I’m Bad at Life, Worse at Death

I woke up this morning to a call from my estranged father. It had been so long since I had seen his number pop up on my screen that I had to literally Google it. It was him. I couldn’t answer. It meant only one thing. The second call from my aunt mere moments later confirmed it. My grandmother had finally succumbed to her long battle with cancer. And, I’ll admit, I can’t deal. I really cannot. It’s 2:10PM, and I’m still in bed, my cat wrapped up tight in my lap, and I won’t move. Not even to return their calls. 

The memories of my grandmother started when I was very young. I began a rocky relationship with my father at the age of 3 and being a young child, it was like suddenly being introduced to a strange man who I would have to forge some kind of relationship with. I remember very, very vaguely going to his city in southern Ohio for the summer beginning at maybe 5 or 6. It would only be a few weeks but would feel like a lifetime. I’ve always been an introvert, no doubt because of my only-child status. So, making friends with the few other kids on the block was a struggle. My father didn’t want me to sit in the house all day because he had random things to do; fortunately my grandparents lived within a block radius. She’d cook, taught me to crochet, and she had cats! I’d sleep in her bed with her every night, eventually eshewing returning to my father’s house (no cats there, man). 

Sitting down and writing about this is making my palms sweat. Perhaps out of guilt? When my father and I had our falling out when I turned 18, in order for me to mentally survive I had to shun myself from all things him. As much as I wanted to keep in touch, it was too painful. The truth is, I’m weak and I’m selfish. I put myself first and my feelings when it comes to death and loss. I just prefer to ignore it. I suppose part of being not on pills and other drugs is letting oneself feel pain and grief and guilt and sorrow. But, it doesn’t make it any easier and to be honest, the first thing I want to do is get in my car and drive away. To where? It doesn’t matter. 

I have to face the music today. I have to hear my father’s voice and my aunt’s voice and the pain in both of those. I have to plan to see them at a funeral where I’ll have to look them both in the eye and somehow explain my absence from their lives for the past few years. And that’s shitttttttttty. 

As a person with documented seasonal affective disorder and an undocumented anxiety disorder, I’m not sure how this will play out in terms of my own sobriety. I fear that I’ll be so terrified that I’ll use anything to calm down. Anything. It has happened before. Once when I was in my early teens, I got fed up with my father and his regimented schedule of when I was supposed to call him (Sunday, Wednesday, Friday’s at 7:30pm). So, I didn’t. Not for a week or two. He blew up my cell and eventually, my home phone. My mom literally had to calm him before. And to calm my racing heart, I took a handful of OTC Advil PM. A handful, folks. It was better not to feel than to feel guilt and shame. 

At 22 years old, I should be more mature. It’s a process, though. No one seems to want to hear that. After writing this, I feel a bit better. Not all of my thoughts are weighting on my shoulders, crushing me into submission to the point where I can’t move. But I’m still not ready. I’m pretty bad at life, but I’m extra shitty accommodating at death and all his friends; guilt, loss, and shame. I was just sooo not in the mood to go through the five stages of grief again. Earlier this year, I lost two great-uncles and a great-grandmother. That brings the 2015 death toll to 4. Damn. Am I next? My mom? A close friend? These relatives were elderly and ill but still. 

The hardest thing is going to be finding the strength within myself to deal. Again. And without substances. Without crippling myself with anything within reach. To get out of bed. To bathe. To eat. To talk about what I’m feeling instead of just trying to escape by any means necessary. I’ve made some progress today; I turned a light on, illuminating my darkened lair. Perhaps I need to cry. But I can’t cry; I can only when I see others do it. Fucking mirror neurons. 

Today is like a Bill Withers song; ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone. Only darkness every day. As I peer through my drawn shades, it’s a windy, soulless day. I had a nightmare this morning. I had to go back to sleep after they called at 8:30 this morning. I really wasn’t ready to deal. My father appeared; a monster-like figure in a long hallway. He chased me slowly. I kept backing away. “Stop, I don’t need you!” I yelled. He silently kept coming. I ran away, trying to find help. He wasn’t trying to harm me, but I was still afraid. But of what? I found my other family; my mother and grandparents and he all but vanished, intimidated but Superman to kryptonite. It was all too real and vivid. I woke up again and looked at the clock: nearly 1pm. My back muscles burning from being a tight, fetal position. I just closed my eyes and went back to sleep. 

It’s nearly 3 and I have to figure out what to do. I just want to say that I loved my grandmother and a part of me, a rather large part, is happy she has finally found peace and an end to her suffering. It’s the aftermath that is painful. Wish me luck. 

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