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.

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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.

IMG_0244

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.

I am still…

I am still in a ball on the floor. I have never left. As much as I tried and tried to melt into the carpet and flow into the earth.

And the notes that played on the piano are played in a sequence, and it follows a tempo.
I make a sad melody. And there is a math to this…
I am still afraid of losing someone else.
Because no matter what is likely to happen, in my mind I have calculated the worst possible scenario so that maybe this time it won’t be as bad.
I am still breathing.
I am still missing my son. I am still trying to figure it out.
I watch the growing clouds a thunderhead rises above the ridge. And I wait for that storm to reach us.
I am still wondering what my life would be like… without that day. Calculating where my son would be and what he would be doing… and computing the effects his restored life would have on everything else.
Either I can see him or hear him in everything and everywhere… or I can’t remember anything about him and it is like I lost him all over again.
It never goes away. And I am still running through it in my mind.
I am still broken. And I can still feel his pain in the night.
And the frogs have not stopped calling. So the rain is a ways off… it is in the forecast.

I have broken something else and I find blood on my face for no reason.¬†And even though I can’t see through the fog all time, I am still.
The truth is staying in motion seems to keep the edge off. So I am always busy and never still. I set goals and make lists and I calculate… doing things. Doing things.
And there is a rhythm and time signature and key signature and a set of chords that I am familiar with. There is a math to this… a relative minor, a tonic, a fourth. And it generates a simple melody. I melt into the music and let the lyrics sink into my soul.
And so I mix paint like I am trying to make a place to visit.
But I am still running up loose earth on a hill that keeps sliding under my feet.
I paint the canvas like this will make it work.
I still wash the brushes and no matter how much I tell myself to leave the edges loose… I paint in those details and let them melt into the canvas.
I am still learning.
And so I write a poem like I am trying to listen
And I calculate how it will communicate that one bit of feeling.
It trails off… into the distance. Into memory.
I am still melting into the earth like the hail from a summer thunderstorm.
I am still in a ball on the floor.
I am still wanting.
I am still sad.
I am still.