Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I will tell you up front there are a few morals to this story, but to get to the moral, you have to wade through the story.

I woke up on June 21 feeling as though a weight had been lifted from me.  There, that's over, I thought to myself.  I've made it past the months of May and June.  Past Mother's Day, Kelsey's birthday, Father's Day, Greg's birthday and the anniversary we all dread the most.  Most of those days are supposed to be happy occasions, but of course now they are forever tainted, and the fact that they are all jammed so close together on the calendar is both an interesting blessing and a bit of a curse.  On the one hand, you get them over with in one big block with a few little breaks in between, but then again, I sometimes wonder if May-June will always be just a block of time to just grit my teeth and survive.  But that means I'm conceding 17% of every year and, I'm here to tell you, time flies like a rocket, so I'm not sure I want to give up 17% of the time I have left on this planet to mere existence.  The only real answer is to do the mental work to rebuild my personal psyche to withstand the assault May-June will always throw at me in much the same way I'm beginning to reclaim the rest of my life.  However, I digress.  Because, as much as I felt such an extreme amount of relief on a personal level for having gotten through the day, I couldn't escape a nagging feeling that something bad was about to happen.  I had myself half convinced that the plane home would crash or something - the feeling was that strong.  When we began the descent into Pittsburgh to choppy, cloudy skies, I thought briefly I might actually be right.  But, the plane cut through the rain clouds to reveal a gorgeous view of Heinz Field, the three rivers and Point State Park and the whole downtown as it swung around.  Long story short, we made it just fine.  My luggage was intact, even though I had to take a call from an upset client as I was trying to receive it.  I was beginning to think my overactive imagination was playing tricks on me when Greg picked me up right on time.

I spent the first half hour or more of the ride home listening to the client, but I could tell that Greg was annoyed about something.  I assumed he wasn't pleased that I didn't even say hello, already engaged in the phone conversation when he arrived.  But, finally, as soon as I hung up, he started in.  No, it wasn't my lack of greeting that was eating at him.  Something had transpired on the anniversary of Kelsey's death that had upset and worried him.  So, in he starts and that story takes up most of the rest of the ride in.  All the way through all the southern suburbs.  Through the tunnel that I love driving through so much because the cityscape explodes into view out the north end of it.   All the way up the highway to our exit.  In other words, the whole trip in I was either being bombarded by a client who was upset over something I could not possibly even check for him at the moment or being bombarded by a husband who was upset over something I had no control over.   As I listened, I realized this was the reason I had such a dreadful feeling.  But a number of other thoughts ran through my head too, vying for primary attention.  First was:  really?  You couldn't wait until we got home to hit me with this?  Second:  he didn't call me in Dallas to tell me, so he's bottled it up for two days and of course can't wait anymore.  Third:  really?  You had to lay this on me before even saying hello or asking me how the trip was?  I called you on June 20th, after all, nobody checked in with me, I notice.  And I was all by myself.  Fourth:  probably the nicest thing he could have done was not call me and let me concentrate on work.  Fifth:  who the hell voted me as the strong one who's supposed to figure all this stuff out?  Sixth:  oh look, there is a wild turkey on the side of the road.  How cool.  Seventh:  at least I'm home.  I really miss Pittsburgh when I'm away from her.

At the end of the weekend, we had more or less as a family figured some things out.  We'll have to see how it goes I guess, but in the end, the hard work will have to be done by only one of us.  But as I processed all the wild emotions of the past week or so, a few things come clear.  One thing I notice is, while I may be past the primary stages of grief, I'm certainly not as elastic as I once was.  My tolerance level for drama is pretty low.  I don't have the energy to try and face it, let alone fix it.  But, on the other hand, real life doesn't seem to really care.  It just keeps on coming, so I know that I have to get past that at some point.  But it helps to have some tools to lean on when things get tough as long as they are the right kind of tools and are not self destructive.

Now, with a few days to have processed everything, I know how traumatized Greg was, so I've more than forgiven him for hitting me with his pain the minute he had the chance.  I'm more ashamed of myself for not seeing how hard it was on him and how alone he had been, even though I was the one by myself in a hotel room that night.

So, this is what I learned from all of that:  recovery is fragile.  It can bend, maybe even break, with just a  ripple.  You have to know that going forward, accept it and have tools to deal with it and begin to rebuild it when it happens.  The next thing I learned is that I'm further along in that process because I do have those tools.  As I sat out back Friday night, watching fireflies dance in the high limbs of the trees around me and the dogs at my feet, I realized that I've done a pretty good job at finding the support system I need.  I may not have brothers or sisters to call and comfort me, but I have a furry family, I have this blog, and I have the city that I love so much.  That's why I'm the stronger one.  No one elected me for the role, I just managed to stumble on the right combination.  Now the task will be to find those tools for my husband.  My daughter, I think, is working on hers with some painful trial and error.

On Saturday, I took my heavy heart to the NHL Draft being held here and waited in line an hour and a half for my chance to see the Stanley Cup.  They not only let you see it.  They let you hug it, kiss it, stroke it, whatever.  I was amazed.  The one, the only Stanley Cup.  The most venerated trophy in all sport, in my opinion.  As I hugged this incredible piece of hardware, thinking how I was touching something that had been touched by the greatest to have ever played the game, I had a great sense of joy and calm in the sea of turmoil.  To anyone reading this who is trying to recover from trauma or grief:  you must find your Stanley Cup moments and use them to gather the strength to endure the rest of the day.

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