Monthly Archives: July 2015

Grief hidden in the fourth

Grief hidden in the fourth

Oddly, the Fourth of July is the holiday that always seems to sneak up on me. Unlike the wedding anniversary, that did not always bring the required reverence and gratitude for having accomplished staying together another year. There was the year I bought an antique bookshelf as a gift. Antique bookshelf to me, wobbly problem to him. His birthday was often his least favorite day of the year. Christmases were too often littered with withdrawn sighs of disappointment over missed cues about gifts, or worse, having to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I was never a fan of New Years or Valentine’s day, so these days never held the sadness of the other holidays. I’ve reconciled the anniversary of his death as an opportunity to rejoice over the idea that he is finally at peace. Or at least it doesn’t sneak up on me, it seems like an appropriate day to grieve. Father’s Day we celebrate with the things he would enjoy, namely, Mentos geysers. These holidays all seem to have found a groove that feels like it fits the pain, let’s the grief breathe, wears the discomfort less uncomfortably.
After nearly four years, most holidays seem more manageable. Meaning, I’ve figured out how to prepare, where to categorize them. It wasn’t until nearly two o’clock today, after thrashing around in the bed for hours, forcing myself up to make lunch, sweep the floor only to find myself back in bed. Groggy, I wondered what is wrong with me. Everyone is out at parties, BBQing, enjoying the beautiful day, and all I feel like doing is drawing the shades, pulling the covers over my head and going back to sleep. Why?
Because this was our good holiday. And we didn’t have many “good” holidays, if I’m being honest. And I forget that until I try to make a plan for the 4th or get out of bed before noon.
The first July 4th after Chris died, I found myself unable to make a choice about where we would go to watch the fireworks, because we had always watched them from our own living room. Chris enjoyed the Fourth of July and it was one of the rare occasions that we invited people over. The big house on the hill had a particularly amazing view of the fireworks, and air conditioning. Kids twirled sparklers in the yard, Chris grilled and laughed. I could recall that he had a sharp wit, and a way with cooking raw meat over an open flame. He liked fire, and especially explosions. We had good times throughout our marriage, but I never remember a bad Fourth of July.
The year M turned one, we drove to Gettysburg, where unbeknownst to us there was a annual reenactment of the civil war battle that took place there. There was a cannon blast that scared M so badly that she cried and her face turned all red, and we took pictures of her and laughed lovingly? at her.
Our first year in Roanoke, before we moved to the big house on the hill, we spent a very warm and humid night spread out on a towel near Victory Stadium. S slept and M covered her ears and hid under the blanket. We drank contraband beer and laughed lovingly? at M. One year when we opened up our grill to cook our Fourth of July fare, we discovered a mommy mouse nursing her babies. We laughed, and ate, and drank, and enjoyed the company of friends. Chris was better in the summer, when the days were longer and he got to see the sun more. And Chris loved the controlled chaos of a fireworks display, the excuse to relax, and the ability to be away from the stressors of work.
My time with Chris was frequently chaotic, sometimes difficult and almost always complex. But it was my life, for over a decade. And the times that were relaxed and happy were both rare and cherished. Mostly holidays intensified many of the things that made our relationship chaotic, difficult and complex. Holidays underscored the resources that were strained, namely time and emotional resources. But the fourth did not, it was a time that we could enjoy each other, enjoy the life that Chris’s hard work had provided us, enjoy the company of friends, and enjoy the view from our home. It was a nice holiday. And to honest, we didn’t have that many nice holidays.