Sunday, June 8, 2014

On Making Plans in the Month of June


I made that map at the end of May 2012. When I made that map, I had already known for two months that I would be moving to Albania. I envisioned an epic Goodbye, America! road trip, going to see family in all of their respective homes, before finishing up in Texas and heading back up north to Colorado. It was supposed to take me all of June. I remember planning this trip, giddy with joy that I had successfully completed my internship, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world to have a job waiting for me on the other side of a backpacking trip that would be filled with places I had always dreamed of seeing. My Great Granny had passed away that March, and that Kansas stop there at the end- "K"- would probably be the last time I ever went through Hillsboro, Kansas. I wanted to have a little personal memorial there for her, to say goodbye to the place I spent so much time growing up.

The best part of the trip was going to be happening over on "F", in Virginia. My mom had recently gotten re-married and moved there. My brother, my sister, my mom's best friend, Gina, and I were all going to converge on her new home for a week of reunion times. It would be the first time all of us kids had been together with mom since I moved to Colorado two years prior. I got to Virginia a few days before Heather, Thomas, and Gina were set to fly over. I was there for less than 24 hours when we got the call, on Heather's own cell phone, that she had passed away. Then I had to call and tell my father. I had to call and tell my uncles. I had to call and tell it more times than I care to remember.

I don't remember, really, the details of everything after that. Bobby came, immediately, and we left the next day, driving through the same route I was set to take the week after what was supposed to be our family reunion. We got to Texas and planned a funeral. Made a slideshow. Cried a lot. Walked from room to room in a daze, avoiding each others eyes (at least I did) because I didn't want to look at another person who felt as badly as I did and just magnify it all into something that felt too intimately painful to share with anyone, even myself.

The last time I saw most of my friends and family and my mother and brother was at my sister's funeral, or in the sad, heavy, fuck this I hate the world days that came right after. I left to go back to Colorado, and spent the next month grief eating and sleeping all day, piling on 25 pounds of I can't handle my life while I was trying to pack and get ready to move to another country and start a new job. God bless Bobby. I saw my Dad one more time before I left, when we drove down to Colorado Springs where he was working a storm. I felt awful, he felt awful, I think we all just kind of did our best to not magnify our respective misery, but it's inevitable at that point in the process when it's so fresh you're just a gaping hole of hurt, a walking wound spilling out on the floor. Maybe it's just me and my inability to process hard emotions with other people, but being with my family hurt. When it was just me, walking around, I could kind of wrestle the grief and absence into a messy but somewhat manageable burden that I could stumble around under- it was hard to breathe or move and it was oppressive, but somehow I was standing. But when I was with my family, not only was I struggling with it, I was seeing all of them struggling with it, too. I was terrified of being called on to help them with theirs when I could barely get by with mine. I was overtaken with empathy for their pain because of my own. I don't grieve well with others. I was, in many ways, immensely grateful to head back to Colorado and grieve with piles of food and sleeping in until noon and not taking showers and not having to worry about helping anyone else grieve. I could spend two hours howling into a pillow without tensing in fear that someone was going to walk in and put their arms around me. That made it real, when other people saw it. Somehow, being alone, I could get through. And then, finally, we left, and I had something to do with my time, instead of sitting for hours staring at a wall and going through everything I could have, should have done/didn't do.

And that was how June went.

Now, being an international teacher, my Junes are always going to be filled with that flurry of planning, packing, moving, trips to be had, friends to say goodbye to business that I had leading up to Virginia. Last June was awful for me, this June has been awful for me. It's the repetition of the experience, not just of June 18th, the day I found out I didn't have a sister in this world anymore, but of the ritual before it- that flurry of excited packing and planning and reunions and goodbyes. It feels ominous to me, now, to be looking at flights and making happy plans. I keep flinching, waiting for the other shoe to drop, as I work through what almost feels like a re-enactment. The familiarity of it is haunting.

It's superstitious, it's illogical, and I know that, but I hate making plans in June. I keep waiting for something irrevocable to fall into them, as though the making of them creates a space that invites something awful to trample through. Something more than awful.

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