I woke up yesterday with a toothache.

Easter had been nice with the family and after everyone went home Gina and Michael and I watched The Full Monty and when it was over, I did a little dance for Michael to Hot Chocolate’s “I Believe In Miracles” which plays as the credits roll. Michael laughed and Gina laughed. She doesn’t normally see me like that. I’m the no-nonsense mother. She (and just about the entire world) doesn’t normally see the playful side of me. Only Michael has really seen it because he’s the only one who has ever brought it out of me.

On Saturday I felt fatigue. Mental, physical and emotional fatigue. I felt as if I had turned a page in this chapter…a feeling that maybe, after 7 months, I was beginning to realize I need to start letting go. Just the feeling that I don’t want to, but as a grief counselor, I know I have to. I always feel disloyal to Michael when the grief begins to annoy me. When I get the very real feeling that I’m just so sick of the grief.

I know I have to get there and everyone knows I know it. But I haven’t been here or wanted to be here. But after a while people just wear themselves out with grief. I thought that was happening to me. I was just worn out with all the extra responsibility, trying to keep it together, and grieving every minute of every hour of every day. I try to keep at bay how very hard this is and has been. I always feel like I’m going to collapse under the weight of how very hard it has been.

I just felt fatigued and for the first time since Michael has been sick I didn’t want to have everyone here. I wanted to see all the kids but not really wanting to go through cleaning, cooking etc. But I have wonderful kids and Nick and his wife Kristen did most of the cooking. They went to the store twice and Michael went once. And everyone helped cook and serve and clean up.

Of course it was wonderful to see the little boys and Mattingly, Nick’s puppy. So it turned out, despite my feelings about it, to be a lovely, lovely day.

So Sunday was a great day, but I woke up Monday and had reverted back to the fatigue I felt on Saturday. Mentally and emotionally drained. I brushed my teeth and my back tooth hurt.

I take care of my teeth but haven’t been to the dentist since Michael got sick. By midday I was having some sensitivity when I ate and by the time I brushed my teeth to go to bed, my mouth was on fire.

I woke up Tuesday morning from the pain. I went to work for a few hours and then booked myself an appointment with a new dentist because my dentist is not in this week.

I took the subway uptown and had next to no patience for anyone or anything. There was a thuggy looking guy sitting across from me and when he shot me a look, I shot him one back and he looked away. That’s right. Don’t screw with me today buddy.

I walked in and the hygeniest said he would see me right away to take my history.

This dentist, who was practically randomly selected, brought me into a cozy office and wanted to chat about my dental experiences and what was going on for me now. I had been traumatized by a dentist early in life and had some setbacks but have actually gotten to the point where I can (almost) sit still for a cleaning with no anti-anxiety medicine or nitrous oxide.

It’s funny that I’m always trying to get this information to dentists before they do something that will send me scurrying out the door and here he was genuinely interested in it.

We talked about trauma for a while…the fight or flight response…very different experience. In 2000 I found a great dentist in California who did a lot of work but I never found her equivalent on the east coast, but I went anyway.

I told him about my dentist in California and said that after I had all that work done I went to the dentist regularly but hadn’t been to the dentist since Michael got sick.

He asked what Michael had and I said he had brain cancer. The dr. asked what kind. I said anaplastic astrocytoma. He said his dad died recently of a glioblastoma and he told me about his dad and I told him about Michael. We both had tears in our eyes as we talked.

After xrays the dentist explained that the tooth had had a root canal but it was infected. We discussed various options and decided to extract it and put in an implant when the infection clears. Because it’s the very back tooth it might take some digging. He suggested that I be sedated. I signed on for that. No need for dental trauma.

He said I would need someone to bring me home.

I said, “I. Have. No. One.” and burst into tears. Not a small amount of tears…gushes of tears. Something from so deep down that it startled even me. Something so odd for me to do in front of someone I don’t know.

I thought about a car service and he said he would make an exception for me but really encouraged me to have someone come with me.

My son Michael comes down every week to help out but we’re so behind on the stuff in the house it’s not funny. It’s just too much for someone to do one or two days a week. The other boys try to help out but with families and jobs and school….it’s hard…it’s just hard.

I eventually got it together enough to take the bus home and the bus driver, despite the fact that I told him, before I boarded, where I was getting off, blew past my stop. I asked him to stop and he stopped a long way away. I normally say thank you when I get off the bus (habit I picked up in California that is almost unheard of in NY) but I did not. I was just so pissed.

I was walking in the rain and cold and the dark. The words I. Have. No. One. kept ringing in my head. Tears were running down my cheeks. And I realized I hadn’t turned the page I thought I had. I sat in the car and sobbed and sobbed for about 15 minutes and then cried most of the way home.

Coming in the garage I inadvertently ran over the garbage that didn’t go out last week because I missed the garbage truck by 10 minutes. I looked around. What a mess. I thought I really need to do something about something. And felt powerless to do much of anything about anything. And cried some more before I tucked in all my grief and went to greet Michael.

With a smile.

“Oh there you are,” he said. Yes, I was running about 45 minutes late and he noticed. His time sense is off with the brain tumor but he could tell I was late.

“I missed you.” he said.

I turned away for a second to hide my tears.

But I sucked it up and turned back to him, again with a smile. I bent down and gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, as upbeat as possible, “I missed you too.”

You have no idea how very very very very much. No idea at all.

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