Sunday, May 31, 2009

Steps Forward Steps Backward

Last night we went to a baby shower for the soon-to-be first grandchild of good friends. It was a lovely party -- all of our friends were there, the young couple was beaming, the food was spectacular, and the hosts have been working steadily on their yard for years and have completely transformed it.

We lasted about an hour. It's really, really hard -- everything smacked of middle-aged couples enjoying the fruits of 25 years of labor (no pun intended) -- beautiful home and gardens, children grown and producing their own, everyone our age relaxed and comfortable because the few small children toddling around were the responsibility of the next generation.

I had imagined that we might be planning a wedding in our family this summer, and instead I had to mail off a death certificate before we went to the party. I thought our hour-long drop-by was a pretty good effort, but I'm sure we'll hear about it eventually.

This morning I'm doing the reading in church. It will be the first time in a year that I have stood before a congregation. When the office administrator sent me the reading earlier this week, it was the dry bones passage from Ezekiel. I looked at it in astonishment and thought, "I can't read this." So I tried it out loud a couple of times and thought, again, I need to call and ask them to find someone else. And then I thought, No, I need to just do it. I need to just stand there and read a passage about bones coming to life. Even though they don't.

Then a second email came; new passage: the expected description of Pentecost from Acts. I tried that a couple of times. The list of geographical names makes it almost worse, I thought. But this one I can do. It's a celebratory Sunday for the conclusion of a major church project in which I have not participated, but I can survive that, too.

I feel, all the time, as if I am living two lives. It's like walking down the middle of a road, one foot coming down on each side of the center line. To the right is normal life, in which everything looks and functions as it always did, and no one has any idea that the view from the left is completely altered and the road feels like quicksand.

Or maybe some of them do, in a small way. I encountered a new hazard at the party last night: people we haven't seen since the funeral, or before. They greet me with that hangdog look, but they don't say anything. It would be so much easier if people would just shake hands and say "I was so sorry to hear about your son" or "I've been thinking about you ever since last summer."

I know it's hard to get it right. Do you say something or do you pretend nothing has happened? Are you risking a response in the form of a torrent of tears, or in the form of an offended silence?

I can't think of any other way to do this. I treat myself gently, but each next thing poses a major existential dilemma.

What I would really like is to move to a small cottage with a cat on a barrier island far, far away.


karengberger said...

I can relate to many of the feelings that you describe here. And if you really want to move, you can do it--figuratively, or literally.

I have stayed close to home, letting go of all but the most essential and beneficial relationships, for nearly two years. I guess I moved to that island figuratively. It has been a good thing, for the most part, and I am feeling better now than I have since Katie's diagnosis. I'm not saying, "I've arrived," because I haven't; I don't think I ever will "arrive, because I don't know where I'm going." I'm not saying, "I have the answer," because there isn't one. It's as different as this moment from the one before, and as different as each one of us is from another. I think one important thing I'm learning is that I don't know where I'm going or how I'm going to travel, but I know I am not alone on the path. God is Love and presence.

I have hope and faith that you will find what you need, each moment, as you do your best to listen on your path. God bless you!

Gannet Girl said...

Thanks, Karen.

Anonymous said...

As always in my prayers of petition I request comfort for you as well as myself. Your story touches my heart as we appear to be walking the same path at different times - a labyrinth of ups and downs. This morning at church, during the service, an angelic voice sang You Lift Me Up and, right there, the tears began to flow. It was a CD that was on my baby girl's player. I have been patting myself on the back as I felt I had made a bit of progress and learned to keep my box lid tight except in my private times. Unexpected moments are the toughest. Our sermon was about change - appropriate and poignant.
Perhaps you are weary of my repeated thank yous for your ability to put into words what your blog readers so often need to hear. Understanding is the best gift you can give to those of us who need it so badly.

Michele said...

it hurts when people dont acknowledge... i think they feel like if they ignore it then they wont hurt you not knowing how much the lack of words hurt.