Monday, 4 June 2012

Two Weeks, Five Days: Wife, Mother, Friend

My readers, you have tolerated my self-centred monologue this last two weeks while I wallowed in my own self pity and ignored my wife Roni.  I apologise.  Her pain goes way beyond mine into a dark place that I probably cannot even imagine.  Roni and Calista were so much more than mother and daughter, they were like twins or two halves of one whole. My wife was never so happy as when she was with my daughter and when she was away from Calista she was constantly talking about either her next visit to Comox or Calista's next trip home.  I am starting to worry that Roni is not going to survive this tragedy.

In our marriage Roni has always been the silent partner with the common-sense. I was the talker and the dreamer while she was the quiet passenger that made sure the wheels stayed on my wild bus. She stood by me while I dragged us all over Western Canada looking for that perfect job with a bright future. Lethbridge, Whitehorse, Regina, Vancouver, back to Regina, changed jobs in Regina, and finally out to Powell River as I chased the pot at the end of my rainbow. The last move was a family decision: Calista was leaving us regardless to pursue her dream of becoming a photographer, Roni could not bear the idea of living thousands of miles from her daughter, and I decided that I really did not want to finish my career freezing in the prairies. The move to Powell River meant a real sacrifice for myself since I had a pretty easy lifestyle in Regina;a good professional reputation, tons of free time, and a very respectable income. I made the jump without a thought since it kept us all together and  happy. Happy wife, happy life.

Between Roni and I we often commented that we had no idea what would keep us together if we had not had Calista. Nearly every conversation we had either started or ended with a Calista story or some future Calista plan. For years friends and family have commented on how close Calista and Roni were and there actually were a few pointed comments about how Roni is going to be when Calista finally leaves home for good.  I guess everyone will get to find out now. My bet: Not well at all.

Of course the first four or five days after Calista's death were dreadful.  I actually approached Roni's doctor and asked him to prescribe a sedative so she would at least sleep for a few hours each night.  Those sedatives seemed to do something; at least she would stop crying for the few scant hours between midnight and six a.m., but after that the reprieve from the desolation seemed to just make things worse; there seemed to be a rebound effect and she would be even more devastated the following morning.

Mornings are dreadful.  I find them terrible myself; the Groundhog Day effect is real; each day you awake with some hope that you may have moved on, and each day you awake to find the same old nightmare.  My poor Roni has that same sensation, except she does not even get the blessed few seconds of relief from the pain; she seems to wake up crying and only stops when the tears run dry. Last night was the perfect example; at 4 am we both awoke to a cat spitting up a hair ball (just freaking wonderful) and, after we cleaned up the unsavoury mess, she proceeded to cry herself back to sleep.  Today she did not make it out of bed until 11 am; this after going to bed at 9 pm last night.  I suspect she actually only slept about three hours last night. Of course, if you spend that much time in bed, it means that much less time listening to me cajole her into eating something; anything.

Getting my wife to eat something is becoming a daily challenge. It is fairly easy to get her to eat if a friend or family is present. Typical of her she tries to avoid public confrontation.  Unfortunately the parade of concerned friends and family visiting will come to a halt eventually and I will be left with a wife that started off petite and is working on skeletal quickly.  She is so fragile right now that I am pretty sure that if I start pushing too hard, she is just going to shut down altogether.

While visiting Courtenay the other day she looked me in the eye and basically told me the only reason she is still living is because she knows that Calista would hate her for leaving me to fend for myself (My little girl, while making fun of her old dad heartlessly, was terribly protective of me and always worried that I would kill myself with bad cooking and incompetent housekeeping if Roni ever died or left me).  I just have no idea how to deal with this since I completely understand her point of view; if it were not for the fact that I need to keep the memory of my daughter alive and finish her life for her, I would pack it in altogether myself.  Living is pretty much pointless if all you are living for is yourself.  Calista was our reason to live for twenty years and now she is gone. Why are we still here?

You would think that the day Calista died would be the worst day and things would turn around from there, but, sincerely, things are getting worse for my Roni. Each day seems to make it more real and less like a waking nightmare.  This sort of thing happens on television or in the movies, not in our perfect little life. Even on film, there seems to be some sort of mitigating circumstance that makes the story balanced: the murderer is caught, the rare disease is cured through sacrifice, the victim was really a bad person and had it coming. In our life there is no murderer, they cannot find the cause of death and my daughter is turning out to be even better than Roni and I thought. There is no mitigating circumstances here. There is no balance; no good will come of this. Its all bad news.

My family and friends have repeatedly suggested grief counselling for both Roni and I.  I really doubt that the counselling would do much for me; I never have been all that good at listening to advice, good, bad or indifferent. As for Roni?  A grief counsellor would just irritate my dear wife; no amount of discussion about the topic will soften the blow for Roni and the very suggestion that it could would make my wife close down even more. 

In fact, the only time I see my wife brighten up is when we are sharing Calista stories with her friends over in Courtenay.  This last Friday at her photography show opening Roni was downright animated, hearing and telling stories about my girl. Roni was actually the one that picked up the pieces and put me back together when I broke down trying to talk about Calista in front of the crowd at the opening.  She held my hand and hugged me, helping to control the sobs and shaking in public that she knew I would regret.  At the time all I could think of was that my girl needed her dad to stand up and speak for her and I was not even capable of that small task.  Roni stood by my side, my rock in the storm. Unfortunately we could not stay in Courtenay forever and we could not expect Calista's good friends to keep neglecting their own lives just to buoy up two broken parents. Eventually everybody has to return to their own lives and take care of their own families and leave us to lick our own wounds.  What are we going to do when we are left alone?

Life indeed is continuing on all around us. One of my young clients suffered a miscarriage last week while one of my older clients is slowly losing blood from an undiagnosed source and is visibly failing each time I see him. A third client, a favourite of mine, was just diagnosed with a brain tumour.  My loss is indeed a tragedy, but no less than those of my clients. I need to remember that old adage that into each life a little rain must fall.  Of course, I could have done without the deluge and just settled on a spring shower. 

I am fooling myself if I believe there will be a "cure" for my dear Roni.  Right now it is basically a race between physical and mental deterioration killing her and time softening the blow so she wants to live again.  Right now death is winning in my house.

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