Dec 10 2008

A year of rain and the sea rises not a jot

One year ago today I lost Anita. I have been dreading this anniversary for weeks.

At work I made some good progress on my current project in the morning and then I was given an interesting puzzle which kept me unmindful of the day until after lunch.

After that it got hard. I finally gave up and went home early, to sit and get my act together. A year ago at 4:40 PM I held Anita’s hand as she stopped breathing and went into fibrillation, feeling her pulse flutter against my fingertips and then stop. Today I spent that same minute sitting by myself in my living room, as alone as anyone can ever be.

Thirty minutes later I picked up my grandson from after-school care and we did chores together around the house. After a late dinner we watched the J.P. Patches 50th anniversary special on PBS before I put him to bed. It was kind of fun sharing that bit of my childhood with him.

Funny thing, but I didn’t cry today at all, until now as I write these words. Yes, this dread day has gone by and a year of living without Anita is behind me. But it doesn’t change the important things a bit. She is still gone. I’m still here. This day will come again and again, hopefully for me it will come for a great many years.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how good I was to her. And, honestly, I don’t think it was good enough. Anita gave far more to our relationship than I. Yes, the same was probably true of every relationship Anita had with another human being; it was her way. Still, I owed her more than she got and I will regret to my dying day every little moment of discourtesy, every time I didn’t respond to ‘I love you’ in kind, every hurt feeling I ever caused her. Certainly these things were not common, nor large. But they happened and, in the human way we all have of remembering anything self-judgmental, they loom enormous in my mind.

But my year of rain has passed. Yes, the clouds are still there. It will rain yet again, without doubt. Still, I live in hope of sun. I haven’t broken through my grief and depression in the way I described wanting to do nearly a month ago, but I didn’t expect the process to be fast or easy then. So I’m not disappointed in myself, in that way. Although I haven’t been writing fiction much, I have been playing guitar again and have even started composing a couple of new songs.

Most likely I will process my emotions through my music until I can understand them; it is what I have always done. What I need to do new, in this, is to record the songs and write down the lyrics. Always before I have composed what I called ‘ephemeral music’; songs I would write, sing for a week or a month, and then forget. It drove Anita bonkers when I did that; she would ask me to play some song I had written not long before, which she had liked, and I would just shrug my shoulders helplessly. It bothered her that I would forget them and it bothered her even more that it didn’t bother me that I would forget them.

I usually write songs for myself, you see. And not sharing them with others (unless they happened to be there when the songs are with me) is yet another small selfishness of mine.

So, for Anita, I must fix into a matrix of remembrance those songs I will write over the next few months. The funny thing is, I still don’t feel a great need to do this. It isn’t like I am creating great music that will touch a million souls. It isn’t like I expect to gain a thing from doing it. But it was an oft-repeated wish of hers and one I want to honor.

Quite literally, it is the least I owe her…


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  1. holyoutlaw

    I keep thinking “a year already” and “only a year?”

    And I well understand the desire to have been a better (husband, friend) to Anita.

    Thank you for this, Jack.

  2. farmgirl1146

    Thank you, Jack, for your words. A year is so long and so short.

    I was thinking of Anita today. I have several pictures of her among my hundreds of pictures, and I see her, randomly, on my screen saver, and this evening two pictures of her appeared; one shows her holding the then two year-old grandson. They were taken months apart. I don’t even know when, so it’s hard to find them when looking.

    I will tell you that Anita struck me as knowing exactly who you are/were and being quite pleased. She loved you and your grandson. She knew you were a good husband, and said so in variety of ways.

    She was a remarkable person. You are a remarkable person. I think that your depth of feeling will forever hold to you a level of grief. The metaphore that came to mind is one of a house. At this time you are living in the grief room. However, the door is open to let you out. The grief room will always be there, and you will visit it, maybe live in it some days, but other days, then most of the time, you will not live in the grief room. Your grief is a function of your love for each other.

  3. flankleft

    I wish you the best Jack.

  4. scottij

    Oh, Jack, my heart aches for you.

    As I am getting ready to leave to catch a flight to the funeral of another friend who was taken from us all too early, I am reminded once again of the how precious and uncertain life is.

    I hope you continue to heal and be able to find joy in the midst of the hurt. You are not alone.


  5. mcjulie

    I feel an overwhelming urge to say something in response, but all I can think of is a sympathy that defies my attempt to put it into words.


  6. bjcooper

    Hugs, Jack

    Thanks for sharing. Many hugs and wishes for a good day.

  7. kate_schaefer

    After I read this, I thought, Jack, Anita knew you, accepted you, valued you, and loved you as you are. Yeah, yeah, there were things about you that she would have preferred to be different; there were things about herself that she would have preferred to be different, not to mention things about all of her friends. Those things didn’t drive her crazy, and she could see them and shrug. I can see her shrug now, and her wry little smile.

  8. fringefaan

    Thanks, Jack, now you’ve got me crying. What’s weird is that I was thinking about Anita yesterday too, but I didn’t remember that it was the day she died. The idea of memorializing her in a song cycle seems excellent to me.

  9. scarlettina

    Seems to me that recording your music, whether as a memorial to Anita or even just for yourself, is a way to honor your music and your love in a tangible way. It’s a fine idea.

    Can’t believe it’s been a year. I send hugs.

  10. mystraveler

    A year!

    I owe Anita a story; I owe Anita for encouraging me to write stories! I wish I could tell her about the amazing things that have happened to me as a result of her nudging me to start going to Potlatches. Jack, what can I say? She was unforgettable.

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