I have struggled in the past few years. My mother died of breast cancer in 2009. She was a lady in the best sense of the word. I do not recall her swearing, dressing sloppily, being drunk, tossing off an insult or refusing help or lend an ear to anyone. She had dignity and class and the cancer tried to strip her of those fundamental elements of her personality. It may have but I won’t admit that. In her memory. She tried, she really did. She often cried because she was so sad that we were upset by her condition. The chemotherapy and its side effects, the doctors and hospital stays were hard on her physically of course, but psychologically she was diminished. After one particularly painful episode at home she told me she would rather be dead than go through that again. Even her eventual death was protracted and without gentle goodbyes. It seemed so cruel for someone so kind to suffer in that way. I spent a lot of time with her in the year it took. I am glad I could. The grief I still feel is, I have been told, less complicated because of that. Okay. I discovered in retrospect that I was a momma‘s boy. I was unable to share this grief which caused a lot of trouble. I just didn’t want to talk about it. The phrase that explains my feelings best is that I feel less special now.
Less than a year later my older sister drowned in a construction site after a night of drinking and eventual hypothermia rendered her incapable of rational choices. Ever hear of paradoxical disrobing? Look it up. She had struggled with concurrent disorders for years. Her marriage had disintegrated as a result but she seemed to be through the worst of it. We were very close. I spoke to her on the phone for a half an hour the day she died. She seemed great. One thing she hadn’t stopped doing was drinking. A friend of mine is a homicide detective and he was very kind. He told us that she was involved in what they termed in his business ‘high risk behaviour’. She didn’t come home one night. Her husband (and my good friend) called in the middle of the night asking me if I had any ideas where she might be. We talked a bit and I went back to sleep. At 6 the next morning I awoke and realized I had not received the phone call. So I went to her house and we walked the subdivision. No sign. In an hour or two we had the family out looking as we had found out she had been dropped off in the neighborhood. The longer we searched, the more people got involved and the more surreal it became. Were we really doing this? I got a call on my cell at around 2 in the afternoon. My wife was crying on the phone. I should never have let her come with us. My brother and I were on the wrong side of the subdivision. We raced over but the police stopped us before we saw her. My brother in law found her. I really thought it should have been me. She was a beautiful person and I loved her. My grief in this case was very public. I broke down a lot.
My physical and mental health was not that good during these events and has not been since. I have had heart issues that weren’t, back issues that were so painful I couldn’t work and stomach disorders. Work has been tough as well as we have had layoffs and crises. I explored a career change. I have friends that have had to leave. I have a thing about separation now. I have been very sad and distant. I get angry and irritated so fast. But I may have come to a realization. Eventually processes have to come to an end. If I am going to be around a while I need to realize that my physical discomfort and mental perspectives have to be faced head on. And working out more and heavier, which I have tried, is not the answer. Neither is being pissed off most of the time. So I need a new approach. I must try not be the reason for my own pain. I like my work. I have a close family. Even if I don’t feel like it all the time, I am healthy. I have the privilege of living. I can help out. The new approach is going to involve more positive words and actions. Smiling once in a while and trying to laugh more. Remembering that I am not my job. Not being personally insulted by idiotic actions, statements or policies is a big one. Maybe being a little creative. Like writing. And I may learn to ride a horse because I would love a reason to wear a cowboy hat.
My mom would love it and my sister would laugh and laugh.