|from my art journal. June 2017.|
On Sunday, after I went food shopping for the week and came home and used the meat that had been in the refrigerator to make a double batch of chile, adding an extra pound of grass fed beef I had just purchased--and after I set 8 chicken breasts to marinate in a lime mustard marinade in the refrigerator--I then got my brother a can of soda as he requested.
Hey, did you put new cans of soda in the fridge? I asked.
This can should be ice cold and it's kind of lukewarm, I said handing him the can of Pepsi, recalling he had put the cans in the fridge the day before. Only he drinks Pepsi.
Yeah, I noticed that yesterday. How old is the fridge?
15 years. We bought it when we moved here.
Then I remembered. There had been a persistent smell. Onions. Each time I opened the refrigerator this last week I could smell onions and I was wondering why but not wondering too hard apparently. I was distracted. Preoccupied. I had been out most of the week in the evenings and when home I was so busy with a curriculum project that I had not cooked since Tuesday night. As Devon only seems to know how to order food, he too was not in the fridge very often. It remained closed and unnoticed.
Then I remembered a year ago having to call the repair person because the refrigerator was not working correctly. Like this time, ice continued to be made and yet the frozen fruit was slushy and the almond milk was almost cool, but not quite. The repairman told me we had a year or so left. My brother took a look and told me the year was over and so I bought I new refrigerator that was delivered yesterday, as it had been promised.
After the situation was handled and my brother left for home and Devon was tucked upstairs in front of a computer he built, I sat on the sofa and sobbed until I felt cried out. It was an eye-sore and blotchy kind of cry. When something breaks in our home, I feel the break in my bones, my heart. It reminds me that Rob is no longer here. I would not normally cry over a broken appliance. But on Sunday, I did.
Then, Devon and I went out and ate Mexican food for dinner.
I have needed a lot of help recently. My brother spent last weekend staining the back deck that had been power washed. I cleared most of the furniture off the deck on Friday night so it could be ready for him. Today a handyman is coming to fix a problem in the bathroom and my brother is returning to finish the deck staining. Yesterday morning a repairman fixed the air conditioner. Two weeks ago, my other brother climbed up a ladder and cleaned a bird 's nest out of the dryer vent and now the dryer works better.
All of this highlights what is most hard to accept. Rob is truly gone and my level of competence is woefully low. On Monday our son graduated high school--and though Rob was there in spirit I have been told, he was not there in flesh.
Milestones are so double-edged.
Yes, I am proud of and happy for Devon. Very. Yes, the loss is more acute at such times.
If you have recently suffered a loss, it might be best to ignore the books, the carefully worded columns by psychologists, and the advice from well-meaning friends who try to situate grief as something you will move beyond. This is inaccurate. There is no moving on as if the life the two of you created together could be something packed away.
There is no moving on. That is mythical.
For me, after loss, living has become more of a decision made and remade. I never lived so overtly before. Life's sweetness and pleasures have become more noticed, as have the wonders and ambiguities that mark my days--not because days, weeks, months, and a year has passed since Rob's death, but because living now requires a deliberateness it did not require before.
Living is harder, more noticeable.
Every overt decision made builds strength. Thoreau told us:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms...”
I had not lived.
My neighbor, Dawn, told me that every day we are shedding bone. This resonated. It almost seems as if sorrow allows for new bones to grow--ones that can carry the burden and joy of grief and hopefulness; sorrow and pleasure; uncertainty and caution. Thoreau closes Walden by saying,
"The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
Live wide awake.
Yes, there is more to the day than dawn.
Even after great loss. There is always more.
That's what time allows us to know. That is what must be savored.
It is not getting over,
being done with.
Grief teaches us to savor the now.
That's the gift.