Well, it’s over. I got through the first anniversary, a date I had been dreading for a while. The day ended up being quite unlike what I had expected, and not in a terrible way. Really, the thing that was remarkable was how ordinary it was. I don’t know why I expected anything else.
It was ordinary in the way that any day around here is recently, anyway. It started with a visit from the real estate agent, including signing the acceptance for the third offer on the house, overlapped with a visit from a contractor who is bidding on the repair work to that blasted east wall. The agent is optimistic we will actually close this one, as the buyer was fully aware of the issues of that wall and the plan to fix it before they even had their first showing. We’ll see what happens. Warts and all, this house is too nice not to sell eventually, and sooner rather than later.
Before the agent got here, I started thinking about what to write about the day, came up dry, and just posted a link on Facebook to Dan Fogelberg and Emmylou Harris’s “Only the Heart May Know”. The whole darn “Innocent Age” album has been bumping around in my head for a few weeks now, ever since some friends broke out “The Reach” while singing at Tea. I listened to that album a zillion times back when it came out, still have it on vinyl up in the attic. So yes, I started the day in a very retrospective mood.
I had a good conversation with my brother after the contractor left, talking about the work we are both doing on our houses, he to stay in his, me to leave mine. We talked about how we were both finally getting back into our own at work, how it was good to remember we are still really good at what we do. A lot of it was the kind of conversations we used to have a couple of years ago, before cancer found our wives and tore our lives apart. It’s hard to believe that just two years ago we were both completely unaware of what was coming, indeed had already started.
My youngest is here for the weekend again, and we both wanted to be out of the house yesterday, especially in the afternoon. We decided to try the new barbeque place in Hadley for lunch. The food was good, and the dessert case looked too good to pass up. My daughter had a snicker doodle cookie, and I had the bread pudding, two of Barbara’s favorites. We agreed she would have liked it.
As we were finishing dessert, Luce’s “Good Day” came on over the radio playing in the background. I looked outside, saw the sun shining and realized that the day at hand was a good one, unlike the horrible one a year before. Good in the new context of course, not the old one. She is no more and no less gone than she was the day or week or month before. That is reality now, and slowly the drama is draining out of life, as we accept her absence as a chronic condition, not a current event.
Loss is a sharp thing, often searing dates and memories into our minds forever. Healing is not at all like that. The asymmetry of it all is hard to fathom until you live it. It messes with your head in strange ways. A year has passed, and sometimes that feels like days, other times it feels an eternity ago. It is in a lot of ways a meaningless arbitrary milestone. Nothing changed yesterday more than it changes any other.
I suppose it’s worth taking stock at an easily recognized date like this. The superimposition of the whole work/move situation on top of my personal state both complicates and provides opportunity, although often I am not sure which is which. The new target move date around the first of the year actually lines up with some thoughts I had early on about how long I would need to get through my initial cleanup and recovery phase. I always considered this whole calendar year as part of that, not just the twelve months that ended yesterday. I didn’t expect to be at any kind of closure today, and indeed I don’t then. There is no date when you are done in a continuous process like this.
But when I look back I can see progress. I can engage people, I can function at work reasonably well. I even can manage to have fun. In that progress, though, I begin to see how much work I have left ahead of me still. Focus is still a challenge, while it’s getting better it still is not where I need it to be in order to handle the workload I have ahead of me. More important, though, is where I realize I am in relationships with other people.
At the end of the day we are social creatures. We exist as individuals, yes, but individuals in relationship to other individuals. For the last year my focus has necessarily been inward, as I pulled my self back together, began to figure out how to deal with the loss, and how to function as a single person, something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I have gotten enough of that together that it’s time to start re-engaging more directly, and now I have to adjust my balance again. I’m not done healing, but it’s time to start looking outward again.
I have learned a lot this year, things I never wanted to learn, but I know them now. The world will never look the same to me again. I need to figure out how to turn that into something useful.