Falling Slowly

Falling Slowly (Live) by The Swell Season  One of the most beautiful songs ever written/performed – by the REAL artists, not the crappy Fox American Idol version . . . 

Abbi and my son Noah, in a happier moment

It’s funny, the holidays came and went and by that I mean not just the holiday itself but all the buildup, the decorating, the seasonal songs, the feeling in the air, all of it, and we seemed to get through.  But it’s exactly as I’ve told everyone before, it’s not the major events, the massive holidays or birthdays and major events that are hard on us.  It’s the little things, the stupid, silly routines we’ve forgotten about that make us turn around to say “hey, Andrea did you see . . . ” only to falter realizing she’s not there that make you sit and fall apart for awhile.

It’s also true that we’re not really getting “better” as many people want to quantify it.  In fact, now that we’re through the holidays, it’s kind of like  things have gotten a little bit worse, something I wasn’t really prepared for, I have to admit.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the first month or so after she passed away.  Things then were a haze of torment, depression, exhaustion and dehydration.  That first week, even up to the point of going to the mortuary and all of it I spent on the couch.  I sat in a daze, unable to sleep, unable to really move or do much.  I sat up most of the night, in the odd stillness of the late night/early morning and couldn’t process what I was going through.  I go through emotions, pushing to resolve to succeed with my kids so they would feel safe then falling forward with my head in my hands wanting to just roll into a ball.  I tried to read.  I watched the entire series “The Wire” (not a season or a few episodes, I watched the ENTIRE series) via download.

One of the things that people don’t grasp is the fact that this isn’t a typical wound.  This isn’t like you’ve been shot or stabbed.  Sure, the bleeding may slow, but the wound never closes.  The hope and feeling by most people is that you get through it.  If you’re solid, Midwestern stock, like I claim to be, you just power through.  If you go to therapy you talk out your problems and the TV version of your life shows how everything gets better and eventually your life is rosy pink and you move on.

It’s not how it works, though.  I can’t blame people for thinking this, I don’t think most people are exposed to it very often.  We don’t live in the times of the prairie when Scarlet Fever and Tuberculosis would sweep through and take a number of people, leaving families to struggle on their own.  Modern technology and medicine help us to live longer and survive more, so we aren’t exposed to the life and death struggles our ancestors did.  We also are so much more surprised when we lose someone to something like pneumonia, a curable disease most of the time.

No, as a friend once put it to me, you don’t get better.  You just don’t.  You learn to adjust and you learn to live with it.  It’s your ability to cope that changes, not your physical or mental wounds.  Maybe some learn faster than others.  It’s clear we haven’t gotten it right yet.

I knew this already, sure, but I saw the physical signs over the last couple weeks as they appeared.  Today when we went to church, the kids usually break from the parents and go to a children’s liturgy, partly so they learn the readings easier, partly so they’re not bored stiff in the church and bothering everyone while the priest gives his homily.  Neither of my sons would leave.  They stayed rooted to the pew, steadfast and tears starting to form in their eyes.

“I don’t want to go!”

Their sister, Abbi, tried to make them go, but even Hannah, our middle, wouldn’t budge.  They wouldn’t say why, but I got it.  They seemed OK up until the last couple weeks, but now they want the security.  They don’t want to be away from their family, particularly me.  The boys have asked if I actually have to go to work every day, could I be home when they get back from school?  Do they have to go to Nebraska for the summer?  They’d miss me!

None of these factors came up before this last couple weeks.  But I know why they have, I feel it too.  My daughter tonight had a long discussion with me.  “I feel like I’m just kind of askew,” she says.  Not upright, not quite on the regular path.  From my own perspective, I feel like I’ve been going through the motions, and even then, not very well.  I started off with such a massive surge of energy, the push to get it all right, to do it all.  I got up really early and stayed up really late, which I still do, but I made breakfasts from scratch every day.  I made dinner in the morning so it could be heated up that evening to have dinner at a decent hour.  Now I can’t.  I just can’t keep up the routine.  I burned out too quickly and it kills me.  The laundry for 5 people is massive.  I run the machines daily, at least 1-2 loads, many times more.  Now, instead of getting it all done, I feel like i’m falling, slowly and surely, watching the world blur as I go.

Worse, I feel like the daily requirements make it so I can’t talk to the kids or do anything.  Abbi is not doing as well as she should, I can tell.  As close as she is to me, she had her Mom to help her through all the things you need when you have to talk to your Mom.  Particularly when you are a girl.  Andrea was uncanny with those things, knowing exactly what was going on, what to do.  It was like she was inside her daughters’ heads.  I know it, because there were so many times I felt the same way, when things were wrong and she knew exactly what I was going through.  You have no idea how hard it is to cope when you have that and then it’s snatched away from you.  Abbi lost her Mom and then I had to take what was her normal life, her high school days, and snatch those away.  I couldn’t afford her school anymore, and she didn’t want us to pay for it, but I see it.  She is having so hard a time letting that go, and having such a hard time getting the new school to accept her.  I can’t fix it, I know that, but it hurts both me and her, I think, because I want to try, but unlike her mother, I don’t know what to say.

We went right after Christmas to see the movie “The Adventures of Tin Tin” because Noah wanted desperately to see the movie version of the books he’d read over the summer.  When we go there, the parking lot was packed, insanely filled with people.  I had Abbi take them up, pick up the tickets from the ATM/kiosk, then send in Hannah and the boys to get us seats.  After finding a parking spot, getting my tix from Abbi and then going to get food, I’d come into the theater already through many of the previews. (Including, to my chagrin, one on the Hobbit, which I was dying to see!)  Noah was in tears.  Not the tantrum, angry or sad tears.  These were panicked, scared tears.  As I walked up I could see him stretching, trying to see us walking into the theater.  He stood up, sat down, was looking back and forth through the theater, trying to see with his little form, the gap between the wall and the front of the theater where I’d come in to walk up to the seats.  When I got there he shrank back into his seat, turning his head so I couldn’t see.  Noah had taken his hand the back of his wrist, and rubbed the tears away.  He was a bit embarrassed, which he shouldn’t have been, and a little angry.

“He was really worried, Dad,” Hannah told me.  “He thought you weren’t going to make it.  He thought something had happened.”
“I just thought you’d miss the movie,” Noah spat out, a little angrily, and I almost broke.  The little guy was panicked and he was angry at himself and me for getting that scared.  I sat next to him, moving one of the other kids over a seat so I could sit by him, and put my hand on his head, squeezing a little, gently, to let him know I was there.  He looked up a little, but turned back to the screen.  It wasn’t until something he recognized from the book that he warmed back up.

I don’t have the answers.  I really don’t know what to do half the time.  The days I feel straight and upright are so few it really is, as Abbi put it, like I’m looking at the world from a slant.  The trees growing diagonally, the world moving forward and us moving sideways.  The wound doesn’t heal, we learn to live with it.

It’s obvious this last few days that I still have a lot to learn.  Until then, I’ll fall, slowly, until I can pick myself back up.

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