Last week I had several pretty good days. Some friends came into town that I hadn’t seen in a few years. It’s therapeutic for me, and for anyone I think, to spend time with people who have known you forever. They know you well enough that they don’t have to pepper you with questions, even if they don’t have any answers. The answers are in the nonverbal looks and gestures, the answers flowing out without questions ever being asked.
I have also developed great ways of being with my daughter. With her being my surviving child, I am constantly marveling at her beauty and her humor. I stare at her still-brand new skin and think, “I’ve still got her.” This magical collection of cells and energy, a collection which happened once in history and will never happen again, is still here. I’m far from a perfect parent, but I take more time with her than I used to do. I listen more intently, hug a little longer, and hold off on giving an impatient sigh when she asks for the 5th hug before I close her door for the night. Being with her has always been an absolute joy, but now it has a deeper level of magic because I don’t know…well, I just don’t know. She is a constant ray of light for me.
I laughed quite a bit last week. I allowed myself to feel some moments of joy without immediately admonishing myself and feeling guilty afterwards. It’s not that I didn’t cry. I did, just not as much.
It’s times like these where you wonder if you’re doing as well as you think you are. The first time it happened I wondered if something inside of me had shifted. If maybe I had moved to some different level of grief. It was also a scary feeling, because I felt a little removed from my son. It’s a red flag, one that you tuck in the waybacks of your brain.
Then the pendulum swings back. Hard. The level of happiness you feel is directly correlated to how bad it becomes later. If the pendulum goes way, way into the happy zone, you can feel pretty confident you will be hit in the face with that thing when it swings back later. The longer the pendulum takes to swing back, you know you’re in for a zinger. It took me a few times to realize this. I’d be going along feeling pretty good for sometimes a few days at a time. I’d start to feel a little scared, wondering why I wasn’t feeling as close to him, why it wasn’t hurting so bad. And then something would happen and the pendulum would come full throttle back to me, leaving me wondering how I will ever, ever survive this.
The pendulum came back on Sunday. I was looking at his picture, as I do every day. All of the details about his death came floating back. Details that no parent, no relative at all, should ever have to experience ever. Details that are simply too awful to write. The pendulum isn’t really a pendulum. It’s the brain’s door. The door shuts for awhile to give its owner a break from reality. The break feels odd, like something isn’t quite right, but it feels pretty good. The longer the door is shut, the wider it opens later on. Right now the door is wide open. The feeling is so bad I wish it’d never shut again.