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Monday, May 22, 2017

Grief and social events

Looking for you in nature
All of the voices inside my head were arguing. They were shouting over each other, angry at all of the merriment around me. Much of it was about who is safe and who isn’t safe and what is allowed and what isn’t allowed now that you’re dead. There are so many rules and it’s so confusing that it's hard to keep track. And sometimes I forget the rules, which prompts the angry voices to shout and finger point and wear steel-toed boots just in case they need to kick someone. In all their rage, venom drips from the tongues, words too vile to include here. That anger was directed at everyone -- the people I live with, the acquaintances I saw at the park on Friday night. When the voices are shouting like that, I need to close my eyes, hoping to see your face, or stare into the distance towards nature.

I laid my head back on the blanket at the park and my vision grabbed a branch of leaves. The school jazz band concert at the park had finished and people were just milling about, chatting and visiting and laughing because it was a lovely night, and well, why not? Facing the sky, I saw a cluster of leaves that looked like a heart, if I wanted it to look like a heart, anyway. I always want everything to look like a heart because I know it means you are nearby, that you made it look like a heart so that I would know you are nearby. That leaf heart swayed with the breeze, thumping with the beat of my broken heart. I’m with you. I see you. I know you’re here, it said.

I had not been to a concert in the park since before you died. Although we did watch your younger brother sing a couple of songs with his glee group not long after you died at the same park, on the same stage. There was no blanket or picnic that time, though, and we huddled near the edge of the crowd ready to depart as soon as you were done. This was different. Very different.

You see, on Friday, I packed a picnic and made sangria. I spread our blanket at the park hours before the concert began. I left camping chairs, too. Then we went with our picnic and our sangria and the guacamole that I made. We brought the dog and it was so exciting with the people and the music and the sun warming our backs. And being a school event, there were lots of familiar faces. Other people had also set up their blankets hours ahead of time, and I had joked (yes, joked) with them that we’d be neighbors. And I waved at them and even went and said hello when I recognized the neighbor’s daughter from your brother’s second grade class.

Then it was all too much. Too much sangria, too much talking, too much of you not being there. How am I supposed to talk and eat guacamole and talk to the people on the adjacent blanket when you are not here, when you’re never going to be here? When they don’t know that you’re dead. I tried to recover by staring at the leaves, but everyone was laughing and eating ice cream when I just kept thinking about how you were dead and I was pretty sure that no one else was thinking about you being dead. I’m always thinking about how you’re dead and how you’ll never, ever, ever not be dead. That’s when the shouting in my head started. It’s so hard when I’m the only one remembering that you’re dead. It’s easier when other people remember and talk about you. Then it’s not all on me because that’s when it’s too much.

So I stared at the heart-shaped cluster of leaves and tried to make everyone think about you, but they kept laughing and someone who was talking with the family on the blanket next to us was talking about an interview that they went on. And someone at the end of our blanket was talking about what kind of camera they have. And they were licking their ice cream like it was the most normal evening in the world. This is great, we should do it again, my sweet, well-meaning husband said at one point.

The sangria made everything cloudy. Maybe I shouldn’t have had the sangria and maybe I should have eaten the caprese sandwich that I had made for myself because you like caprese sandwiches. I should have eaten more than chips and guacamole. And all of a sudden I was so angry at everyone. The neighbors who talked about their interview. My kids at the end of the blanket talking about cameras and ice cream. My good-natured husband who was having a good time and wondered out loud if we should maybe do this again another time when they have the regular concerts in the park. It was just too much. Probably the most socializing that I have done since you died. Too much. I so often feel like an observer in my own world, watching it unfold around me, unable to move into it, be a part of it. It’s like there are two different planes: I exist in one, the rest of the world exists in the other and we're separated by plexiglass.

Finally the shouting in my head was too much. I stood up abruptly and wavered a bit. I picked up all of the camping chairs and a picnic blanket that we weren’t sitting on and took them back to the car across the street. I put them in the trunk and sat in the driver’s seat for a bit, enjoying the warmth of the air toasted by the sun, trying to figure out what to do next. Husband came over with the cooler filled with all of the uneaten veggies and dip and watermelon and the caprese sandwich I should have eaten. I told him I was angry at everyone. Everyone, he asked? Yes, everyone, I said, and told him that I wanted to walk home.

So I did. When I got home, I watered the plants in the garden and then went into your room and laid under your desk and never told anyone I was there. And I stayed with you until everyone was in bed.