I did not know.

I did not know Kate Spade. I did not know who she was until I got word of her death by suicide… and it is the manner of death that connected me to her story. Today, I learned of Anthony Bourdain’s death. And it touched me.

I thought his transparency about his struggles with drugs, his emotional issues, and divorce, and frequent feelings of inadequacy… I thought this openness would protect him. That he was alright. A role model. I did not know.

I did not know Brandon or Sean… or Katy- who took her life at 12. And even though I am a parent who has lost a son to suicide, I do not know what Katy’s parents are going through. I see parents all the time who have lost a child and I don’t know how they do it… keep on living. Keep on being functional humans.

This blog connected me with Jason and his mom from New Jersey when Jason was recovering from attempting to take his life. They read my blog and so did their friends and friended me on Facebook and we talked that way from time to time… until Jason took his life two years ago, followed by Amy, his mother a month later. She had two daughters who had died years and years ago when her sister, driving drunk, crashed while bringing them home. And I don’t know what that burden would be like… but it cost Amy her marriage, and then her son, and then herself.

Grief does that. I think of ripples in a pond.

I connected with grieving parents online, and so many of them are dealing with suicidal thoughts. Too many with substance addiction. Too many with estrangement from family and broken marriages. I did not know that grief would echo in such a way and continue to touch lives, change lives…

People talk to me as if I know something… and I try to give them something of value. But what I do know is that I have theses vast areas of ignorance, that there are too many secrets, and that although we think of ourselves as complex and inscrutable, it is often everyone else and everything else that is difficult or intricate or covered and twisted and changing. I don’t know what to say. I write and I don’t know what to write. I paint and I don’t know what to paint.

I see parents who won’t touch their child’s room and it becomes a shrine. I see others who erase every painful object, every sign of their child’s existence. And often it seem there is one in a couple that keeps everything that for the other is an unbearable and constant painful reminder. I see some who withdraw and some who speak. I see some that go on, seemingly unimpeded, while others struggle to get out of bed. And I do not know if there is a right way to do this, but some ways seem very wrong.

Five years. I am still grieving. I still do not know.

I want to help. I want to make it better. I want to show that in those ripples, something good can happen. That life will be life, and there is sunshine and color and music, even in the echoes of great tragedy.

Advertisements

What I won’t admit

It almost seems like if I think about how much I miss my son, how overwhelmingly sad this is, even after five years that I am opening up that reality… that to speak it is like the Dan Akroyd moment in Ghostbuster’s… “choose your doom”

But the truth is that there is pain and emptiness and a deep sense of loss that exists in my life as real as the sunrise or the wind or the night.

And it is there whether I acknowledge it or not… hidden or in the open, intense or subtle, but always real.

Not written…

So I was thinking and thinking about what to write and I had the germ of an idea…  something to do with expectations and what happens in life… but it wouldn’t gel. And so I thought, I better write something soon, or people will lose interest.

Hope Begins in the dark…

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
— Anne Lamott

I am awake when I should be sleeping. But my wife was in a car accident. I was working in the gallery when my phone rang, and although I could see it was from her, there was no sound on the other end. (Her phone was still connected to the car’s bluetooth… and she was sitting some distance away on the curb.) Then I saw a brief series of messages from her to my son and me about being in a bad car accident by Trader Joe’s. So I closed up the gallery and got in my truck and headed the four blocks or so over.

I could see police cars and police men in the street. And a fire truck. And as I got closer, the back end of a white Mercedes at an angle… with it’s front wheels splayed and nose smashed and pinned down.

I could have walked there faster. The accident had blocked the intersection of Orange and Pearl and there were lots of flashing lights. And every light, every lost driver thinking of a detour was hindering my progress. So with some effort I got to the parking lot, parked the truck, and waded through the landscaping to get to my wife at the curb. And the sight that greeted me stole my breath. Her car, just a dozen feet away… her precious blue Jeep, lay on its side. She hugged me, and kind of laughed… and  kind of cried.

She was a bit banged up, but fine.

And as she spoke to officers, I took pictures of the scene and watched the tow trucks arrive. My son arrived. We emptied her car.I called the insurance company… the wrong one at first… but then the right one, and we walked over and ate lunch at a Greek restaurant as I started a claim with the right insurance company.

And she went off to Urgent Care with my son as I went back to the gallery for two more hours. The doctor made sure everything was fine. A scraped shin. Bruises on her arm and legs. Soreness. She is fine. She’s cleaning the chinchilla’s cage as I write this… and staying home from work tomorrow. And I am awake.

Thinking.

I am glad I got a chance to be Ethan’s father. I feel luck to have been a part of his life. It has taken five years of grieving to get to the point where I can write that with conviction… but today I know I could have lost my wife suddenly. And I thought about Ethan, and losing him. Instead of thinking, “I can’t go through that again.” I thought of how blessed I was to know him and be a part of his life.

Justin, my other son, just moved out again yesterday. And he had moved back in after Ethan died… which I found comforting… knowing that he was okay. And I guess I have spent five years with the visceral worry that I would lose him or Marquita and that I could not endure another such loss.

But somehow I know that even though it would break me and change me and hurt beyond hurt… I would endure and survive until I could one day reach the point where I could say that I was glad to share his or her life. That still, even with that loss… I was lucky. That even in grief, I was blessed.

Bad things like car accidents will happen in this life. Death will always happen. But we have a hope, and it is stubborn.

Somehow I know, that if I just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. I will wait and watch and work: I don’t give up.

The Weak and the Silent

So I’m reading what he wrote, and I don’t know what to say…
It is another grieving dad, like me, who lost his daughter not yet three years ago.
And now his wife, too, has died.
And the causes are almost irrelevant
His daughter lost her struggle against drugs and depression
His wife lost a brief battle with cancer.
And so he turned to social media to say that he was again, broken.
And I fell silent.
I could have clicked on “like” or the heart or the little crying face.
But I’m looking at his wife’s picture…
And she looks so much like the pictures of his daughter.
And there are no words.
And I try to remember from previous conversations or posts…
If there are other children.
I click on his profile and there are no pictures except what he has posted in grief.
And I think the young man with the family in the jet ski photos is a boyfriend
of his daughter now gone.
And I look at that reply box below the pictures
It is empty
And I am not yet leaving a comment
And I feel like all my strength has left me
And words, inadequate words
have deserted me.

5

I have seen the psychiatrist… and he has affirmed that I am doing well.
I have a bottle of pills that are supposed to ease anxiety and compulsive or racing thoughts. I haven’t taken one yet.

But I have to circle around to what I feel and why I feel it:
My son was not supposed to die.
My son should be entering adulthood and running out on his own.
My son should be growing older as I grow old.
And I should at some interval, be able to call him on a Sunday and hear his voice.

I should not have to feel this awful emptiness… this loss. I should not have to feel bereft.
I should not be looking into this profound void and feel it sucking from me every last hope and joy. I cannot help be astonished to think of today, and tomorrow and the next day… facing the reality of loss. The heavy, visceral, solid reality.

But that is the reality of it. A reality that no pill can erase. A reality waiting for me at the end of every moment of joy, or upon every moment of waking, or at every silent moment.

I imagine

I imagine you, not as some human headed angel playing a harp on some cloud.
I can imagine you dancing. I can imagine you laughing.
I can imagine you eating a whole pizza and then complaining.
I can imagine you doing a funny walk, just because
Or wearing a new hat.
I can imagine you with long hair, or a shaved head.
Or being bored on a Saturday morning.
I can imagine what a phone call on a Sunday night would be like.
Or another long drive across the plains in Texas.
Or watching you play percussion.
And most of all, I can imagine your arms around me tighty… lifting me off my feet a little.

And really, that is all I can do.
Imagine.