Today is 2 years since Michael’s seizure. I wrote about this last week, but I’ve been wondering why this was such a harder knock than his death.

It’s because life changed that day and would never be the same.

When Michael died, we knew it was coming. We knew we would not beat it. There was knowledge and acceptance that the end was inevitable. He was given a 3-6 month prognosis and lived 11 months. I felt grateful (at the time) that we had those extra months. But, we saw it coming. I was holding his hand when he died and when he was gone I put my head on his shoulder and just sobbed and sobbed. I’ve never cried so much before or after.

But the seizure was more of a WTF? moment. We didn’t know what was wrong. And I remember distinctly NOT crying. I was so concerned and felt I needed to be strong to talk to medical personnel. I only cried late at night, that first night, when the head neurologist seemed to blame me because he looked disheveled.

After the seizure, we didn’t know what was wrong for a while. Then the grim news came. The news I was in no way prepared for. I had just finished the manuscript of the book, we were JUST getting back into a normal family rhythm. We had plans for when Gina graduated from high school.

We never once talked about something like this—this terminal cancer—happening. It seemed out of the realm of possibility. Not that we ever thought about it. But that is how remote an idea it was. Many people in my adoptive family died from cancer. My pets died from cancer. I remember thinking at one point that it had been so long since I had done the oncology shuffle. And I was grateful for it. I try to be grateful for the “nots” as well as the “is’s.” In July I’m always grateful it’s not Christmas. I hate Christmas.

So when we were cancer free, I was grateful. When we were first married Michael smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day (and I smoked almost 1). After about a year he was hacking and coughing every morning and that is when I went on my quit campaign. I quit and never went back. He quit but struggled forever with staying quit. I lectured, a lot, on how I didn’t want him to get emphysema or lung cancer. My father, my aunt and his uncle all died from that. I couldn’t watch it again. I did not want to deal with a self-inflicted cancer. I wanted him to quit. And he tried. He really did. But he was a sneak smoker the whole time. At least I curtailed it a lot.

But in 2008 if there was any health concerns, it was Michael concerned for me and my brittle bones. He would bring it up now and again and say he was “concerned” that I would break something and be wheelchair bound or immobile and get pneumonia. The concern was all over his face. I could see that he was really concerned. He would look down, looking sad, when he talked about it. He wasn’t the type to harp or nag but every so often he brought it up. That it concerned him. He didn’t want to lose me.

It never occurred to either one of us that anything would ever happen to him outside of a heart attack. I used to tell him that men who were built like him and who ate atrociously, the way he did, had heart attacks. And he looked at me as if I had 25 heads. Was he going to stop eating all the fat and sugar he could get in during a day? No. So the words fell on empty ears. He did try to quit cigarettes all the time. But food? Never.

Michael had a strong constitution as he told me over and over again. He was the definition of a poor diet. He liked fat and sweets. He never exercised. And yet he never had a single health issue. He used to tease me about how much care I took of my body, of my teeth, and how I was the one who wound up at the doctors’ offices and the dentists. (I had all my teeth capped one year).

Had he had a heart attack I would have seen it coming. Had he gotten lung cancer, I would have seen it coming. Brain cancer? Never. Michael was ADHD and I used to tease him that, to me, being in his brain for 5 minutes would be the definition of hell. He thought that was the funniest thing he ever heard. But I never meant it literally of course. But then his brain cancer would turn out to be my hell.

In the early days when he lay in the ICU, intubated and unconscious, I hoped for something not so awful. I had hope that it was, as the doctors said, a virus that was treatable. They did not think it could possibly be a tumor because of the pervasiveness of it. All over the brain. They did not think that anyone could walk around with that in their brains and not have severe symptoms. Michael’s strong constitution is what kept him going despite the tumors. And allowed the tumors to grow to an inoperable status. His strong constitution is what allowed the tumors to grow unabated and undetected. The irony of that kills me. It became untreatable because he was so strong. I hate that.

As I sit here today I am amazed at how much I miss him. I keep thinking that it will subside. But it doesn’t. I have periods where I feel okay and then there is a big whoosing sound of emptiness where he once was.

I also find that I miss him in new ways. I find that sometimes when I want to tell him something it actually bothers me MORE than the last time it happened. I am doing my grief. I am working on healing. And yet I sometimes feel, like CS Lewis once said, grief is a circular staircase but am I going up or coming down?

For the past few weeks I’ve felt more alone than I ever have in my life. I was the giant reject from my biological and adoptive families. The one who didn’t fit and didn’t belong. The one no one really knew what to do with. And I dragged those feelings of rejection and abandonment in and out of relationships.

Until I met Michael. And then I was, simply put, HOME.

He got me. He understood me in a way that almost defies logic. Because even when I was being completely contrary, he either understood it or took it in stride. Unlike any other man I’ve ever been with, he thought it was cute and not maddening. He laughed at a lot of my high-maintenance requirements, and even when he did grouse, it was as he was putting his shoes on to go do whatever it was I needed done this time.

I thought, honestly, that my later years, these years, would be spent as the family matriarch. The mom, the Nonna, the wise old woman. I thought I could meet that role with grace and dignity. Yet underneath I feel as if it’s crumbling. I’m having some sort of temper tantrum. I love my family but I want my Michael. More than anything else in the world.

I want the person who got me, who loved me, who promised to never leave me. I want the person who just fell in step with me and was, by every account of every person who ever met us, the exact perfect person for me.

The wanting makes the grief harder. Makes the absence harder. The idea that someone actually got me and had a rhythm with me that no one has ever had. The idea that it’s gone away continues to slap me around. I feel as if I confront the brunt of his absence every single day.

I find that this anniversary is probably the hardest one I’ve had so far. Last year I was so bereft over his death that I didn’t really notice if the anniversary of his seizure was that intense. But this year I know it is.

I miss him. I miss the sound of his voice. I miss his priceless expressions when reacting to something I said. I miss his little “heh heh” laugh that he did. I miss seeing him on the couch at night flicking around through the channels. I miss him when I go to the doctor. I miss him when I’m out somewhere and I realize no one really cares where I am. I miss his daily phonecalls. I miss his sweet and consistent I love yous. Most of all I miss all the ways he showed me he loved me. Most of all just by being there.

And he’s not here.

For 12 years I told him I loved him because he never made me cry. And after that terrible day when he slid into the grasp of that terrible disease, I’ve been crying ever since.

Two years ago today my world turned upside down and hasn’t been righted since.

And I miss you honey. So very very much.

Advertisements