A Trip, A River, and Painting Wood Trim
I’m getting on a plane tomorrow. This was not in my plans for the week, but my plans don’t matter so much when my Grandma goes back to the hospital. My brain is a mess of simultaneous thoughts.
I want to go hug my grandma. I want to be there for my parents and offer emotional support because they’ve been helping Grandma with medical stuff for years and the last two weeks have been particularly draining.
I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to be here at my house with my people. I want my office put back together and life to be nicely routine.
I wish the plane ticket were not so expensive, particularly in a month when our finances are in a lull and I’ve just spent piles of money on an unfinished office remodel.
I feel like I’m over reacting. Perhaps hopping on a plane to go visit is more than this particular medical adventure calls for.
I’m aware that even if there is no hurry, this trip has value. Seeing loved ones is always a good thing, because time is short and Grandma is ninety-two.
I keep looking at the calendar and wondering if I’ll need to shoehorn a funeral into it somewhere. Then I feel guilty that the auto-scheduler in my brain instantly calculates when such an event would be most convenient.
I wander upstairs to look at my sleeping kids who don’t know yet that I’ll be leaving while they’re at school. I feel guilty that all my usual carpool, homework, and bedtime responsibilities will be dumped on Howard. Part of my brain frets that he won’t handle it right, because that part of my brain is convinced that my way is “right” while another part of my brain knows full well that he can manage anything.
I don’t want to go. I expect the trip to be emotionally grueling. I’ll spend most of it in a hospital with Grandma and I don’t like hospitals.
I know that going is really important. I knew it this morning when the thought rolled over me like a wave. I knew it even more when Howard said that he felt the same. No matter how I feel about all of it, going is the right choice.
Over and through all the other thoughts, I’m aware of a deep river of emotion that I can sense only vaguely. I’m pretty sure the river is grief. I’m grieving for a death which has not happened yet, but that I know will come. Along with it I’m grieving the impermanence of life and the fact that normal is a fragile state. Grief is big, unmanageable, unpredictable. I don’t want it. Sometime that river is going to rise up and flood me. I don’t know when. I don’t know what debris I’ll find when the flood has passed. All day long my internal mental topography has shaped itself around that river trying to avoid the flood. I have things to do, decisions to make. Wood trim to paint.
Yes. I spent most of today painting wood trim for my office. It needed to be done so that the trim can be hung on Friday. Of all the things on my list it is probably the easiest thing to delay. But it was a manual task with no emotional baggage whatsoever. I could focus all my mental energy on moving my brush smoothly across the wood. And after fifteen or thirty minutes the piece of trim would be done. Piece after piece I could track my progress, visual evidence of tasks completed. In contrast, packing is more important and urgent, but littered with emotional landmines that could blast holes for the river to flood through. I will leave tomorrow with six pieces of incomplete trim. Kiki will finish them in my absence, or she won’t, and either way the result will be fine.
For now I need to go to bed and try not to think to much, because even my most insistent thoughts can’t make the impending flood disappear, not even by telling me I ought to feel differently. Tomorrow I will get up and I will use my to do list to navigate my way onto a plane. Somehow the doing of things is less difficult than anticipating them.
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