Whirlpool Redux

The brain can be a strange place, able to convince you that illusion is reality. The shift back to 'real' reality can be unsettling, like feeling the sand wash out from beneath you in a strong riptide.

I was up very early Monday, and then fell back asleep, usually a recipe for disaster for me. The dreams come swirling at me like a bad LSD trip, and I wake up disoriented and unsure what day or time it is. This one had to do with my car - I'm driving Lee's car these days, which often gives me a vaguely angry and impatient feeling, because it is a constant reminder of her day-to-day life. The dings and dents, the hibiscus flower sticker, almost completely deteriorated now, that was her touchstone for her dream to go to Hawaii and surf someday, the odds and ends of hers in the glove box that I can't part with.

And in my confused foggy somewhere between asleep and awake state, I wondered in exasperation why in the world her car was here? How would she get back here? I'd have to drive down to Valdosta to get her ...

Body slam as I came instantly, fully awake.


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Old friends, new awkwardness

As more and more people from my high school and college years discover Facebook, I’m getting the question more often - who is the pretty, smiling girl named Lee? She is my daughter, who would be 26 now.

I lost her three years ago in a car accident. She had been drinking, it was very early in the dark hours of the morning after a party, she was likely sleepy, she was driving a friend’s car, it was a dark two-lane road. Any one of those factors, or all of them, could have been the reason she crashed and died, taking a friend with her. No one really knows.

For a long time normal emotions weren’t on my menu – it was like my sea level was a little lower than everyone else’s. That initial numbness has passed, however, and most of the time I go about my life, feeling frustration, happiness, anger, all the normal emotions just like everyone else. Most of the time I am engaged with my fellow humans, laughing, working, loving and living. But occasionally, if I’m tired or worn down by other things, I am caught off-guard and the thin coating of familiarity with the pain opens up, and I realize it is yet the enemy.

It has been a painful trip from that day to this. What I’ve come to understand about that pain is that it doesn’t lessen over time, it doesn’t fade, it doesn’t cede space in your mind to happy memories, or any of the other fictitious things we try to ply upon people who have lost someone significant. It remains, raw and dangerous as ever, below the surface. We simply become accustomed to it. This is an example of how the human mind can accommodate, and still function.

People say about the loss of a child, “I couldn’t survive it,” but few actually roll over and die. What we really mean is that once we’ve gotten to know and love our children, none of us wants to imagine living in a world that doesn’t contain them. We may not *want* to survive, but we do. I was incredibly angry about that for a long time.

And yet, here I still am. Moving forward, unwilling to be numb, however much smoother and calmer and softer that makes things.

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