Monday, January 31, 2011

What doesn't kill us makes us...


Yesterday, I spent the better part of 7 hours up on our roof, shoveling and clearing ice.
It was a nice warm day (42 degrees when the sun was out) and the sun kept going in and out.

It was a little brutal, if I am honest. The snow was literally up to my thighs. Like the rings of a tree, there were all the layers of the storms we have had. I am well aware that we have had over 55 inches of snow this January, but somehow, standing up there, I could not get over how much shoveling had to be done. I wanted to quit so many times, but I knew if I got down and took a break, I did not have it in me to climb the ladder again. So I stayed and did the job as best I could. I used a hatchet at the edges, near the gutters where there was 4-6" of solid ice on roof near the gutter in the back yard (the South side of the house) and 10-12" of ice in the front yard (on the North side).

While I was up there, I seemed to be experiencing the stages of grief

First I was like, "this won't take long at all... it's a beautiful day! And getting up here at all is really the hardest part."

Then I spent a few hours sputtering a fuming inexplicably- pissed at Katy somehow (WHY wasn't she checking on me more often?!? Why hasn't she figured out a way to play some music for me?!?). Then turning the anger towards other members of my family- and friends that aggrieved or abandoned me (both living and dead).

I turned to Jesus a few times... "Help me out here, Lord, Please, I'll do anything..."

Then I got sad.

Really sad- strangely sad, thinking sad things as if I were alone in the wilderness and not on the roof of my own home. It was then that the events of last week (weather and baby's illness aside) came back to me... That we experienced the 2nd death of 2011. A friend of our family, Kevin. And then the "stages of grief" exercise that my brain was taking on didn't seem so totally strange.

Kevin married into the Tabor clan - whom I've spoken about here when G'pa Jim died and countless other times (especially when talking about the pool in the summer). The tabors are our family. The family we chose, choose, and continue to choose. My parents grew up with them and so did my sister and I.

They are some of the few people that know me now who also knew me when I was a shy, skinny kid. They helped me grow up. They encouraged my budding sense of humor, my musicality, my athleticism, my intellectual pursuits, and that I be honest and follow my heart. There's a stagger in the generations and sometimes I have more in common with the "adults" and sometimes I have more in common with the "kids" (we are all adults now so the gap is getting more narrow...) but I used to babysit for the kids of my babysitters and now those same kids, I occasionally call on to sit for my kids. It's a little convoluted, but it works. When I need advice or help, I call on my aunts, uncles and cousins in this "adopted" family as much as in my "real" family.

Kevin married one of Jim's daughters and they had 2 daughters of their own. They had a wonderful life, but at some point, the marriage stopped working.

Kevin was in NYC the day the towers fell. He called home to say he was okay and on his way home, and then he disappeared for 6 or 8 hours. The "radio silence" was in part due to a lack of phone service, but it turned out his "escape" was delayed when he was distracted by helping rescue workers sift through rubble some before making his way out of there. I remember getting a call that told me he was safe. And then I got a call saying he was missing. I remember hours and hours going by and I worked hard pushing the thought out of my head that we would never see him again. Then he came home, but he was never really the same after that. I only saw him once or twice again. His marriage had started falling apart before September 11th, and took some time to completely crumble. But even when we were all together, he always found a way to disappear from a crowded party after that.

Up on the roof yesterday, I couldn't help think of him and all this stuff I either hadn't thought of before, or hadn't thought of in a long time. He died last Saturday, January 22 at the age of 57. He died of natural causes after quite a few years (and reportedly several consecutive days) of abusing his body with not-so-healthy substances. He leaves behind 2 beautiful, strong, and heartbroken children. And a mess of us that miss him- what he was, what he could have been; plus the sadness that comes from knowing he experienced a lot of emotional pain and/or psychological anguish that couldn't be extinguished.

When I heard of his death, I had a very intellectual reaction that essentially amounted to, "That's so sad." When I went to the memorial service, and saw photos of him and saw his family- family that my heart recognizes as "my" family... i had a very emotional reaction. It surprised me. To suddenly be weeping and missing so urgently, someone I hadn't seen or spoken to for most of a decade...

Up on the roof, in the clear, cold air, I realized I was a bit of an emotional basket case. I was angry that this had to happen to him. Angry that he couldn't figure out a way to make himself whole. Sad and disturbed that the chance he could somehow make things better or right was gone forever. Sick that sometimes in the world, things just don't work out. Sad for my childhood and a time when there was less gray area in all aspects of life... I was glad to have all that physical labor to help me work it out.

Today, I am either sick, or just exhausted. So many parts of my body are sore: fingers, toes, arms, legs, neck, back; my throat is raw, my sinuses constantly draining post-nasal drip, my stomach full of mucus, my head pounding.

The weather forecast is not mild- the winter machine is starting again... the next three days might entirely erase all my hard work on the roof. But I feel I've done something to try to protect our property and our family, and that is something, at least.


Thanatophobia's Cordis said...

You are an amazingly strong and powerful person Tracy. You and Katy both are. And I have always had the utmost respect for you and your family (extended included). As I have found out, we are all stronger than we think we are. And I have been finding this out more and more every single day. I look up to you and Katy. You are ideal and very special women. Thank you for being you.

MamaDanaMunga said...

I'm so glad we're "family", Tracy. Thank you for your comments about Kevin. Everyone who loved him tried to help him shake his demons, especially my sister. Unfortunately, those bent on self-destruction often succeed in taking down others with them. My sister is the real hero here. She stood fast and faithful for years, protecting her daughters from their father's demons--sacrificing herself in the process--until the demons grew too large and too dangerous for them all. She's the bravest, strongest woman I know.