back it up, though. my first funeral was two months before my sixth birthday. i was five years old. i was in kindergarten. i DO know what it's like to grieve as a child.
everyone throws around the phrase 'loss of innocence'. i hate that phrase. i think it's so stupid, so trite. that somehow a child, an innocent, loses their innocence when something bad or 'grown up' happens to them. as adults, are we not still innocent to some ways of the world, of people? innocent to others, to ourselves?
a funeral is a decidedly 'grown up' thing. being interrupted while playing with your matchbox cars on the dining room floor, having your mom and dad tell you that your favorite uncle is up in heaven now with god - the simplest explanation, stupid and trite itself. the whole scene screams out 'childish' as opposed to 'grown up'.
is this where i 'lost' my innocence?
when i was four years old, dragging a chair from the dining room table across the dining room, across the living room, to the front door so i could undo the chain lock my mother installed. four in the morning, five in the morning, six in the morning . dragging the chair over to let my dad in, haggard and unwashed, probably not even hung over but still drunk. i'd watch him shave, tie his shoes. (he still puts on his shoes the same way, it makes me feel like a child watching him put his shoes on) dad would grab me in a hug, give me a smacking kiss, and be out that same door on his way to work while my mom was still in bed.
is this where my 'innocence' went?
my father started breaking promises to me early in life. we went to california for christmas without him. my friends had dads that went on vacation with them. some of my friends didn't have dads in the picture at all. at five years old, i thought every family was different and this is how mine was - me, my mom, my brother, and my dad. other kid's dads didn't take them to aa meetings at the church and then to the fair across the parking lot. other kid's dads didn't sneak them into the bathroom to shave off their beard and shave the trimmings to surprise mom while she was outside tending to the rosebush. other kid's dads were home every night for dinner, never missed a fraggle rock, didn't come home in the wee hours of the morning smelling like that delicious mix of scotch and cigarettes.
was i ever 'innocent'? not in the way that people speak of 'losing their innocence', i don't think. but i grieved as a child. i fought through the stages of grief rather quickly:
- uncle tom isn't dead, i just saw him three days ago at grandma's house.
- what do you mean? you guys are stupid! i'm going to throw my matchbox cars at you!
- take me to grandma's house, i'll show you that uncle tom is still there.
- sadness for days, a sadness that i couldn't describe at five.
- acceptance: going to the funeral, throwing a red carnation down to the casket in the ground.
i don't know. but i do know that death has never meant to me what it means to others. when you don't want grandma or uncle tom or your dog nibbler to die, it's selfish. you want to keep them around for you. you never think that they might be better off dead.
sounds horrible, right? and i don't just mean a horrible john cusack movie (because, hello, it wasn't horrible). this all made sense to me while watching my grandfather die. he was so sick for so long, battling on. i saw him cry, asking for more morphine. i watched grandpa discuss things with my dad and uncle like he knew he was dying. my mom told me that grandpa discussed it with her while she was visiting him alone. i remember grandpa telling me about the purple carrots that were dancing across the wall, some quite menacingly, and he explained to me that it was the drugs, the morphine, the chemicals that they were pumping into his body to keep him comfortable while dying.
and i remember asking, praying, hoping that he would just die. as much as i loved him and wanted to hear him tell me another stupid story for the hundredth time, as much as i wanted to get another computer-generated birthday card that he made himself (crafted by the great ernesto, it would say on the back), i wanted him to be GRANDPA again. he would never be grandpa again.
i was angry when he died. i was angry because the hospital called us to get there soon, it didn't look good. i was living with my dad at the time, and he had to take a fucking shower before we could leave. my grandpa passed away while dad was washing his hair. i was thrilled that grandpa's fight was over, that he wasn't going to be sad or angry or in pain anymore.
i didn't need to grieve.
flash forward ten and a half years. what the fuck am i supposed to do now? my mother didn't suffer. she wasn't languishing in a hospital room with emphysema and morphine drips for months before she died. we were at fucking disney in october - three fucking months ago. three months ago i was at disney with my mom. three fucking months ago, my brother and sisterfromanothermister and awesome husband and my mom were at harry potterville. we went to breakfast at chef mickeys. two months ago my mom went to new york for a job interview - a job that she ended up getting. two months ago we were discussing putting the house up for sale, finally moving back to new york to be with everyone. mom would only have to live with my dad for a couple of months, then her and my brother would get a place. we'd sell the house down here and meet up this spring and we'd all be together like a family again.
fifty four days ago, my world changed forever. fuck, it sounds so horrible. so useless. our world changes forever every fucking day. we make ridiculous choices that change everything all the time. damn it. i hate fucking saying things like that. i hate it. i hate it.
fifty four days ago, everything changed. isn't it funny how i count the day we found out about the cancer and not the day she died? did i grieve then? had we already given up, or were we resigned for the outcome? fifty four days. i guess that's where this part of the journey starts. it's like there was life, then life with mom's cancer, and then life after mom.
fifty four days ago. how long will it take me to share the stories? how important are they? what do i need to do to care?
why should i care.
i am no longer innocent.