Thursday, February 25, 2010

“I’ll Meet You In Albuquerque”

It never ceases to amaze me how death and loss and grief tend to shape and control the mind. Those first weeks were quite the testament to this and I am continually amazed at the shaping and controlling that has taken place in my head through it all. The most hurtful, painful, anger-inducing memories I had of him became grey and fuzzy and I was immediately brought back through a series of snap-shots that were shiny and pretty. Then suddenly, after the static-covered events of those days were set on fast-forward, he was dead.

I don't know if my mind and my heart took charge and rearranged things in order for me to protect my girls from the gruesome, violent and horribly awful ending of his life and the incidents that slowly led up to it over the last several years, or if this is one of those mysteries that I will never quite understand. I could blame his family, the lack of mental health services, the person who sold him the guns or the people who first introduced him to drugs. I could even blame myself, but there was no one who could take it back and change what happened. Regardless, the most random and wonderful memories crept up repeatedly over those first weeks- along with the most excruciating pain I have felt in my life.

I kept remembering details of my trip across the country with my girls in our old VW van and how I was anxiously looking forward to meeting him in Albuquerque on our way to our new property in Arkansas. I had never, in our entire relationship, been so excited to see him. I remember the fox and the coyote running across the freeway late that night in the middle of the desert with my girls asleep in the back seat, wishing he was there to see it so we could have some philosophical conversation and laugh about the significance of those two animals and what it must have meant. That was the last summer we spent together and the ending of his only year of sobriety. We spent that summer sitting out on our porch every night, surrounded by fireflies and thunderstorms before we headed back to California where everything quickly unraveled... where it all went grey and ended in that place of sleepless nights, chain-smoking and gut-wrenching pain; two little girls with too many questions to answer and too many emotions to comprehend.

I still have my evenings of visiting insomnia, along with bitterness and heartache on behalf of my children. I spent months with the girls in my bed, surrounded by his childhood toys and even his clothing that I had held onto; books on explaining suicide to kids and social security paperwork along with a death certificate stacked on my nightstand as a constant reminder, a psychic sucker punch that would greet me every morning. The memories I was so painfully flooded with those first weeks morphed into a pre-sleep collage that my mind set up. A repeating reel of images haunted me every night and consisted of both the best times of my life and the details of his sudden relapse and suicide.

My daughters were eventually ushered back to their own beds and the books and papers have been filed away, replaced by a small box of his ashes and pictures on our hallway altar. Chauffeuring to soccer practice and play dates transformed to shuttling to after school therapy appointments and planning weekend trips to grief camp. I worry about how his suicide, which happened immediately before he had planned to visit and take them camping, will influence their lives and their relationships. I worry about the extra burden I have been weighed down with as their mother and I worry that I will never be able to make it all OK for them. This is one injury that a kiss and a band aid can’t repair.

My mind has slowed down to a more tolerable place over the last several months and I am sleeping more, threw out the cigarettes and began putting food into my belly again. I am no longer holding it together in a false tower of emotional stability during daylight hours and then sneaking into the laundry room at night to crumble and sob in a heap on the floor. Thanks to hospice counselors, I don’t have to do this all alone and my lovely girls have someone other then their exhausted, mess of a mother to talk to. I can focus on the "bright" side of things like the unwavering friendships I have been blessed with, my plans for more traveling and this unknown future my girls and I have ahead of us. I am no longer desperately trying to understand the reasons behind his death. I no longer torture myself with futuristic visions of my daughters in dysfunctional relationships or addicted to drugs. And though I refuse to let his loss define or shape us as a family, it has changed us forever. We’re taking as much time as we need- one foot after the other- and will surely come out on the other side stronger and more powerful than ever before. Much like the Miwok legend of the fox and coyote, we’re creating a new world for ourselves and nothing can stand in our way.

Crazy accidental double exposure photos of Dave and Ava by Sara Sanger 2001 and Jessamyn Harris 2009.
Mourning photo of girls and I at Dave's memorial in the Phoenix Theater by Jessamyn Harris 2008

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