I count myself to be very fortunate. I live a privileged life. I was brought up in a stable, loving family where there were reliable, consistent rules and expectations, consequences when you did wrong, and rewards when you did well. I was taught the satisfaction that comes from hard work with one’s hands. I was taught to be respectful, generous, compassionate and kind. I was encouraged and supported with the means to attend university, and further buoyed by my family through the dissolution of a brief, unsuccessful marriage. I’ve learned to sustain myself and the lifestyle I want with good, meaningful work. I have a wonderful partner with whom I’m building a happy life. I count all of these things as blessings, now more than ever before, because I’ve recently experienced the outright destructive forces inflicted by those who have not had such fortune in their lives.
This has been a hard, mettle-testing year. I am worn thin. I am out of sorts and not myself. As I try to find my way back, I am further tested and thrown farther into unknown territory.
I’m still learning how to navigate the world without my Dad, who was taken so suddenly and so inexplicably in March. We’re still awaiting a final coroner’s report to explain, if anyone can, why he had to leave us so soon. He was only 57.
At the same time my Dad passed away, my 81 year old Grama had a fall and injured her shoulder, and spent a month in the hospital until we could move her into long-term care. This was a very big and challenging adjustment; it was hard on us all, especially my Mom, who it fell to make most of the decisions, to take away her independence, sort and disseminate most of her belongings and sell her home. But despite this, Grama was doing very well and seemed quite happy. She had plenty of social activities, outings, visitors and personal attention. Very suddenly, not quite 2 weeks ago, she fell ill with pneumonia and passed away. I was able to get there in time to say goodbye, but I will always regret that I had not visited her a few more times beforehand. Our relationship has been somewhat difficult over recent years, and it always felt like it took a great deal of effort, patience, and a kind of parent-like assertiveness to spend time with her. Sheepishly I will admit, it was easier not to.
During these last six months, our family has also had to confront the ugliness of my uncle’s alcohol-fuelled decent. His addiction has been my life-long reality, but for most of my childhood and early adulthood he has generally been a high-functioning alcoholic. The last few years however his contact with the family was sporadic at best, and none of us really knew how bad things had gotten. Without going into the minutiae of it all, he has managed to cause all of us — most especially my Mom, his sister — further, irreparable grief and pain during what has already been the most difficult time in our lives.
My Grama, my Grampa (who passed in 2007), and my father would be dismayed and heartbroken by all of this, although perhaps not terribly surprised. I miss their guidance, their glue, their love. I hear what people tell me about my lost loved ones always being with me, but right now, mostly I feel their absence. There are holes in my heart. There are missing pieces in the puzzle that is my life. I know time will find them again, but right now there is only utter rawness and grief.
Dear Forces of the Universe: I yield. Let’s call it a truce. Because I’m so exhausted and I need a break.