It’s the tiniest, littlest things that floor me.
I’ll be just fine, feeling as close to normal as I get (which is better and better, all the time, most of the time… some days at least), and then I’ll come across something that jumps at me, stops me… freezes me in time for a moment, memories rushing back over me.
I remember being dunked under huge waves at the beach as a child. I’d be standing, feet feeling the sand shifting between like the bunching muscles of a snake, with a wave rushing toward me, wave that looks innocent enough, one that I can surely jump.
And suddenly, faster than I imagined, a cold hard wall of salty blue and green hits you, immerses you, tumbling you over and over. The shock is so great you almost forgot to be afraid of the potential pain, and there’s not a lot you can do for it anyway… you just have to roll with the wave, let it wash you over and over until the suds recede and the water begins to rush back again.
Being shocked, knocked for six by tiny things, when I thought two moves, twice sorting and sifting my possessions… one would think that would be enough to purge all the surprises. It’s not. Things still jump out from dark places every now and then, things with teeth. Things that bite and kiss me softly, both at once.
Like a box of matches. A simple, stupid box of matches… pinched from the flash hotel where my husband and I spent our first and only wedding anniversary.
Or spotting something I’ve somehow missed seeing for years now, even before Tony passed away. His name hastily scratched into a old boombox stereo that he was given for his thirteenth birthday. He kept it for over 20 years, and it no longer works… but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.
And then there’s the proof of life, proof of ordinary suburban life. A list for Chinese takeaway, scrawled quickly on the back of one of my notebooks. I remember being cranky when Tony did that, years ago, defiling my notebook with something so unimportant. Do I have to tell you that now I’m glad he did it? That sometimes I wonder, in the science fiction part of my mind, if it’s possible to lift someone’s DNA from their handwriting, and clone them…?
The little things, indeed. Responsible for taking my breath away, knocking the life right out of me, on a semi regular basis.
So far December has been quick and painless, the weather cool and strange… it doesn’t feel like last year, not too much, and I am able to lose myself in the pleasure of my children and my house.
But sometimes it is far too easy to picture my husband there, to imagine exactly what he would be doing if he were here. And that’s when the grief and regret and almost desperate sense of hopeless wishing kick in. It’s only momentary, that feeling. I think I’ve written about it before- the sense that if you try, if you ask, if you believe, time will reverse itself and you can start over. It’s the same childlike logic that shouts in your mind that “He can’t die because I love him, how can he die if I love him?”
A big family Christmas party, and I can see the ghost of him everywhere. My family, not his, so I doubt anyone feels his ghost but me. I can see him, smell him, hear him, picture him there… cooking the barbeque, drinking beer, playing with our kids as the sun goes down and people begin to go home.
It’s a cloud that hangs with me all day, a grey shadow of fettered pain. As darkness comes, the remaining members of my extended family stand around and watch a slideshow of photos on a digital photo frame. One flashes up of Tony and I, one a day just like this one, almost two years ago… we are smiling and happy.
Hot tears wash up through my eyes and I stand at the back on the darkened room and sob silently, lest my son hear me.
How has it been almost twelve months, since I last touched his skin? How is that even possible?