One of the things that still astounds me about grief is how it only takes a moment to be jerked back into its grasp, even years after a loved one has died. It still happens to me with Barbara. I’m going along, minding my own business, and I see something, hear something, touch something and it reminds me of her. And it hurts just as much as it did two years ago when my mother-in-law died in a car crash.
Two weeks ago I walked through the Christmas decoration display in a tent at a local store. I was looking for outdoor lights and was feeling like a child mesmerized by all of the lighted figurines and trees. They had music playing and it wasn’t until I stepped further in that I really heard what it was: it was a boys’ choir singing Ave Maria. That’s all it took as I silently cried while listening to those pure voices sing one of Barbara’s favorite songs.
Our senses betray us, provide the conduit to those places in our memory we think are closed and safe. I’m not sure I’ll ever be safe. I think we stay vulnerable, sensitive, fragile. That’s what happens when you really love someone.
October 6, 2009
The moments catch me off-guard,
like my brother used to do
when we were kids.
He’d lay in wait
around the corner
in the hallway upstairs,
behind the jog in the corridor
outside my bedroom.
He would leap out,
and I would scream
That’s what these moments do:
they make me
Last night it was Paige,
with her round angelic face,
eyes pink with tears bursting,
coming into the kitchen while I was on the phone with my parents.
“I went to the computer…
to send some email to some friends…
and all of the emails from her are there…
there’s just a whole list of emails from her there…
it just says ‘Barbara Adams’ the whole way down…
and I just keep thinking how she’s never going to write me back…”
And so we cried.
And we talked.
I was cleaning the kitchen,
packing up backpacks,
doing things I thought were “safe.”
I thought I would be protected from
I opened Colin’s green homework folder and
put in his math assignment.
A sheet was already inside the folder,
a red squiggly crayon line decorating one edge.
I pulled out the paper with reckless abandon,
expecting an innocent scribble,
a wasted silly drawing.
But instead, it was a piece of writing paper.
On it, neatly printed in his finest handwriting,
it said, “Bye-Bye Grandma”
and there was a tombstone shape in the middle
that said “Barbara Adams 2009.”
There were green zig zags on the top and bottom,
red squiggles on the left and right,
bright colors all around.
I wasn’t ready for it.
I didn’t know it was there,
in the shadows,
coiled to take advantage when I dropped my guard,
waiting for me to be vulnerable.
And so I acted just like I did when I was a
child and my brother scared me.
And I cried.
I vowed not to let my guard down like that
I love you, Paige.
I love you, Colin.
I love that you loved your Grandma so much.
I loved her too.
I miss her too.
And my hurt may dull a bit,
but it’s never going to go away,
because some of my hurt is for you.
It hurts not only that I don’t have Grandma in my life,
but also that you don’t.
And that’s what makes me cry the most,
because I know how much she loved you both,
and little Tristan too.
we’ll have to explain to him just how special she was
and how much she loved him
and all of the the special things she did to show it.
Thinking about the fact that she’s not going to be here to
show him for herself just breaks my heart…
It makes me want to