how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

the perfect metaphor

when i was twelve, my leg caught on fire.

i was very introverted as a child, always drawing and reading. my mother found a local artist who sometimes took in students. he didn't like to take them younger than twelve but i was so quiet and respectful, so much wanting to draw and learn to paint with oils that he took me at seven. i stayed with pencils and charcoal for years until he finally gave me my first set of oils. i was ten.

everyone in the class was older than i was until i turned fourteen. then i had peers but i had such seniority that it was like i wasn't part of the class.

i took lessons from this man until his death when i was sixteen.

back to the fire. we had painted a still life that had these wonderful drippy candles. it was clean up time and the boys were acting up. or out. who knows with boys. anyway, one of them spilled turpentine on my bare leg. i was wearing cutoffs. then i was shoved into the table where the still life was set up. candle fell. flame found the turpentine on the back of my calf.

i remember staring at it. i can still close my eyes and see that flame on my leg. it sizzled and popped. i remember being absorbed in staring into that flame, not feeling it at all. yet. i felt distanced from it.

my teacher came running up and lifted me up and then down onto the floor. he had an old shirt to cut off the oxygen from the fire.

cutting to the end of the story, i had second and third degree burns on my calf. i was lying on my stomach in the back seat of the car while my mother drove like a manic to the hospital. i remember it was almost summer in Texas (where i grew up) and i was shivering. i thought that was odd since i had been burned, the flames almost burned onto my retinas, or memory as it seems, but i was so cold. i don't remember much after i got into the ER but i remember it was the first time i ever remembered spending the night at the hospital.

i remember waking up in the night alone in a hospital room. back then parents didn't stay. no one stayed. nurses came and went but no one stayed with you, no matter how young or scared you were. i woke up because i hurt. the pain was terrible. i don't even remember labor hurting as bad as the pain from that burn.

and i stayed cold.

shock. numb. cold. and then the pain.

that's the way i'm feeling now.

the fire is my Dragon's death. the shock is that he really died. the numbness lasted for so long. through the funeral, the move here, trying to find an existence where he wasn't there, my daughter's wedding, the holidays, and the 11th month. my birthday, our birthday, my daughter's and mine, is Saturday. she and her husband have a gift certificate left over from their wedding. they are taking me, and her, out to an Italian restaurant Saturday evening for our birthday. Italian food, wine, my daughter and her husband. and then home alone.

i thought the pain had started but it hadn't. i think it was the discomfort of the numbness wearing off. i'm cold now. and i hurt. i don't want February 9th to come. i definitely don't want Valentine's Day to come.

the 14th can come but the thought of hearts and lace and couples is bothering me. it shouldn't. they have what i had. they should be allowed to have it. i envy them because i don't even have to close my eyes to feel his touch, hear his voice, smell his skin, or remember his love.

everyone should experience a love like i had (have) with my Dragon. but now that he has died, i feel a niggling bit of envy at what i lost. it's not that i want what they have. it's that i had all i could ever want and had to watch it go away.

it's the perfect metaphor ~ at least for me. it's like a fire. it's like being badly burned. you see it start to happen and you can't react fast enough. there's nothing you can do to have stopped it happening because what happened was beyond your control.

first you go numb. then you get cold. very cold. the only thing comparable is experiencing hypothermia. and while you're still freezing cold the pain hits and there is nothing like it. it splits you from your body until all you want to do is leave your body, get away from the pain.

like i want to distance myself from the idea that my Dragon is not going to walk through the door of my apartment, take me in his arms, and take me to bed and make this all a very long, bad dream.


judemiller1 said...

I am so, so very sorry. I think you are coming out of your shock and facing reality--which is another shock. I am just so very sorry.

Dan, in real time. said...

It is a perfect metaphor, painfully so. Keep healing. Keep healing.

I just listened to the song you provided a link to. It is so beautiful.

Suddenwidow said...

I agree, it is a perfect metaphor. Coming out of the shock phase is so hard. I remember thinking it should be getting easier as time moves forward but it only got harder because the cushion of shock evaporated. Reason # 1, 395, 420 to be overwhelmed by his death (I just randomly picked those numbers but it could be that exact amount!). My own metaphor involves boats (what a suprise) and bobbing out on the ocean all by myself with no land in sight. Except that I'm no longer bobbing around by myself. You are all out here bobbing along with me, which makes me feel less alone, and like I might find my way back to land one day because we'll help each other. I hope we can help ease the pain of your burn and help you heal. You will always have the scars, but hopefully, one day, the raw wounds will heal.

Thinking of you always,

thelmaz said...

Your metaphor of the fire really spoke to me because I was burned, too. I was 19 when my dress caught fire and I had third degree burns on 35% of my body. I still remember the smell of my own burned flesh. I was at the burn center in Galveston for three months and I was fortunate that the director was one of the top burn specialists in the country. My therapist remarked to me recently that one reason I have been able to cope with all the things that went wrong in my husband's illness was that I had learned coping skills when I was burned. I don't know if that's helpful to you, but I hope so. Hugs, Thelma

thelmaz said...

Just wanted to let you know, I put a link to your blog on mine.

womanNshadows said...

Jude and Dan, thank you.

Debbie, i can't think of a single metaphor that we can't apply to what we are going through. bobbing in an ocean, in the fog, drowning, burning, freezing. it's all there. God, i wish our husbands were still here. one day. hey, let's make San Diego really count. i'm seriously thinking of bringing glow bracelets and starting that widow(er)s rave my daughter keeps sending me crazy emails about.

thelmaz, i am so sorry you were burned. yours was far worse than mine. only my right leg was burned. meager by comparison but still it isn't something you ever forget. the experience did however bring to blossom a stoic streak i was born with. writing is really the only place where i can say everything i want to say. and i will read your blogs later tonight when i take another break from sewing. you are in my thoughts.

Widow in the Middle said...

I was very gripped by your childhood tragedy. Your descriptions are always so vivid, I truly can see and almost feel them in my mind. I agree with the others that your metaphor depicts the shock of coming out of the numbness. Both are horribly painful but in different ways.

It is gracious of you to want others to experience their Valentine candy and flowers and to not be bitter about their happiness. But the tinge of sorrow is still there. I got it at the grocery store yesterday as I passed the card display. Your post has a less melancholy and more reflective tone to it - I had the same thought as Jude.

I am glad you have a dinner out with your beloved daughter to plan on and it seems as though you are really getting in the spirit of your upcoming trip to San Diego. I wish you continued hope, healing and health (inside and out).

Boo said...

oh my friend, you are coming out of the fog, and godknows that hurts, sometimes I wish for the early days when we are so entirely numbed, and then I realize how ridiculous that would be, because we would have to go through the whole thing again ... but even so, the numb days were good in comparison to this reality.

I love your daughter, she is such a lovely girl, and I am so happy that you have the evening together. As Debbie has said today on her birthday it is tough, and your birthday will be tough too ... my heart goes out to the both of you, because I have gone through the "first" birthday already.

All I can tell you is that having gone through just over a full year, I feel a little calmer, because I have proved to myself that I can do it. And so can you. I know you can. As painful as it is.

We are here, sitting in the dark, whistling happy birthday to Deb today, and to you on Saturday.

Love to you <3

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