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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Grief and forgetting

Bedroom on wheels
On Thanksgiving I was in a tiny camper van with my husband and our dog. The interior was blue and white with a little kitchen and a mini shower stall. There was nothing to distinguish that specific Thursday from any other day that week. 

Since my son died six weeks ago, I’ve spent most of my time horizontal in the safety of my blankets cushioned by piles of wet tissues. In order to get me out bed and out of the house, my husband rented what he called our “mobile bedroom.” The safety of bed could travel with us. There would be sunsets out our tiny bedroom windows near the beach, hikes in the hills or in the redwood forests—only if we felt up to it—and many rented movies watched while reclining on pillows. I even think we skipped Thanksgiving dinner because we’d eaten a late lunch. It didn’t matter. The point was that I was out of the house, out of our bedroom, with the safely of a bed and my familiar duvet.

We picked up our bedroom on wheels in Monterey. We camped that first night in a campground in the hills, then headed south to the trees of Big Sur, before spending the next three days in Morro Bay. On some nights the beach was just steps away from our parking spot. We strolled along the sand, watched the sky fade from blue to being streaked with orange and pink. We warmed up leftovers from the parade of dinners that our community delivered to our door in the previous weeks. We drank Moscow Mules and alternated eating chocolate-covered things and piles of radishes. Come to think of it, I'm the only one who ate radishes. “They’re like spicy apples without seeds,” I’d declared. My husband stuck with chocolaty things.

Each day, a black wooden picture frame displayed a different wedding photo, us smiling, any underlying cares invisible. It was my husband’s romantic gesture. I carefully examined each photo and marveled at the joy on my face.

I don’t know that woman anymore.
Unimaginable joy before death

Still, despite feeling so consumed by grief and disconnected from that person, there were hours when I didn’t cry. My swollen eyelids shrank to normal size. The pile of tissues subsided. And I joked about this and that—mainly the comically small shower, how our mini camper was basically a sailboat on wheels (my husband loves sailing), and how the only place the dog’s bed would fit was in front of the slim door to the bathroom, forcing her to maneuver her 70-pound frame out of the way countless times each evening as we went into and out of the bathroom.

On our last evening, when we finished our last movie from iTunes and I quit the application for the first time that week, I was confronted with the desktop picture on my Mac—a picture of my two boys. Riley was five; C was two. They wore matching sweaters and each held Christmas tree ornaments. I hadn’t seen a picture of my boys all week. My house is filled with photos; and since Riley died we have piles of photos out, new framed pictures hanging. He is everywhere at home and was nowhere in that camper. Until that moment.

Forgetting him and my intense sorrow for those days felt like betrayal. How did I allow myself to laugh? How did I allow myself to stop crying? Stop howling? Stop doubling over with grief to the point where I felt like throwing up? Stop screaming to the point where I burst hundreds of capillaries on the skin around my eyes, wondering how the neighbors had not called the police? I like all of those miserable things. Truly and honestly. They feel good, real, satisfying, safe. I swim in those feelings and dig my toes in the way one might with warm sand. That intensity and pain connects me to my dead son. As debilitating as it is, I hope it never ends. It is palpable and almost visible like our love.

The remaining hours in that camper were tainted by my betrayal. And I needed to go home again, to my real bed in my real bedroom, to roll around in my sorrow, to feel connected to him again. I'm terrified of forgetting anything, any moment. I can't imagine ever living normally because I imagine that feels like leaving him behind.


  1. Hi Mama,
    I wish there was something, anything I could say to make any moment of this easier for you. As I read every word, it brought me right back to exactly how I felt after I lost Maverick. Something died in me that day. It has taken a long ime for me to feel like I'm not leaving Mav behind because I had to move on in my life. I wish I could give you a big hug and assure you that everything will be OK and I'm sure many have tried. It took time...a lot of time for me to not cry every day, to not feel like I was broken into a million pieces. It will just take time. I'm thinking about you Suzanne!

  2. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Two Arp sculptures: configuration angoissante and evocation of a form human lunar sculptural. They are markers on a journey.

  3. Anonymous8:42 PM

    Human lunar spectral.

  4. Anonymous6:43 PM

    A woman goes to visit her friend's grave and (doesn't) meet a man visiting his recently deceased 9 yr old son.