Archive for July, 2011

In two weeks I’ll be having surgery. Every day I struggle with the fatigue caused by my anemia. This week I start receiving iron infusions to treat this, and I hope I can feel a difference soon. It takes everything I have to get through the work day and I arrive home depleted. I’m so tired of feeling this way. I just want it to be over. I want to feel like myself again. I want to feel normal.

It’s been so long since I’ve felt “normal,” I don’t even know what that is anymore. I don’t know if I’d recognize normal if I tripped over it. Everything about my life has been about as abnormal as it can get for the last year and a half. First my husband kills himself, and while I’m still struggling to cope with that trauma my body grows this alien thing inside me that saps my strength and leaves me exhausted and depressed.

I remember a few months after my father died, sobbing to my husband, “I just want to feel normal again!” And I remember knowing, with a certainty I could feel in my bones, that when my husband took his life nothing would ever be normal again.

Recently I watched the season premiere of “Rescue Me,” a show about New York City firefighters. These words, spoken by the character Tommy Gavin (played by Denis Leary) about dealing with the loss of his brothers in 9/11, hit me like a punch in the gut, knocking the wind out of me:

“I’ve got news for you, there’s no getting over it. Normal is dead and buried… I’m just trying to make sense of what’s left above ground.”

I was just starting to make sense out of what was left for me, beginning to rebuild my life, finally able to relate to my friends as one of them again, not always The Poor Widow who needed their sympathy and comfort. I was just starting to feel like I was coping… and now, because my body betrayed me, I’m back to feeling different, alien. Once again, all my energy is (and has to be) focused on just trying to heal myself… on trying to make sense of what’s left.

I’ll  heal from the surgery. My body will get strong again. I’ll get my health back. But I don’t know that I’ll ever feel normal again. Normal is dead and buried. And I’ve got news for you: there’s no getting over that.


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Or… Life Lessons From Dr. Who

I’ve been watching a lot of Dr. Who reruns on BBC America lately. Not long ago I saw, for the first time, the episode where the Doctor’s companion, Rose, gets him to take her back to the day her father died when she was a little girl. He was struck by a car and died before the paramedics arrived, and Rose has always been haunted by the thought of her father dying alone. She wants to go back in time and be with him when he dies. When it comes to the crucial moment, though, she can’t bring herself to stand by and watch. She runs into the street and pulls her father out of the path of the oncoming car, saving his life. And in doing so, she screws up the entire world. At the end of the episode, her father, realizing that everything has gone wrong because he is supposed to be dead, walks in front of the car (which has been caught in some kind of time loop, endlessly circling that block) and the world returns to normal.

It really got me thinking… I used to always say that if I could turn back time, if I could wave a magic wand and make my husband live again, I would do it in a heartbeat. But would I? Over and over again in the last year and a half, I’ve dreamed that my love survived the suicide attempt… and in every dream, I lived in terror of his trying it again. I watched him like a hawk, afraid to leave him alone. In some of the dreams, the unsuccessful attempt had left him crippled or brain damaged and I was going to have to care for him, as for a child, for the rest of his life. Each time I have one of those dreams, I wake up with a profound sense of relief that the worst has already happened and I don’t have to live in fear anymore.

If he hadn’t killed himself on that spring afternoon in 2010, what would our life be like now? Would we still be struggling to keep his business alive, pouring every cent we had into it, or would we have given that up as a lost cause by now? If the business had failed, would he be working at some other kind of job. I think I know the answer to that. I’m fairly certain that I would be supporting both of us, and his kids, and that the salary that affords me a comfortable lifestyle on my own wouldn’t even come close to meeting our basic needs. We’d still be getting deeper and deeper into debt. If he hadn’t died, would I have grown to resent him for that?

Two other Dr. Who episodes that I watched recently dealt with loss and love… with the realization that pain and loss are a necessary part of love, and that it’s worth dealing with the monsters to find your angel.

I remember how hard my love struggled with his demons, with the monsters of depression and failure. I remember all the times I held him through that darkness and told myself that it was all worth it for the good times, for the amazing love that we shared. And it was. If I could go back in time, I’d do it all over again.

But I wouldn’t change the ending. It was an ending he chose and, as much as it hurts me and everyone who loves him, it was his right to choose it. I try to tell myself that this was the way it had to be, that maybe he was only meant to be with us for 44 years. I try to believe that there is a new life waiting for me, a life that I was meant to have and that I couldn’t have had any other way. That’s easier said than done, but I’m trying.

When I watched Tom Baker as Dr. Who on PBS as a child, I don’t remember ever needing a box of kleenex. I don’t remember the show having this kind of emotional depth and resonance. Maybe I was just too young to understand. You can’t fully grasp what it’s like to outlive someone you love until it happens to  you.

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