I stood there, trying to engage in conversation, forcing myself to speak, and laugh, and to push through the wall Grief built around me a day earlier. I looked around at my college friends who I love, have loved, for over thirty-five years and I wanted to be in the moments because we always have great moments. They all knew the story of Peter. They all understood his importance in my life and the impact of his loss from my life. I had a comfort with them that is rare which was why I wanted to be with them, around them, part of our group. And, I couldn’t.
I knew when I accepted the invite it would be the first time attending a college party without Pete, since I had Peter, since we had each other. And I thought I would be okay. I thought my love and comfort and memories of these wonderful group of people would make it all okay. I wanted okay. I needed okay. Then my seven months without Peter reality hit. Then Grief, already on the dance floor with me from the night before, took me for more spins, unbalancing me in dizzying movements of longing, of knowing I showed up amputated from Peter. And it was all too much.
It didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. I carried a sense of dread inside of me when I entered the house. Peter, his story, all of it, came up and I spoke with ease, holding down an eruption of tears. After awhile, after the hard pushes, the ‘college’ tries of enjoying myself, heated my inner core and I went to the bathroom to erupt into sobs. I couldn’t get myself together and so I sneaked out of the party, not wanting anyone to see me. The host caught me though and held me while I cried on him before I got into my car and drove away, way, way earlier than I wanted, than I thought I ever would.
Yesterday, with Grief still relentless on taking my body for spins, I went to a Superbowl get together at my friend’s house, my friend of fifty-three years. It was a small, chill, group of people I’ve known all of my life, or most of theirs, and I enjoyed it, until I didn’t, until I fled again.
With each snap of the ball, with each commentary and each hit on the field, a memory of Peter broke into my heart, causing a ripple into my soul. Peter and I always watched the Superbowl together. We had a tradition of making fancy appetizers to eat alone or share with neighbors. We were together on Superbowl. And while I am only a Chicago Bear’s fan, not a football fan, I was a Peter fan and it was one of my favorite times of the year.
Around the end of the second quarter, a commercial came on about a widower using technology to remember his dead wife. It was a beautiful commercial, one that sent my friend into tears, one I couldn’t even shed a single tear without breaking the damn. I watched a bit of it and when I knew where it was headed, I looked at my phone, not once glancing back at the television until it ended.
A text came in a few minutes later with contents regarding Peter that I won’t go into it. Just know, it spurred more emotions from me and I just couldn’t anymore. Any resolve to hold myself together, melted and I had to leave. I went to the bathroom, cried and then flew out of there knowing I needed to land at home, and let the tears come. I had to escape from the walls Grief was pushing in on me. And so I did. I couldn’t even wait until halftime.
There are reasons Grief comes back to me – a memory, a song, a taste, a milestone, another thing without him. Sometimes, Grief has no rationale. It just comes to remind me it’s still here and because I loved Peter so hard, we loved so hard, it’s not going to leave any time soon. Grief ruins my times with friends, takes away my identity, pushes me back to a place I thought I was done visiting, and dizzies me with an insecure vertigo of solitude. And while it is still new – please, I know this – and in time I will learn Grief’s moves, parties are not like they once were and that is painful.
I looked forward to this past weekend. I wanted to reconnect with friends, spend time in comfort, maybe even laugh. I wanted the easiness only long, standing friendships can bring. I wanted the Betsy back who had fun, who was goofy, who could carry conversations, who wasn’t bogged down with dreadful Grief. I wanted normalcy again. That’s what this weekend seemed to offer a week ago. But that’s not what it delivered in the end.