Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I lost my mind a little bit last night.

Possibly, I lost my mind a LOT last night.

I'm not sure where to begin. This might be a lot of disjointed nonsense. I don't know.

Yesterday was our firm Christmas luncheon.

Our original plan for a firm Christmas party was much better - we were going to do something we'd never done before, namely, go out to see a movie together.

In years past, we often went to J~'s favorite restaurant for our Christmas lunch, because he was completely enamoured of their shrimp cocktail.

I thought that the plan to go see a movie was a good one - make a new tradition, do something unusual - do something that would not remind any of us of J~.

Our plan was foiled by the fact that the movie we had chosen isn't playing in our city until next month. (Thanks so much R*A*V*E *C*I*N*M*E*M*A*S and the stranglehold you have on my city. I so appreciate your monopoly and the way you insist on dictating what 5 or 6 movies you are going to play on the area's 50+ screens. I love you. NOT.)

So, it was decided that we would hold off on our movie outing and order in lunch for our Christmas luncheon.

As we did last year.

As we did last year because J~'s neuropathy from the chemotherapy made walking through the cold torture for him.

And last year, on the morning of our Christmas party, I had to take J~ to the ER (a story that deserves its own post), and in the ER, the realization that J~ wasn't going to beat the cancer hit me for the first time.

Yesterday morning I put on my fuzzy snowman sweater and jeans.

Yesterday afternoon I realized that I had worn that same snowman sweater on the day of last year's Christmas lunch, and I had worn it to the ER that morning with J~.

I didn't make that connection until about 4:00 in the afternoon.

Hours after the Christmas luncheon, I sat in my office in my snowman sweater and fought back the overwhelming urge to vomit, because I swear that, in the moment - as I realized that the sweater I was wearing was the same one I wore last year on that horrible morning - I could smell the ER in the sweater.

Which is ridiculous - the sweater had been washed and fabric-softened and there was no way it was still smelling of the fear and anger and frustration and rubbing alcohol and hospital cafeteria stench of the ER.

But at 4:00 yesterday afternoon, I probably would have sworn on J~'s grave that the sweater reeked of the hospital and I couldn't stand to have it next to my skin.

From 4:00 to 5:15 I worked maniacally, throwing myself into tasks that didn't take a lot of intellectual effort.

At 5:15 I drove home, avoiding thinking about that morning in the ER, fighting back tears.

When I walked in my house I discovered that my son's "State Project" - a project that his teacher had indicated would be completed at school - was due. This morning. And it was 90% not finished.

As I realized that my meager plans for the evening - dinner, walk on the treadmill, straighten the house, maybe watch Modern Family - were shot to hell by the necessity of making a huge project about New Mexico. The idea of staying up late, gluing and pasting and cajoling my son to just get the damn thing done - it was just too much to bear.

My head cracked open and a whole bunch of crazy spilled out.

I screamed. I cried. I hissed profanities about the teacher and the State of New Mexico.

I screeched at my son.

And then I tried to leave my house. I don't know where I thought I would go. (In my haste to rid my body of the stupid snowman sweater I was in purple sweatpants and a red t-shirt. I looked ridiculous.)

So, I just sat and cried for a while.

Which is not helpful, at all, in getting a project finished.

In the end, the project got done. Lana and I went to the grocery store. I walked on the treadmill.

Husband and Gabe did the whole project by themselves.

The kids were in bed by 10, only 1 hour late.

I sat in the tub with a glass of sweet red wine and re-lived that morning in the ER of one year ago.

I cried some more and felt like a total failure at pretty much everything.

I really thought I was starting to feel better. I really felt that the grief no longer had me in a stranglehold.

Last night the grief brought me to my knees and ripped me into tiny little pieces.

I'm not entirely sure how to put myself back together again.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Jesus. That does sound bad. I'm sorry that you had such a horrific day yesterday, and I don't think you're nuts to have had that reaction. You're getting reminders of the absolute worst thing in your life, day in, day out. Try to cut yourself a little slack, and forgive yourself for your freakouts. You wouldn't be a good person if this stuff didn't affect you. How awful would it be if J's passing meant nothing to you? You're honoring him, every day, when you remember him and grieve for him. I just hope you're taking care of yourself.

[Please give that sweater to Goodwill, ok? I don't care about the other history of that sweater. You're never going to be able to wear it again. Buy a new beautiful one.]

I just had a convo last night with a retired schoolteacher, talking about teachers who just don't give a crap, and make everyone's life difficult. A little warning from Gabe's teacher would have been nice. I get so pissed at schoolteachers who don't do their job and cause me problems (because they assume that a KID is going to be on top of these thingsā€”if you're a teacher, you should have figured out by now, that kids DON'T keep on top of things, and parents and teachers have to help the kids, as a TEAM.)

But the main thing is that last night, your family understood and pulled together around you. I'm glad you got a little time alone in the tub to de-stress.

I'm around for a while if you need to chat.

Thursday, December 16, 2010 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger mam said...

Oh G. What your friend Vanessa seems true; the reaction itself is a tribute to J, and the depths of the freakout are a refelction of the depths of the love. But that said, I wish I could turn off the hurt for you. I'm glad you've got others around you, in "real life," who can help.

And wow, you're a great writer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010 1:24:00 PM  
Blogger Sandra & Steve said...

I'm so sorry for your pain. Living without someone you love takes your breath away, don't let it take bits of you away too. Your J sounds wonderful, he wouldn't want this for you, you know that. Holidays are hard, wishing you comfort and some measure of peace.

Thursday, December 16, 2010 5:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I could take the pain away for you, too. It's okay. It's okay that you freaked out. This is the first Christmas without him. The "firsts" are always hard, always the worst.

Thursday, December 16, 2010 8:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ella At Last said...

As one of your "real life" friends, I think Vanessa has the ticket. Perhaps a burning of the sweatshirt. My backyard. Rum in hand. Tears flowing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Christmas without the ones we loved is awful. The first Christmas is dismal. I'm sorry. It sounds like you handled it a hell of a lot better than I would have.

Monday, December 20, 2010 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

It sure does come back to wallop you when you least expect it, doesn't it? A song on the radio, driving by a certain place in town, the way the light is falling. It's very random and just when you thought you had a handle on it, down you go on the roller coaster again.

Monday, December 20, 2010 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Grace said...


Tuesday, December 21, 2010 5:52:00 PM  
Blogger Coley said...

Oh no hon. I'm so sorry.

Saturday, January 01, 2011 8:30:00 PM  

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