After three months, I admit I wanted to cross grief off my to-do list. I thought about how nice it would be to get through grief faster, wash my hands of it and move on.
But apparently, it doesn’t work that way.
Grief lasts a while or as long as it does. It’s a process and it’s different for each person. I feel the most sad when I think against what happened.
Grief is also unwieldy. It’s inconvenient. It washes over us, ready or not.
After three months, I desperately wanted a break. A little time off. A grief vacation.
And I got that.
The most amazing relief came over me, and not just for a second or two, it lasted for a while. I felt a clear breath of fresh air. I remembered how I used to feel when I was happy without trying.
I felt like myself again.
(When a pain goes away that you’ve had for a while, at first you may not notice it’s gone. But then it dawns on you… oh, I don’t hurt! I feel better!)
I enjoyed the relief. The sun came out. My heart opened for business as usual.
After that, my happiness waxed and waned, but seemed more present more often, and I deeply appreciated that.
OPEN AT YOUR OWN RISK
In one of those moments when I was feeling stronger and more confident, I took advantage of my bravery, and walked into Eric’s closet to retrieve a mystery box of his belongings, as well as an old briefcase with a tattered handle.
Both should have (in all fairness) been labeled “Do not open. Will cause immediate and dangerous flooding.”
(And being what they were – a mystery box and a briefcase – I should have known. But like I said, I was feeling brave.)
In this mystery box, I found his contractor’s license (expired in 1985). Near that, his reading glasses, his passport, and a pair of cuff links in a velvet lined box, which I had seen him wear only a couple times in all our time together. In another corner of the box laid his lariat and name tag from a LifeVantage trip to Cancun in 2013, heavy with milestone buttons.
I put it on. It felt nice. The weight of it, the medal memories, and that it fell over my heart.
There were many photos. I sorted them and kept a few.
There was a single business card for “Russtique Antiques,” his mother’s livelihood for many years.
In the same box was his fathers 1962 championship medal for high powered rifle sharp shooting. Eric had told me about his father’s ability to shoot long range using iron sights. Taking the medal out of the clear case and holding it for a minute, I wondered what it took for his father to earn that medal, the hours of practice, the innate skill, the keen vision.
Next was a handwritten copy of Eric’s family tree, listing 102 members and their birthdays. Under that, seven 10 cent copies of “The Chateaugay Record and Franklin County Democrat” (1967 to 1970) with various high school shots of Eric, the kind that local papers love to print, ending with his (shy and sweet) Valedictorian graduation photo.
There was an envelope with past driver’s licenses. One photo was funny (really terrible!), one was Eric attempting to appear awake (made me laugh) and one from 1984 was downright hot. He was in his early 30’s, looking into the camera, doing nothing at all. Good haircut. A hint of sweat on his brow.
You know, like I said, casually hot.
DIP-ER-DO. YOU, TOO?
And finally, there were two envelopes, 4 X 6-1/2 inch manila, yellowed with age, with red and blue print. They were labeled Mike Stone’s Original dip-er-do Stunt Plane. 3 for $2.00.
According to the envelope’s claims, this little paper plane was designed to do flips, come back to you and land in your hand.
I thought about my elusive happiness of late, and how it has done more than a few flips. I thought about how I’d like my happiness to come back to me and land neatly in my hand.
I followed directions for preparing the dip-er-do for flight and gave it a whirl.
Clearly I needed flying lessons.
Even though it was fun to fly, that “come back to you” thing wasn’t happening. My little dip-er-do did do dips, however — one particularly spectacular dip required a ladder for retrieval.
Unfortunately, I never got flying lessons from the expert himself.
I wish I had.
Long ago, Eric told me how he and his first wife Penny traveled to malls on weekends to sell paper airplanes. If they were able to get passers-by engaged — “Come on over and have a flying lesson!” — the new flyers almost always bought a pack (or two or ten).
He said they often made six to eight hundred dollars on a weekend, flying paper airplanes hour after hour.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
After sorting Eric’s box and briefcase, my emotions rose up and had a little talk with me.
More accurately they reared up, rivaling the heavy gully-washer rain we had that same evening. I hadn’t seen that much water coming off my roof, maybe ever.
And the egg-beater wind — that was new. It swirled forcefully, changing directions, causing heavy rain to be thrown at my windows and deck plants from every possible angle. It was intense and gusty and a bit alarming.
(Just like my emotions earlier that day.)
This crazy wind, combined with the massive amount of water coming from the sky made the three of us standing in my living room pause in utter awe and amazement.
My awe didn’t last long.
I realized I should head downstairs and check the garage and basement. Yes, water was coming in, and despite my creative measures, which included a well-positioned wheelbarrow to lure water away from one vulnerable corner of the house, things still got wet. (But thankfully not my downstairs bathroom or laundry area.)
There I was, vacuuming incoming water. Deja vu!
Hadn’t I just sopped up water pouring from my eyes that very morning after playing with the airplane, holding his cuff links and wearing his LifeVantage lariat?
Yes, life is reflective. I get it. Again. For the hundredth or thousandth time.
But since sopping with Kleenex is easier than heavy rain, a shop vac and high winds, hopefully I can stick with the Kleenex and keep on keepin’ on through this emotional journey. Grief is a process, it takes whatever time it does and (apparently for this girl) has watery layers.
I can do this.
To quote my favorite childhood story (The Little Engine That Could) “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”
p.s. Eric, could you tell me how to make the plane flip a couple times and come back to my hand?
Or will the dip-er-do naturally come back to me when my happiness does — when I don’t miss you so much, so often? How does that work exactly?