Friday, March 21, 2008

Running on Empty

Dear Woman-Whose-Name-I-Don't-Remember,

First, let me apologize for not knowing your name. We're in Wednesday night "group" together and we wear name tags, so really, there's no excuse. I never really thought I'd be part of such a circle: middle-aged women in colorful scarves, fuzzy with dog hair, sharing our "feelings," using words like mindful and spiritual center. When granola and ugly shoes were invented, I'm sure it was by a circle of dog-hair covered women, sharing. But I digress.

I know your husband died this past year. You said as much. And I could tell you were devastated. You have that blurriness, that "checked out" look of someone who has suffered so deeply that just going to the grocery store and having it be a simple, daily thing is unimaginable. Everything is a chore. I know.

So when you sat down next to me at the annual Fishermen's Memorial Mass, I was surprised, but shouldn't have been. Your husband was one of the two men lost at sea this past winter, his body never recovered. When the chaplin read his name, you cracked and howled such a wracking, horrible, animal noise that everyone stiffened and stared straight ahead. Nobody dared turn around and look.

I handed you a Kleenex. You came alone so I should have put my arm around you and said something wise, if not comforting, but didn't. I'm embarrassed that I didn't step up and help...especially since I always bitch about people who don't step up and help. In fact, I have a big "fuck you" for those folks and here I am, one of them.

Truth is, I waited till everyone stopped singing "Amazing Grace" before I grabbed my purse and fled to my car where I sat and cried. For you and for me. You didn't see me leave because you had your head in your hands.

See, I have no reserves, dear woman-whose-name-I-don't-remember. I'm fresh out. It's all I can do to carry my own sorrow. I simply don't have room for yours. I know your dead husband and my dead brother should bring us closer together...but that assumes we have the strength to lift our arms. Sorry. Not yet.

Grief makes you small and heartless. An ugly truth, but there you have it. My father called today to tell me my brother, Andrew, the drug addict, was in the hospital again, having gotten the shit kicked out of him by some "friends." Guess he shorted his dealer. But when my dad said, "too bad they didn't finish the job," I felt my skin tingle with shock. I know he would trade the bad seed for the return of the good son if such trades were possible. My brother's 30-year drug addiction has drained his gas tank. And Edward's death stalled the engine.

But who am I to be shocked? At Edward's funeral, when Andrew flung himself across the coffin and cried, "It should have been me. It should have been me," I muttered under my breath, "Yes, it should have been you, you son-of-a-bitch." And I still believe that.

I know I could tell you all this in person,
dear woman-whose-name-I-don't-remember,
but I'm not going back to Group.
I have work to do, that much is clear.
But it's not going to happen in a circle.
And I'm fresh out of colorful scarves.

Apologies,

2nd Ed.

2 comments:

Kylita said...

Sea Otter, you may never know how much it meant that you simply handed her some Kleenex. I've found that we rarely get what we'd like to from others, but rather what they're able to give ... and you gave what you could and still are giving because you cannot think nor write these thoughts without it affecting the Herenow. I very much appreciate the caring and concern and empathy you have shown me ... so know your goodness and allow yourself whatever time it takes to turn and face outward. Facing inward is what we sometimes need to heal. I honor that woman because she had the courage to be there at all and not care who heard her mournful cries for her husband. Blessings...KLH xo

Mich said...

Darlin'. I wish I could carry some of your burden. I truly do. To have such grief when there is so much in your life to by joyful for is a tragedy. I ache for you. But, I am so glad you have this online outlet to release some of it. And, so glad that you have Doug and Mia to shoulder some of it too.