Sunday, December 26, 2010

Canary In a Coal Mine

Ezra age 1.75 with Ricki (with a dad)
Ezra 8.75 with Ricki (without a dad)

I feel like a canary in a coal mine.

The sadness being the air that I sometimes think will kill me.

All week long the sadness has been spillozing out of me: hovering above me like my own personal little dampener, echoing at the end of my laughter, pushing through my sighs, sealing my senses shut for moments. It sneaks up on me, shouting “Boo!” or knocks gently on my bedroom door, “Can I come in?” (as if I said no, it would go away!) Or announces its presence with callers, trumpeters and confetti!

It shows up at Trader Joes as I reach for the milk, in the conversation with the Apple Care person or as I blow cool air over my hot tea. It shows itself when I find the hairbrush … in the refrigerator.

It is thick and … indescribable. My smiles come slower and never reach the normal height.

I remember when it arrived. It’s been longer than a week. It was a few days before Pallas’s birthday. I suddenly found the planning for her birthday to be not so hard as it was last year. There was surprise, pride and joy! I’m functioning! I turn to him to say “Hey, this birthday throwing thing isn’t so hard!”

Only he didn’t answer.

Later I look at Pallas. A low, heavy moan rose from my belly. “Oh honey. Damn it Honey. You’re missing this. You’re missing all of this! ….and everything else.”

That is when sadness slipped in, started to get thicker than it had been for months. The difference between now and last year is that I know there is no outrunning it. So I sit down and let it come. It finds me in places.

At Pallas and Ezra’s school holiday celebration,

When a tall man moved passed me and

for a brief moment

I thought

“Hi Honey.”

And like going directly to jail in Monopoly, I went directly to sobbing. (I didn’t know I could do that!)

It found me in an email from my mother-in-law

Acting as if everything was fine between us

Like nothing had happened at all.

It found me when I called after our mailman, running to give him his Christmas gift. “Arthur, wait!” I sang. I never called Art Arthur but the sadness didn’t care.

It found me at the ranch, where the kids and I are now

When I was walking by myself, from the main house to the house off the garage. I turned the corner and walked right into it’s soft, cushy, familiar, frightening deafness.

It found me in another email, this one from a neighbor reminiscing about seeing Art and the kids heading down the side walk towards his house for a swim.

That is where I am right now. Stuck in this sadness. It’s socked me in, layering around me. There is no escaping this. So I don't even try. I sit with it. I nod my head, I sigh, I cry. I have learned to keep walking. The direction I walk is not important. The sadness always has an end. I just need to get there.


Written on Christmas evening

This morning Pallas stomped off, mad that she did not get the gifts she wanted. I follow her to the bedroom. She was back in bed, under the covers, thrashing. I sat at the end, listening to her tirade of the perceived inequality of the gift giving.

“And the worst thing is…I wish daddy were here.”

Her words come at the same moment I am thinking them. We both started to cry. We laid in bed, hugging and crying.

We cried for awhile.

And then we were done. As we leave to rejoin everyone, I felt lighter as if layers of sadness had fallen away.

Then I remember, sharing the sadness has a way of doing that. Knowing that I am not alone, that someone else misses him makes it bearable.


PS Ricki is a parakeet


  1. Isn't it special to share a moment of grief with a child too. At Christmas dinner last night, my 3 year old granddaughter asked me if I still miss Poppa and said she does too. {It's only been 5 months but in her short life that seems like an eternity!] I'm so appreciative of anyone that will still mention his name and acknowledge my sadness,sitting on my shoulders like the soft purple cashmere scarf I received. Just trying to keep walking and feeling...

  2. Thank you for the honest sharing from the heart.
    Its good to be sad when it is time to be sad. I'm with my son and his wife's family, and I feel sad without my husband this Christmas, but there is no place or time to be sad here. My grief is great, but these people did not even know my husband, and my grown son has his new family. I'm glad not to be alone this Christmas, but I know that I will always feel sadness because I am left alone in a way in which no one else can fill. There is no solution except to learn to live without him, and at Christmas, that sucks!

  3. This was a wonderful post - so very honest. Yes, I feel incredibly sad and have felt this the entire week. On our first Christmas without my husband, the kids and I headed to my mothers to join in the festivities with all the extended family. No one said one word about my missing husband. It was obvious and awkward and I missed him even more. I so wished I had someone to cry with! Blessings to you and your children.

  4. I had a smooth tranistion this xmas, but then this morning as you say unexpectedly it hits me. I was outside shoveling the six inches of snow we had here in New England, feeling grateful for the wonderful neighbor, who barely knows me who came( he did this last year too, when we had a blizzard and snowblowed my driveway, thinking my husband would want be wanting to thank him for taking care of his wife, when even one of his closests friends who owns a plow forgot all about me ( 2nd year in a row). could not help crying about this. missing him, wondering why his so called friend could have done this and disrespected him this way, while a stranger who did not know him or me before any of this happened, had the decency to care! CRying thinking do not want to be doing this right now in the street, but then saying let it come, because it needs to and it will be over sooner if I give in to it! But this was the last reaction I expect to have after an act of kindness, but as you say it come as an un expected guest!