I’m on my couch, the Bix at my side, the premiere of the series “Taken” on TV, working on the #FVS24 campaign… a day in the life for Duke the Dane. I stayed home from work sick (actually sick, guys, not faking it!), eating food from the local health food store that really tastes like crap but I didn’t want to go to the big store, so I chose the “emotionless pit” store.
But weirdly, I can only think one thing.
I hate you.
I hate you all in the world. I hate that this didn’t happen to you. I hate you when you fight with the person you love. I hate when you take it all for granted.
This is who I am today. I’m full of hate.
I went to therapy and was positive. I love the social media plan we’re doing at work. But the undercurrent is hate.
I hate that you don’t have to go through this.
Yesterday, I said I am glad to take this burden for you. That I would hold it for you so you could be happy and love. All of you.
Today, I hate.
That is grief.
I cannot explain it. I don’t even try.
I look at pictures of Adam and remember every detail. What his earlobes felt like. That’s what I’m stuck on today. His earlobes with the hoop earrings. He only took them out this year because of the CT scans and shit. No metal.
That is weird. I don’t hate his earlobes. I love them.
I’ve crashed since my family and friends from across the country left. Yesterday I ended up in full “November grief” mode. I ate a can of bean dip (thanks, Karen!), ate au gratin potatoes for dinner (the whole box, Adam would have said “that’s a great dinner!”), and watched movies. I slept in even though I didn’t sleep. I took a nap. I went to bed early. I didn’t pay my bills this week (please forgive me, I know I owe you, friends). I didn’t check my email, didn’t check in on my friends online who are hurting. I cried. I have a friend who lost her mother (and her dad lost his wife), and somewhere out there Bill Paxton’s wife is having her version of my November 2016.
So, I’m posting the below letter because my head is too full to speak. Adam has not given me permission to post this, but I do know if he thought it could help anyone, he would be OK with it. He wrote this in rehab. He was trying. He was getting it. This is Adam’s gift to all of you who are struggling, whether it’s with addiction or loneliness or mental illness. He was trying. We can, too.
Also, I edited for a couple spelling errors, because…it’s me.
When we first met, I really didn’t care for you much. Even though my friends all thought you were great, I still felt that we were incompatible, but you stuck with me anyway and eventually won me over.
We’ve had so many good times together. You helped me meet people, and even showed me that I had a sense of humor. However, the longer we knew each other, you became more pushy…and instead of helping me out, you began to urge me to do more obnoxious things, and sometimes pushed so hard that I wouldn’t even remember our fun time the next day.
Then you took it way too far. I thought you were my friend when all the while you were killing me from the inside out. Of course, I couldn’t see this…you kept your facade of ‘best friend,’ the one who makes me happy and more interesting.
So I had to break away from you five years ago. I thought that this distance would make it possible to remain friends. I just wasn’t going to let you bully me around anymore. And you played nice for a while. But then you started to sneak up on me and convince me to hang out for just a while longer until I stopped caring when you would leave.
Once you had your toe-hold back, you started up again with more fervor than ever. You didn’t even care about helping me have fun. You just concentrated on destroying me. I even knew you were doing it, but I didn’t have the energy to fight you off. You let me shrink away from everything I loved, and pushed me even more violently into an isolated, dark closet… telling me there was no way to leave, but that you would stick with me and it would be OK. I now know that you are a liar. You are insidious, cruel and poisonous and it’s time for you to go. I am so disappointed in you…and you made me hate myself, then stole all of my most prized possessions and sold them for your own profit. Now I have to track them all back down and try to buy them back (for a loss, no less).
There may have been a time when we could have reconciled, but you have burned that bridge, and I am paying for it.
I have changed the locks, and I will never respond to you again. I’m walking away now. I have real problems to solve now, and you caused most of them. Your ‘help’ was a ‘hindrance’ and I don’t want you around anymore. Goodbye.
Grief is becoming one of my closest friends. Luckily (or unluckily?), this is a friend I will never lose. Forty years from now, he will still be sitting on my shoulder, poking me with a stick. Sometimes I won’t feel that stick, but other times he will hoist Gandalf’s staff, screaming “You shall not pass!” every time I try to move forward.
Grief is the Babadook. Sometimes, even though I feel I have managed to tie him up in the basement, he screams so loudly I can hear him all the way to the tri-cities of Fountain-Security-Widefield. As I know, that’s 21 minutes away.
Grief will follow me around waiting to strike. It hides. It’s like a cockroach on the wall of my apartment in Atlanta. Most of the time, when you turn on the lights, the cockroaches scurry away … that’s what my Southern friends taught me so I didn’t have to see them. But, sometimes, the big one just stays there over your bed. That’s grief. And when you go to hit him with a shoe, it doesn’t kill him. Instead, he flies at your face. Then, you’ll see that cockroach come from a hole in the bathroom and you will stuff the hole with paper towels thinking it will solve the problem. But cockroaches find a way in through other cracks.
Yes, grief is a cockroach in Atlanta.
But there are good things around grief. Because there were cockroaches in Atlanta, but there was also Amy and Carolyn, my first working Olympic Games, Georgia State, Burritoville, Jocks and Jills, having dinner and drinks with Darth Vader, and watching Georgia Tech upset Duke after paying some dude $50 apiece to sneak us in the VIP entrance.
Grief is the cockroach. Grief is the Babadook. Grief is the hidden man on my shoulder with the very long stick. He is scary, he drowns me, he takes away hope and meaning. He forces me into the corner to cry and to miss the man I love. He sometimes doesn’t let go, and no matter how many times I stomp on him, his shell is too hard to crack.
Sometimes, when you are all around, he falls asleep. His naps get longer for awhile, but then they get shorter, and I feel like I’m starting all over again.
To all of you with me this weekend, this special weekend when we celebrate Adam, I ask you this:
The perils of this numb slog are unavoidable and deadly.
Today, I decide to take a stab at “things around the house.” By that, I mean “Adam’s office.” I took pictures of it. I wanted a remembrance of what it was, even though it’s nothing without Adam in it.
First I went through the trash and recycling bin in his office … just to make sure. Just to make sure there wasn’t one scrap of paper that I couldn’t part with. I pulled stuff off the floor; packed programming and design books into a box for the Arc — maybe some young artist or tech person will benefit. I recycled a hundred empty pads of paper, read every scrap of note with his writing on it, weighing the decision for each one: keep or let it go.
I recycled sign-in sheets from classes he taught at PPCC; threw away anything related to the horrible last job he held. I emptied the bookcase, cleaned it, moved it to the basement, then vacuumed.
I cried the whole time. I talked to Adam, asking for his forgiveness; asking him to understand. Of course he didn’t hear me. He’s gone.
Then I came across his notebook from rehab. I knew it was there somewhere, and I have avoided it. It might now be the most precious thing in this house (shit, am I going to need to carry that with me in the backpack everywhere now?) It was filled with the eloquent journal entries of a man trying to find himself; trying to deal with depression and a lack of self-worth. A man who realized alcohol and depression took his art and his music from him. That he wasn’t the same person he was.
I came to a page that had a number of nouns listed on it … an exercise of sorts. He was supposed to write something small about each. This is what I saw:
Relationship: Challenging … but worth it.
And I feel terrible now, that I made things challenging. I can’t even focus on the “worth it” part because all I see is the “challenging” part. I don’t want to admit that even I felt the last couple of years were challenging as he fell deeper into depression and struggled more with anxiety. That I became a different person as I lived in constant dread of him drinking.
I read his words about how my “honey-do” lists or “boundaries I set” were stressing him out more. We were failing in communication there. After all those years of having this perfect life, we were breaking down in communication. I thought I was helping focus him, helping show him little things he could do. I knew he was suffering from depression, wasn’t getting help, and I know the enormity of feeling like you couldn’t do anything. I thought I was nudging him. Instead I was stressing.
So I fall right back into wondering what I did wrong; how responsible I was for everything. I’m ignoring everything else he wrote … about the devastation of being laid off twice, about his fear of failure with his business. I gave him every encouragement I could think of … I would support him with anything he wanted to do, I was with him… probably neither one of use realized exactly how much the alcohol was affecting him.
He was ready to conquer alcohol … his writings showed it. But the real world was more than he could handle.
If you read this, and if he ever told you that he loved me and he cared, please tell me. Because I feel so responsible for everything again right now.
I told him once during the last year that it was OK, that if it was me that was causing the stress, I would go, because I wanted him to live more than I wanted anything else, even if that meant we were apart. He told me something like “absolutely not. It’s not you, you are the one thing it’s definitely not.”
But I continue to focus too much on the negative right now.
Well, “they” were right. “They” are the women who have been in my shoes, the websites, the forums, the books.
Today is about 90 days since I lost Adam. Miraculously, beyond all hope, I started on paperwork today. I tackled the two tables full of paperwork in the living room, concentrating on what I think I will needed for taxes. Well, at least the medical bills and explanations of benefits. There are more than a hundred. Seriously.
I made an appointment with my accountant to find out what I need for taxes. Because Adam had a business, he handled taxes for the last 10 years. I just gave him my W-2 and a couple of charity receipts and washed my hands of it. Ugh. At least, we never threw anything away. How can two people collect so much paperwork?
I’m only up to a $3,000 total in receipts for medical out of pocket spending for the year, so you know I still have a looooong way to go. But those were the small bills. Pocket change.
So, waiting 90 days was correct in terms of handling pain. I threw away the paperwork from the transplant visit. The Powerpoint slides, the doctors’ phone numbers, the appointment schedule. I didn’t cry. I went through all the sympathy cards again and stacked them neatly to back to. Some of them have great messages and stories about Adam that I would like to revisit.
I have a lot more to do. But it felt good to start.
Three months. Erin was right when she said it feels like a year ago and then it feels like yesterday. It’s both.
Also, as Oscar season approaches, Moonlight is still the best movie of the year. Go see it.
So I wrote this emotional Facebook post on the death-versary of the loss of my dad. I was determined. I was stalwart. I was going to LIVE. Yessirree Bob, I sure was. But that evil piece of shit Mr. Grief was right there, just like Patton Oswalt said. Just when you think you see a spot of light, that greedy bastard attacks.
I tried to watch a movie. It was bad. I went to bed and started thinking about pain and death. I did some Googling on “why do people try and keep others from killing themselves?” Mostly, I just found selfish reasons. It seems you keep others from killing themselves so YOU don’t have to feel pain and guilt. It doesn’t matter that “I” have to keep feeling that way as long as YOU don’t have to feel that way.
I texted Brenna and asked her the question. I think she responded something like… “um, Okaaaaaay, first I have to ask, are you thinking of committing suicide?”
Me: “Not tonight. I don’t want to let Mike down.”
Brenna: “Am I going to have to ask Mike to host a tournament every weekend from now on?”
That was funny (Mike is Brenna’s husband, the hockey coach at school. I volunteer for his games because he has my great respect. Can’t let him down by doing something like killing myself.).
Anyway. That’s how grief goes. You want me to live even though 75% of the time I’m in unbearable pain. Even when you think I look happy, I’m probably not. Doesn’t that seem unfair to me, to have this pressure to live along with the grief?
But I had a long dream about Adam anyway last night, which doesn’t happen very much. I had to wait through two games before writing it down.
Adam returned in this dream. He had been in the morgue for a few days and suddenly woke up; he was still sick but his organs were all working. I couldn’t believe it, because I had his ashes on my fireplace. I went to the morgue and it turned out there was a mix-up. They had this other lady to cremate and send her ashes to Mexico, and they put those in my urn thinking it was done. Adam wasn’t cremated and thus he had time to recover.
We were back at Anschutz Hospital in Denver. Adam wasn’t feeling well because they had embalmed him and all, so his stomach hurt a little, and he was hungry as usual. We were in the ER waiting room, and I had his backpack. He pulled a giant iguana out of it. I said, “why didn’t you tell me you had an iguana in your backpack? He could have starved in there.”
Adam had come back from the dead and survived a major bleed. The doctors asked him “What can’t you do?” He was still confused because he had embalming fluid in his ears, and all he could say was “not drink tequila.” The doctors told me they weren’t convinced.
But then I was given the opportunity to make my case as to why Adam should be on the transplant list. The opportunity I wasn’t allowed officially before, because after all, I’m just the wife, what would I know or understand? I spoke passionately for five minutes. The doctors were impressed. They believed me when I said Adam was on the right path. They were amazed he had such a will to live to survive in the morgue; that his heart just kept beating.
He was on the road to the transplant. And then I held him before he was wheeled away. I asked “Is it OK, Adam, for me to go on? Now that you have already died once I think we should talk about this.”
He laughed at me and mumbled like he did in real life “We’re going to be OK, honey. But of course.”
He was wheeled away. My alarm went off.
I suppose it’s obvious with what I am wrestling with. What do I do now in life?
Sometimes I still think I can’t do it. Despite the moments of tempered joy, I am still so full of despair that I just want to go away. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. It’s too hard, to think I am here and Adam is gone.
A friend shared a sweet story about Adam today (you know who you are), and I was so glad to hear a new story, to hear that someone else loved him, about how kind and sweet he was. And still it broke my heart again that he is gone. The gentle one. The sweet one. No one has ever used those words for me (look, I know what I’m not), and it seems unfair.
I keep replaying that quote from The Thorn Birds series in my head (because that miniseries was awesome): “(Your god) gathers in the good ones and leaves the living to those of us who fail.”
This is how it feels.
I can’t stand the lack of compassion I see in this country anymore. The lack of compassion that judges Adam. That I feel I have to defend him. The whole lens of how I view the world has focused more tightly on this one element of compassion.
Today was Unity Day at school. My favorite day. In 10 years I have learned more about different cultures and ways of life than I thought possible. Some are fun… today there was tap dancing, Ultimate Frisbee and ski culture. But there is always more. Discussions on LGBTQ issues, on race relations, Jewish traditions, Muslim traditions, the gorgeous Holi Festival of Color.
And my friend, my beautiful friend, who stood up to speak in her own workshop titled “I Fell in Love with an Immigrant.” She moved many to tears as she talked about the prejudice and bias she and her husband experienced because of his legal status in America. The lack of compassion others had for their situation, the general lack of compassi
on in general. This is one of the many friends who have been there for me during my pain.
Adam didn’t know many people at school well; he was always on the outskirts by choice, but he loved the place that made me happy. And he often talked about Frankie…more than once when I invited him to a party he asked “Do you think that guy Frankie will be there?”
Because Frankie and Missie are people; beautiful, beautiful people, and like Adam, they don’t deserve judgment.
And I get tired of it all, tired because I don’t have Adam to talk to anymore. Tired because I have to face all of this alone. I am so crushed by all of this, and sometimes the only reason to go on is because I need to accept this burden, as I don’t want to put it on other people. I’m just not that cruel, I guess. I’m so very tired.
You probably don’t understand. It’s trainspotting.