So it is springtime again. Although you wouldn’t know it if you looked out of the window. Usually by now the trees have a green glow around them as the first buds appear and the daffodils and crocuses are blooming loud and proud. Instead there is a layer of snow on the ground with bits of ice and mud, lots of mud, underneath. It is still so cold and the sky is grey and heavy.
Spring in DC is usually the best time of year. The spring of 2012 was slow and gorgeous. I remember sitting on the screened porch with Ron and trying to identify birds by their calls. We had wren nests in the bird houses in our crab apple tree and a robin’s nest on the beam under the deck, right at eye level. One day during Ron’s last weeks, although I didn’t realize they were his last weeks at the time, we brought a lounge chair to the front yard so he could sit outside and be with us while the kids played and I puttered around in the yard. Although I think he was glad to be outside, he didn’t stay in the front yard for long. I don’t think he liked feeling exposed, being seen, in his weakened state. But I remember the day; remember what the air felt like, how the light glowed. I have a photo of Ron lying in the chair. I took so few photos. I didn’t want to remember him looking emaciated, this man who had taken such pride in his trim, muscled healthy body.
That spring I spent hours ripping out weeds from the side yard. Overgrown ivy, prickly vines, bamboo. I went outside to feel the sun, to get some exercise, and to take out my anger on some plants. But I also went outside to escape. To escape Ron’s pain, to escape sickness. I think of that time and it hurts and haunts me. If I were listening to someone else’s story I would think, well of course you needed some time away, some time to yourself. It is good that you got outside. But it is my story and it was his time and now all I want more of him and that I can never have.
There was a lovely moment during that spring and it was a little anecdote I could share with Ron when I went back into the house. As I was squatting down weeding, there was loud squawking from someplace nearby. I couldn’t see the bird; I just heard its repeated cries. From the corner of my eye I saw movement and realized that there was a baby cardinal in one of the bushes near me. It was so stout and stubby. It was still learning to fly. I tried to get a photo of it. I watched it for a while as it hopped away from me towards the fence. Both the male and female adult cardinals came to its rescue and guided it upwards until it could hop/fly up to a low branch in the tree and make its way up back to the nest.
So it is spring. I love springtime. But it is springtime and spring is filled with sensory triggers and memories and my kernel of calm is now hunkering down, shooting glances into dark corners and afraid. Last spring was bad. Last spring was scary. I learned a lot last year. As the anniversary of Ron’s death approached and I literally felt that I was preparing to be battered or beaten, I learned about post-traumatic stress. I learned that I was preparing to lose Ron again and that I didn’t have to. He’d already died and it wasn’t going to happen again. I learned how to bring my attention back to the present and how to check in with myself and my surroundings to notice that there were no actual crises. But now I have learned a lot about grief and how it shows up when it wants to and I can try to ignore it (which has awful repercussions) or I can sit with it. So what is my problem? I guess the thing is that I don’t want to lose control. I don’t want to wake up and realize that I am in the middle of a grief wave or get slapped by one in the middle of an ordinary event, or lose my grip in the middle of the grocery store. I want it to be easier and my head knows that I have to live through it until it dissipates but my heart is tired of hurting. I don’t want to lose the kernel of calm.
This winter has been harsher than usual and it will be such a relief when the weather is warm and the flowers come out. Maybe I am spending all this time and energy fearing something that hasn’t even happened because it is easier to feel fear rather than the sadness. If I let myself really go deeper that is what is there: a pool of sad, the depth of missing Ron and trying to make my brain understand that soon he will have been dead for two years. Really dead, not coming back dead. Really, truly dead. Aw, Ron. I miss you. I am sad and I miss you.