A Trigger Pulled
Grief is sometimes like a game of Russian Roulette except it’s someone else’s finger on the trigger.
That may sound a bit harsh, (Okay, it’s really harsh) but it’s true.
There’s an explanation to be had so here it goes: sometimes you’re playing the game, particularly in the very beginning. My wife passed away in 2011 and the first year was really hard. I saw my wife in a lot of places and we lived in the same house for awhile. Every corner of that house had memories of my wife in it.
That’s a picture of Andrea, my late wife, by the way. It’s one of the great pictures of her. I had to hide this and tons of other photos because she hated pictures of herself, something I cannot understand when I see photos like this one. To this day every new picture I forgot I’d hidden is a treasure.
Memories and thoughts of your lost loved one swirl around you in those first days so you’re hit with those grief-filled bullets regularly. You’re playing the roulette wheel of the gun’s multiple chambers but you’re not taking out the other bullets. In some ways you actually begin to like it because you don’t want to let go of those memories. You watch movies over and over again that make you sad because it feels good to hurt, even if it’s just a little. You lean toward the barrel knowing that the recoil is coming any second.
You reach a crossroads then . . . you can fall deeper into the game, playing it more and more in the hopes that the damage from the bullets doesn’t scar over . . . or you realize that you’re not losing the memory of that person. Life is moving forward and you’re making new memories. Those don’t replace the old ones, they just add to the mix. If you can leave the gun behind for awhile you build new memories that are just as vital and vivid as the old ones.
That’s where today came in to play for me. Near four years in now I don’t play grief roulette anymore. The gun was relegated to the past, at least I had hoped it was. That doesn’t stop the world, the fates, what have you from holding their own gun without your knowledge.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year, it always has been. Before I even met my wife, in those heady youthful days, I enjoyed it. The bite in the air and the coolness of night.
Yet when she was gone I came to realize that my feelings for this time of year, the cool change of fall, were now part and parcel to life with her. We got through Halloween and my oldest child’s birthday without too much problem.
But the change in the season is also the change in the season. Now that the cotton-coated mummies have been put back in the garage, warm and snug in their PVC sarcophagi, the big holidays are on the horizon. I see those days, the gun calling my name to play roulette again when those days come around.
Yet with the days approaching, I didn’t hear the hammer cock. Leaving the grocery store the smell of mulling spices filled the air. We lived in multiple homes where those spices, candles, and cinnamon-based smells swirled and filled our nostrils. It was leaving the grocery store I smelled this, unwanted, unaccounted for, unrealized.
The trigger was pulled. Swirling in my mind were the pictures of amazing Christmases. The arguments hit . . . where my daughters begged to put their homemade ornaments on the tree only to be vetoed by their mother, who had a “theme” for the tree that could never be compromised. We reached a compromise, by the way, with a small, secondary tree every year with the kids’ ornaments. Eventually we wore her down and the most amazing Christmas trees were erected with a combination of decorative flair and childlike artistry.
Thanksgiving had beautiful tables and insane cooking and stressed out times and recipes realized. The table was beautiful, the china sparkling and the food amazing.
We’ve hit the fourth set of holidays in less than four years where we create our own path. What saddens me isn’t having lost her it’s seeing that each year we’ve, as part of survival, come up with our own traditions and ideas. We’ve mixed up some of the little touches Andrea had with new things that match our new life.
The impact of the bullet from that gun isn’t near as powerful as it used to be. It’s a passing fancy, a memory that as much makes me smile as it makes me melancholy. Still . . . the trigger gets pulled and I wasn’t even looking. This is what happens when you lose control of the spinning chamber.
It’s hard to realize that you’ve moved a lot more forward than you ever expected . . . still, I treasure the memories. Difference is that now they make me smile more than make me sad.