“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott
Sitting at my kitchen counter slowly sipping luke warm coffee to avoid the grinds at the bottom of the delicate fine bone china cup from March’s stay at Traquair House. The cup (really a polite, small mug) a treasured souvenir; I surprise myself by using it at all, the china so thin and light; the enameled image of the famous bear gates, crest, shrubbery, and the house at the end of the long driveway, might chip or scratch with any use – but use it, I do, on special occasions. Like this morning, New Year’s eve. This cup/mug/prize claimed in the March trip to Scotland rests at the top of the 2020 Best list. Also on the Best list are visiting Edinburgh Castle; a delicious and long dinner-with-bar-drinks and an overnight stay on my ancestor’s turf at Tulloch Castle, Dingwall; driving around the Scottish Borders while my good friend took a felting workshop and meeting up with the women in the class for dinner afterward. In that group of makers, there was another reunited adoptee and our conversation went deep and straight to the heart. We have continued to chat intermittently through social media. There are endless other moments from this trip – each and every one has carried me through the unsettling and dark days of this year.
A few more “Bests”: Talking with my daughter once or twice a month and hearing how well she is doing and how well she is handling the not-so-nice things. Life isn’t ‘all that’ at 22 but she is making efforts to pay attention to what really matters, make herself happy – or at least content – and leave the rest behind; she has all but finished her undergrad work. This makes her very happy with herself (so proud of her!) Whatever she decides to do in life, she will do it well, with her own taste and flair. She’s that sort of young woman; she leaves her mark.
Best: Our father has continued to thrive despite losing his wife of 65 years. The whole family, white-knuckled and nails bitten, watching him navigate the aftermath of our mother’s death this summer. For several years he was her primary caregiver, even with a day nurse, and while he gave every bit of himself to her, he fell away from taking care of himself. So, it was not a real shock that right after she died he had a stroke. Four days in the hospital and he was home with only slight impairment that has pretty much healed. Then, fell at home, alone. He was shaken but fine. And, then, he totalled his car driving-while-heartbroken. Perhaps he needed to, literally, break apart or break down to confirm she was gone or to feel something other than rib-crushing sorrow. I know a young man who, earlier this year, was left holding the engagement ring when he and his intended fiance’ came to an impasse, a dealbreaker in their partnership. Shortly after they ended things, he had a terrible bicycle accident that knocked him flat on his ass and threw a tooth from his head. It will be months before he is fully restored, at least in his psyche. Again, I wonder if the the soul literally needs to bust or break before it can begin to accept such losses, before it can feel wide open and begin to consider repair.
Best: I lost 13 pounds. (I gained a few back due to changes in hormone meds but continue to choose to not carry my pain-as-weight, and that makes all the difference.)
Best: A good partner. He has been challenged at work – at least two cases of confirmed COVID, one two-week mandatory quarantine due to a co-worker’s lack of precaution, and another pending results. We have both been tested several times, each time ‘negative.’ The only good ‘negative’ for the year. Along this line, my family members who had COVID have all survived and, thankfully, are doing very well.
Best: Work and volunteering – making myself useful, not feeling obsolete, contributing.
Here’s the truth, however: No matter how many bests I come up with, everything is colored – the entire year is smudged around the edges – by the painful and helpless decline and inevitable death of my mother. Her dying is the elephant in the room of the year. My limp is somewhere; I have no desire to start dancing even when the music is good. Grieving feels like not-grieving; others report heavy hearts and deep sadness. Maybe mine is just too close for me to see or feel. Maybe I’m expecting it to be textbook or arrive in stages or steps, but nothing is coming up, at least it feels like nothing.
Rather than make amends or make resolutions for the new year, I am going to make a list of things I would like to accomplish at some point over the next 12 months. A To Do list for the year, rather than a task list with musts or strict punitive deadlines. A list of I Would Like To: __________ this year. No pressure, no measurements of accomplishments or failure. Just a bit to chew on and, possibly, meet a goal or three.
Number 1: I would like to finish my holiday thank you’s.
And, I’m off.