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10 Things I Hate About You

Thursday, December 1, 2005 11:33 PM CST

Where do I even start?

Joan Didion (sp?) in her book, "The Year of Magical Thinking," talks about the great divide that is death. She says, people will say, "Oh, he died after a long illness" as if the protracted means of death gives one time to prepare or get ready or lessens the sting somehow. And yet, no matter what, it's like a grand piano falling on you from the sky. She talks about, it was an ordinary moment, and then everything changed. One minute you're fixing dinner. The next your life is irrevokably different. She talks about how every death is sudden. One moment, someone is alive, is here. And then they are not. They are dead. Irreversible. Permanent. Unalterable. From one moment to the next, everything has changed forever. Never, never to be the way it was before.

It's a bleak thought. Bleak and cold, like the snow outside my window.

But it's not as bleak as the quiet desperation that lives within my heart.

Tonight, I finally managed to get some sleep as the kids were doing homework and relaxing. We had gone to Zach's basketball game, watched him make a great steal and sink it, watched PiHi squeak a win over their cross-town rivals, wished Dave was there. Renee said, "You know he sees." I said, "Yes, but I can't see him...can't see that smile, that glint in his eye that says, 'That's my boy!'" But it was a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute missing of Dave, an ache that is familiar to me as the rise and fall of my chest as I breathe, my constant companion, part of me now, like my heartbeat or my skin.

But later, as I was napping, Kate woke me up to tell me that the one working toilet we have was overflowing. And that constant, familiar ache for Dave just exploded. Exploded into a fury. I climbed out of a bed that hasn't had sheets for four days because I just don't care about putting sheets on a bed, to clean up in the bathroom and try to work a plunger that's as foreign to me as a chainsaw, and take towels down to the laundry basket that's overflowing, and walk by the van that JiffyLube has probably ruined and see the snow that I hate to drive in and step on a sticky mess on the kitchen floor and...all I could do was scream. Not on the inside. Out loud. Really loud. Wordless, mindless, screaming, agony and rage.

Three pair of startled eyes stared back at me. They scurried and scrambled and helped. And I cried. Just cried. The kids came and we cried together.

I took out the garbage and walked around in the snow, my footsteps soft and muffled, all sound absorbed by the blanket of white, the light glowing from our windows, making the snow sparkle. I breathed in icy air, deep into my lungs, so deep it hurt.

And I thought, "He's never coming back. Never." And I couldn't bear it. At all. Not at all.

I came back inside, Kenny, Zach and Kate were all subdued. We stood together in the kitchen. Each of us leaning on a different counter, arms folded, eyes averted, waiting, silent tears rolling down my cheeks, the rage quiet for now.

It took a long time. They just waited with me. And I told them how sorry I was that I had frightened them. I talked with them about how sometimes, it's like Jania says, you turn your back on a faucet that has a slow leak, and suddenly, it overflows, seemingly without warning. "The sink is full," she used to say, shaking her wise head. "Sometimes the sink is just full." And today, my sink was full.

"In plain words, it just sucks," I said, sounding not nearly as wise as Jania.

Zach looked around and said, "Pretty much, yeah."

He did that little shake of his head, and looked at us out of the corner of his eye. And we laughed. Pretty much, yeah.

We put the house back together. I spent some time talking with each of them. They are amazing kids. Each of them said, "Mom, it's okay to feel that way. We all miss Dad. It's not your fault. It's okay." They have had some hard lessons, but they have learned well. They are honest and true and courageous. Their feelings are deep, and they are able to manage them, and able to stay present when others are having strong feelings, too. Unafraid to reach out in love, even when things are at their hardest, their stormiest, their scariest...they know about sticking together, about being honest, about love.

They are sleeping now. I am blessed to have them, each one of them.

But I'm lonely. I went down the long list of people I could call. I'm blessed, there are many. But none of them is Dave. That's who I really want to talk to. That's who I need to hold me. I get lots of hugs, and while that's nice, to be honest, it's not even close to what I want or need. Not even close.

Well, except Mark. I could use a Mark hug. It's close to a Dave hug.

You know, sometimes I try to remember Dave's faults. Isn't that weird? I do it to make myself remember that he was a real person, not something I made up. One of his high school classmates, Bryan Stroud, wrote about that once. He said, "I suppose it's natural to idealize people in these situations, but in Dave's case there wasn't much you could idealize.

I inevitably pulled out the yearbook last night. I wasn't exactly in the thick of things at high school and when you go to the index the evidence is right there. By my name there are two page references, one of which was the senior picture. By Dave's there were about 10. He'd been a football team captain, basketball team captain, homecoming king, member of the ASB (Associated Student Body) cabinet, choir, etc. A very talented guy, but most important of all, he wasn't a conceited ass when he easily could have been. He never talked down to anyone. I saw where he was also listed as "most inspirational" on the basketball team. But of course.

Dave went on to follow in his father's (Smilin' Bob, as he was known) footsteps to teach at Walla Walla High School. He was apparently a favorite, just like his dad had been.

When I saw him at the last high school reunion his head was still chopped up from surgery and he talked about the cancer fairly casually. It was discovered by accident, literally. He and his brother had been in a minor car accident and when they were checking him over they discovered it. He called it "Willy Walnut," because that was about the size of the tumor. He was still able to smile about it.

A genuinely good man has left this world."

I know what Bryan means. It's almost unreal. It's easy to remember the good stuff, there was so much about Dave that was beyond good, beyond ordinary, and for me, sometimes it feels like a fantasy, so I try to remember the bad stuff, too. Truly, there isn't much.

Tonight the kids and I were at KFC/A&W, and Kate wouldn't share her rootbeer float with Zach. "Just like Dad," he grumbled. And we all had a good laugh about how Dad never did like to share food.

And he was unbearably cheerful in the morning.

And he didn't know how to fix a damn thing.

And he wouldn't make phone calls. Ever.

And it took him 20 minutes to put in his contacts.

And he never changed the oil in the cars.

And he couldn't keep a secret.

And he wouldn't put Christmas lights on the house.

And never listened when he was playing his guitar.

And he trimmed his beard and left whiskers all over the sink.

And he called me ShelleyBelly.

And he would never hurry.

And he would never make a decision if he could avoid it.

And he got mad when I put more garbage into the can that was already full.

And he trusted everyone.

And he would obsess over random details, like finding a 3 cent error in the checkbook.

And he used to sing silly little songs when you were trying to be serious.

And he would never defend himself.

And he left little yellow sticky notes everywhere.

And he left glasses of milk in the freezer.

And he entered every sweepstakes that came in the mail. And bought the magazines, too.

See, he was real. And he was the best. There was nothing about him that I didn't love completely. And I'd give anything to have him back. Anything.


Love, Shelley
who is off to her unmade bed, to sleep on a bare mattress, alone.

PS. A few corrections: Willy the Walnut was actually the size of the residual tumor after surgery....the original tumor was the size of a tennis ball. And the car accident that Dave called minor...they rolled and totalled the van, but did have only minor injuries.

And I found out that Dave's Rock at WaHi, was not 3,500 lbs. It's actually over 3.5 TONS! 7,500 lbs. WOW!

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