Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wound Care

Birthday Cake by Will Clayton
Birthday Cake, a photo by Will Clayton on Flickr.
We begin life mourning. We're thrust into a cold, harshly-lit room, screaming and helpless, no longer weightless and suddenly responsible for our own respiration. We lose our secure quarters--our comfy situation--and straight away, we instinctively try to mitigate the loss. We root and we suckle; we cry until we're soothed.

We get over it eventually. We get over lots of things eventually--best friends who move away; parents who divorce; lovers who leave; parts we don't get to play; promotions we don't get; wishes that don't come true; mistakes we make. I've gotten over quite a bit in my 39 years. Some of it was easy; some of it felt like a fight for my life, but I've always managed to work through loss and pain. I grieve, but at some point I find I've processed the loss and it doesn't hurt anymore. I wish I could say that I've conquered every loss, but I haven't.

My brother died of AIDS in 2006. He spent much of his life in pain. Not physical pain--his heart was broken. He wanted our dad to love him. He wanted people to be kind to one another. He wanted to be able to trust everyone. He wanted everybody to have everything they needed. He couldn't have any of those things and it tore him apart. Especially the part about our dad, I think. This is the part that makes me so sad: He never got any of the good things he wanted and deserved.

You could say I have been mourning for my brother since I was a little girl. I knew he did things that were reckless and dangerous. I knew that he would self-destruct one day, though I thought somehow I might stop him. Maybe he'd think I was too sweet to leave behind. Maybe he'd need to stick around to save me if I was reckless too. I tried. Part of me never gave up. The night he died (technically it was morning--2AM), I was still sure I could make him smile in the morning. Another part of me was braced for the loss. Or so I thought.

He died on March 18, 2006. I cried. I wrote crappy poetry. I spoke at his memorial service. I put one foot in front of the other in a world my brother would never see again. Eventually there was a day when I didn't think about him. Then clusters of these days together. But then something would remind me--A song; my nephew's face at a certain angle; a nightmare; a dedication run--and I would hurt. I'd be angry. I'd wish it was different. I'd want to try just one more thing to make him well.

Last Friday I was coming home late from a work event and I took a route I don't normally take. I ended up at a bus stop right in front of the hospital where he died. It was the first time I had been there since he died. The sights and the sounds and the feel of that night came clawing at me as I stood there freezing. I wished for the bus to come quickly and take me away. I was lucky--in about two minutes, I was whisked away by the #80 Irving Park bus. I thought I was home free, but 20 minutes later, when I was home and in my pajamas, I could still hear the sounds from his room that night. I couldn't distract myself, so I went to bed. In the morning I was startled by how upset I'd gotten the night before--I mean it has been six years. Shouldn't I be over this? Is it normal for me to tear up EVERY TIME I hear Here Comes The Sun? STILL? It is? Okay...

Today was his birthday (well, it was yesterday--it's now past midnight), and I was sad all day. I had been watching this day get closer and closer for weeks and had planned to get through it quickly, without feeling awful. But I had to fight with my tears all day. I had to force myself to focus and be enthusiastic and productive all day. When I finally got home, I broke down. I cried myself a headache. I cried myself empty. I cried until it didn't torture me anymore. I cried until I accepted that this will always be sad--a wound I should care for and not neglect. I'm not going to fight with it tonight. I'm going to take care of myself and go to bed. I'm going to say one more thing: Happy birthday, Andy. I love you.

5 comments:

Sunny Megatron said...

You made me teary eyed. Hugs to you.

Chrisa said...

I'm sure Andy, wherever he is now, is so very proud of you.

ShesAllWrite said...

Thanks Sunny and Chrisa. I do like to imagine what he would think or say if he could see me today.

Alana said...

Pure heartache. I'm so sorry.

Wendy said...

Beautifully written. Loss is so deep and visceral. It's hard to miss someone with no relief.