You Thought You Knew, But You Didn’t Have a Clue

Things I thought I knew, but Really Didn’t Grasp Department:

I knew it was going to be hard when the youngest daughter finally moved out. I’ve been trying to prepare myself for it for months.

Everybody who goes through this says that coming home from work to an empty home is the thing that gets you.

Try working in an office downstairs in that same home all day and see how that goes.

Particularly when for the last three years you worked in that office at home and got used to hearing her footsteps upstairs, and the occasional visit to deliver a cup of coffee or some snack, or maybe even lunch or dinner if work was so pressing you couldn’t pull away from the desk.

I’ve had time to consider the journey, think about what I need to do to put myself back together.  I have lived with the reality of the empty bedroom for four months. How much harder could the empty house be? Well, right now, it feels a lot harder. It’s only been a few days, so hopefully I’ll get used to it, as I eventually got used to the empty bed. I still hate that, but I’m starting to get used to it.

I have written a lot about the road ahead, but now I’m actually on it. The easing of the numbness is definitely a mixed bag. I am starting to actually enjoy snippets of time with my friends.  The good times definitely feel better, but when the grief hits it can be much more intense. Still, I would rather feel it all than be numb. I keep reminding myself that I need to feel the grief in order to process it, as if that somehow will make it more bearable.

Processing grief-  the phrase tries to make it sound so orderly, so natural. This is not that kind of process.  When you are down it it, it’s just plain messy. And long. And painful. There is no manual, and there sure aren’t any automation tools for this process. Oh to be able to grab the grief, stuff it in a Grief Processor and just press the Puree button! Nope, not like that at all. You don’t even get to use knives for this job, it’s bare hands stuff.

There is nothing much inspirational about this part. Better days are coming, but these are surely not them. Somewhere out there a future waits, but here and now, it is plenty of challenge just to keep slogging ahead, every day getting a little less numb, and feeling a little more human.

I always try to pivot these pieces to looking forward at the end instead of getting stuck in the muck. This piece sat for a few days because I was just stuck there. I went to a pub sing tonight (yes, those still happen, if you know where to look) hoping to find something to improve the ending of this piece.  It was a night away from the house with new friends, but I didn’t find the inspiration I was looking for there. I thought something about work songs would be appropriate, but found something else instead.

I was listening the the cast recording of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World on the way home. The whole show is about those moments when you think you have life figured out, and then everything changes on you. The show is quite abstract, but I’ve always liked the music.

Here is the first part Woman 2 (yes, that’s the character’s name, I told you it was abstract) sings in the opening number The New World:

It’s about one moment 
That moment you think you know where you stand 
And in that one moment 
The things that you’re sure of slip from your hand 
And you’ve got one second 
To try to be clear, to try to stand tall 
But nothing’s the same 
And the wind starts to blow 
And you’re suddenly a stranger 
In some completely different land 
And you thought you knew 
But you didn’t have a clue 
That the surface sometimes cracks 
To reveal the tracks 
To a new world 

Yeah, that was a hell of a moment. Right now this doesn’t feel like a new world I want to be part of. That song is just way too uptempo. But I sure get that lyric.

The final number, Hear My Song, fits where I am today a whole lot better.

It opens with this:

WOMAN 2:
Child, I know you’re weary 
And your eyes want to close 
The days are getting longer 
We’re not getting any stronger 
Trust me, Mama knows…

But lie in my arms while you’re sleeping 
And think of the rivers you’ve crossed 
I’ll tell you the dreams I’ve been keeping 
For moments like this 
When your hope is lost 

Hear my song:
It’ll help you believe in tomorrow 
Hear my song:
It’ll show you the way you can shine 
Hear my song:
It was made for the time 
When you don’t know where to go 
Listen to the song that I sing 
You’ll be fine 

Well, phrasing this as a mother talking to her child didn’t help. In some ways it feels like this nightmare started with my mother’s not unexpected death three years ago, and culminated in my wife’s very unexpected death. The two most important women in my life both gone. But they are not forgotten, I can still hear their voices. That’s the thing about songs, you don’t forget them, because the rhythms resonate.

WOMAN 1 & WOMAN 2:
Just lie in my arms 
And I’ll tell you 
The things that you know, but forget 
The lies no one ever could sell you 

“The things that you know, but forget”: That may be the hardest thing about being alone. I could always count on her to remind me of those. Now I have to do all the remembering on my own.

WOMAN 2:
I know it’s dark right now 
But just believe somehow 
That soon there will be light

There will be light–  there is that image again, so powerful against the darkest times in our lives.

MAN 2:
Hear my song:
It’ll help us get through til tomorrow 
Hear my song:
It’ll help us survive all the pain 
Hear my song
It’s the one thing I have 
That has never let me down 

MAN 1, MAN 2, WOMAN 1, & WOMAN 2:
Listen to the song that I sing 
Listen to the words in my heart 
Listen to the hope I can bring
And you’ll start to grow 
And shine 

JASON ROBERT BROWN:
Listen to the song that I sing 
And trust me…

MAN 1, MAN 2, WOMAN 1, & WOMAN 2:
We’ll be fine…

WOMAN 1:
A new world calls across the ocean!

What’s Jason Robert Brown doing in there showing up as a character, you ask? In the original production, the composer also led the band from the piano. He stood up and sang those two lines himself. That’s him in the cast recording.

It’s a long ocean, and I just got started, but I do believe there is something over there. Time to get back to rowing.

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