Today I write from a condo on the Texas coast in Port Aransas having arrived Sunday night. The plan is to spend the rest of this week focused on cranking out the second draft of my first book – the ever elusive, The Mystery Behind The Masters. Do you remember me telling you about that? Do you remember me telling you it’s not about golf?
A vote of confidence from the universe came this morning when I received word that another of my quotes made it into a U.S. News & World Report article on universities and education expectations.
Hook would have said, “That’s great, babe. Now finish that book.”
At the risk of tempting deep grief to return and body slam me again, I feel I’m past the worst of the worst of the dark days. How do I know? Because I shower daily now and I never watch Netflix from my pillow anymore. There are still early mornings when, as my mind enters into consciousness, I’ll slam my eyes shut so I can return to the unconscious and a world where Hook is not gone. But I do that less and less and instead say out loud, “I know I should get up.” The only one to hear is my Siamese, Gatita, who is passed out on the bed with me, and of course Hook who has become my invisible, grief drill sergeant.
Take the Time to Grieve
If it had been me that died instead of my husband, he would have gone back to work within a week, two weeks max. Hook would have put his head down and focused at whatever task was at hand, shoving any memory of me aside or burying it so deeply that any vision of me would have been blurred permanently. I always respected that perseverance in him. And, I’ve used that tactic before when my brother, Paul, passed away in 1998, and again when my father, Lou, died in 2011. But it doesn’t work, it never has.
When I was able to start getting out of bed again, I spent my mornings sitting at my writing desk, scribbling away in long hand with tears pouring out, wetting the pages, and capturing in words the anguish and regret of the last 18 months. I begged for mercy that the grieving let up. I begged for mercy that the grieving and Hook never went away. I became ultra-evolved and certifiably insane in the same moment because I was aware of the world and all it could offer and rip away simultaneously.
Since September 3rd, I have had the luxury of deep, private grieving. I say “luxury” because I’ve met so many widows and widowers who had to return to work after only a month, some after only a week. I shudder every time I think of how fuzzy and frail I felt in the months following Hook’s death. Frail … those who know me wouldn’t ever use such an adjective to describe my personality. But we’re talking spirit instead of body so yes, wounded and handicapped and frail would all be words that could have accurately described my soul — that piece of me that was and will always be tethered to Hook.
But not today, I don’t feel that way today.
I realized that the smidgens of hope I gathered from the Texas coast during my Thanksgiving weekend did indeed grow. Even the four-hour drive down to Port Aransas this week was completely different than that drive I made last November. Then, I could hardly contain the tears that began with the shopping for the trip to the packing of luggage and hauling out Hook’s green, man cooler – I don’t want to go without you – to swerving on the highway to grab after dirty napkins on the floor of the Jeep because I’d soaked through the clean ones in the console – You’re supposed to be doing this with me.
Four hours of crying is exhausting, and it doesn’t make for safe driving either.
Before that November trip I would have said I felt hollow inside like there was a humongous hole in my middle. I learned that Thanksgiving holiday that there wasn’t a huge hole inside of me but me inside the hole, a deep cave with no steps for climbing out. Since dispirited, comatose states of being are not my norm, I was moved by instinct to make the trip to face the ghosts of the coast as I called them. I returned to the port where Hook and I spent holidays and long weekends and where he proposed on bended knee, asking me to spend the rest of our lives together.
In return for listening to this inner wisdom, the coast greeted me with clear water and clean sand but thick clouds overhead made sure I remembered it was still winter. I’d already been walking an hour that first day when I turned to look back at where I’d come from. I didn’t want to go back but I couldn’t walk forward either. Instead, I turned towards the ocean and held out my hands, palms facing up, and with watery eyes and a cracked voice, I whispered, “Help me; please help me.”
I didn’t know who I was talking to, God I suppose, maybe Hook a little. Mostly I think I was sending out a plea to the universe, because even though I’d felt empty of all energy, void of all passion, indifferent to interests of any kind, I was still in awe at the power of the water, the flow of the waves, the swoosh swoosh swoosh of the tide as it beat against the sand and washed everything else away.
After a while I started walking again, walking away from the despair, walking off the loss, walking out of that cavernous hole. I wasn’t moving on from Hook but moving forward with me. On the second day of that trip, I saw the first rays of sunlight beam through the clouds. It was brief but they stayed long enough for me to react to the warmth and respond, “I see you.”
And that’s how hope happened.
I don’t know that I would have believed I could feel hope again. In fact I wouldn’t have known how cemented it has become since Thanksgiving if I hadn’t returned to Port Aransas this week. There were no tears in preparing for this trip not while speed packing or even during the long drive. (I didn’t even bother to grocery shop instead I threw whatever was in the fridge into the green cooler and figured I’d shop for the rest once I got here.) When I ran out to the water on Sunday of this week, it took me about 10 minutes before I realized what was different: There were no feelings of overwhelming loss, no suffocating fear. I was outside of the hole.
I know it’s no longer a matter of will I get through this but instead, how much will I learn, how much will I grow, and will it be enough.
I wish I could write that I don’t cry every day anymore or that I haven’t gotten choked up today. I do and I have and I will and I’ll continue to do so until one day I just don’t. But the tears I shed now are more good-bye than don’t go, more resignation than come back. I can let go of the debilitating grief without letting go of the love in my heart for Allan. And although I still feel uncertain about building a future without Hook in it, I’m not so scared that I won’t try. I’ll move forward more slowly than is my usual pace but I’ll still move forward.
When Hook and I celebrated our four-year anniversary last June, we returned to our wedding night place – a lovely bed and breakfast in Wimberly, Texas – tucked away in the woods. Our room was on the second floor with a spacious balcony that faced the gorgeous Blue Hole. We began our mornings and ended our evenings sitting outside on the cushioned chairs, listening and watching the wildlife. On the second night, Hook started to talk about the planning of his memorial. I had just stood up to return back inside. When he spoke, I sat back down on the edge of the chair, staring blindly at the balcony floor, waiting to hear what he would say.
“I want you to play that song by George Harrison, the one he wrote just before he died from cancer,” he said. “Listen to it as many times as you need to.”
“You’re going to be all right,” Hook would always say in our late night talks. “You have to be.”
Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloud burst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
It’s not always going to be this grey