In addition to the conference planning --
[Which, hi, btw:
Yikes. And I know all/most of you understand why planning an event like this is stressful, but in case you're all like "what's the big deal," I will just say it's kind of like trying to plan a wedding for 700 people that lasts two-and-a-half days. 3 receptions, 4 meals, 2 breaks, 150 speakers, 30 sponsors, swag bags, brochures, signage, shuttles...]
-- and my birthday shenanigans, which were awesome --
--Ish and I flew out to the East Coast for a few days to finally bury my father.
Because you know and I know that that is just how life goes. Just when you think it can't get any busier or more challenging, you find yourself going from a crazy, eleventeen-hour workday rush to a silent island off the coast of Maine.
[Like this post. I start a typical entry about conference planning, and next thing you know I'm discussing my dad's death.]
Almost as if from out of nowhere I was suddenly surrounded by family and friends I don't see nearly enough. On an island. Without paved roads. Where water is rationed, and the atmosphere is saltwater fresh and misty and you can't always tell if the hum is coming from insects in the woods or motorboats on the ocean. There seems to be more sky there, too. More air to breathe.
I haven't been to the island since the 4th of July weekend five years ago. When we buried my mom.
There is lots to say about it all, and I don't really have the energy or skill to do it in one post, or even a specific series. It'll just come out, I think.
Because how do you write about a parental burial that was...um...fun? I mean, it was. Fun.
And oh, the closure. It's been over a year since he died and I thought I had a pretty damn good handle on my grieving. I had no idea how good it could feel to cry again, a lot. To relive the stories and jokes in a pseudo-ceremonious way that didn't involve wearing black or seating arrangements or casseroles. Instead we had a sunset and booze, games and laughter, and a damn fine grill.
It was fantastic to do something like that, a year later. The services when he died were everything they should have been, and, rightly so, they were cloaked in grief.
This was something else.
* * *
Forgive me. I never write like this, and I know it might come out all funny. But I believe what I'm about to write, and I have never told a soul.
Something small and black formed inside me. It started when my parents lost their house and moved to New Hampshire, and nothing was ever, ever the same again.
I felt it, this black thing, starting to grow when my mom got sick. Like my own kind of cancer. Black and scary and vile. Fear, regret, preparatory grieving. Stoicism, even. A horrid, bilious blackness, forming in the depths of me, my stomach, my soul.
No, I never write like this.
My marriage fell apart and my mom got sicker and sicker and my dad had less money and there was less and less to hold on to. There was no safety anywhere. I knew it was going to be bad.
And it was bad. The black, I think it is despair.
Things got better.
But the black stayed, because I knew it wasn't over. Me and my sisters were working hard to find our ways, and doing okay. And Dad, too. He recouped some and moved and found a new love and his footing. Almost.
But when he started getting sicker, I knew the black would stay until the end. His end. It had never completely gone away.
He died, and the black just sat there.
You know the feeling, the fear you feel in the pit of your stomach when you realize something is awry. I have had that pit, buried inside and constantly churning, for years. I actually believe that it has made me sick, too. My weight has clung to me and I to it because it -- maybe literally -- provides a cushion between the black hole and me.
In some ways, I have moved and done things and been alive and energetic and positive. But I have had this weight inside me, too, making me not work right.
I have not been depressed (not as we know it and understand it today, at least). But I believe that this black ball of despair -- growing, sitting, churning, whatever it has been doing in my core -- has wreaked havoc on my body chemistry. In the last several years, I have felt stuck. Slow. Immobilized. As though my body has been in a constant state of just maintaining itself.
As though I've been living with a severe injury that could not heal completely.
Except, slowly, that's been changing. Just in the last few months, the black has been receding. I have heard people say, "You seem happy." And I have not heard that in...in a long, long time.
This weekend, unexpectedly, I found closure. And discovered that the black has gone.