Monday, 28 May 2012

One Week. Four Days: Groundhog Day

The title above refers to the classic Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day". The premise of the show is that Bill's character is a shallow, miserable television reporter doomed to relive the same day (Groundhog Day) repeatedly until he gets it right.  I am not sure that I can possibly get anything right ever again, but I feel like I am experiencing Groundhog Day.

Each day dawns the same way: Calista's alarm goes off at 6:10 am each morning (except yesterday; I guess my girl had programmed the phone to let her sleep on Sundays), I roll over gently and extricate my numb arm from under my wife who has to be cradled to sleep each night. It takes me a few moments to remember, but then I do and my spirit drains away and I start the same day over again, just with a different date. My wife stays in bed crying until 9 or 10 and then slowly showers, trying to wash the misery out of her body. I feed the cats and then decide if my place is at my wife's side or hammering away at organising my daughter's memorials. Today I split the difference and stayed with my wife until about 7:30, at which point my planning and scheming called out to me.  I downed my first of many cups of coffee today, joylessly downed some cold cereal (breakfast used to be my favourite meal of the day), checked my early e-mail and started to look for printers that could make up the memorial cards.  I settled on the first one I came to, but that ended up being a good choice: local guy who prints locally.

All this paper shuffling and organising. It's all just busy work to keep my mind from wandering. I have started to question everything. Maybe if I had kept my daughter home, maybe if I had remained in Saskatchewan, maybe if I had spent more time with my girl and paid attention to her health better I would have been able to save her. My life will now be spent with regrets and pretty much one day is the same as the next. They are all "groundhog day" as far as I am concerned. The only difference from the movie is that in the movie the antagonist gets to eventually fix his problems and move on with a wonderful life. I will never "fix" this problem; I was never even given the chance.

The other issue that makes this like "groundhog day" is my ongoing effort to retain everything I can of my daughter. I cannot bring myself to turn off her iPhone alarm; in fact last night I nearly panicked when I realised the battery was getting low. The idea that the alarm may fail to sound made me think I was starting to let go of my girl. Of course the alarm did ring this morning, but once I was up and showering (showering is a bad time for mourning; you are naked and alone with nothing but your inner thoughts to occupy yourself) I started to worry that we were eventually going to have to cancel her phone contract and, maybe in years, the phone would die. The loss of that phone, filled with her music and messages and contacts and, well, everything that is left of my girl would be a disaster.

It goes beyond the stupid iPhone. We have thousands of files stored on flash drives, portable hard drives, and of course her lap-top computer. Some of those files are important and some are merely junk that she had not had time to delete yet.  I don't know one from the other.  We still have photograph files from her high-school days; pictures that she would likely prefer to be lost forever.  Then there are her wardrobes of clothes, shelves of shoes and an entire apartment of furniture. Last but not least, there is the much loved Smart Car sitting in our driveway. Only two people with three cars; what do we do with the one car neither of us can stand to part with?(but I can barely stand to look at; I bought that car new especially for her since she had always wanted one since she was about 13). So many mementos and each one of them would be heart-rending to let go.

Inasmuch as people say they want to "move on", in fact anyone that has lost a child spends huge amounts of time trying to just hold onto everything. It is as if we could turn back time magically by holding onto the memories with all our efforts.  It becomes a real superstition; if I turn the alarm off, let the phone die or, God forbid, I actually deactivate the phone it is some sort of betrayal of our dead loved one. This all seems pretty harmless, but behaviour like this plays into the guilt and slows the healing process.

Now, in the beginning of my mourning period, all I think of is my daughter. Some moments are heartrending, but some moments are truly pleasurable as I remember some fun moments or some quirky personality trait. Those moments even lead to laughing and truly fun times. Unfortunately, there comes the inevitable pause in the conversation, even just a moment, and the wave comes back, grabbing at your throat and drowning you in tears. These waves are a bit different though, because they are coupled with a strong sense of guilt: you forgot your loved one is dead and you had the audacity to stay alive. You are alive and they are not; survivor's guilt is real.

I am told by people that this is a common and lingering issue. Years later a survivor may be enjoying a game of golf and something reminds them of their dead child. The good time then spirals down into a black cloud of remorse: why am I still here when my child is not? Friends watch this and sometimes make the foolish comment that it is time to let go.....a parent that buries a child will never let go. Never. Unfortunately, unless you are part of the Association of the Damned, you are completely incapable of understanding.

I have had the odd person say "I know how you feel because I lost my elderly (Father, Mother, Uncle, Brother, Fill in the Blank)". Sorry; you don't have a faint clue on how I feel. Those elderly relatives were loved and it was sad that they passed, but they died having lived life, loved, had children, maybe grand-children and seen some of the world. They had their fair chance while my child had so very little.  I am angry for the loss to my daughter; she deserved a life and what she got was death. Please don't even begin to compare my 20 year old girl to some retired seventy year old that will be missed by her 4 married children and ten grand-children.

I will try to let this go; really, but right now, every day is Ground-hog Day. I wake up with some hope in my heart and then I remember: my little girl is never coming home. Never. Coming. Home.....and it starts all over again.

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