Meltdown

December 21, 2005

It has been a little while in coming and, given what this weekend is, I wasn't surprised when I boiled over today and had to leave work early. The combination of stresses in my life just got to be too much so I left rather than say or do something that could come back to haunt me.

Thirty-two years ago this week my sister Amy was in the hospital dying of leukemia. On the 18th she suffered grand mal seizures, and on the 20th she was transfered to St. Louis to a much larger hospital. The 24th was another day of seizures and intolerable pain for her as her body was ravaged by the cancer. On Christmas Day her symptoms eased and she had a few moments of peace before dying. It took me thirty years and a tremendous amount of work to finally put to rest the guilt and anger I didn't understand at the time, and suffered with privately year after year.

The past several years has seen a return of a joyous Christmas for me, one of magic and beauty, giving and wonder. Michele played a pivotal role in this transformation. Learning to celebrate her birthday on the 24th was also a part of my growth. Along with Christmas my family had started to treat birthdays rather perfunctorily. Michele would have none of that.

So this weekend I am faced with three major events: the anniversary of Amy's death, the first birthday spent without Michele, and the first Christmas spent alone too. All in two days time. Adding to this the impending loss of my job (14 working days away now), fear over my mother's declining health, and some serious financial issues and I'm looking at a really joyous holiday weekend.

A rather minor and insignificant oversight at work today proved to be the straw and I just lost control. Rather than sit at my desk sobbing uncontrollably or lash out in rage I beat a hasty retreat and came to my apartment. I cried for a while and then called a very good friend who is an excellent listener. She called me back and I was able to dump all the anger, sorrow, fear, and helplessness out. It felt very good to just dump everything. I am exhausted now, but in a good way.

Moving through the next few days, and then the next couple of weeks is going to be very difficult. Nothing feels normal any more, and it is a sad commentary on my life that the best part of my day is being at work. Or it was until two weeks ago. I know that friends and family are all going to call to see how I am over the weekend. On the one hand this feels very good and on the other I am dreading their intrusion. never have I felt more acutely the truism that being loved is really about accepting what people give you and not expecting what you want.

On Monday it will be seventy-seven days since Michele died. On Wednesday I would have known her for ten years, three thousand, six hundred and fifty days. Today I feel a hundred thousand days old.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.