May 4th, 2014: Today was Day 3… Somber, But Looking On The Bright Side Of Life

By Eric

I Think it’s Time…

To step outside. To smell the spring in the air. To add a bounce to my step. To live. To honor. To love. To remember. To find closure.

The last couple of days have been strangely devastating for me. It’s been a year. An entire year. There was a time, when I could not imagine, at what point the tears would stop swelling. There were days, that I thought life as I knew it had ended. There were moments lasting as if an eternity, that I felt crippled, so much so, that I truly did not remember how to exist outside of the weight of my darkness.

My father passed away on September 1, 2006 – almost 7 full years before my mom. Both died well before their time- rather, well before I had given them permission to call it their time. But with my dad passing away, I experienced something completely different.

I had not experienced the death of very many family members that I was close to before my dad. And my dad passed away unexpectedly from a massive stroke. It was something that was on no one’s radar, especially not mine. Dad’s are indestructible. Aren’t they? His death struck me so hard, and as fast as lightning, that I was stunned, quite literally into a relative state of disbelief. There was nothing else I could do, except pick myself up and keep moving.

We are who we are.

In my semi-catatonic state, I became acutely aware of the new reality in my life – that my mom was left so utterly crushed, she ceased to function normally- instantly. That is not to say that my mom could not live on her own, or continue to work, or take care of herself. She did those things and more- but the day her music died, she never was the same again. Within weeks of the “man of the house” moving on from this world, I realized I had inherited a new position overnight.

Shannon and I are very fortunate, because I had an ongoing relationship with my mom’s therapist, and she was gracious enough to immediately reach out to me, when we returned to the U.S. for the funeral, to offer her services. If it were not for that invitation, it is probable, neither Shannon nor I would have considered the option.

We have had the opportunity to not only work out the heavy grieving process over my mom’s death, but in the last year, both Shannon and I have had a healthy amount of pre-marital counseling. We’ve had the chance to deal. It’s been as healthy a process as I have been though in quite some time.

In therapy, we learned about an interesting way to examine ourselves and thus each other, by learning about each of our individual schemas. According to Wikipedia, a schema is defined as, a term “in psychology and cognitive science, that describes an organized pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them.”

In laymen’s terms- we’ve been figuring our shit out! We have both learned so much about ourselves and about each other- who we are, why we act in certain ways, and how we each communicate, that it has added an entire level of foundational support to our entire relationship. There is a whole new level of euphoria to experience, when you look at your partner, in an entirely new light, and have one those powerful “Ah…. HA!!!!” moments. And I mean powerful.

But as therapy tends to do, no single advice, or technique, or “assignment” acutely micromanages any one issue. Everything overlaps. As it should. And thus, in learning about ourselves, in order to be able to communicate better with each other, I learned that one of my very powerful schemas, born of a perfect mix of environmental and genetic nature versus nurture equation, had me instantly prepared to take on that new role I inherited after my dad died.

I jumped into action, in doing whatever I could do, to help my mom. And for the nearly seven years after my dad’s death, and straight into my mom’s passing away, because of who I am, and how I am, because of my very powerful schemas, I became a primary caregiver.

I spent much of the last 7 years of my mom’s life traveling back and forth from DC (or wherever I was in the world) to Louisiana for several weeks or months at a time, in order to give my mom the instant physical and emotional pick-me-ups that she needed, as if a human defibrillator. And don’t get me wrong, I would not change a thing, were I to do it all over again.

We are who we are. Period.

My mom began dying slowly of a broken heart September 1, 2006. And it was not philosophically in me to allow her to do it alone. So I gladly stepped up. I should add here, there are many people in my family, and friends of my Mom’s, that stepped up in the same ways. I was not a champion, or a hero, nor have I ever claimed to be. I was just a son.

I did what I had to do, what I could do, and often times, my schemas themselves convinced me, that I was not doing enough.

We are who we are.

But going through therapy with Shannon, which taught me so much about me, which taught me so much about her, which taught me so much about our relationship- came full circle for me. The advice, and techniques, and “assignments” led me to realize, that I grieved in an entirely different way when each of my parents died.

I realized, that as instantly devastated as I was, when my dad died, the overwhelming need I had to take care of my crushed mother, caused me to emotionally over correct in my grieving process for my father. I was stunned; I suffered; and I moved on. Life demanded it. Who questions the demands of life?

I realized at that point in my therapy, that I had suppressed much of the grief of my dad’s passing, and I spent the next 7 years avoiding the realities, that we knew were inevitable- my mom was suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It was a progressively degenerative disease, and her lung tissue was slowly dying. And, she was slowly dying.

And in my avoidance of reality, I mistook each day my mom was alive to be an additional day of her own indestructibility. But none of us are without our Achilles lungs.

And my world finally proved to be destructible, on the day that my own music died.  At the point that my mom passed away, in fewer than seven years, I had lost the four people that reared me from birth- actually reared me. I spent so many entire months living with both of my Cuban Abuelos each year, both in Lake Charles, as well as in several Latin American countries, that they felt more like second parents than grandparents.

I acted in some, or sometimes in many capacities, as a caregiver to both of my abuelos as well as my mom. Within weeks of my dad dying, the most important people in my world started falling apart- whether physically, emotionally, or both. And with the roles that I took on, I never allowed myself to fully take on one of the most vital roles I owed to myself so often- the role of the grieving son, grandson, human.

My mom was the final domino to fall, and when she did, all the bones (in Cuba, individual dominos are referred to as bones) in my body shot against each other in what seemed a linear arrangement, rhythmically crashing into infinity.  And then the dust settled. And then it settled some more.

I had not properly dealt with the deaths of my dad nor either of my Abuelo’s. I had not allowed myself that luxury for too long. It was a luxury. Wasn’t it? And my mom’s death not only represented a true altering in my way of life, as my existence thrived for so long, but it left me grieving for everyone at once.

I’m not going to quote or attempt to talk about Occam’s Razor, however it does seem to fit inside a shiny, efficient solutions box to imagine, that as if in one fell swoop, my therapy with Shannon made me a healthier individual, brought new, vibrant outlooks into my relationship with my life partner, my soul-sista, my universe. And it also helped me begin the realization of the pain, that I had stored inside, and it started me on the path to emotional recovery- a path that for so long, I could not find.

There were some difficult times in the last twelve months, to say in the least. But at some vague point, somewhere when the lines between grief and strength blurred into something more fresh and vibrant, something more positive, something which allowed for the possibilities for healing- I began to step outside. To smell the spring in the air. To add a bounce to my step. To live. To honor. To love. To remember. To find closure.

We are who we are… but- I’ve learned from one of the greats, that “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, you get what you need.”

Distance: Not calculated today, but I’m finally looking forward to starting!
Location: Lourdes, France

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One Response to May 4th, 2014: Today was Day 3… Somber, But Looking On The Bright Side Of Life

  1. Cheryl Ware says:

    Oh, Eric — this simply moves me to tears. It rings so many bells; it resonates with me. Those of us who seem to be, by nature/nurture/whatever, a family’s caregiver so often deny ourselves the very luxure, the gift, the necessary process of grieving. We think we grieve — and on a level we do. But we also —at some level– hold back something. What a gift you’ve had — and what a gift you’re sharing. Thanks. Peace.

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