Sunday, June 24, 2012
Of Loss and Love--a Fictional Story....Draft one.
Day 15. It turns out, I’m going to be okay. I knew this all along of course, but it took the release of my spirit and of his to bring me to this point. I will never again be afraid to fall.
Day 9. Met the sweetest guy today. I’d worn my new heels, those pretty turquoise strappy wedged sandals that I had picked up last week. They were high but easy to walk in, or so I thought. I parked my car to the left of the grocery store’s entrance and as I got out of the driver’s seat, I made a quick turn back to the door when I realized I’d left my keys in the ignition. I don’t know why but I was suddenly alarmed. I had not locked the car, but for some reason, I felt the need to gasp. My friends tease me for my gasps and occasional screams over the smallest of dramas. “Oh! She dropped a spoon! How traumatic!” they tease. Well, everything would have been fine as I turned back to the door of my car if I hadn’t turned my ankle. I suddenly felt myself falling. But out of nowhere, he appeared. He caught me under my arms, a graceful dance move had we choreographed it, and he brought me back to balance. I held onto his forearms for what seemed a little too long, and then slowly let go as I turned to see who had caught me.
“Oh I am so sorry. Thank you”, I found myself sputtering an embarrassed apology.
“Are you okay? That was a close one”, my hero responded with a slight laugh.
I finally saw his face. I knew him. Didn’t I? I couldn’t place him at that particular moment, but I felt sure that I should’ve known his name. I took in his face as I reassured him that yes, I was okay. He was my age, in his late 40s, handsome with the perfect amount of crows’ feet wrinkles and slightly graying brown hair. He smiled at me but what I was most struck by was the way he looked into my eyes. It seemed he was searching for something. The intensity was subtle, as contradicting as that sounds. I, perhaps, should have been uncomfortable with how fervently he held me with those steely blue eyes of his, but on the contrary, I felt a comfort and a reassurance that I had not felt in quite some time.
As I often do, I struggled between the thought that I should move on, as gracefully as I could, and my desire to stop time, right then and there, so I could fully appreciate this moment. And as typically happens, I found myself dismissing him with another “Thank you”, one that had a tone of finality. He picked up on that, said something or other about being glad he’d been there in my moment of need, and then he was gone. Damn it. Why do I always chase people off when I most want more time with them?
Day 3. Their voices were driving me mad. They chatted about the array of molded salads on the table and how those had always been his favorite. We had been at the reception for nearly two hours and my feet hurt but not nearly as much as my face. I had been smiling and holding it together for the sake of everyone and I was at my breaking point. I refused to sit down. Doing so would entrap me quickly; I recognized that fact. So instead I moved from group to group, pausing frequently to excuse myself. Sometimes I moved to the food table to carry an empty container back to the kitchen. The catering crew quickly grabbed the dishes out of my hands and sweetly admonished me for doing their job, but I think they understood how much I needed to stay busy. One time I had tried to sneak out to the lobby’s bathroom, only to be cornered by one of the women from the church. “Oh, you’re the youngest, right? Oh how I remember you when you were just a little thing”. God help me.
Making my way back to the hall, I snuck through one of the hall’s exit doors, a door that led to a dark unused staircase that brought me to the main floor of the church. Afraid to find someone there, I sat down on the steps, leaned my head against the thick wooden railing, and closed my eyes.
Day 2. Everyone would arrive today. It had been 18 hours since we’d each received the call. The four of us made it home as quickly as we could. I was there in just six hours’ time, the third to arrive to comfort her. Jack had been the first, beating out Brie by thirty minutes, a feat quite remarkable given that Brie lived only 40 minutes away. But Jack had always been one to make swift, impulsive moves and having heard the news, he was in his car driving north. He hadn’t even packed himself an overnight bag. Stephen would arrive last. He came in the door drunk. He always did make a dramatic entrance.
Day 12. I had escaped again...this time to the bookstore. I made my way to the back of the store and found my favorite leather chair. No one would find me here. I’d driven 50 miles from home, unsure at first where I was going, but after some time walking the beach, I suddenly needed to be near books. I needed a place of comfort where I could disappear but in a protected setting. The beach held too many temptations. There I could cry with abandon and the waves crashing to the shore would still drown the sound of my grief, allowing me to wallow. But tucked into the soft leather chair, close to the shelves housing authentic stories all around me, I had perspective. My story is no more, no less tragic than theirs. Here I can cry, but only for a short time before being noticed. That will keep me from losing it completely. I don’t want to be noticed.
Day 4. We drove home in silence. I had tucked the earphones in before entering the car. My husband would be hurt by my avoidance but he’d be kind enough to let me be. I turned on my side, almost into the fetal position, and was grateful for my short stature. Tucking my knees to my chest, I watched the trees speed past my window and I lost myself in the music. He stopped for gas and asked me if I was hungry. I ignored him. I knew I was hurting him. He wanted to be there for me, to comfort me or to distract me, but I knew he’d give up after awhile, and he did. The three hour drive home wasn’t nearly long enough.
Day 8. My husband packed a bag and headed to his brother’s house today. He said he understood I needed to be alone but that he couldn’t take it anymore. He said I was being selfish and hurtful in not talking to him, in not at least trying to connect with him with basic civility. I stared at him blankly as he explained that he’d be staying there for the next several days. When he left the driveway I took in a deep breath and exhaled. A smile formed on my lips. It’d been a week since I’d felt even the smallest ounce of joy.
Day 11. He called. I didn’t pick up the phone of course. I let it ring, but he left a message for me and curiosity got the better of me. His voice had a tinge of sadness in it. He said he’d run into me the other day and that I hadn’t seemed to recognize him. He said we needed to talk. He told me he’d be over in the morning and that if I didn’t want to talk, that’d be okay. I could just listen. He said that he was going to bring me some brochures to look through and that I’d then have to make a choice. He said he loved me, that he was not giving up on me. He said something more but I hung up then. I had heard too much already.
Day 1. My Dad died today. Congestive heart failure. He was 88 years old. It’s funny. He’s been dying ever since I can remember. He’s been preparing me for this day for nearly 40 years. I’ve seen him clutch his heart and shout out in alarmed pain, only to have him rub his chest and complain about old age, since I was five years old. But today, as he stubbornly went outside to trim the branches of a neighbor’s tree, he clutched his heart for the last time. No matter how much I thought I’d be prepared for this day, I’m not. Goodbye Daddy.
Day 13. I reluctantly picked up the phone on the third ring. “Okay. I get it”, he said. “Please don’t hang up. Give me five minutes. Just five minutes, then I’ll stay away for as long as you want me to. I miss you. I need you to come back to me. I know you’re hurting but I know I can help you feel better...if you’d just give me a chance”. His voice cracked and he stopped for a second to compose himself. “Okay, when I got there and saw that you’d left, I placed three brochures in the mailbox. I want you to go to the mailbox and find those after we hang up. I just need you to pick one. Please do this. Just pick one of the three brochures. Leave the other two in the mailbox. I’ll come by tomorrow and check the mailbox and I’ll see which one you’ve chosen and that’ll be all I need from you, okay?” I surprised myself and said, “Okay”. Then I hung up.
I pulled a scarf from the closet, wrapped it around my neck and walked outside. The driveway, long and curvy in its slope to the street, had long been one of my favorite features of our modest home. I walked it slowly and getting within 10 feet of the mailbox, I began to tremble. Opening the mailbox would mean I was committed to making a choice between three unknown brochures. What was he doing to me? I thought of the bookstore’s leather chair, and the cool ocean breeze. But there was no going back. I pressed on. I opened the mailbox and pulled out an envelope. Inside were three brochures, just as he’d said.
Brochure number one was commercially made. It had come from our local travel agency. It featured various sites from Ireland, my father’s home country. On the brochure, there was a small post it note that read, “Let me take you to where his life began. There you can begin your life again. And maybe, hope upon hope, that’ll continue to be a life with me”.
Brochure number two was also professional in its appearance. It advertised a grief support group that meets in the next town over. Again he’d affixed a post it note. “Know that you are not alone. You are never alone. Let someone help you see this. Begin to heal”.
Brochure number three was different. It was hand-made, an 8 by 10 inch piece of paper, folded into thirds and featured my husband’s messy handwriting. On one side there were pictures, shots taken of my Dad and I over the past forty plus years. On another side there were quotes about love and loss. I flipped the brochure over and that’s when I spotted it, a picture of my Dad walking me down the aisle at my wedding. What was it he’d said all those years ago? I remembered. “On this day I lead you to the man who will take you wherever you want to go. I have taken you this far, and I wish I could walk beside you always, but it’s time for me to release you to another’s protective embrace”. On another fold of the brochure there was our wedding picture, a shot of my husband and I dancing at our wedding reception. He was twirling me with one arm and he had the other arm positioned to catch me lest I fell.
I couldn’t help it. Taking a close look at that photograph made me gasp. He’d been there all along, swooping in to catch me when I stumbled. Prepared to hold me until I held my balance on my own. And always looking into my eyes, searching for something, anything, or everything I had to give.
The third brochure also had a post it note attached. It read simply, “I release you”.
Day 14. He returned to find only two brochures in the mailbox. I had made my choice.