Joe got me a Zune for Christmas. Easily one of the best gifts I have been blessed with in a long time. There is nothing like music to get into the soul, purifying the upper crust, getting to the cruxt of things, passing all the bullshit that gets in the way of honesty. Is there anything more important than honesty? The foundation of truth, the foundation of trust. Yet I have been dishonest.
I was home alone for a while yesterday, interestingly something that doesn't happen very often since Joe moved here. I have no complaints. Left to my own devices I tend toward vice and personal savagery. I am a lazy person at heart. Being with him has made me a better person, as I will do things with him in mind that I lack the will to suffer through for myself. I make the bed every day since he moved here, simply because he expects it. The dishes are done nightly because I don't want him to wake up to an icky smelly kitchen. I would be embarassed. I know he sees me as more than that. I have yet to decide if I am honestly more or if I just can't stand to be less. All I know is when I lived alone the bed was mussy until he came to visit and dishes were done when I ran out of clean dishes. We've been living together since May 5th of 2007, so if I am faking it I am doing it with bulldog tenacity. The truth is, I could not begin to hide from those blue eyes. I could not bear to be less of a person to him. He is so much of what I want to be.
When I found myself alone yesterday, I put away Christmas 2007 and made way for the new year with spaces of carpet that somehow needed to be vacuumed of pine needles despite the fact that the tree was fake. I focused on the task with a singularity that said it simply must go. It must be done. Wreath. Check. Ornaments. Check. Snowflakes. Check. Bye bye to the twinkle lights and anticipation and all the distractions the season brought to me. Bye bye to the memories for another year. I had no memory of doing this last year, though I know I had decorated my apartment to the nines. A yawning gap in the history of my life, black and lifeless. When did I put all that away? When did I stack Joseph's gifts in Joe's side of the closet? I tilt my head mentally as I look back. How can I lose that chunk of self? A universe of nothingness.
I then got out my DVD of A Lion In the House and put it in. I don't know why. Its the story of five families going through the journey of childhood cancer. Three of those kids didn't survive, and I saw this just before Joseph relapsed. I do not know how to explain why or how I am drawn back to that place, why I want to watch that DVD and relive it again. Joe worries for me. He struggles with why I would follow the stories of other ill children or why I would immerse myself into stories as sad and sadder than Joseph's. I watched carefully for his vehicle coming home. I felt relieved as the story started, the camera rolled through the hospital hallways and bald heads turned wise eyes to the lens, transforming themselves back into children with the swift flash of smiles and impishness. A world I know so well. We are drawn to what is familiar. The captive becomes grateful to the captor. I yearn to be back there. It affects my desire to be a nurse. It taints my sense of well being in my every day life. It is as if I have no country without crisis. I do not know what to do with myself. I watch with a hunger and homesickness that I knew was wrong and sad. People don't want to be there. That is not a good place to be. But the red line is for drawing blood out and the white is for pushing things in and this chaotic truth makes sense to me now in a way that the world cannot. If I do not look at them, who will? My greatest anguish in Joseph's illness was the willingness of the world to look away. I cannot do so. I wish to bathe in it. Somehow then not only am I less alone, but I make others less so as well. The worst has happened now. There is no greater pain to shoulder. Being firmly fixed now, I can show others that I too carry burden. We carry burden together. It is hard to explain and harder still to make sense to the outside world how this does, in fact, make me feel better, not worse. It is the personification of the human spirit. The death of our children is not defeat. Cancer could not steal away our love. Suffering is common to us all. Let us gather together then and shoulder not only our own but one another's. Then we are all carrying the load together. Many hands make for easier work. I am so very loved, so protected, so cherished that any idea of me suffering is unthinkable for those who desire to shelter me. But the fear now does not lie facing the pain. As my favorite song says, "Light does the darkness most fear". I guess I hope my attention to the unthinkable casts a sliver of light. Perhaps the time will come when I can turn to other things. I do not know. But just now, it validates me.
My gaze is wary on the nearing anniversary of Joseph's death. I am frightened. Even the most generous of souls feel a year is about long enough to be grieving. Most give you far less. Joan Didion calls it the Year of Magical Thinking. The first year after the death. The year you hope to undo it. My year is up. I have imagined my life up until this point but not beyond. I don't know what comes next. What will it be like when he is dead longer than he was alive? What will it be like next November when Nick turns 14 and is older than Joseph was able to survive? When his pictures become noticably older? Jeff,my older brother, was my hero, a compass for me...he did it all first. What is it like for Nick having his compass disappear and suddenly he must forage forward without that small indication of what to expect, the map laid out by the older sibling going first? How can I help my boys heal when I have no idea what we are supposed to be doing? I fall back continually on the old triteness that as long as they know I love them, they will be okay. I want to believe it more than I believe it.
I cleaned out the closet today. I had to find my birth certificate as we are going on a cruise and they won't let me on the boat without it. I fingered through lives that are slowly starting to blend by the combination of names on papers and intermingling of things. I want to get married. I want to stay forever. I want to feel like every possible wall against change has been erected that can be. I touched Joe's things, pushed my nose into some and drew inward. I find it far too easy to imagine wandering the mud colored walls of our bedroom alone, to imagine the debilitation that would come if suddenly he were no longer here. I fear desperately the humanity of those I love. I have recognized the temporary state of all of our bodies. How cruel that now another 40 years feels like too little. I can rage against the powers that be that caused me to be born too late to be the one to bear his children and raise a family together, can feel robbed that we lived so long without one another. I can rob myself of the here and now in regret for all that was not there before. He asked me to find his birth certificate for him today and in my search I found the report cards from his youth. The admonitions of his teachers made me giggle with delight. I have never seen a picture of him as a boy, but I yearn to. So impractical, the desire for things that never could have been, that would not have been right even had they been there. Perhaps somewhere the loneliness of my youthful years was tempered by the knowledge that one day I would have this. How ironic that God would bless the most difficult years of my life with the happiest of loves.