I am thoughtless.
A few weeks ago, I published a post about missing Husband when he was away on business. And this morning. He returns from another trip away. And I meant every word in that post. For better or worse, I was not dramatizing how much I missed my man. Not one bit. And maybe that makes me seem a bit pathetic to you? Maybe you recoil at the fact that when he is gone my life has a conspicuous missing piece?
I don't really care. Because this is how I felt. And feel.
In the late morning after I published that post, I called Mom to chat about some up coming vacation dates. And as I fired calendar questions at her, she said something. That she had just read my post. And that it made her weepy.
Because her husband isn't just gone for a few days.
Immediately, I felt terrible. Insensitive. Thoughtless. How in the world could I whine about being separated from my man for seventy-two hours when Mom, my very favorite blog reader, will be separated from hers forever? How did I not think of this?
Well, I did. Indirectly, I think. I think that because I have lost Dad, because I feel like I am losing him a bit more each day, I am that much more attached to Husband. Watching Mom say goodbye to Dad was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Watching her bravely get on with her life is rewarding, but also difficult. Because she misses him. A lot. Impossibly. And her longing is just under that porous surface of existence and it doesn't take much - just a clumsy blog post penned by her thoughtless daughter - to break it free.
And so. I don't think that blog post weeks ago was as straightforward as it seemed to me at the time. At the time, I thought I was just rolling around in the melancholy caused by a Sunday departure. But now, after talking to Mom, after thinking about things a bit more, I realize that my words were not that simple.
They never are.
I realize as I write this, and blink back tears of sadness and recognition, that because of what I have been through, I live in constant fear. Of loss. Of losing another person I love deeply. Of saying another impossible - and permanent - goodbye. Thankfully, this fear is more often than not unconscious. Thankfully, I do not meander through my moments scared of what might befall the creatures I love. But that fear is there. It is here. In the nooks and crannies of my mind. My heart. My words.
I do not find much time to read these days, but I did read Dani Shapiro's Devotion. On page 9 of her story, Dani -- who also lost her dad and almost lost her son when he was tiny - writes, "Inside each joy was a hard kernel of sadness, as if I was always preparing myself for impending loss." These words makes sense to me. They do.
More words that make sense to me? Those in a certain wonderful book I savored a while back called Shelter Me. Author Juliette Fay (who worked with my editor, the incomparable Lucia Macro, on this book) brings to life a protagonist who attempts to piece her life together after losing her husband. Ultimately, the story offers a tender portrait of life after loss. At the end of the book, in the author materials, Fay explains what prompted her to tell this particular story. And she says,
The story of Shelter Me has been in my head for a long time, in various forms. I think its first cell-divisions began when I got married. I had never loved anyone the way I loved my new husband, and had never felt so loved. I became quietly, privately terrified of losing him. I wonder if everyone doesn't have these thoughts at some point. You love someone - your spouse, children, best friend, aunt, dog - so much, you know that if anything happens to them, you might not be able to put one foot in front of the other anymore. Nothing would make sense. You'd forget how to do simple things like make toast or swallow... Then we started having children and I thought, "Okay, now I'm really in trouble." Not only did I worry that something might happen to them, I still had the fear of losing my husband, and I now had to worry on my kids' behalf about losing their father.
I read these words then and I read them again now and nod. Yes. I think that since marrying Husband a little over five years ago, I have been privately terrified of losing him. I have moments wherein I glimpse my world without him and I start to shake. I think that becoming a mother a little over three years ago exacerbated this terror. I watch Husband with my girls, I soak up the smiles and silliness, and I imagine what would happen if they didn't have him.
And then. Losing my own father less than two years ago brought things to a whole new level. An impossible level.
I am thoughtful. Maybe, just maybe, I am not thoughtless at all. To the contrary, maybe I am stuffed with thoughts. About the rough spots behind me and those that cruelly lie ahead. About the fact of mortality. About the gray reality that life boasts no guarantees. About the fact that I am privileged to love someone so deeply that fears of losing that someone snake through my soul and through my sentences. About the kernels of sadness and fear, hard and humbling, that reside even in my happiest hours.
Mom, I am sorry that my words weeks ago stirred something in you. And I am not sorry at all. Because they stirred something in me too. And I realize as I write this, these very words, that as time ticks by, as life threatens to settle into new rhythms, the memories and the tears they bring, are sometimes oddly welcome.
My post weeks ago was called "Missing You" and I now see that I kept this title generic for a reason. Because this was not just about me missing Husband. This was bigger. This was about Dad.
And about you too.
- Are you privately terrified of losing certain people in your life?
- If so, has this fear been made worse by certain events? The loss of someone close to you? Marriage? Having children?
- How much do you think our fears affect our writing, consciously or no?
- Have you ever written something and looked back at it and realized that you were not writing about what you thought you were writing about?
- Stay tuned for news about Happier Hour Part Deux! It was a smashing success!
ILI DAILY CHARMS: RESILIENCE
I had a mini light-bulb moment just now after reading two blog posts. First, I read Kim Arnold's beautiful piece on existential earthquakes. Two years ago, Kim's daughter Katherine survived an AVM rupture. And then I read Kristen's thoughtful piece Tough as [Bitten] Nails wherein she explores the meaningful distinction between toughness and resilience. The combination of Kim and Kristen's words sparked something in me (as Baby colored her chest with a red permanent marker): Life is an exercise in resilience, in bouncing back from the earthquakes big and small that shake our days. Thanks, Kim and Kristen, for making me think. And realize.