Saturday, October 27, 2012

We All Fall Down

 One thing I have to say about no hockey is that I have gotten out more.  I remember thinking at one point last year that I was watching my first fall in thirty years from my window.  This year, I've been able to wander out and around the neighborhood and marvel at the sights up close and personal.  It's amazing to see the explosion of color.   It's not like back home - Montana - actually.  The humidity sort of literally puts a damper on things, but that is a minor complaint.  I'm not sure that any words I can write here will do it justice, but there are some evenings when Cheyenne and I kick our way through the fallen leaves and gaze up at the trees in the local cemetery, and they seem almost like they are on fire as the last of the sun catches the reds and the golds.  And I think to myself how lucky I am to be here.  I caught myself sort of marveling at that fact recently as we made our way around the labyrinthine paths of the old cemetery, Cheyenne keeping her nose to the ground in constant pursuit of new and interesting smells, me with eyes on the treeline and my head in the clouds.  I would almost say I'm blessed because this is like a dream come true, but then I remember what it took to get me here.  I realize had I not lost a daughter, I would still be in Texas.  I would actually still be in debt.  We'd be struggling to pay the mortgage and keep up with the payments on the second mortgage we took out.  Greg would probably be doing the same job he had when I left, and I'd be a collections clerk.  Would she still be sick?  Maybe.  Probably actually.  So, I'd still be hiding the coffee under the doggie steps, I'd still be finding bags of vomit under the bed if I ventured into her room.  There would be the constant worry about how long her body could take it before shutting down on her.  I would have a pool, I would have my deer and my dogs, our friends would be close by, but life would be a struggle on a lot of levels, and there wouldn't be This.  This amazing city, with its zoo and museums.  This proximity to the team I've loved for so long.  This amazing fall.

Life isn't a total bed of roses.  My job can be stressful and steeped in negativity.  I can't take vacation because there is no one to cover one of the tasks I'm responsible for - or at least not without undue burden on others - so I may not be at burn out, but I'm definitely crispy around the edges.  There's the stress of Greg worrying over his brother, there is the tug of money (sometimes made worse by living in a city with so many wonderful things to do), and we still worry about Marissa.  But, the truth of the matter is, life is so much easier than it was.  It's a plain and hard fact of losing someone who has been sick for a long time.  I noticed it right away actually.  How quiet the house was.  Actually, at first, that quiet was nearly deafening.  I hated being in the house by myself because it nearly screamed the silence at me.  But, we could do things and have things around the house that we hadn't been able to for a long time.  We could leave for a movie and not worry about what was happening back at the house.  And the rest of your life opens up in front of you.  It's just the way it is.  It adds a layer to living with grief that others don't have.  If your loved one is just suddenly taken from you, say in an accident, or a sudden and quick illness, your life shifts, but there is not that competing sensation of no longer having all those responsibilities mixed with the grief.

The irony of it all was on my mind on a lovely autumn evening when it was hard to imagine anyone having a care in the world.  But, you know that thought process is not unique to me.  I remember when my father-in-law died.  He had been sick for a long time, and my mother-in-law had steadfastly cared for him, worried over him and staying by his side with the help of her oldest daughter.  Then he was gone.  She was still young enough and financially secure enough that she had a chance at freedom.  I actually remember thinking of her life as a widow that way:  freedom.  And she did venture out into the world.  A few months later she took a trip to Scotland and had a fall while she was there.  As I recall she broke an ankle.  She developed some health problems after that which were fairly serious.  I always sort of thought that it was almost like Survivor's Guilt.  I have no idea if that is a valid diagnosis or not, but I remember thinking it was so odd that she finally got a chance to spread her wings a little and they were immediately clipped.  Maybe she was exhausted and her immune system was compromised as a result.  Maybe it was strictly coincidence, but I tend to believe true coincidences are rare.  Maybe it was a lot of things combined, but you wonder how many people just have not been able to live with the guilt of feeling some relief from no longer caring for a loved one.  How many can't overcome that?

I probably sound like I am complaining.  Complaining about a pleasant and simple life.  I'm not, but I do have to wrestle with the guilt that naturally comes along with it.  Would I trade the sunset streaking through the leaves in this idyllic little piece of the world to have Kelsey back with us.  Of course I would.  But, do I love it here?  Yes, I really do.  And sometimes that seems like it's not quite right.

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