Sunday, October 28, 2007

On loss

This has been such a sad, grim week.

I went to see my ex-in-laws on Tuesday with a casserole and a cake -- I am a Southerner, and there is no resisting the urge to bake when disaster strikes -- and had a really nice visit with them. They were, I think, genuinely glad to see me and to talk with me, and they asked me to come back and bring the girls. From my own experience with loss, the hardest time is after the funeral, when the family members are gone and there are no more arrangements to busy oneself with, so I'll bring the girls to visit during that time.

Several family members implied, and in one case stated outright, that the girls were the children Dylan wouldn't ever have. I wasn't at all offended by it -- I understand the emotion, and in fact, G said that's one of the things he pitied Dylan the most for, that he never had children. Still, it was hard to know how to respond. Dylan and I had talked about what might happen if we couldn't have children, which is a possibility I've always been aware of, and he was not at all keen on the idea of ART. Of course, it's always different when you're actually staring childlessness in the face, as we inevitably would have had we stayed married. However, I can't envision the girls in that alternate history, can't separate the fact of their existence from the context of the family of G and me, and the very idea is vaguely unsettling. Still, if it gives them some comfort, bringing the girls to meet them is the least I can do.

I didn't really start to have a hard time with it all until after that visit, but by the time of the actual services on Thursday and Friday, it really sank in, and hit me much harder than when I initially heard the news. There's a natural tendency to speak well of the dead, and as the week wore on, I found myself putting away all the unpleasant memories, and thinking mostly about our friendship in high school, and the period of our engagement and the start of our marriage.

In some ways, this feels dishonest to me, because the bad stuff really did happen, and it had a substantial impact on my life. To name just one story, there was the night that he was drunk and we were fighting when the pizza guy came and saw Dylan pushing me around some. Not hitting me -- he never slapped or punched me -- but there were times when he'd shake me, or squeeze my arm really hard, or shove me. I didn't really think of it as physical abuse, but some of those times left bruises, and on this particular occasion, the pizza guy actually called the house later to check if I was all right.

It was a real wake-up call for me, and it wasn't long after that that I decided the divorce needed to happen now. It also influenced my decision to pursue a relationship with G -- I didn't ever want to find myself in another quasi-abusive situation, and I thought a lot about what I knew of his character and about what would happen when we conflicted. If I were to whitewash that one miserable night, or all the others like it, out of Dylan's and my history, it would leave some noticeable blanks.

Dishonest or no, though, my tendency this week has been to let those incidents fade to some extent. I'd let them go well before now -- I'm not a grudge-carrier by nature, and I wasn't bitter or resentful about them before he died, so it was that much easier to just not think about them. And when I focused on the good times, that's when I really started to feel I'd lost someone, and to mourn.

Part of me felt as though I didn't really have the right to grieve. After all, we did divorce, mostly at my impetus, and I hadn't even seen him for nearly seven years. But when you get down to it, he was my husband once, and in some ways I knew him better than anyone else in the world. In fact, if you like irony, here's one for you: in the eyes of his Church, I'm his widow, not his ex-wife. I'm not Catholic myself, and if you'd asked me two weeks ago, I'd have said this was so much nonsense. Even his family, who are as devout as you'll find, would probably have laughed at the idea.

But then he died, and only then did I realize that the connection between us hadn't entirely disappeared. I thought I was done with him seven years ago, but I was wrong -- it's so very different from that person's being dead. I don't, of course, grieve him as I would if G were to die, but it's an echo of it. There's divorce, and then there is cold in the ground, and the two do not compare.

I went to the visitation, a typical Southern open-casket affair. I hugged his family, and I held his hand and cried, and I told him how sorry I was, that I never would have thought it would end like this for us. The funeral the next day was even worse, and I wept through most of the service. I don't think I'll ever forget the moment when they closed the casket, over the face of the man I once loved.

I hadn't expected to grieve like this, but I have. One of the only two people in the world who know me that intimately is now gone. I am now the only one in the world who knows how the moonlight shone on the emerald he put on my finger, that March night in the Grove at Ole Miss, and how he picked me up and swung me around after I said yes. I'm also the only one who knows how he'd snarl when we fought, how his shoulders slumped when I told him I wanted a divorce, how we wandered around the house in elaborate silence until he moved out. The one doesn't cancel out the other, and the whole equation adds up to a loss.


Stacey said...

This was so sad and touching to read. What a sad situation.

Nico said...

I am so sorry for your loss. This post was a beautiful tribute to him - the truth.

Suz said...

You've expressed what it's like to lose Dylan so beautifully. I'm sorry for your loss.

Jody said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. Coming so soon on the heels of your hospital stay, you must be wrung out. I hope you'll grab some space and time for yourself very soon.