Sunday, September 25, 2011

But No One Wants to Talk About It

In September 2009 Eddie's dad turned 70.  He and his wife Susie invited the immediate family, Cathy, her husband, and their girls, and Trey, Emily, and me to celebrate his birthday with them by spending the weekend at Tybee Island.  Unlike the weekend of the memorial service for Eddie, I never even considered not going to this.  It was something I had to do even though I knew it wouldn't be easy.  This was the first time I had seen any of Eddie's family since his funeral.  I had talked to them on the phone fairly regularly, but they hadn't been back to Columbus and I hadn't been to Hinesville.  Trey had some of the same feelings of apprehension that I did, but Emily was just excited to be going to the beach.

I was glad to see everyone - Eddie's stepsister Brynn even came on Saturday night with her boyfriend and children - but it was a hard weekend just as I anticipated.  It was so obvious that Eddie was the only one not there, but it was like the elephant in the living room - no one wanted to talk about it.  It had only been six months since Eddie's death, but I had reached a point where I wanted to talk about him and what happened.  Susie and I talked some on Friday night, but as soon as the conversation started Cathy left the room and Ed followed soon after.  Neither of them said anything.  It was nice being at the beach on Saturday and Emily had a ball, but all I could think about all day was how much Eddie would have enjoyed it and that he should have been there.  Of course, again we went through the entire day without anyone mentioning him though.  That night we watched the Georgia game, had a big supper, gave gifts to Ed, ate cake, and sang happy birthday to him.  The entire evening it felt like everyone was going through the motions and trying to put up a happy front for Ed's sake.  By the end of the night I had reached a point where I wanted to scream at everyone that it was OK to acknowledge that Eddie wasn't there, that it was even OK to be mad at him for not being there - but of course I didn't.

When Sunday morning arrived it was difficult to say good-bye to everyone, but at the same time it was a relief to get away.  The weekend was fun but tense at the same time.  I had the feeling then (and I still have it today) that Cathy blames me for Eddie's death.  I may be completely wrong, but that's the impression I get when I'm around her.  Unfortunately we never talk, so I can't address the issue with her.  The family got together again this September for Ed's birthday, but Trey, Emily, and I weren't able to go.  I really regretted having to miss it this time, but I was in Atlanta with my mother for an outpatient procedure she was having.  Trey and Emily couldn't go because Emily had her first game as a cheerleader that Saturday.  Brynn was there again on Saturday night and she posted pictures on Facebook.  Looking at them brought back the same feelings I had when I was there two years ago.

It's been two and a half years since Eddie died, and I would very much like to talk about him - not so much about his alcoholism and suicide, but about his "other" life - about the good qualities, the good times, the happy memories.  My mother and my friends are willing to talk with me about him, but his family and even Trey don't seem to want to or be able to.  He lived for 48 years.  We were together for almost 30 years.  I don't want it to be as if he never existed.  

        Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Yesterday's dead, tomorrow's unborn,
So there's nothing to fear and nothing to mourn,
For all that is past and all that has been
Can never return to be lived once again.
And what lies ahead, or the things that will be,
Are still in God's hands, so it's not up to me
To live in the future that is God's great unknown,
For the past and the present God claims for His own.
So all I need do is to live for today
And trust God to show me the truth and the way,
For it's only the memory of things that have been
And expecting tomorrow to bring trouble again
That fills my today, which God wants to bless,
With uncertain fears and borrowed distress.
For all I need live for is this one little minute,
For life's here and now and eternity's in it.

-Helen Steiner Rice

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Same Feelings, Different Situation

My mother started her chemotherapy treatments for the cancer two weeks ago.  She's taking her treatments in Atlanta, so I'm not there with her for a lot of what she's going through.  When she left for her first treatment it reminded me so much of the day Eddie left to go to rehab.  I remembered the mix of feelings and emotions I had as I watched him leave.  I was sad that things had reached the point where he had to go away to get help but also relieved that he had finally agreed to seek the help he needed.  I was angry that he had a disease he couldn't control but glad there were others who could help him learn to control it.  I was scared because I didn't know for sure what the results of the treatment would be but hopeful that the results would be positive.  I had those same feelings when my mother left - sad, relieved, angry, glad, scared, and hopeful.  

Although the feelings have been the same everything else is very different.  I knew when Eddie left that his treatment would last for about six weeks.  I have no idea how long my mother's treatment will continue.  I knew that I wouldn't be able to see or talk to Eddie while he was gone, but I talk to my mother every day and see her every week.  I've met the doctors who are helping my mother but I didn't see any of the people who were helping Eddie until the end of his stay.  My mother's treatment will be physical whereas Eddie's treatment was mainly psychological (although attitude and state of mind are important factors in both cases).  While Eddie was gone, my mother was here to help me get through it.  Eddie isn't here to help me with what my mother is going through now.

I know how things ended with Eddie, but I don't know what the outcome of my mother's treatment will be.  I hope and pray that it will be different from Eddie's.  Although his time in rehab seemed to have helped him initially, the positive results weren't lasting.  Hopefully the results of my mother's treatment will not only be successful but permanent.

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts."  Romans 5:3-5      

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Same, But Different

Even now, two and a half years later, I still have times when I wish I could build a cocoon, crawl inside of it, and shut the rest of the world out.  I'm not sure how much of that is related to Eddie's death and how much is because of everything that is going on in my life now.  I had actually started to feel pretty good about the way things were going until my mother's cancer returned.  I was moving forward with my life, enjoying time with friends, working, going to school, and even adjusting to living alone.  Then I was thrown a curve ball, just as I was when Eddie died.  I've been surprised to find that so many of my feelings now are the same as they were prior to and just after Eddie's death.  When I was dealing with Eddie's alcoholism and then his suicide, there were times when I wanted to pretend that none of it was happening.  I feel the same way now ... I want to pretend that my mother isn't sick, that she isn't beginning chemotherapy treatments next week, and that everything is going to be OK.  Unfortunately pretending that things don't exist doesn't make them go away.  It didn't make Eddie's alcoholism disappear.  It didn't make his suicide not true.  And it's not going to make my mother's cancer any less real.  No matter how hard I try, I can't hide from the truth.

After Eddie's death I didn't really want to do anything.  I didn't want to see or talk to people.  I didn't want to go anywhere.  I couldn't work.  If I had had my way I would have isolated myself completely (thankfully I didn't get my way!).  While my feelings about my mother's cancer have been very similar to my feelings about Eddie's alcoholism and suicide, my actions have been the complete opposite.  Since finding out about my mother's cancer I have kept myself as busy as I possibly can.  In addition to doing my regular job as a teacher, I went from being on just one committee at school last year to being on four this year.  I decided to continue with classes towards my specialist's degree (Mama wasn't happy when I told her I was going to take a break).  I'm going out and doing things with my friends, as well as spending time with Trey and Emily.  Then last week, I joined a gym.  I felt like I needed a way to relieve the stress in my life and exercise seemed the best way to do it.  I'm not sure how I'm going to fit that in, but I guess I'll just have to make the time.

I'm sure there is a happy medium somewhere between how I reacted to Eddie's death and how I'm reacting to my mother's illness, but I haven't found it yet.  For now, just as I've done many times over the past two years, I have to do what works best for me.  Sometimes I feel like I'm so busy that I don't have time to breathe, but I guess that's better than just existing and literally reminding myself to breathe.

"A Word of Understanding"

May peace and understanding
Give you strength and courage, too,
And may the hours and days ahead
Hold a new hope for you.
For the sorrow that is yours today
Will pass away; and then
You'll find the sun of happiness
Will shine for you again.

-Helen Steiner Rice