03 August 2009

Forgetting

My memories of John don't seem real anymore. That period in my life, from when John got his diagnosis to when he died, feels like a movie that I watched or a book that I read, something that touched me deeply but was not my life. I can talk about all those experiences with a detachment and perspective that feel eerie and unnatural. When I describe how difficult it was to deal with John's illness, or how charged the decision to have the twins was, it's as though I'm parroting words that someone else put in my mouth, giving voice to the experience of another.

My feelings and memories of John and his illness and death remind me of my early childhood memories. I have lots of memories from the ages of three or four that aren't real. Or maybe they are. Who knows? It's impossible for me to tease apart what is my own memory and what is a story that has been told to me so many times that I've made it a memory and what is a picture that I've seen that I've turned into a memory.

I feel like I've lost the real John. What I have left is the John that my mind can process and that my emotions can handle. I don't remember him as perfect and I have not put him on a pedestal. I just wish I could have him back for a day, feel his arms around me again, hear the sound of his voice, show him the little people Maddie and Riley have become. I can imagine how his arms would feel and his voice would sound. I know he'd be so proud of Maddie and Riley. But I can no longer remember how it felt to have him hold me, how his voice could make me weak, what he would say to express his pride.

Our fifth anniversary is August 14, 2009. I'm daunted by confronting that day here in Portland, in the place we intended to live, with a job I could have only dreamed of having, leading a life I could have never imagined in the city where we got married. I miss John so much, but so abstractly. In a way, it's a blessing. But today it feels mostly like a curse.

44 comments:

Rose Connors said...

So sorry you're feeling this way. If you ever need a listening ear, I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee some time.

Pop and Ice said...

I haven't lost a spouse through death, but I have through divorce. And though I'm very happily remarried, I simply cannot remember many moments of that first marriage. Not that it is was horrible, just not right. And I remember so little - as if it was long ago and far away. And yet I see this man on almost a weekly basis. I can't conjure up the emotions, the thoughts, whatever. It's just nothing. He's still here, and there's some connection, but on such an ethereal level that I wonder how could I just lose connection to 15 years of marriage? Perhaps because I am so happy in my second marriage.

Snick, here's wishing you happiness and connectedness as you move on in your new life in Portland.

Kathryn said...

That's hard and I'm sorry Snick. Hugs and prayers heading your way...

Dr. Smak said...

Anniversaries are so hard, and there are just so many of them.

Funny, most anniversaries barely hit my radar, I often forget them. But now, after loss, they are like huge billboards on the highway, looming larger and larger as the day approaches.

Will be thinking of you on the 14th.

cv said...

What you describe is what I think happens to all memories as time goes by. It doesn't make the memories less legitimate, but they do ease up on the visceral - seeming more abstract.

I wish you had dreams about people you know. That's always where I end up having the FEELING of someone I miss pop up again - in the subconscious. John's still there in your subconscious - I wish you could extract him (the feeling of him) at will.

I'm thinking of you. Sending you hugs and a micro sundae.

Emily said...

Hey Snick - greetings from the east coast. What a beautifully written post, especially the images of wanting his arms around you, but not remembering how it felt. You write in a way that expresses beautifully the pain of your experiences - as a reader, I think, "well, maybe it's good she can't remember it so well, or remembers it as a dream" and yet you explain so well the pain involved.
Best wishes - I'm glad things out there are working out.
Emily

niobe said...

That's exactly how I feel about the twins that I lost -- like I only imagined that they ever existed.

Nancy said...

*hug*

I know it's not the same, but it sounded like you need one anyway.

Single Parent Dad said...

Take care Snickywicky. Hopefully just a temporary thing, as you doubt your memories, which you still have, none the less.

Stacy said...

I can so relate to this post. It's so weird. (((HUGS))) I'll be thinking about you on the 14th.

Abigail said...

Since my husband died, life has almost become a group of experiences that I am all too aware will become like droplets of memory in the blink of an eye. I relate to your feeling that your memory of your husband is abstract. Its kind of like viewing your past through glass. Too shiny and distorted.

Good thoughts for you on your anniversary.

NanarocksWeen said...

Not a lost husband, but a lost relationship/friendship here. It's been maybe five years since that ended. When you wrote: "feels like a movie that I watched or a book that I read, something that touched me deeply but was not my life," I thought "those feelings are exactly how I feel when I try to remember how our relationship felt--how He felt." I just can't wrap my brain around it. I can't even conjure it up anymore - not at all. And that relationship lasted six years--he WAS my best friend and my love. It's amazing what time does to memories. He's still in my life, but when I see him, I don't see the man that I knew. He's someone completely different. The man I knew is just "gone."

cindy w said...

If it helps, I think this is a normal part of the grieving process. My cousin died of cystic fibrosis when she was 19 years old. Her father (my uncle) says that now, five years later, those horrible last few months feel like a dream, or like it's something that happened to someone else. Pretty much exactly like you said. Maybe our minds have to distance themselves in order to heal? I don't really know.

Wishing you, Maddie & Riley all the best.

liz said...

Sending you hugs

django's mommy said...

Oh Stacey. Reading this the day before what would have been our 9th anniversary has brought me to tears. Yes, yes, yes. Exactly what I've been struggling with. I look at pictures of us and it seems so surreal, like a lifetime ago, like a story I made up and tell over and over. I can't recognize it in a tangible way anymore. And I miss that. I miss him.

OTRgirl said...

I can't believe how much has happened in the past five years. Whew. Your post is really eloquent and beautiful. And heart wrenching.

It is strange how for me, for a long time, my Mom only showed up in my dreams as the cancer version. Like those memories were so deeply imprinted they overrode the ordinary memories. It took 10 years for her to show up looking normal. Each time I dream of her, it's refreshing and then hard to wake up.

It would be cool if we could pick a few good memories and be able to hit 'play' at will.

Caustic Cupcake said...

What a weird mix of feelings.

Steph said...

This post really resonated with me, because this is how I feel about my memories of my mom who passed away 12 years ago.
My memories of her are largely abstract and feel less and less real as more and more time passes.

Most recently I've found myself wishing I could have her back just for a day so I could show her my life now, as you said about John.
I am now 36 and feel so much more like a real person than I did at 24 when she died. I've been through so much more in life and understand aspects of my mother's behaviors and actions that seemed crazy back then. I was so hard on her too and for that I suffer deep guilt.

I feel like I was robbed of the possibility of ever knowing my mom as an adult.
I am now in a wonderful relationship with a man she would have loved too, and I wish he could have known her.

I know that losing a parent is a lot more 'natural' than losing a spouse at such a young age, and there is really no comparison between my grief and yours. But I have similar feelings about the loss.
I wish you much happiness in your future. It sounds like the move to Portland is a fresh start and a great decision, and also is conjuring up lots of feelings.
I think that's a good thing.

I love your blog, even though I don't comment much!

Jackie said...

This post is beautifully written, and I would like you to know how wonderful it is to read words that describe what I've felt for awhile, but have never really been able to pinpoint.

When memories fade like they do it's bittersweet, because it's not just the bad ones that go.

Sandi said...

My 9th anniversary is August 18. I'm going to Vegas with a close girlfriend.

Katherine said...

Once again, you have put into words exactly how I feel. I have noticed that I can talk about the time of my husband's illness and death in a rather detached manner--and I've also noticed that it makes people around me very uncomfortable. And I feel awful that I'm making them uncomfortable, but also want to acknowledge that it happened and is something that I have lived through and which has shaped me and my kids.

Thanks for your thoughtful post. Hugs to you on your anniversary. I hope you will celebrate the brave woman you are for seizing the opportunities that have brought you to your current job and home.

masteroftheuniverse said...

Jesus Christ,

You put the nail on the head exactly as far as I'm feeling with Denise. Sometimes I feel very guilty that I found someone new, meeting her 11 months after she died. I love my new friend yet can't get over the sense of betrayal to Denise. My new friend is coming down to Florida in a couple weeks to spend a week at the beach...the real purpose is to introduce her to my folks and see if she really wants to sign up to my crazy family. I am buying a new bed and having it delivered. There is no way that I could share the old bed where Denise died, and I need to move on. Am I crazy?

Jeff

Flesworthy said...

Your post struck a chord with me--today is the fifth anniversary of my twins' passing. I realize that losing people you never got to know is completely different from losing a spouse, but I often feel the way you described in your post. I look at photos of the babies or talk about my experience, and sometimes it's hard to believe that it actually happened to me and not somebody else.

Keen said...

Thanks for sharing this and explaining what you're feeling to your friends and readers so beautifully. I'll be thinking of you this month, though I do that often anyway.

Miss you.

Mary Ellen said...

This thing about memory and loss and love - there John is, stuck in the "past" and you are moving forward into the "future" - yet in some way, what you had together is/was its own perfection. Death hurls us into paradox. But you are living in the daylit world, and can't revisit that time/space back behind, back around the bend. In an eerie way, the way of good fiction and its ever-living present, it may be easier for a reader who is a stranger to your life to connect to the raw, authentic experience of your short marriage through the vivid daily chronicle of your blog, than for you to revisit that experience fully. May you move forward, then, with grace, joy, wit - which you have in abundance.

cv said...

You know, MaryEllen above raises a good point. Do you go back and read your old posts? It seems to me that reading something I've written in the past puts me back in the memory more than just plain thinking does.

I'm not sure you're suggesting you WANT to feel the raw memories again. But if you do, maybe you could put all the work you put into the blog back then to work for you now.

You're a smart woman, perhaps you've already thought of this..

Hugs.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I know John would be equally as proud of the job you are doing mothering M & R.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Darling, how well you discuss the tangle between ghost and flesh. I believe in the third year I felt this way, now in the fourth year the memory of Gavin is more fleshy and real-seeming again. Maybe distance makes the mind braver?

Some of the memories come because I'm in a new marriage -- I get to think, am I repeating this pattern? Often playing "compare and contrast." Certain things you can only explore while reliving them, I think, or perhaps my therapy is not quite good enough.

I think I also hear a hint of that "livingness" as you talk about the kids. Watching my daughter grow makes me think differently about my own childhood, me at that age, my difficult mother, and all the things about my father that I've forgotten or blocked (he's been gone 15 years or so). It evokes a combination of pain and charity that I never understood as a necessary part of maturing.

Echoes, echoes, echoes in different colors and flavors. Each day is new.

Here's to tomorrow!

X

Supa

Anonymous said...

I'd plan for an activity with family or close friends for your anniversary. Let it be a day where you reflect and laugh and cry and eat and drink and laugh and cry and hug. Lots of hugs. You have a way of writing about your feelings so openly and honestly that I hope is healing for you.

Christine said...

I think what you're experiencing is your mind's way of protecting you from the bad stuff. Also, distance and time fades. I feel that way about my first love -- it's almost like it happened to someone else. And there are certain things I cannot remember, even if I wanted to. The brain is a funny thing.

Keep sharing your wisdom and thoughts with us all, Snick. You clearly are a special person and a gifted writer.

Shinyung said...

Oh, your post brought tears to my eyes.

June said...

You are THE most talented writer I've ever had the privilege to meet in person. I have lost four siblings - the most recent was on June 24. His illness required him to be hospitalized six long months. I've sat by his side many, many hours, taking his hand in mine, offering what comfort I could to his aching, painful body. His pleading eyes sometimes come before me during the night--when all is dark & quiet. I am still struggling with the loss of my mother--my absolute dearest friend in the whole wide world. But I'd not want to recall them to continue in their suffering and pain. God knows what's best, and WHEN it's best to say 'enough, it's time to rest'. That's the ONLY way I can describe facing each day without my four siblings, and both parents. Memories are forever in my heart & mind of those I've lost to death. What comforts me most is knowing each one of them had done their absolute best in life. I have no personal knowledge of how it is to lose a spouse, however seeing my sister-in-law go through her own type of mourning is heart-wrenching. Blessings to you & those beautiful children! I'm happy that you are closer to your family now, & I wish you the absolute very BEST!!!

Anonymous said...

i, too, can unfortunately relate. it seems more cruel as time just continues to elapse so quickly. i sometimes torture myself with my wedding video...
beautifully written and expressed. i will be thinking of you and john on the 14th.

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Anonymous said...

The good and bad news is that grief is so cyclical that you'll have moments when the loss feels so vivid that it might as well have happened yesterday. Even if some of the details are blurred.

Yankee, Transferred said...

Although I cannot pretend to have any idea of the depth of your grief, I do know what you mean in a way. After my mother died, I said to The Attorney, "I just want to hear her voice one more time." I cannot even conjure it any more. It's been over 3 years since her death and hard as I try, I can't hear it any more. It's heartbreaking. I'm still so, so sorry. Sending virtual tulips.
XOXXOXOX
YT

Jane said...

I'm so sorry, Snick. This post brought me to tears.

A Writer Too? said...

a movie or a book...that's what i've been thinking about my life, too. snick - you and i have some common experiences. thank you for sharing your experiences, for capturing them in the written word the way you do. your words touch me, too. they give me support, knowing that i'm not alone in my experiences of grief after my husband died, knowing that your words can sometimes help me find words to better communicate what i'm experiencing as well.

Angela said...

This is a beautifully written post. The elements of grief and loss are so complex, I hope you find some peace on August 14th. Sending good thoughts and warm hugs your way.

Anonymous said...

You can't continue this back and forth. Stop playing the pity card - you don't remember because you've tried to make it that way. The poor twins, in the process, suffer. You've managed to leave the home where he was, put all of that history behind, the areas where you initially took them to remember him - all have been abandoned to 'move on'. You dated, bringing a new figure into the picture, only to leave that behind as well. While I know you want to move on, don't cry about not being able to remember. You don't get that right when you've strived to accomplish just what you've done. Don't play the pity card.

CV said...

It goes without saying (though I'm saying it anyway) that the anonymous person above couldn't be more off base in their understanding of snick's situation, her children, her attitude, her grief, her parenting, what John would have wanted.. Basically just totally off base.

As if you Snick has a choice in how much of John the twins remember from when they were 10 months old and younger... as if Snick has a choice in how well she remembers... c'mon!

~ Jolene said...

Wishing you the best tomorrow will bring. Spend it all day with Maddie and Riley. Keeping you in m prayers Snick. Hope all is well.

bostongirl said...

Happy Anniversary. I know it must feel surreal. Wishing you peace and hoping you can enjoy the happiest of memories today.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry about your odd limbo. I'm wishing you the best on the 14th and thereafter. You've done an amazing job moving forward, and sometimes that brings its own challenges.