I thought I had this grief thing down pat after a week. All my breakdowns came in the same manner…looking at an old picture, hearing a sappy song, and then the memories come flooding and the realization of what I’ve lost. Pretty “formulaic” in a way. And after the Celebration of Life on Sunday, I started to feel like maybe I was starting to come to Acceptance in the 5 Step Program.
The Tuesday after Shannon’s Celebration of Life had other ideas for me…It all started when I called Carroll Hospital. You see, I had taken the kids the day after Shannon died to the pediatrician. We were all sick and the paranoid, grieving widower father felt the need to get the doctor to make sure we wouldn’t be making any return trips to that hospital. He said the kids sounded fine, but said I should follow up with the hospital on the final results of Shannon’s culture, just in case it was anything like MRSA or things they’d need to be treated for. Getting lab results for a deceased patient who came in from the ER…it wasn’t easy. Had to talk to 4 departments before I finally got “Well we only release culture results to doctors”. Okay. So which doctor would be in charge of my late wife? They rattled off some names, which I recognized as the attending CCU doctors. “Yeah, I would give the CCU a call then”. Right, this is going to go well. Luckily, I happened to get one of the nurses who had worked on Shannon. After doing a quick check in her records, they rattled off a bacteria name and assured me the kids wouldn’t be affected. That really should’ve been the end of it.
But Shannon and I were really cut from the same mold. Googling takes over. I did my best to remember the name, added “pneumonia” to the end and voila…Acinetobacter. Most commonly found on respiratory therapy equipment. BOOM. And my mind takes over. It was my fault. I didn’t change her tubing on her concentrator often enough. I didn’t change the tubing on the portable oxygen enough. I didn’t clean things down enough. I DIDN’T DO ENOUGH TO KEEP THIS FROM HAPPENING. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but guilting and survivor’s guilt is apparently pretty common with grieving. I know my mother-in-law’s friend lost her son a few years ago. He had a chronic condition, but one morning, he just stopped breathing in his sleep. My mother-in-law tells me, to this day, she still wonders if she had gotten up one or two hours earlier, if she had done this or that different that night, would he still be alive. I had that initially at Shannon’s death, I wondered if I had gotten her to see a doctor a day or two earlier, or if I hadn’t brought in her clomipramine, which caused a drug interaction her last night and further complicated her system…But this is BRAND NEW STINKING territory.
And that just seemed to open the floodgates. All new emotions were there. Disbelief, anger, Melancholy at realizing I’m going to spend the next 40-50 years without a soul to talk to in the middle of the night when something is bugging me about the kids, work, life…Apparently, this is how it’s going to be…for months, maybe even years. I’ll be going along fine, feeling like I’m starting to accept things. And then the most random thing…Her dad has been having it too apparently. Tonight, it was making dinner. I made spaghetti and green beans. That was the meal I made her, in my dorm room, on our first Valentine’s Day. Or should I say, I attempted to make her, requiring her to intervene and show me the RIGHT way to do it. So I started reliving all THOSE memories. And then randomly, thinking about the times I had to travel for work, calling back here to go over my day with her, talk to the kids, provide the remote support and thank her for letting me take care of what needed to be done. Maybe it’s just wishing that I can dial a number on my phone and have one more conversation with her. I’ve been asking for that a lot lately in prayers/talks…I wish I could have one more day. I won’t in reality. But maybe in a dream? Just one more time to get lost in her presence.
In some ways, that’s the most surreal part of this. I can feel like things are steady, like things are getting customary. And then the most random feeling, emotion, memory, and I’m gone. Just now, hearing the song “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, which reminded me of a movie from the late 80s “Always” about a firefighting pilot who dies and then has to give inspiration to his former girlfriend and her new love. That song plays during a slowdance scene…and I’m panicking here, wondering why can’t I remember what it was like to dance with my wife? Why didn’t I do that with her more often? Why is it so hard to remember the feeling of getting lost in her eyes…
Every day, I feel like I can rise up a giant lift hill, and then plummet through drops, loops, and twisty turns of emotions…all to come back to the station, and start the thing all over again the next day. And I sure miss my rollercoaster partner.