Saturday, April 30

Closing a Chapter

It's May and time for renewal.

My heart's not in it but, still, weeds grow and mulch needs to be laid.

But before moving on, or in the process of moving on, I need to share some thoughts and close the chapter.

In the days soon after Dan's passing, I found myself checking the cell phone for a missed call but it's finally soaked into my subconscious that this is not going to happen.

Checking my cell phone is just one of many small ways that I'm reminded of how much Dan had filled my life. He had moved out, at my request, three years ago but we still spoke each morning and each night before shutting down. We ran errands together. He came over on weekends and played with our doggies. We appreciated each other's being there. I visited him in the hospital; he fixed my computer. Stuff like that. I had told myself that I was taking steps to rebuild, once I finally settled on the tough love approach, but it's clear to me now that my efforts to still help him were helping me to be less alone.

In the last week of his life, he'd started drinking again in earnest and the last time I saw him, I'd told him that I couldn't go through the drinking thing again. That I needed a few months alone, a few months of a clean break. I said that knowing that if I saw him sober I would get pulled back in.

He was so smart, interesting, humorous, thoughtful. He knew all of my issues, understood them, remembered them, knew how they related to new things that were happening with me. How many men do you know who do that??

He even understood why I needed to break away. The last voicemail from him tells me so. The next time we talked, he asked if I'd still visit him in the hospital when he had his next surgery. I told him to call me when he got there and I'd think about it. Then, the day after that, the next call was from his roommate telling me that he was gone.

Now, my friend reminds me that a person doesn't take their life because of one fight you have. And my shrink says when someone is under the influence and takes an overdose of pain killers, but doesn't leave a note, you can't know whether the person intended to take their life or if it was an accident. No one thinks clearly under the influence.

So I hold onto that gray area. About 90% of the time, that works for me, not being certain. The rest of the time, around twilight and dawn, I know. And I wish that I had erred on the side of "love" more so than the side of "tough". And I do the "what ifs" until I think of what Dan would say: it's not your fault; you always worry too much; so you really think you're responsible for my life?

So then I comfort myself by saying a prayer to God, and to Dan if he's listening, being thankful for the love that we shared and for the ways we helped each other to get through life. And asking for forgiveness for things done and undone. That brings me a sense of peace.

I know, from my mom's passing, that the people you love never really leave you. They are there, always. Once enough time passes after their death that you stop focusing on where they are not, then you can sense where they are.

There's no question, after everything, the thing that remains between Dan and me is love. That's what I'll take from this. I'll lay down the rest of it and get busy focusing on that for which I am responsible: taking care of my own life. Not that it will be easy or that simple. Change is hard. But I would have had to do it anyway. And I would have had to do it alone. It always comes down to that. The only life you can fix is your own.

Saying all of this out loud, so to speak, is a step forward. This poem by Mary Oliver is also helpful in moving on:


Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman's boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don't you?


I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

whoever I was, I was

for a little while.


It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don't know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.


Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don't we?



the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.


You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it's the same old story - - -
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.


And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.


And probably,
if they don't waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

As always, thank you for listening, for being there.


Lynilu said...

Mary Ann, this is a beautiful tribute to the love you had with Dan, and it is a healthy step toward your healthy recovery from the trauma.

I generally understand your challenge to move on. My late husband had created a situation that was very hard for me to get past, and I struggled with letting go of my human-here-on-earth stuff. It finally came. I was finally able to quit blaming him, blaming myself, and just hold the love we had.

You're on your way. Feel good about it. :)

debra said...

So so sorry for you loss.
Sending love and light...

Carol and Johnny said...

I'm sorry to hear of your loss. I can't imagine how difficult it is. Even though I just met you through your blog I can hear the strength in your words and pray that you continue to move forward in peace.

Carol and Johnny said...

Hi Mary Ann,

I just took a look at your profile and found we have a similar background. I've worked in organization effectiveness and communication most of my career. Was consulting, got burned out and now after a break thinking about getting back into it.

Continued best wishes.

Mary Ann said...

Carol, I noticed you're on your way back to, I'm in Saint Louis. Interesting connection!