It’s been two years. And I’m just starting to grieve.
I’ve forgotten whole parts of that first year. My husband’s family spent Christmas with us that year. I remember almost none of it.
I do remember heavy exhaustion, fits of anger, bouts of crying at inappropriate times. I remember thick, cloudy emotions swirling within me, undefinable and overwhelming. So many people don’t understand, and those who do don’t talk about it. I didn’t have even a tiny bit of the mountain of the energy required to talk about it anyway.
I hadn’t been to my parents’ grave since Mom’s funeral. I needed to do that. And I needed to do that alone.
On the four-hour drive to the cemetery, I sought out delays, found excuses to stop and shop for early Christmas gifts, took back roads that lengthened my drive as I meandered the streets of small towns. Finally pulling into the cemetery parking lot, I felt a sense of urgency rising up within me. I wanted to take care of business: remove the windblown arrangement atop the headstone, pretty it up with the new flowers I’d brought, clear out the dead leaves caught at the base of the stone.
I had to force myself to stay. To sit on the cold wet grass and wait.
It didn’t take long.
The emotions were just underneath the thin layer of skin I’d managed to grow over them. They wanted to come out, even though I didn’t want to let them out. They’d taken up too much of my last year. I wanted to be ready to move on.
I’m sorry, Mom, I told her. I’m sorry you got sick. I wish it hadn’t happened the way it did.
I cried. I straightened the flowers in the arrangement. I walked around the cemetery. And then I breathed in the crisp winter air and drove the four hours home.
Since then, I’ve been dreaming of her. I dream she is healthy and whole, that she’s recovered from Alzheimer’s, that her body is no longer rigid with Parkinson’s. In my dream, I wonder if I imagined her illnesses, if all that had gone wrong was just a dream. And I awaken confused: which was the dream and which was reality?
Did it really happen? Did this all go down the horrible way I remember?
I’ve begun having flashes of memory, too. I’ve held onto each one of them, savored them, and felt the bitter with the sweet.
It’s a start. I want to be ready to move on. But I know I’m not anywhere near ready. I’m feeling it. I’m aware of feeling it.
It’s a start.