It’s been a bad spell. Turmoil within, turmoil without. Perhaps the problem lies more in that I continue to grieve so harshly and painfully, Scotty, when at nine months, I think the expectation is signs of progression forward. Understandably, people have returned to their lives and the world keeps spinning around, although it seems that would be impossible with you no longer in it. The girls are so very hard and especially without you to tag team with. They suffered so badly prior to coming home to us, and then came the trauma of losing you. Well, suffice to say, I am so alone in trying to manage things that are difficult, bizarre, and so out of the norm that most people’s repetitive advice is redundant at best, and no help at all. The few who have tried to relieve me of this have quickly discovered the conundrum, and no longer offer to watch them. Thus, my life consists of taking them to tutoring, camp, counseling, and the ever-increasing demands for entertainment. I feel like the proverbial nag that one hears as a constant dripping on a day of steady rain. Drip, drip, drip. But their stealing, hoarding, fighting, overeating, and dirtiness is so far beyond convention that there is no one to empathize, and I am even more alone and overwhelmed.
There is nothing for me. And nothing in my future would prognosticate lovely things. I don’t understand why I still feel so desperate to change this course that your death has set me upon! I cry so very hard and so very often. I still cannot sing at church, look at your pictures, talk about your leave-taking, or see your handwriting in a notebook without erupting in those heart constricting sobs. Sometimes I awaken with dried remnants of tears on my cheeks from crying in my sleep. Days drone on with unchanging intonation. May I say, one more time, please visit me again? I don’t care how—a word in my ear, a sense of your presence near me, your schooner at sea once more, an ethereal touch on my cheek in the night.
In my begging, you did come. I cannot say whether it was real or not, but you appeared to me, and changed my desperate searching for a way out of my detested life. I’d awakened for the third day in a row with such despair, trying to prepare myself for another day of appearing to be recovering and healing when it does not seem authentic in the least. Of struggling with this charade for the girls—who see the tears, but also see the superficial smiles and contrived laughter and are convinced. I laid back down, wanting to escape for just another hour in sleep. Suddenly, I was standing before my dresser in the new house. I turned toward the doorway and there you were, clear and tangible as reality could embrace. My breath caught and you smiled your crooked smile and raised that right eyebrow. You looked younger, maybe 40 or so, and handsome as always, and I drank in the moment like the starving, dehydrated woman I am. I awoke with a start and looked, but you were gone. Yet, your visitation changed the hopeless desperation that had ruled my days for weeks, and I am so grateful to God for allowing it.
On the weekend, I took the girls to Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains, to that impossibly challenging hike up to Bridal Veil Falls. Do you remember? You taught me so much—how to embrace the breathtaking beauty of a rigorous mountain hike, to know the mountains, the forest, the trees, the flora and fauna. You taught me to kayak and canoe the challenging rivers, and to water ski in crystal clear, cold Lake Washington. You guided me to greater abilities as a cook and baker. You made me chocolate cheesecake and coaxed me into liking coffee, though only with chocolate. We could not be apart. I could barely make it through a shift at the clinic without seeing you, so we’d meet for lunch. You’d show up to pick me up in your Coast Guard uniform, your military hat perched jauntily down to your eyebrows and your tender eyes searching mine from beneath. God how I loved you! How I love you still!
When the girls and I began our trek up that steep incline, I determined to give them a mom who was strong and brave, rather than a weak, sick, old invalid. But even more motivational was my perpetual desire to have you be proud of me, and I think I sensed that you were. The first three miles were challenging, no doubt, but the last mile or so was a grueling, breath stealing, cardiac arresting, virtual rock-climbing impossibility. I wasn’t going to quit, though. I refused to fail, to let the girls and you down. Panting and sweating like a horse, drops of salty sweat trickling down and burning my eyes, I climbed slowly and steadily. I told the girls and other worried passersby that I was fine, and to go on before me. I would be there eventually. I’d meet them at the top, at the stunningly beautiful waterfalls I’d last seen with you over 30 years ago. Memories rushed over me like a tidal wave and I fought the spasm of tears that would surely steal the little breath I had left to complete this insuperable, monumental Goliath. I stopped at every outcropping, log or rock to rest, and pressed on. I heard the rushing roar of the pounding falls, its mist reaching my face, even as I rounded the last steep switchback, clutching rocks like a lifeline. And finally, there stood the falls—mighty, powerful, a testimonial of God and you. I’d made it! I cried in exhaustion and a feeling of accomplishment that I’d not had since you went home. Even so, it was still for you. Maybe if I could do this, if I could do this alone, I could live another day, or week, or month, or year. I doubted it. I doubted it voraciously, but you were there and you were smiling at me.
Next week I will tackle Wallace Falls.