So here I was, all ready to jump back into life and blogging and everything, posting "just wait! I have so much to show you!"
I didn't come back. I'm sure you're all starting to get irritated with my flakiness, wondering what the heck is up with me and why I can't seem to stick to anything I promise these days. The truth is, trips to Jamaica and days at We Day have been simply distractions for a short time. They help me forget about things, but as soon as I'm home reality hits me back in the face.
Grieving takes time. A lot of time. What I'm learning is that I need more time than I thought, or even what other people thought I should need. I've been downright unreliable, dropping the ball here and there and everywhere, with the only thing that I seem to be able to keep up with being laundry, and even at that I'm not so great.
I can't predict which days I'll be all cheerful, and which days I have to literally force myself to crawl out of bed, because I'd rather just stay there and wallow. I could go on about this forever and bore you all to death, but the reality is I finally admitted on Thursday that I'm worried that I'm depressed.
Cooking holds no interest for me these days. Neither does eating or writing. Nothing that I used to do to distract myself holds any sort of comfort at the moment. I have no desire to do anything at all. All I feel like doing in curling up and laying there on the couch, letting TV distract me, or watch Twitter flit by. If it wasn't for the fact that I have to work, I'm not sure I'd even be getting out of bed. With Anne gone and John working far from home, trying to figure out a new community and new job, I'm completely, as Anne would've said, discombobulated. I should be happy, I tell myself. Seriously Karen you shouldn't be complaining, you have a great new house and car, you are working, what's your problem?
Like a boat drifting along with no anchor, I feel like I've been let out to sea with nothing to grab on to. People only listen to you talk about grief for so long before they get bored, and then you feel guilty for even bringing it up. I should be moving on, I tell myself. Which, works great for some days, but then something small reminds me and I'm a complete mess all over again. I'm a swirling vortex of emotion, and I don't blame anyone for steering clear of me lately.
Friday night I came down with a cold, which may have been a blessing in disguise. A forced slow down consisting of three days in my pajamas was a much needed break. I shuffled around the house with a box of tissues, slurped chicken soup and ginger ale, and watched re-runs of Gilmore girls. That alone should make anyone feel better.
Or, at least me. Maybe it wasn't that after all, but instead that I started wearing the ring.
When I was 20 years old and living in Richmond, my high school boyfriend gave me a ring. We were sitting in Boston Pizza eating dinner, and he suddenly put this box on the table, grinning at me like a Cheshire cat. I was so focused on chatting that I didn't even notice until he pointed it out, and in that box was the most perfect little gold ring with a heart nestled in the middle, sparkling with a tiny diamond. It was a promise ring, he explained, that someday we would get married. As things happen when you are young, the marriage didn't ever materialize, but I did keep the ring to remind me of my first really deep friendship and love. It has sat in my jewelry box for over 20 years, forgotten about for all that time, until this past summer.
Back in July when Anne was in the hospice, she would tell me about how lonely and bored she was, and how bizarre it felt to be in a hospice, waiting to die. I was desperate to be there every day but with everything going on with moving and trying to get our new house, along with my own family needing me, I couldn't. Being kept away from her was making me stir crazy, especially knowing that she was so bored and lonely. To give her some comfort and remind her of me, I gave her the ring and told her I couldn't think of anyone else having it and that I wanted her to have a piece of me with her all the time.
We figured out what finger it would be best on, since her hands were so tiny by then that rings were slipping off. Finally with it tucked under her wedding bands, she smiled at me and said,
"It's perfect. I love it."
I wished I had given it to her long before then. Why did I wait so long? Was it denial on my own part, not wanting to accept that she was dying? Why couldn't I have given it to her when she was healthier, so she could've really enjoyed it? When it was time for me to go, I lingered. I never wanted to leave, and would feel anxious about walking out the door. Would it be the last time? Was this the final goodbye? I can still see her now, holding out her hand and examining the ring with a soft smile, saying,
"It's okay, Karen. I have your heart."
Two short weeks later, she was gone.
The ring came back to me awhile ago and sat on my dresser until Thursday. For the longest time, I couldn't really bear to look at it, but for some reason, I picked it up and decided to wear it. Too small for my right hand, I tried to make it fit with my wedding rings without success until just yesterday when I figured out that if I put it on first, my other rings fit over top almost as if they were made to go together.
Now when I miss her, my fingers always seem to find their way to the smooth gold with the tiny heart nestled in the middle. Somehow, it brings me comfort.
She had my heart. Now when I look at it, I like to think I have hers.