My daughter is very angry with me. We had an argument yesterday about forgetting things. My short term memory has been vanishing the closer the court date comes. I know it’s irritating to tell someone things over and over, but I really don’t do it on purpose. It just happens in clinical depression, and learning that Neal was stabbed 97 times just short circuited the shaky function that I was already turned on to. But, in the heat of the emotion I said that I wished I was dead. That made her mad. She thought I was placing a terrible burden on her. Maybe she thought I was being emotionally manipulative. I’m sorry that’s how it seemed. The truth is that I said it because I felt it at the time.
That doesn’t mean that anyone needs to call a suicide hotline or enumerate my blessings. I’m not planning or even thinking about trying to commit suicide. I’m just tired. Sometimes the idea of being able to sleep and never have to wake up to deal with yet another day, yet another blow, yet another aching sadness is very attractive. Waking up every morning is sometimes hard for me. I have been chronically ill for a long time, so I rarely really feel good. Add depression and grief andit’s sometimes a huge burden to pick up every morning. And I have lost many of my best coping mechanisms, all in one fell blow.
Neal understood me well. We were similar in a lot of ways, and I could talk to him about anything. Even if I was emotional or even unreasonable, he usually knew that all I needed sometimes was a chance to vent my feelings and a friendly voice to say he understood, and was sorry that I felt bad. Did he really understand? No idea. Did he complain about me later to others? Probably. He was human, not a saint. But that didn’t matter, because in that moment he was kind enough to give me what I really needed, even if I didn’t know it myself. Not advice, not an analysis of my problem or an exhortation to pull myself up by my bootstraps – just a simple “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or a sympathetic hug. There is a lot of power in a hug. No matter the struggle, no matter the tension, no matter the inner anguish, it can all melt away in a simple hug.
My little guys gave me something different, something precious. They thought I was one of the most wonderful people in the world. They were always overjoyed to see me and sorry to see me leave. Ian would launch himself through the air into my arms screaming “Oma” with joyous abandon and complete confidence that I would catch him. When I picked up my belongings to go home, he would block the door and try to counter any reason I could think of for having to go home. Once he said to me, “You can’t go home, Oma. You’re our best friend.” That’s hard to resist and so hard to do without.
Devon worried about me. He reminded me to take my pills, and he would try to help me up the stairs. It bothered him that I couldn’t just run up the stairs like he could. Diabetics have trouble sometimes with dehydration, and he noticed if the skin on my feet was dry and cracked. He would wince as though it caused him pain, even though I told him it didn’t hurt, and would get some hand lotion and ask if he could put it on my feet and legs so that it didn’t look so painful to him any more. (That would attract Ian, because he always had to be a part of everything Devon did. Devon would try to rub lotion into the skin, and Ian would decorate with dots and swirls of cream and wipe his sticky fingers on my clothes. I guess only grandmas appreciate messy fingers wipend on their shirts.) Devon had a huge heart full of love and a desire to make things better. And he never once let a visit pass without at some point throwing his skinny arms around my neck and whispering in my ear that he loved me so much. A rare and caring soul. That has been very hard to do without in this last year and a half.
My daughter asked me what I expected her to say and do after a statement like “I wish I was dead.” I really don’t know that I expected her to do anything at all. At least consciously I didn’t. It came from such a deep place of weariness and a longing to have the pain and sorrow go away. The sweet peace of leaving that struggle behind, even for an hour, is so attractive sometimes. A deep sleep where I don’t have nightmares. A rest. Or maybe part of me just wanted her to say she was glad I was still here. Perhaps I was just searching for that hug of understanding. I’m not sure. If I knew the answers I wouldn’t be in grief therapy or taking two different antidepressants.