Exhaustion, like grief and panic, comes in waves.
Days like today, sunny, not too hot, I’ll pop out of bed, get breakfasts and lunches ready, do necessary chauffeuring, and then head into the yard to get dirty.
Generally I’m of the opinion that there is no bout of sadness a good round of yard work and gardening can’t cure, or lessen, at least, and today is the day of the week the yard waste bin must be filled, to make it worth having at all. So dig, prune, divide, transplant, mulch, weed and…..collapse.
Father’s Day hit us both hard – it’s nearly six weeks ago now, but somehow this second one without him seems to have magnified the impact of his absence.
Our daughter (I’m dropping the pretense of referring to her in a genderless way, because I think it must be blindingly obvious to any reader that the only reason I’d try to protect “our child” by doing that is because “our child” is female, therefore blowing that cover anyway) began to act out in rare ways around Father’s Day, and developed a severe case of “Mommyitis,” as my sister-in-law used to call it. Calling me far too often when I was at work (and you can’t really safely talk on the phone while driving a forklift – in fact there’s really nothing safe about driving a forklift at all); needing me to sit by her for hours at night, when she used to be able to amuse herself just fine with music, TV and drawing.
It is not for the neurotypical among us to know or understand how an autistic mind conceives, or tries to conceive, of something as abstract as death, nor how long the autistic mind will need to process the permanence of the absence of the missing person. Where’s heaven? Why can’t Dad come back? I know his love never ends, but how do I feel it with me? You’re here, right? You and I, we are here on this earth, right? You’re fine? We’re living our lives, days without Dad. Sigh. BIG sigh.
Dad used to (insert “cook this,” “take me there,” “play this CD,” etc.)
Which I hear as, “do I really have to be here with just you, Mom? Just us two? Because you’re not him. And you’re not enough.”
Yes, hon. I’m what you’ve got. Yes, you’ve got uncles and aunts and cousins, but they are occasional visitors (or visitees). I’m the one who is with you most of the time. I know I’m not enough. And I miss him too. But I think he would want us to find a way to be happy, here on this earth, without him.
I’m honest with her, though, because she’s an adult and I think I owe her that, the stark truth: there is nothing that will ever fill his absence, for either of us. You only get one Daddy. And even if I find another man, I will always be Mike’s widow. We will have to carry the presence of his absence around with us for the rest of our days. I try to help her imagine putting the weight of it in a beautiful decorated box, keeping it somewhere special in her heart, visiting the sadness when she needs to, and then putting it back in the box, and turning to a happy box of memories that make her smile.
We still try to find some joy in the Steve Perry songs she seems uncannily able to tune in to every time she plays the radio in the car; I tell her that I think of monarch butterflies as little “hellos” from him from the next world, because the first poem I remember him reciting to me was a Robert Duncan poem that begins, “Sail, Monarchs….”
I planted that garden up there, with the two chairs from our first tiny townhouse patio, now on the new bluestone patio he never got to see, as a sort of memory garden, with flowers and shrubs that are supposed to attract butterflies. And look who showed up:
He liked hummingbirds, too, which is why I buy the fuschia every year, and though I couldn’t catch a photo of it, the hummingbirds he loved visit it occasionally:
But it still seems so lonely for us both to be in this house, on the deck, or looking at that fuschia, without him.
I quit my job. Because even though I’m not enough and never will be, the Mommyitis says to me that I still haven’t given our daughter enough of my time and attention. We haven’t gotten to the bottom of it yet, all the way down through the fear and the grief and the anger and the bargaining to the acceptance – and she needs me with her to help her get down there, and to climb back up.
I need to get there, too.
I have a plan for that. But that’s enough for today. I’ll tell you about my next move in my next post.