Saturday, February 21, 2015

Searching for Reality

I read somewhere, probably on Facebook, that we are born in a day, die in a day, and we can change in a day. Let me tell you that death --of one's mate, lover, soul, conscience, and best friend for more than four decades -- causes major changes. Changes so huge that the brain cannot fathom it. He is gone. The words mean nothing.

He is dead.

No response.

I watch for his face in crowds. I wait to hear his voice -- always. I listen for the sound of him, breathe in hoping to catch his scent. My brain is sure that he will soon be home from work.... He will fix the window, the faucet, the stove. He will pay the bills and discuss investments with me and do the taxes. I wait.

Nearly three months later, my brain continues to disconnect from 'reality' and question just what is real? I can't truly be living in a world without my Derrol. He cannot have left me. We were two halves of a whole and wherever he went, I went. Wherever I went, he went. How could he leave and not take me with him?

Then the brain begins to question memories. Was he really part of my life? Am I only fantasizing about the years we spent together? The sons are real. A living testament to the man who helped mold them into the young men they are today. And yet, there are gaps in the memory. Most of the experiences are frozen somewhere and I am unable to thaw them enough to bring them to life. They reside in that same 'as told to' realm as baby pictures. I look at my mother holding this baby that is supposed to be me and I accept that it is part of my life, but I have no real connection to it.

This unreality is punctuated by sudden outbursts of sobbing that seem to have been squeezed right out of my soul. Loud, sloppy crying that scares the cat. That scares me by the intensity. I cry until my whole body is heaving, until I curl up around myself and let the seizure take me. I cry until my hands are dry and I'm dehydrated.... I don't know why I am crying. Nothing in particular started it. Perhaps a tone of voice, a bit of sympathy might lead me down that path. At first I couldn't listen to oldies music -- the Beatles, Queen, all of the songs of our years of love and companionship and friendship. Sunday -- the day he died -- is hopeless. The usual rituals are to be avoided. I wander around from room to room, searching for him. The cat watches.

Often the cat abruptly raises his head, ears alert. He stares into nothingness. Stares at the place where my Derrol was last alive. And I look, but see nothing. Hope stays alive and I speak his name. "I miss you," I add. "Please come back...." And then I feel guilty because he has moved from pain, disease, suffering and despair to a better place. My Protestant training says he is in a better place. I don't believe 'he' resides in that box of ashes on the book shelf.

Those warriors who have gone before me through this valley of death tell me that grief is like waves of the ocean, like a roller coaster, unpredictable and surprising, always striking when you least expect it. Washing over me and then leaving me adrift in a tidal pool of tears and aloneness. It is easier when I am alone. I can just let it run its course. I can let the grief toss and beat me up and then go away. There is no need to be strong, deny it, put on a happy face, feel compassion for others, worry about their feelings. I can just deal with the grief one-on-one. Some days I come out the victor, feeling strong and able to put it in its place. Weekends are the worst and usually grief rolls over me like a steam roller. Weekends were our together time. Or I seem to remember it that way.

Essays I have written about him, about us, help me to remember that there was an us. A Derrol. My written words seem to create a memory that seems familiar. I can hear him as he reads it saying, "Is that part what you call literary license?" And my response, a bit defensive, saying, "That's how I remember it...."

Are those memories simply me concocting happier times?

I fear the day when my brain reconciles with reality. When it hits me that he is truly gone. It hits me like a slap on the face when I see my status listed as 'widow.' I wear the gold ring. I am married. I repeat that mantra in an effort to believe it. I do believe it, I just don't feel it.

Married until death do you part. No, it doesn't work that way. Married until all of your senses, your heart, your brain, your being comes to terms with this crack in the universe, this shift that has left you on one side and him on another of a divide that can't be traversed.

Until that time when reality rights itself, I live in a fog, a half-life. I keep living until I am actually alive again. Perhaps this is the essence of purgatory -- that tweener stage between life and death, between heaven and hell.

I continue to breathe. Forget to eat and then eat as if I am famished. Feed the cat. Brew the coffee. Wash the laundry, dishes, floors.... A robot going through the motions. My computer brain runs the show, the human brain is frozen in 'search mode.'

I cling to living until I am alive again. And, silly as it sounds, even to me, I cling to the hope that he hasn't gone, that he's only around the next corner and if I walk a little faster, I will catch up to him, feel his strong arms around me, his whiskery face rubbing my cheek, his lips on mine. His scent filling my nostrils and his love enveloping me....  I wait for that day. It only takes a day, a moment. I was born in a day, married in a day, fell in love in a day, gave birth in a day, and yet each day I do so miss that man of mine.

The tears are gathering. I must stop and wait them out.... They seem to wash away some of the pain and allow me to go on a bit longer, a bit stronger.