“Now you will think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. At the present time, this is not yet possible. Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power…that has broken you, restores you a little. I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.”

~ Letter from Proust to Georges de Lauris whose mother had just died.
(reprinted in the Sept 13th issue of The New Yorker in a story about Roland Barthes)
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I’ve always heard that people who have suffered through a traumatic event or lost a loved one defined time as before and after the event.

I’m not sure how everywhere else around the country has changed before and after September 11, 2001 other than airport security but here in New York the changes have been remarkable (as you can imagine).

There are places downtown that look like a warzone with the security and the dug up streets and metal plates that come up to restrict access as well as the guard posts. West Street along side the WTC site is a mess. You have a very long wait through security before boarding a Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island bound ferry. All of the buildings in Manhattan now have electronic access for tenants only. I once asked the security guard in my building if I could leave my very large bag there while I ran over to the bank and he said no. Seriously. NO. He said 9/11 blah blah blah.

You cannot drive your car onto the Staten Island Ferry. There are National Guard patrolling the subways and other transit hubs. Everyone’s office now comes equipped with an emergency kit which includes a mask for breathing. I store mine in a file cabinet. It used to be on the back of the door but it just freaked me out every time so I shoved it away.

I occasionally find myself saying “Yes, it’s that way since 9/11.” Many people have a hard time fathoming NYC before 9/11 but it hasn’t always been this way. The post 9/11 world is very different than the before 9/11 world.

But other than a global event like 9/11, delineation of time–before and after “it” happened–tends to be personal and unique to each individual family and their loss. I know I have witnessed more than one family fall apart and the delineation line is clear for everyone to see. It’s when “it” happened.

For parents who lose children the line is usually so thick that in the aftermath it is clear that “I will never be the same” doesn’t even begin to do the change justice. There are no words to express the depth of the change, the enormity of the difference between now and before it happened. No words.

As I approach the 2 year mark since Michael’s seizure I realize that the thick black line is very real for me too. Every date I see is “before the seizure” or “after the seizure.” When I look back on emails sent by us in the weeks and months before the seizure I can’t imagine being in that place again. In the place where I knew I was happy and loved. When everything was right with the world no matter what. It’s as if we were moving blissfully along unaware that life was about to deliver a stunning blow to our lives. I think of the dancing scenes in the Titanic movies. Those poor bastards have no idea they are about to plow into an iceberg. And we had no idea that an iceberg was about to plow into us.

Our concerns were always for other things. The kids, the house, the dog, the cats. We were the caretakers and the protectors, fiercely guarding our little family and each other with everything we had. As I’ve mentioned 2 million times on this blog, we were a team. We worked as a team. A formidable team that would not be bowed or cowed by anything or anyone. We would put our lives on the line for each other, our kids, our way of living. We cherished it all.

So then “it” happened. The giant wrecking ball of fate smashed through our little world and caused everything to go asunder. The earth shook, the terrible truth slowly crept in and we were faced with an enemy that we could not defeat. Something neither of us ever stood for was “no this cannot be changed.” We believed was nothing we could not do; nothing we could not fix. But this…this…this…no we can’t. I fought tooth and nail to get Michael the best of everything while he was ill. But I couldn’t fight the terrible tumors that were winding their way through his brain. That I couldn’t do. And the powerlessness was simply overwhelming. I have never been so powerless.

The day of the seizure is a delineation of before and after. Since I’m still very bereft, the difference in my life then and now is fairly remarkable. I look at a date on a bill or a receipt I find in a drawer. Oh look, he bought some hamburger buns and some Tums. And I stare at the receipt as if I can just make that day materialize…when the biggest issue of the day for him was probably deciding between regular or fruit-flavored Tums.

I look at his things that haven’t been touched and am catapaulted back to the days when he was busy screwing around in the garage or in the basement. Again I stare as if my staring could make it all come back…could make it be as it once was. But it can’t and it won’t.

I sometimes stand at the bottom of the basement stairs and shout up “Helloooo!” like he did with the same intonation. Just to hear it again. Hear it out loud. I sometimes call the cat Lit-tle Lils the way he did. And sometimes I call Gina “Geester Roo” the way he did. Or answer the phone with “What’s going on?” the way he did.

Those little everyday things are what I miss the most. When life was normal. When there was a hello, a little lils and a geester roo in every single day. Those little things. What’s going on?

September 16, 2008. My world changed. The world I knew and loved and worked so hard to build. It changed dramatically and for the worse. For the next 11 months I would hold onto Michael the way someone on a rooftop holds onto a rope that is keeping their loved one, who is dangling on the side of the building, from crashing to the pavement below.

And when I could no longer hold on, when my strength could not stave off the inevitable, the rope broke. I did not let go. It broke. And I have the rope burns to prove it.

As I come up on the second anniversary I feel it even more deeply than I did the anniversary of his death. Because before that day all was right with the world and since then, all is not right. I have a hole in my soul and in my heart.

And the time when there was no such hole is delineated by a date on the calendar. A date I can’t ignore, though I wish I could.

There are things that make me feel more alone than other times. The trip I took to the hospital last Friday. The argument I had with Gina. The exhaustion I feel driving everywhere. I so miss him driving me places. I so miss him.

The line that was crossed can never be uncrossed. But I try to go on to make life after “it” happened as okay as I can.

I don’t know if the line fades as Proust seems to suggest it does. Right now it’s big and glaring. And it’s still too soon after “it” for me to even fathom that fade.

But I hope that it will come as the rebuilding of my life continues. I don’t want to forget but I don’t want to remember as hard as I do now. I want the time before “it” happened to be something I smile at instead of desperately longing for.

I don’t know when the line fades, but there will come a time when everything in my life is not marked before and after.

At least I hope so.

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