I breathe. Because sometimes that is all I can do.
And part of me wants to do whatever I need to do to go on.
And what I feel…
It as if I am wandering in a field and can choose to walk to the water or to the trees, or to stay out in the center of the grass… and nothing is right.
I do not know what is in the water.
I do not know what is in the trees.
I do not know what is in the grass.
Any move brings about some change.
Maybe for better. Maybe for worse.
And in that there is fear of pain.
But staying here gives me no peace.
I have been broken by loss
And crippled by a pain that no one should ever know.
And I hold it, because sometimes I have nothing else left.
But the fear is that I can not go through that again.
And I don’t know if it will be asked of me again.
I grieve because I love.
I fear because I grieve.
I breathe because I am.
And then, I go on.

Four and a half years

I have taken to calling these thing panic attacks. Not to anyone but myself, because I don’t generally speak about them much if at all. It used to take me out for an entire day… just spent walking, or at least mentally wandering. Painting sometimes. Writing other times. It used to be deeper and more frequent and start when I woke up on some random day, and last until I fell asleep that night. But now it might hit me for a few minutes or a couple of hours.

Sometimes there are triggers, like a birthday, or the anniversary of his death or something that reminds me of Ethan. And sometimes there is no cause I can think of.

And it isn’t panic. It’s some kind of anxiety… but complicated. Sometimes it feels like I am more frustrated than sad, and sometimes it is that feeling of impending disaster. Sometimes I am just confused… lost mentally or that everything is a bit off… colors or flavors or the passage of time. Sometimes it feels like doubt. But it passes now, just a bit more quickly. So I guess that it is better.

Sometimes I can almost forget how bad it all hurts. It does. But the pain is old now and familiar. But it isn’t like I am forgetting that my son is gone… and there really isn’t some kind of limit to sorrow or emptiness or uncertainty. But I don’t always want to write about it. Somedays it just seems easier to not think about it and not connect Ethan’s death those strong moments of confusion or feelings of loneliness, and meaninglessness that swarm over me.

I’m pretty good at pretending now. I walked around for a month on a broken foot and even convinced myself that it was only a sprain… and I would have kept going except that it swelled up and stopped working… so I couldn’t walk. And I guess I do that… ignore pain. Just deny it until it either goes away or gets worse…

Pain

It’s Ethan’s birthday… and I’m not unusually depressed and I’m not taking the day off of work like I have in the past. I actually feel okay. Except for a sore foot… which I promise to stay off of as much as I can. Tonight I will go to the Falconer in Redlands and have a gin and tonic. (Bleech…)

I took yesterday off because my foot wasn’t working. It seems I broke it a month ago and ignoring the pain can only work so long until the foot says ‘no’ and keeps you awake and then flat out stops functioning. I stayed off of it. Took medication. Kept it elevated. So today it appears to be working well enough to get me from here to there with minimal pain.

I think I do that. Muscle through the pain. Ignore it. Man up. Work through it. Not that I don’t complain. I complain about everything. Everything, that is, except the important stuff. And sometimes it is just easier. It is easier to make a joke or be sarcastic or be angry than to be hurt. It probably isn’t all that honest to cover up pain, and I can fool myself pretty well, but it does have a function.

I have awful feet. I have plantar fasciitis. I have bone spurs. Lots of them. My feet hurt a little bit all the time. So when I partially tore my achilles tendon, yeah it hurt… but it wasn’t the pain that bothered me as much as the fact that suddenly my right foot wasn’t working so well. And then a month later, I tripped over second base and I thought I twisted my ankle. What I did was I broke my first metatarsal… a thin, straight crack… a fine white line on an x-ray that after a month indicated healing. I don’t know why it suddenly stopped working after a month, but I couldn’t bend my big toe or put weight on it… so I went to the doctor and then spent a day doing nothing.

So for a month I have had two sore feet that didn’t work well, and I kept trying. I continued to walk. I walk the dog a mile each day. Continued to play softball. I continued to jog… and when it hurt too much, I whined a bit, took Tylenol and waited until the next day to go out and abuse my broken foot bone and partially torn tendon. And like I said… I guess it worked… until it didn’t.

I know this isn’t the right way to treat my feet.

I’m a bit upset though because I was losing weight and running and working out and all summer I have struggled to get the work in. This put a hold in it and I have gained a good eight pounds in two months of limping. I actually had my 5k time down to my goal and I have been waiting to take my treadmill time and get it in an officially timed race. So this is frustrating.

Grief is similar. I hurt a little all the time and when it flares up, I rest a little and then go out into the world and soldier on. I ignore it, work through it, do what I can until it doesn’t work and I have to stop and catch my breath and wait for the pain to subside. I complain about the little stuff. Make jokes. Get angry. Change the subject.

So it is off to work. I promise to treat my feet better.

Happy birthday Ethan. Tonight I will have one drink in your honor.

Goodbye Dim.

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Today, I sat in a restaurant and cried. I sat by myself at a table, with a diet coke in one hand and a chocolate chip cookie in the other and I wept.

I miss my son.

And I just sold his car.

But here is the thing. It is just a car and a car is a thing. My son is dead, and the car is not him and it isn’t his memories and it is just a thing, which over time will decline in usefulness and value… and right now we could use the cash for something else: My other son, who is alive and breathing and who has a future.

I love my living breathing son… and I can’t let grief and things get in the way of life. I am going to spoil him… because I can. Because I love him. Because…

So we sold one son’s car for the down payment on a car for the other one. Because, like it or not, this son is alive and resources are for the living… not the dead. We move on because that is part of life. We move on because we can’t stay still. And sometimes it means that I have to let go… let go of things. Because things are not as important as people.

I drank the soda. I ate the cookie. My wife and son came to pick me up in his brand new car and he drove me to the dealership where I handed the finance director all the money I got from the sale. And it is good to be alive.