Saturday, February 4, 2012

Promises, Promises

Grief is a strange thing.

It can make the chattiest person fall silent, emptying their brain of coherent words.
It can prevent even the most exhausted person from sleeping.
It can evoke hysterical laughter, even amidst terrible sobbing.
It can create ridiculous, irrational, ill-directed anger (more on that later).
It can cast a pall across every waking moment, making you wonder if anything will ever feel right again.

Yesterday, grief made me a bit...wonky? No. Probably 'off-kilter' is a better way to describe it.

Apart from crying on an old friend's shoulder at the front door of the swimming pool (and the thousands of people who pass through the doors between 3:30 and 5pm on a school night), and crying on the shoulder of the childcare teacher at Maisie's creche (whom I had never met before), I had held it together pretty well this week. And no, I'm not counting the silent weeping behind my sunglasses whilst driving, or the uncontrollable wailing on Christian's shirt-front, or even the general black malaise that has taken over me since Monday. If you know me IRL, you'd agree that I have been exceptionally restrained.

And I had a fair bit of lovely help this week, keeping it together - visits from Kirst and baby Eliza, and Caroline and baby Robot, were invaluable to me. Sange and Hay kept me busy for an afternoon, and my kids to boot. Miffy arrived, baby Asha (now dubbed 'Dashie' by the Mouse) under one arm and dinner for us all under the other. You girls - all of you - gave me love and hugs and coffee and company when I needed it. Thank you.

So I figured that I would be strong at Adam's funeral - strong for my darling Anna and her family, strong for my poor, bereaved husband. After all, anyone who had drunk as much coffee as I had in four days could stand up for hours!!

Anyway. For all my good intentions, grief got me in the arse, big time.

Firstly, we had to spread the kids three ways, which meant leaving the house at 7am. Phoebalina went to Aunty Miffy's house, and was beyond excited to be Miffy's baby-helper all day. She skipped out to the car with her lunchbox and colouring-in gear, and barely looked back. Similarly, Jack was so delighted to spend the day at his best mate's house, I got the whisper of a kiss thrown at my cheek before he and Will disappeared on some adventure. Mummy? What mummy??

The Mouse, on the other hand, is obviously psychic. How else could the child have known about the churning grief and guilt in my head, and pressed exactly the right buttons to accentuate it?? Since I literally had no one to take Mais for me, I was forced to put her in for an extra day of childcare. Now, considering her very first day of daycare EVER was on Wednesday, you can imagine how guilty I felt. Especially since I had to leave her there at 7:30am.

As soon as she saw Jack exit the car, Maisie began crying. It escalated to full screams as I drove away from Will's house, and just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, she spied the childcare centre looming. "Nooooooo, mummy!!!! No!!!!!!! Mummy, nooooooo!!!!!!" she wailed, as though begging me not to leave her with knife-wielding strangers in a dark carpark at midnight. Which is why I cried on the childcare lady. Totally understandable. (NB: when my mum picked her up in the afternoon, she was as happy as the proverbial pig in the point Narnie was ordered to sit down to read a story and sing songs. And in the end, Mum had to convince her to leave!! Little bugger.)

Obviously, this put me in a rather fragile state. And I still had three hours until the actual funeral.

About the service, all I will say is this: it was beautiful, simple and heartfelt. Anna gave Adam's eulogy, and a braver woman has never drawn breath. She was so strong, I couldn't take my red, sobbing, ugly face off her. Every poem, every song chosen for Adam was perfect, and the chapel was packed with people who loved Adam and Anna.

It was only when the bagpipes started that the ugly crier turned hideous. I'm sorry, but bagpipes make me blub at happy occasions. Play them at a funeral and I'm a heaving, snotting write-off. Seriously - I've told Christian this, but just so there's no surprises - at my own funeral, I want to exit the church / chapel / pagan cave to 'Born To Be Alive' by Patrick Hernandez. You heard me. If anyone allows my coffin to be bagpiped from the building, I'll get up out of the casket and deck you. Even if I'm lucky enough to die when I'm 99, that's the song I want. Ok? Ok.

I think I mentioned before about grief creating anger? Uhuh. How's this for nasty? My wretchedness was so overwhelming, I was beginning to look at really old (I mean, REALLY old, like proper nonagenarians) in the street and thinking, "Why are you still allowed to be here if Adam is not? How come you got to live so long? Huh? Huh???" Yep. Really helpful stuff. And totally rational too.

So even though I wanted to crawl into a hole lined with Kleenex to soak up the running rivers from my nostrils, we went to the wake to support Anna. And after I regained some sight in my eyes, and the capacity to speak, I tried to help. Passed a bit of food around. Washed a few dishes. Picked up the empties. You know. Nothing that would bring Adam back, but all I could think of doing at the time.

And now it's the next day. The fraught, emotional tension of yesterday has been replaced by tired quietness. A grey veil hangs over my brain patterns. There has been extra kisses and cuddles and a general air of leniency with the kids, coupled with a lowered tolerance level for rude behaviour. Luckily for the big kids, ballet lessons began again for the term today (and I reckon Miss Annette is far better company than Mummy right now), and this afternoon they have gone to Narnie and Pa's for the night. The Mouse was permitted Tiny Teddies for morning tea today, and was given a new doll. It made me feel better, anyway.

If only I could fix Christian's grief with sweet treaties with his morning coffee and a new toy.

I suppose this is where the real work of living with grief begins. It's not that I'm new to grief - I'm not a hothouse flower who has been sheltered from the real world for 35 years - but I am new to this grief. This is the first time a girlfriend of mine has lost a husband. What can I do to alleviate her pain? Nothing. So I bring her offers of company and wine and food and child care, and hope that one day, some of it might help a bit. And I promise myself to talk about him, with her, whenever she wants or needs to. And to make sure the funny stories about Adam always outweigh the serious. Which, knowing Adam, won't be difficult. I promise to remember these stories, and to tell his children (the appropriate ones, of course) when they are older. I promise to keep their Daddy in my heart.

And as this is the second time my husband has lost a best mate to cancer, the grief is both old and new for him. Adam's passing has revived Christian's memories of Jason's death, aged 15. In a way, Christian has been mourning Jason all over again, while dealing with losing Adam. I am completely at a loss how to help him, other than to smother him with hugs and kisses at random intervals. (He hasn't objected...yet.) I suppose time is the answer? The thing is, I can't magically transport Anna and Christian to a time when thinking about Adam doesn't hurt as much. I can't hug their grief away. I can't cook enough in the kitchen to numb their feelings.

Sorry. Here I am, rambling again. Apparently that's another side-effect of grief. Inane rambling. And brain malfunction. Because, as I'm sure you can tell (not!!), I was going to try and make some of this humorous, if only to obey Adam's order to "enjoy your life to the full". Sorry, mate. I will. Promise.