Monday, May 31, 2010

Delayed Reaction?

As Marissa and sat in the Tick-Tock Diner at the corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, just the two of us alone in the most crowded city in the country, we discussed how she seems to be the one who has handled the death of her sister the best.  Her response to my declaration was to tell me it was because she hasn't dealt with it.  She said this matter-of-factly.  She followed it by saying that she may end up having a nervous breakdown in three years, but that's just the way it is for her.  When traumatic things happen, she doesn't process them immediately.

I pondered what she was saying, as I watched the ebb and flow of the city passing by the diner windows, and hoped she was under-estimating herself, but not sure but what she was telling the complete truth.  Her actions and reactions over the last year could be argued as either an acceptance that her father and I lack or complete and utter denial.

So it is with her forays into reclaiming the upstairs bedroom once more.  We are not the kind of people who want to set up a shrine to our missing family member by never touching their things.  However, it sort of happened to an extent because we just could not bring ourselves to expend the emotional energy it would take to sort through Kelsey's things, determine what to do with them, where to put them and then actually take them all away.  Marissa forged her way back in, with her myriad of clothes, books, supplies, shoes, and God knows what all, spilling it all into the hallway, the odd walkway off the hall, the spare bedroom she had been occupying, but mainly into the room that had last been Kelsey's.  I was originally impressed by how she did it.  She didn't take all Kelsey's things down of the walls, although she did remove some. Rather, she incorporated her own things in and around Kelsey's.  She had a bit of her sister mixed in with mostly her own personality.  She did the same with the books on the shelves.  I sat with her as she determined what should go and what she wanted.  As I watched her intertwine her things with her sister's, I was impressed with how she managed to keep Kelsey alive without sublimating her own personality.  And then I thought how she had been like that for a while.

Greg doesn't seem to be able to talk or even think about Kelsey without a bone chilling sense of loss.  I am sort of all over the place.  I could bear coming across pictures or mementos of Kelsey in my mother's things in doses.  Too much of it in a single day, and the next day would send me into a dark spiral.  Sometimes I can have someone say something that strikes me as thick headed or out of ignorance of our situation, and I can shrug it off.  Sometimes I fly into a rage if someone simply looks like they're thinking the wrong thing.  But Marissa seemed to be able to talk about her sister comfortably.  She went through pictures with me, laughing at our fashions, or what we were doing, reminiscing about what she remembered of the occasions with veritable ease.  I would marvel at this, thinking that she was where her father and I should strive to be.  She had gotten to the point where she could accept her sister as being a pivotal part of her life and celebrate that inclusion, rather than shy away from it or be ashamed that she continues on.  I can't do that.  I can't celebrate the fact that I had a daughter.  That past tense "had" keeps it from being anything more than tragic for me.  Yet.  But, I would like to be there someday.  I would like to remember the days before The Beast came and be glad for them.  I think I should be.  I think I should be able to think of Kelsey as the sweet little girl she was once and be glad for her.  I think I should even be able to remember the glimpses of the true Kelsey that poked out from behind the cloak of the eating disorder, but I'm not there yet.  Greg really isn't.

Marissa has completed a full year of college with a 4.0, is managing her adult relationship, is conquering her own demons, and is reclaiming the forgotten/forbidden upstairs, all while coping with the loss of her much loved sister.  So, I have held her talents in grief management in the highest esteem.  But, as I picked on my chicken with goat cheese sandwich and sweet potato fries, I wondered if she was right.  Maybe she can do all these things because it simply hasn't hit her fully yet.   I hope that for once, lately, I am right and she has processed more than she thinks she has.  I hope that Life allows to her to have a softer landing than her father, who couldn't even get through a work day, or me, who looked in the mirror the same day as that conversation and realized I looked like I had aged a decade in the past year.  But, you realize, whatever the case is, that when someone young dies an untimely, unnecessary death, there are always more casualties to follow.

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