I don’t know how she did it. How she survived losing the love of her life. Not once but twice. First to the bottle, then to cancer. Maybe three times even- to blindness then booze then illness. The sequence does not matter really but that it all happened.
Before the elephant in the room came to live with us, life was happier. We laughed a lot and had family adventures; we ate meals together at the same table and played board games; we did chores and went to the drive in and got ice cream cones. We got tucked in tight and kissed good night. The house was filled with love. My parents made that for us. Their love made our family.
We all experienced the same situation- my Mom, sister and I- but in entirely different ways. My Mom has asked me when I am going to be past all this. I believe her intentions come from a place of worry and concern because she’s my Mom and she hates to see me unhappy or in pain and maybe she wishes she could take it all away and make it better. Maybe she feels guilt too because she was the grown up and I was the kid. My Mom and I are close and I love her fiercely but there are certain things she and I have never been able to talk out even when we’ve tried. We are a lot alike even if she might deny it. I see myself now as a version of her when she was my age minus certain life circumstances. This complicates our communication. I don’t talk a lot about my Mom here because, well, she is alive and she reads my blog. Frankly, it’s easier to talk about someone who is not living. No rebuttal, you know?
So how does a person survive watching the man she loves stop choosing life? That’s the thing that I can’t figure out. After bouncing from one grief coping mechanism to the next, how do you come to peace? I suppose I wonder this because I can’t fathom it. Either allowing myself to love someone that deeply or watching the man I love leave. Maybe in our own way we all tried to save him. At age 38 or age 16 or age 13, we all tried to love him enough to fix him. And almost 18 years later we still have pieces of it to sort out. Isn’t that a big part of why we’re all in therapy?
How do you watch your partner take up space in the home you created but no longer participate in life? How do you talk to a drunk, depressed, passive aggressive? How do you take care of your kids, the mortgage, the bills, your full time job with him passed out in the chair and still manage to make dinner? I’m a grown up now and I think about how hard that must have been for my Mom. All those pressures. All that heartache. All those choices to make with no help.
She did the best she could.
I’ve spent my whole life afraid that I might find the kind of love my parents had and that it would turn out the way their love story did. A man lying in a bed breathing his last breaths way across town as two teenagers cry in their childhood home knowing that the woman driving frantically to get to him would not make it in time to say good-bye.
Maybe that wasn’t the end. But it’s what has stayed with me. And I’m trying to make my peace with it.
“Because you thought that you could outrun sorrow/Take your own advice/Thunder and lightening gets you rain/Run an airtight mission, a Cousteau expedition/To find a diamond at the bottom of the drain/A diamond at the bottom of the drain …” -Magpie to the Morning, Neko Case