Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Trouble with Saturdays

Here's what it is: every Saturday that I am not at work, storytelling or visiting family, we go to town in the mornings. It's a ritual for us, having breakfast, seeing friends, doing a little shopping and errands. Library, feedstore, bank, grocery store are the usual stops.

Now I feel like I'm running an obstacle course. Last Saturday my sisters were visiting and I felt protected by their presence. It was cold and snowy so there weren't many people out and I could go to my usual haunts without meeting anyone who wanted to tell me how sorry they were. This morning it was just Larry and me.

First stop was the tire shop. I've been running on threads and steel cords, the blessing bestowed by my long daily commute and storytelling trips. It was time for tires. The place I usually get them is the shop where Jon worked off and on when he was in high school. Sometimes when he was in the Army or working at Nextel and came home to visit he would still go in and work, just for the purely physical nature of it. He and the shop owner were longtime friends, closer to uncle/nephew than anything else. They argued, laughed and cussed each other, and Jon loved that man like family.

I thought I'd be okay, but at the first sight of Jon's old friend, I knew I was in trouble. I managed a hug but could not talk to him at all. Tears were too close to the surface for both of us. Painful does not begin to describe how it felt. We got the tires (no discount! Ha! There is friendship and there is business, a fact Jon and his friend both knew well, and somehow that was better for me. Business is business, no emotional involvement).

At the Downtowner, I struggled to get a grip, to quiet the sorrow raising its dark head once again. I thought this would be a good day but soon realized that I was too optimistic. A friend I had not seen since Jon's death stopped in for breakfast and although I was more prepared by then, it wasn't easy.

Then on to the bank where thank goodness I saw no one I knew, and to the library. More good friends I had not yet seen, more bracing myself to get through, just get through. Again
it was not bad, just difficult.

I am home now, trembling inside from the strength it took to face people and get done the things that needed to get done--the tasks that used to be such a pleasure and are now a marathon of fighting back tears and keeping my emotions in check. And people wondered why I did not go out for so long after I got home?

Re-reading what I've written, I realize that this sounds all about me. My friends are suffering too in sympathy and empathy. I do not want to make it harder for them by a) breaking down in their presence, or b) coming off as cold and uncaring. There is no middle line to walk here, no safe place where I can protect myself and appear cheerful and nonchalant. If there is, I have no idea how to find it.

At the same time, I cannot hibernate forever and I do not want to do that. Going to back to work on Wednesday was tough; my people in my department have been terrific--they know me well enough to let me be. Others have that I'm-so-sorry look so I avoid eye contact or speaking to them, and cut off any condolences abruptly by changing the subject to a work-related topic. It probably seems cold and perhaps even rude, but my personal sorrow is not for the workplace, if that makes sense. I appreciate their concern, but the best possible thing they can do for me is get back to business. Then I can put down my shield, take down the wall I have built to protect myself and return to something like a normal workday.

It's hard for me to see meaning in my days or the things I do. I often wonder what this life is about--are we here only to experience the pain of losing the ones we love, and then dying ourselves? Is that really all it is? (Please, no explanations about trusting in God--that's a given, but the questions remain.) Those who have traveled this path ahead of me assure me it gets better with time, and I have to trust that this is true.

As I told a friend this morning, I would gladly die a thousand times to give my son my remaining days. We aren't offered that choice so we struggle on, trying to understand and hold on to joy, to find meaning and reason in our lives. I look at the trees beginning to soften with warmer days and at the flowers breaking the soil in my gardens and I know that nature has a cycle of life, death and rebirth. As part of nature surely that cycle applies to us as well. Somewhere, in some form, Jon will live again. Here and now the business of daily living must go on, and business, as I said above, is business: a list of tasks to be accomplished, goals to be met. Perhaps it is the routine of business that gets us through.

In the meantime, a lifetime of Saturdays line up ahead of me, the end of them lost in the cloud of the future, and I must work my way through them, hoping that at some point joy will return to this business of living.


Susan at Stony River said...

Wow. Hang on!

My mother went back to work just a few days after my Dad's funeral (he'd been in hospice so long her grieving had already lasted forever). Her boss told her no way but my mother said she just couldn't sit in that empty house by herself, working would keep her sane. But she asked her boss to pass on that she wanted to come in as if everything was normal-- no tears, no I'm-sorries, no flowers, just let her be. Everyone was wonderful about it, just "Hi Margaret, want coffee?" but she said when she was going to her car that night, she heard running footsteps behind her and when she turned, one of the girls said 'I tried to be good but I just can't let you go home without this' and hugged her tight.

Well... At least you're putting all these first-times, these first meetings, behind you one at a time. It's got to get better, a little bit anyhow.

I laughed about that no-discount on your tires btw. And I'm glad you're driving on new ones!

Granny Sue said...

Susan, there are so many people in my workplace it would be a huge task to get that across to everyone--esp without sounding like a crybaby. So I'm doing it this way, for better or worse. Eventually everyone will get the idea.

And you're right about the first-times. Getting through them, one at a time. In the end, maybe I'll be a tougher person!

According to the experts, I'm in "step 2" of grieving. Funny to think about it in dissected steps, but when I read about the steps, that's what this is. Apparently how long a person stays in each step varies. And each day, well, each minute really, can shift from one step to another. So I can understand why some things throw me and others I can handle. Doesn't make it easier, esp if you're a person who has always been able to control emotional reactions. But there it is.

gigihawaii said...

I can't help it, but this brought me to tears. I can't imagine going through what you've been through.

Granny Sue said...

I could not imagine it either, gigi. To tell the truth, the reality is worse than I imagined in some ways, and not as bad in others. I thought a mother would weep for days, be prostrated, immobilized with grief. For me it is not like that. It's a terrible sadness that sometimes for brief periods I forget about when I'm busy, or when I first wake up. Then I remember and I'm engulfed again. It's also times of quiet joy, remembering him and the things we did together, or his phone calls, or him with his daughters.

Debbie Couture said...

Sue, When my parents died and I know that is different I found it helped to keep busy. It's funny but a song or a person who looks like my dad the age he would be now can bring me to tears to this day. Hope your Saturdays get easier. You've been in my thoughts and prayers. Take care.

Janie B said...

God bless you as you try to go through menial tasks each day. Give yourself time to grieve all you need.

Robbyn said...

One of the things I notice most in the years I've been happy to know you through your blog is that you're unapologetically You, and it's refreshing and beautiful. You're both strong and sensitive and your grief is as fierce as your love...I don't think our society is much acquainted with grieving as something natural, and its timeframe as something necessary and beyond the realm of calendars or schedules. Thank you for sharing Jon with us. And your beautiful mountains, your stories, and cookie recipes...and the many other things too numerous to list in a comment box :)

Tipper said...

I guess they don't say the first step is the hardest for nothing. But there has to be a little bit of hope in the fact that you are now past the first saturday-the first day at work.

Granny Sue said...

Last night we saw my granddaughter, Jon's oldest daughter and mother of his grandchild. She described exactly the same feelings as I wrote about and I think it helped her to know she isn't alone in how she feels.

Robbyn, I once thought I would keep this blog light, only discussing happy things, but it just isn't possible to do that now, so rather than not write at all, I'm just telling it like it is and hoping my readers are not driven off. And Tipper, you're right--the first times are hardest and very stressful. I am surprised at how much emotional effort it takes. But many first-times are behind me so that's good. And more time with Jordan--priceless.

Jaime said...

I was really afraid that's what your FB comment meant yesterday. I was hoping I was wrong and tried to come up with a few different senarios as to why your Saturday might have been difficult (ran out of time for all the thing you needed to start for spring, etc...)with Aunt Maggie. Sometimes its okay to not worry about others grief and only focus on your own. So if you seem a little cold, I think they will understand. And if they don't... well then quite simply they are in their own small little world.

Mary said...

Jaimie was way ahead of me on this one, and so wise, too. I salute you for facing this part of the path and hope it gets a bit easier to travel. I do like the idea in Susan's post of having someone else explain to people your need to be left alone to work and heal, or even to just head them off and steer them away from you if it's too much.
Our department chair used to carry similar messages, to save the good wishes so our returning colleagues could deal with things in their own time. We also would use the relative quiet of the room of a teacher on "planning period" to hide in and get emotions out so we could go forward. Tea was often involved . . .
Hugs, my dear friend. Wish I were close enough to do more.

Granny Sue said...

Good words, Mary. In retrospect I should have asked for that; it seemed impossible with so many departments and branches, staff scattered everywhere, some full-time, some part-time...getting word to everyone seemed monumental and required more talking about me than I wanted to think about. So while some may think I'm being rude, all I can say or feel is, get over it. I'm taking care of me and that's about all I can do each work day.

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