A Post about Grief and Comfort

6 Feb

Nearly two years ago, M called me at work at to tell me she was going to have a “port” installed. Right after we found out M was sick, she kind of disappeared. I don’t remember if it was for a few days that felt like forever or for a week, maybe even longer. I remember calling her and texting her and getting no answer. I knew from J she was going to have the port installed, to make treatments easier and avoid being constantly stuck with needles, but I couldn’t get a hold of her, and though I realized she probably needed some time alone to process the news, I really wanted to talk to her.

That day was a Tuesday, I think. I was still working part time at the school back then. My boy was maybe seven months old, and was home with his babysitter. I had just gotten off work, when I saw her missed call and immediately called her back. It was 1:30 pm. “I was worried about you.” was the first thing I said. She answered matter-of-factly: “I’m having the port installed today. Can you come?” I answered, “Of course.” And hung up. I had an hour and a half to find someone who could be with my boy that afternoon. I literally called everyone I knew, and finally found an arrangement as I drove to the hospital.

She was scared to death, and her fear fed my fear. Sitting there in the waiting room, I realized what was about to happen, I realized that we were in it for a long haul. The nurse asked her something and M answered that she was going to need chemo for the rest of her life. The nurse said, “I’m sure that’s not true. You have to be optimistic. People have recovered, even in your situation.” I believed her. Even though she had no idea what M’s situation was.

Then she went in and was sedated, heavily, because the first dose they gave her didn’t put her down. Jesus, that seems all too familiar. I don’t think I’ve written here about the end. How she wanted to sleep, and the vast quantities of morphine she’d been given just wouldn’t do it.

By the time she got out a couple of other friends had gotten there. I don’t remember who, I was so out of it, and at the same time I was playing my role of “having it together” so vigorously that I couldn’t feel anything. Did she need something? Maybe some water? Maybe another funny story about my boy to pass the time? Smile, I told myself. Don’t look scared. She needs you to be strong.

By the time I got home I was exhausted. My sister had left everything she was doing, and taken a cab to my old apartment to be with my boy and BD had picked him up in the evening, so I was alone. I sat on the sofa and texted SG, whom I was seeing then. I said, “I know we said we’d meet tonight, but I’m really out of it. I’m sad and tired. Maybe you can just come over and hang out.” He said, “Get dressed, I’m picking you up in 20 minutes.” And I said, “No, you don’t understand. I want to stay in.” And he said, “No, you don’t understand, we’re going out.” I was too tired to argue. So I got dressed.

He took me to an eatery, run by an outstanding chef, whom M despised by the way, for being an arrogant prick, which is true but doesn’t make the food any less incredible. In this place, you can eat the most delicious things you could ever imagine stuffed into a sandwich and served with beer. The place was busy and colorful. The food was delicious. The music was oriental and loud. The beer was cold and satisfying. I think we even did a shot of Arak. I was sitting there with a man who cared enough about me to force me to come out and remember life. And when we came home we took our clothes off and literally did not stop fucking until I couldn’t remember my name. That night I realized that I didn’t always know what was good for me.

Sometimes, looking back at my relationship with SG, I tend to discredit what we had. I say things to myself like, he was my first after the breakup, I didn’t know any better, he was just a kid, he lived with his parents for christ’s sake, I knew from the start it wasn’t going anywhere. But none of that changes the fact that SG was perfect for me at the time that I met him.

It’s all about grief and comfort. I was grieving when I met SG. Grieving the loss of my husband, father of my son, the loss of my family as I had always imagined it would be. SG was a source of comfort. He loved me, almost instantly. And it wasn’t just saying words. He really went out of him way numerous times to please me, comfort me, to show me he cared. He took me to the opera, and cooked for me, and talked about books with me to the wee hours of the night, and he’d go down on me for twenty minutes straight, and tell me repetedly how beautiful and deserving I was, and he held me really tightly when I cried, so tightly that it felt like he was going to crush me. And he accepted it when I broke up with him twice to get back together with BD, he said he couldn’t stand between me and my family.

I’m not reminiscing here. It’s been long enough ago that I don’t miss him anymore. I’m just thankful that I got to have that comfort in my life at that time. And I’m thankful for all the amazing sources of comfort that I have in my life today.

My son, who makes me feel loved, like no one else.

My friends, who have been through a lot of shit with me, who I can always call to rant or just do shots with while hanging laundry (yes, that happened).

My co-workers, who appreciate me, who understand what I’m going through or at least make a sincere effort to.

D, for being a sorce of comfort to me these days. For going back to that eatery with me last night and listening to the story about M’s port and SG and for saying about seven times how amazing the cauliflower was, and not just to please me, because he really loved it. And silly as it may sound, it really made me happy that he appreciated it, because that place is special to me, not just because of the food.

And finally, me, for being kinder to myself than I have been in the past, for having a better notion of what I want and deserve, for being aware of mistakes that I’ve made, for forgiving myself, for knowing that I will never again be wandering dark streets at 5 am looking for my car after having had only semi-protected sex with a first date that I didn’t even like (yes, that happened too).

Me, for knowing I deserve better. Me, for thinking good things of myself, most of the time. Me, for doing it on my own. Me for knowing when to stop doing it on my own and ask for help. Me, for leaning on the people that I love and trust.

Grief has a place in my life, especially these days. But exactly three weeks ago, I left M’s bedside at the hospital for the last time, and I’d told her that we’d all be fine. I said she didn’t need to worry about us. And it was true. We have many sources of comfort in our lives, and they allow us to experience grief, to fall apart, and to get back up again, and pick up the pieces, and carry on.

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