I flew a thousand miles to escape the Florida heat and enjoy a few warm, verdant days in the mountains. I arrived to cloudy, overcast skies and endless rain. There was even a midnight thunderstorm here, and I am chilled to the bone.
Instead of staying in a hotel, I opted to rent an apartment through Airbnb. It’s a second-floor walkup. The kicker is that I have to be exceedingly quiet and respectful of the cancer patient living in the first-floor apartment. Seriously? This was supposed to be my escape from cancer.
That is the true essence of shlemazel: being the one who gets dumped/spilled/shit upon.
Today, I saw a t-shirt that said “Metaphors Be With You,” written in a “Star Wars” font. While I haven’t been very communicative lately with anyone other than my sons, I immediately complimented the woman on her shirt. The slogan perfectly expressed the hollowness I’ve been feeling lately.
Moose left for computer camp ten days ago. Wild Thing left for leadership camp five days ago, and Wizard is busy continuing to fail classes in summer session at college. I found myself utterly alone in my cavernous home. When Casa Zona (the Zone house) was filled with all my men, it felt so alive. It was trashed, mind you, but vibrating with the sounds of teenage boys and their dad. At any given time I’d hear someone playing guitar or honking the saxophone, the dulcet strains of HGTV and Food Network shows, or the raunchy lyrics and laughter of YouTube videos.
When WineGuy died, the melody left my life. When the boys left home, the harmony was gone, too. I could hardly bear the deafening silence I craved during the boisterous years of the boys’ youth. I missed the noise, yet any noise irritated me: an awful paradox. And so, I find myself perfectly alone on a vacation I insisted I wanted to take by myself, and I’m beginning to understand the incessant prattle of my mother, who was widowed eight years ago. With no one around to talk to, I’m grateful for any human contact. That is, I’m grateful for people who reach out to speak with me, but I am not remotely interested in phoning any friends “just to talk”.
It’s very weird: I only want certain people to engage me in conversation. I’m delighted to hear updates from Moose and Wild Thing at camp, but every conversation with Wizard catapults me into paroxysms of frustration and grief for WineGuy. An intense discussion with Sprite about books and writing was far more nurturing than a recent dinner with Belle and Calvin, which felt more like an intervention than a fun girls’ night. I am brittle and empty, and I don’t know what to do with myself. If WineGuy were with me on this vacation, we’d be out running and exploring from dawn til dusk. He always filled in the details of the big picture I painted. Now, I have to do that for myself, and I’m paralyzed in that hollow space between desire and inertia.
Today is Father’s Day. It is the first Father’s Day we are spending without WineGuy here, and it’s not a great day. I’m feeling abandoned by the men in my life because the best of them are gone.
WineGuy left this earthly plane six weeks ago. I guess I’m still numb: most days are pretty good interspersed with unpredictable sad moments. Two days ago, I took Moose and Wild Thing to see Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out” What should have been a fun little animated movie left me missing WineGuy very much and made me endlessly sad.
My father passed away almost eight years ago. I have come to terms with his death, but the endless photos and Facebook tributes to fathers make me miss him a lot today. His brother, my favorite uncle, who was partially responsible for introducing me to WineGuy has been gone eighteen years. HIs grandchildren’s tributes to their father, my cousin, widen the hole in my heart today.
Finally, Moose left for summer camp today. I got up before the roosters to drive him to the airport. He flew by himself through Atlanta to Philadelphia, and I am endlessly proud of him. But, he will be missing from today’s maudlin little celebration of Wizard’s 19th birthday. Even with Wizard home for the day, I’m feeling like parts of me are missing. Myriad “I’m thinking of you today” messages from friends far and wide are not helping either.
This is all new. It’s certainly not normal. I wonder when that will be.
A few days ago, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, wrote a lengthy post about the end of her initial mourning period, called “shloshim”. At least six different people sent it to me, thinking it would bring me some comfort or perspective. All it did was piss me off: she’s a better writer than I am; she has a *job* to which she can return; she has more money than Croesus and doesn’t have to worry about financial stresses; and, she’s a whiner. But, what’s clear to me is that she’s pretty ignorant about Judaism, our seemingly common bond. Shloshim, is not “the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.” Shloshim is the next step in the mourning process for the next of kin, a first-degree relative like a spouse, a parent, or a sibling. It is a secondary mourning period in which certain social strictures are removed; shloshim is a time of “gentle reintegration into society,” according to Isaac Balbin.
We are all trying to find our way in a world without WineGuy. I’m encouraging the boys to be kind to each other, to be tolerant of each other’s moods. So, when Wizard asked to come home from summer session for the weekend, I said “yes,” thinking he needed some family time. That was my first mistake.
Wizard spent the weekend eating his way through two refigerators and three freezers. He deigned to accompany us to services on Saturday, but he complained endlessly about staying for our usual Kiddush lunch afterwards, something the rest of us enjoy. He complained about going to Carrabba’s for dinner Saturday night and then insisted on going out for Sunday breakfast. Wizard dallied all day, not writing an essay that was due Sunday night. He was aggressive playing in the pool with his brothers. The topper was his bullying both younger boys while I was out to dinner with friends. Moose only told me about that this morning.
By 9:00 a.m. today I’d had enough. I told him to be packed and ready to go back to college. We were leaving at 10:00 sharp. Ten rolls around. Wild Thing was ready, and Wizard was nowhere to be found. He sauntered in a few minutes later and interrogated me where we were going, what errands we had, and why he had to go. Wizard then insulted me, insulted WT, and copped an arrogant attitude. I did what any good mother would (not) do: I lost my sh*t and screamed at him.
“Pack your stuff and get in the car now or you can walk the 15 miles back to school. Open your mouth to me again, and you won’t get another dime from me.”
Wizard packed up and got in the car, and I decided, at that moment, he can’t come back home. He upset Moose. He upset me. He was rude to WT. I will not have that toxicity in this house while we are trying to rebuild our lives. I wish I could say “never again”; the best I can say is “not anytime soon”. G-d grant me the strength to stick by my guns.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Once — the past 19 years — is enough.
For the longest time I thought that every rainbow was a promise from G-d not to destroy the world again. Since my dad died 8 years ago, I’ve tried to see rainbows as signs that things were looking up or were going to get better. Since Dad died, hearing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” makes me think of him and cry.
Today, I was a backseat passenger in our sedan as Wild a Thing drove us to dinner. I saw the entire arc of a big rainbow, and my heart nearly broke. The song lyrics came to mind, as they always do, and I thought of the two men I loved the most and lost. I kept my face turned toward the window so the boys wouldn’t see my tears.
Rainbows aren’t magical right now. They are iridescent frowns reminding me of rainbows traversed with WineGuy and never to be reminisced about again with him. For now, I have to agree with Karen Carpenter, “rainy days and Mondays always get me down”.
Just a quick post before bed. Today was not a good day for any of us. Wild Thing came to me first thing, carrying WineGuy’s lab coat which has languished in the trunk of his car for 18 months. In the lab coat I found WG’s hospital badge, some patient notes, and the stethoscope I bought him right after we moved to The Zone. This find upset Wild Thing and me; every song we heard today made us sad.
I spent the day driving back and forth across the area because Wizard had an orthodontist appt and needed to go back to university for an afternoon class. Wizard was desperate for a few minutes at home and begged me to come back and bring him home for the weekend. Thank goodness his college is only 25 minutes away.
Wild Thing, Moose and I went to see “Spy” tonight. The action, dialogue, jokes, and exotic locales were just what we needed to take our minds off of everything.
I’m tired from driving over 120 miles today, but I’m content with all my boys under one roof. We will go to Sabbath services at our synagogue tomorrow and say the Mourner’s Kaddish for WineGuy. We’ve circled our wagons and are looking out for each other this weekend. Perhaps this is the beginning of “the new normal”.