There is comfort in the familiar. Time spent with the ones who know you so completely, even vegging on bad reality TV, is a pleasure. There is a tranquil feeling while surrounded by unconditional love, or communicating without talking. There is a certain feeling of peace, even among the most mundane of tasks. There is a solidarity in grieving for the same person, a deeper connection from glimpsing into the same part of the soul holding emptiness taken away so suddenly. And there is a gratefulness to every minute spent in connection because you know, I know, it all doesn’t last.
This week, I am spending my time with my daughter. We met up in another town to mourn the loss of her uncle, my brother in law. He was good, and smart, and loyal, and honest. He was quiet in a group, yet enjoyed talking in the one on one. He was a man Peter admired and revered. A man I liked him from the moment we met. He was a family man and a man so easy to like. He was a man cut from the same cloth as Peter and their fabric is rare indeed.
I came in from the north, my daughter from the east, and we spent a few days together paying our respects to family. While the reason for the get together was hard, the visit itself was easy, and right and good. I won’t lie. It was a hard to face the first death in my family after Peter’s death almost eight months earlier. I couldn’t look into the casket as memories of Peter in the hospital bed flooded me. I sat in the back of the church, close to an exit in case any triggers caved in on me. And I held it together, knowing this wasn’t about me, wasn’t about Peter, it was all about my brother-in-law and his family. Yet there was an easy comfort being together.
When it was all over, when the twenty one guns salute was completed for this veteran and Taps was played, when the dinner was done and the breakfast the next morning completed, I followed my daughter back east to spend even more time with her and her dog, my grandbitch (as I like to call her), LL Cool Dog.
As I drove the six hours back to my daughter’s hometown, I saw hawks, lots of hawks. Sometimes two flew together, sometimes a single one flew in the sky. Since Peter died, hawks are my reminder of him and his presence with me. I feel a certain peace when I see one soaring overheard, thinking it’s probably how Peter’s soul soars, every day. Seeing the ones in flight on the long drive back to my daughter’s hometown, I knew Peter was with us, perhaps showing my brother in law how to fly now.
My daughter went to work the next day, and I stayed in the hotel, a place I picked for both of us to vacation. I was wrung out from the travel and the grief I held at bay. I wrote, slept, watched TV, cried and caught up on emails. I did nothing special, but everything necessary to feed my grief, my never ending grief.
When my daughter’s work day ended, our mini vacation begin. It began slowly, with a pizza and the start of a binge of a reality TV show in the evening. It was followed by a day shopping for her birthday presents of clothes and jewelry and a leather coat she’s always wanted. Then it was onto the dog park for LL Cool Dog to be free, chasing smaller dogs – okay, picking on smaller dogs – and digging up varmints. We had a late, leisurely lunch filled with conversation, greasy food and punctuated with so many laughs. We even shared memories of the man whose DNA will forever remain in her, be a part of her, and my mate who shall ever remain part of my soul. We came back to the hotel, took a two hour nap only to refresh ourselves with more bingeing on reality shows.
Yesterday, we went ax throwing. It was more fun than I had in a long time. My natural tomboy self dug it hard and the sweat I worked up felt good, felt familiar, felt right. We each won two events. My daughter was better at precision and footwork, the muscle memory from her dancer’s past. I was better at brute force, my body conjuring my pretty good arm of my own past. We weren’t competitive. Okay, we were a bit. We both have a history in athletic competitions. But we were mostly had fun, a fun missing in our lives since Peter died, me more than her I think…as it should be…as I want it to be.
Afterward, we went to a bookstore. I mean, a bookstore is sort of our amusement park, right? We walked around in it, bought some things, and then had lunch. We did a bit more necessary shopping before we came back to the hotel. She read some and I wrote, some. And then we vegged some more, finishing off the reality show and jumping onto a Jane Austen inspired mini series. At one point, my daughter said to me, “I like vacationing with you. It’s easy between us.” And it is. And it always has been. And it will always be.
Today, I’m not sure what we’re doing. My daughter is still sleeping and I’m letting her. While we didn’t do much on our mini-vacation, we did enough. We did more than we have done. Grief does rob you of energy. It just does. It zaps you from doing much more than living one day at a time. Sure, there are good moments, but most of the moments are spent under the umbrella of “okay”. Most of the moments are spent exerting energy to get out of bed, moving forward, figuring out life without that person. Oh sure, we’ll eventually get out of all of this and be able to do more, but until then, we do all we can with all we got.
Here’s the thing about Peter’s death. My family and I still live in the shock of the suddenness of his death. We live and struggle with our inability to say goodbye, with the absence of closure, with the difficulty of grieving fully and struggling to live with the bombshell, even eight months later. With the unexpected absence of the healthy man in our lives, the man who had major impacts on all of us, there is different, perhaps another type of fatigue to struggle with. And I’m not sure anyone fully gets it, unless they lived through it, the death without good-byes, without preparation, with the suddenness of minutes off a clock, literally minutes.. Yet, my daughter and I, plus my son, are living through it. And in this experience, in the familiarity of our emotions, we have deepened our already close relationship, even while vegging on reality TV in a hotel room.