Dearest Rachel –
There are some questions in my life that I can no longer give a straight answer to. “How are you doing?” Well, do you just wanna exchange pleasantries, or would you like an actual answer? “Can I help you?” Wow, do you really mean that?
“Do you always respond to a question with a question these days?” What, is there something wrong with that?
“What’s your schedule like these days?” Whoo, that’s complicated. It can bounce between dull and busy all on the same day. It’s why i’m sitting here at three in the morning, trying to compose my thoughts to you, rather than doing this at any reasonable hour.
If it’s any consolation (because you knew me as the one who’d always go to bed at 10:30 – or at least no later than midnight – and this is decidedly out of character for me), I did just wake up about a half an hour ago. I’d just brought Chompers in from the backyard around ten, and I never want him to do his last business until at least 10:30, so I have to wait for him to need to go out again. So, while he settled down beneath the dining room table, Daniel and I watched a few videos, until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I stretched out in the recliner, and…
…Next thing I know, it’s around two thirty. The old boy is still curled up under the table, but I still need to get to bed. I’m just about to turn the responsibility over to Daniel – who’s still up, listening to stories of hospital personnel being fired verbally for not taking the shot, and demanding termination papers in writing (so they can receive unemployment compensation) and being refused, among many other such things – and letting him put the old boy out when he wakes up. Daniel points out that Chompers is actually awake, but just not fussing.
Oh. He could have fooled me; in fact, he did. Okay, on with the usual nighttime regimen, which I would have preferred to take care of hours ago, only I can’t do that when I’m unconscious.
I give him his nighttime pill, get him outside, wheel out the bins while I wait for him to get tired of being outside making puddles (you would’ve probably told me not to bother, given how little was in either of the bins, but we pay the same amount regardless of whether they pick up or not, so I might as well get what’s in there out of our hands sooner rather than later), and move him around as he finishes each puddle before he has a chance to let his wheels slide back, leaving him belly-down in it.
In the meantime, I keep wondering what to say to you about the day. I don’t have my phone in hand, partly because I didn’t think to bring it with, and partly because I don’t really want to touch anything after touching Chompers – especially when he’s effectively peed all over himself.
But you know how they warn you about texting your ex when you’re drunk? I understand the same goes for doing so in the middle of the night – which admittedly, tends to go hand-in-hand with the former admonition. You don’t have your thoughts together at this hour in the morning. And while I do have a few hours of sleep under my belt, I’m not exactly awake yet – and don’t really want to be, to be honest – but can’t quite help myself.
You should remember what it’s like; you made it a point of pride from having gotten those little dopamine hits from Candy Crush and Gardens of Time for being on a streak of however many days (I think you got up into the four hundreds, but I don’t recall on which). So I expect you would understand, and I hope you understand that as I’m trying to collect my thoughts at three in the morning, they are going to be a little rambling and only semi-coherent. It’s what happens when I’m writing at this hour of the morning, waiting for Chompers to settle down – although I’m listening to him, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to take him out once again in a few moments. Why he can’t do all his peeing at one time, I’m just not able to understand. Maybe I’ll get it once I’m eighty, and can’t completely empty my own bladder when I want to.
Anyway, the day. There were things that happened, after all, and you have a right to know about them.
You already know that I had trouble getting up and getting motivated this morning; and from the way things are going this evening, I think that’s going to happen yet again tomorrow – although I guess, that’s more like later today. Between one thing and another, I didn’t get showered and changed and out the door until almost noon. I did get the paperwork after FedEx before heading to the ‘office,’ though.
And while I won’t bore you with the accounting details, or the news of the world I waded through during the afternoon, I will mention that – much to my surprise – I received a phone call from Jonathan, one of the two Amish brothers I met on this weekend’s retreat. Nothing particularly special, just checking up on me to see how I was doing. Yeah, one of those questions I don’t know how to answer anymore; for what it’s worth, that’s basically how I answered him – and generally how I answer anyone who asks these days. I’ll come back to that a little later on.
I will say this, honey, and it’s as much a confession as anything: I actually enjoy the attention, to a certain extent; I only wish it could’ve been on my own terms. This weekend, I had a great time being the wisecracking raconteur. What I didn’t like was the role of the grieving widow or needing support from all of these strangers. Sure, they didn’t stay strangers for very long, but I don’t like being that needy, or even appearing that needy. I like to amuse and entertain; I don’t like bringing everybody else down, and essentially forcing them to support me. And while I am truly grateful for their willingness to do so, it’s still very uncomfortable to accept, and I don’t know how to respond to them.
I had promised Daniel that I would get home early, since we had to meet for the first session of Sparks tonight. He’s going to be supporting the games portion, as per usual. Meanwhile, Joan and I have worked out a schedule where I will take the awards home to add the jewels there, and bring them back the next week to award the kids for what they’d earned the previous week. That way, I can attend Grief Share and still do my part for the club.
The process was not unlike what we did the other Saturday; the only difference was that there were more people there – which would stand to reason, as all of those who had lost spouses were there, and also those who had suffered other types of losses (parents, siblings, children). It’s a little tricky to take notes while the video is running, but it’s not as if you could take it take them after the video is over. They also have a number of questions in the workbook that we’re to go over each day of the week between now and the next session – It’s nothing like the pages and pages in the Purpose Driven Life journal, but it’s enough to keep me busy. I may talk about it in a future letter.
One of the things we discussed was how to deal with other people and their reactions to us and our situation. Someone brought up the question about how are you doing, and how to respond to that. Sometimes people are just saying that as part of an ordinary pleasantry, sometimes they really mean it; you kind of have to ask what kind of question they’re really asking before you can answer it in the intended spirit. And while another expressed irritation and people engaging in conversation and without warning, turning their attention to their phone, it was brought up that people who haven’t experienced this don’t know how to react to us. And while I didn’t say it then and there, it occurs to me just now that it’s kind of like trying to talk to a handicapped person. Metaphorically, that’s what we are – the ‘one flesh’ has been ripped apart, and we are emotional amputees – and people know this. It’s almost the elephant in the room, and like with trying to talk to someone in a wheelchair, wherein the other person has to judge whether to treat us with kid gloves due to our particular frailty (because let’s face it, we are more frail at this moment than the average person, and it does us no good to deny that), or deal with us as they would an ordinary fellow human who just wants to be treated as such. And it’s true that we don’t really want pity, and sometimes we don’t even know what to do with support. But we do need, and need to appreciate, the concern.
Anyway, the rest of the evening was fairly uneventful. Went to your uncle Harlan’s for dinner; Daniel is (thanks in part to MatPat and his theory on comparing chicken sandwiches), trying to do his own research on what he considers to be the best chicken sandwich – not unlike his ranking of meatball subs (Potbelly’s still number one, for the record, and Subway is snorting sod). I have to rack my brains at this moment, but I think I got a pot pie; clearly, it’s not important to me, but I figured I’d mention it. All of which brings us pretty much back to where I started this letter; we got the old boy out back, watched a few videos both before and after bringing him in, I fell asleep, and here we are.
It occurs to me that by the time I’m done writing this to you, Jonathan and Samuel and their boys will already be up for the day, tending their business and doing their chores before I even drop myself into bed. They may be awake already in fact, seeing as they’re in Lancaster County, an hour ahead of us here in Chicago.
Weird to realize it. Especially since staying up this late was never my thing (granted, I got several hours of sleep already, but still). I don’t know if you’d be proud of me for being awake at these hours. Certainly, my body is not thrilled with me, but duty calls.
Although, now that I consider it, I don’t hear anything from the old boy anymore. I think he’s gone to sleep, and I think I should join him.
I’ll talk to you later, hon. Love you.