Why is it that every time I sit down to write, my nose starts running? I mean, I’ve had allergies for almost 40 years, so sneezing, being stuffed up, and blowing my nose are nothing new. This is a different phenomenon. After I drag myself away from my Facebook and Instagram feeds (neither of which engenders nasal issues, though they sometimes activate my tear ducts), wrestle my laptop from my 13-year-old son, make it clear to my 8-year-old son that he’s going to have to attend to his own emotional needs for roughly the next 37 to 46 minutes while I compose a blog post, pet the cat for a minute, and/or get a fresh cup of tea, it rarely fails that just as I get a fresh Word document opened that my nose decides to do its best impression of a hirsute gentleman in a heat wave. Drip, drip, sniff. Drip, drip, sniff.
“I remember doing it but I don’t remember how I kept at it.”
“As I recall, you made it a non-negotiable, a prescription you had to follow. So you did.”
The first steps on the path are the hardest. Not because they take the most energy but because they require focus and commitment to get to the point where you can actually take them. The car ride to the wedding or the reunion or the funeral. The first day of the first class of the first year of middle school or high school or graduate school. The new job when you worked for the old employer for most of your professional life. The ring sliding onto your beloved’s finger.
There are smiling students handing out flyers next to the entrance to the cafeteria. I take one and we enter, neither of us sure where to go. My son looks at me (he still does this, though I know he won’t for much longer) and I gesture for him to choose where we sit. He selects a seat near the back, a little apart from the other parents, families and friends. It’s not a large audience; this is just a practice performance. He points out his friend who invited him. She plays the bass in one of their school’s orchestras. He points out other friends, too, mostly boys.
My home is in the suburbs but where I work is tucked in the middle of the opposite of urban. There’s some farmland, some wooded areas, a large lake, and the kinds of spaces that make up the distance between most small Northeast Georgia towns. Boat storage lots. Used car dealerships. Bait shops. Fruit and veggie stands. Boiled peanuts, trailer parks, Dollar Generals, and Piggly Wigglys.
And lots of back roads.
Two years ago, Suicide’s sister sauntered into my living room, sidled up to the couch and snuggled down with me there. It was late on a Friday evening and she held me, paralyzed, for what I think was literally hours. My husband was upstairs working late, our children were in bed asleep, the cat was… Wherever she was. I don’t remember. There’s a lot I don’t recall clearly about that night.
We live less than 10 miles from one of the largest lakes in Georgia and a little over 50 miles from the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It's beautiful country and I don't spend time in it enough. My drive to and from work takes me very near the lake, yet I seldom slide over there to visit. Even tonight, to capture this, I had to park on the far side of the road and scoot across. There wasn't much traffic but I felt... Exposed. Awkward. Almost as if I was trespassing (I wasn't). I wanted to enjoy the sound of the waves. I even tried to make an Instagram Stories video (failed). I did get this photo but cars kept going by behind me and I couldn't get any closer to the water's edge due to low visibility and the breakwater and... Something of the experience was lost as I watched the light fade and I started to get cold.
Our apartment at the time was lovely. Walk-in level with a two-sided wrap porch that overlooked undeveloped land. Three bedrooms, two baths, a well-appointed kitchen with separate dining area. All the typical community amenities, centrally located within the county, less than four miles from where we worked, and safe enough that I never worried about coming home late at night from my second shift job.
The character of John Watson on the BBC’s show Sherlock as played by Martin Freeman is an exquisite mourner. You cannot watch his experience of grief and not be moved if you are at all engaged with the show and its characters. It’s an overused phrase, but Freeman is brilliant in this role.
There are so many flavors of mourning. Flavors? Yes, because they each leave their own taste in your mouth, one you remember every time you roll it around your mouth. That’s the other thing about mourning – you return to it, weighing and measuring it over and over. As the flavor changes over time, so does your experience of the pain.