I’m fixated on the past year, I know. That’s because in one month, my year of firsts will be over. And it really is a year of firsts. This is my first October 25th without Aaron. Tomorrow is my first October 26. And on November 25 those firsts will end, and I won’t be able to say that a year ago I was sitting in bed with Aaron eating cheese and watching Game of Thrones. I’ll be able to say I was sitting on the floor of my living room sobbing audibly while watching How To Get Away With Murder and that just doesn’t have the same appeal, nostalgically.
This is us a year ago.
Did I know Aaron would die a month later, to the day? Yes. And no, of course not. I had felt him slipping through my fingers, more and more each day, his light dimming. One afternoon I came home from work to take him to lunch with a friend. We were standing in our bedroom talking when he hit me. Hard. It took us both a moment too long to realize his flailing arm was a seizure about to happen.
“I’m going down!” he shouted, and I tackled him to our bedroom floor and lay with him while his body shook and lurched and my beautiful husband was locked inside of himself.
“I think lunch is off,” he said when he returned, and I laughed and used all the strength in my body to get him into our bed.
I only remembered that story today because I read it in my journal. It was gone, though, until I saw it written in my own hand, and then each detail returned and fell into its place.
That is what my entire year has been like: a fever dream, a foggy soup of vague memories punctuated by total darkness. It’s like my brain just said, “hey Nora, you go ahead and live your life, and I’ll just bubble wrap all this traumatic stuff up and store it away for you until you’re ready to deal with it.”
And then, like my mother clearing her garage of my and my sibling’s childhood artifacts, my brain just left it on my back step with a note that said, “DEAL WITH THIS.”
So I slogged through the stages of grief like I was playing a demented board game. Move two spaces to denial. Listen to a friend berate her very alive husband, skip six spaces to anger. Meditate with Oprah and Deepak, move ten spaces to Acceptance. Take an offhand comment the wrong way, back to anger, buddy!
The game, I realize, is never over. And it’s not a game. I got a little too caught up in that simile and took it a smidge too far.
Today I pulled out the vegetable garden in my new house – not our house, my house. I was out there for hours. Pulling it all out, the fallen tomatoes and the eggplants that didn’t quite make it, the zucchini plant that had withered in the first frost. The garden, the window boxes, the tiny little trees that try to grow where they shouldn’t, I ripped them all out. They didn’t want to go, because it is the nature of things that are alive to keep living. And I admired them for that, for digging their roots into the soil and reaching up towards a sun they would never touch.
It’s symbolism, dummies.
I’m not ready to do that, but I don’t have a choice. We are all given a season to rest, but all of us must grow.
i told a friend i’d been crying and crying in my car, like aaron had just died. because that’s how it feels. there are things that happened that nobody will ever know, and nobody would understand. grief is a really shitty present i open everyday, because there are new ways to miss the life we had and the life we didn’t get to.
am i doing this wrong? why am i feeling so raw right now, when it’s nearly been a year and the world has spun on and on and on?
because, she said, it is shocking and horrible and he was alive a year ago.
it hasn’t been that long.
and i know, every day, that even when it has been that long, it won’t matter. this is not a finite object, i will not run out of it.
this grief is young and so am i, we will spend a lot of time together. someday, he will not be such an asshole to me. we will settle into our own rhythm, the two of us, we will grow old together. but right now, he’s disruptive and harsh and relentless. he is bringing out the worst in me.