Thursday, June 12, 2014
Caught in the Circle of Grief -- Still, not Again
I've been up off and on since the alarm went off at 5 a.m. for the girls to come (they came about 5:30, I really need to reset the alarm), they've had breakfast, been dressed, had their teeth brushed and hair arranged, and E1 and E3 had their morning brushing (therapy, more later) then we took E1 to her last day of Pre-K in public school (also a developing story line). The two little Es wanted more to eat when we got home. I've also let the kennel dogs out, cleaned cages for a couple who don't quite get waiting, fed the cat and carried out step two of sourdough bread making.
I think I deserve more than a cup of coffee.
Describing my morning and thinking how I'm floundering, how when the baby wanted a hug (and we give long, deep ones as a compression), I cried over her shoulder, I realize I'm not allowing myself time to process. Heck, life isn't allowing me time to process. My retreat from this blog, which I felt I didn't have time for (often true), has been like stopping therapy when I hadn't really accomplished my goals.
I'm not eating right, having trouble going to sleep, once again grappling with the idea that my 23-year-old son died all alone in his apartment, isolated in his addiction, and that we didn't even know it for days.
My mom bought me his death certificate last Saturday. It's still in the glove compartment of my car. She told me that in addition to the drug overdose which caused his death, he also had pneumonia. I haven't seen it. I cannot bring myself to look at it and to put a period on the sentence of his life that began with the birth certificate I have tucked away. Perhaps I'll hide it in the back of his baby book with his footprints and notes about his first teeth and first steps, with the lock of his baby hair and pictures of his cherub face -- here's how the story ended.
A friend of mine has his autopsy results. He works in emergency medicine and I thought would be better able to translate the terminology than I could. Plus, I wouldn't need to unsee and unknow anything. Ethan was mixing his meds, he said, and had a prescription painkiller in his system along with the chemicals from the dextromethorphan. Both were respiratory inhibitors. Both were toxic overdoses. We haven't had time to sit down together and answer any other questions. The day we had a meeting scheduled, there were multiple suicides back to back that he had to attend and I had to imagine the fallout.
I haven't processed either of those things. How does a 23-year-old with a heated home and the ability to feed himself wind up with pneumonia? Why did he think the meds he got from a friend to deal with the pain of the pneumonia were safer than going to a doctor? Why the bloody hell did he have to die all alone in his bathroom floor when so many people cared about him and he just wouldn't let anyone do anything that really meant something? How did the bright, beautiful boy I raised wind up so lost and hopeless?
Then we can move to the current generation of children. As a result of E1's late birthday and the effect her SPD has had on her small motor skills and emotional development, the decision has been made to redshirt her this year. Despite Mom changing her work schedule to better deal with school and her excitement about it, she won't be starting kindergarten as a 4-year-old in August. Instead she's likely to be attending a nearby church pre-K program the days she comes to my house so she won't be forced to sit home with the babies every day.
And a conversation with E1's therapist about her astounding progress (to us) and the fact that the one who had a tough time with beach trip was E3 resulted in the therapist suggesting SPD in the baby and all of us re-evaluating her change from a wonderful baby to a whiny, difficult toddler. She went for testing yesterday and it was confirmed. She starts therapy next week just as E1 is geared down to a semi-weekly schedule. The good news is the sooner it is detected the quicker she should respond to treatment and long term, because the adults in their lives learn management and they learn to recognize what's happening, they will be fine.
Because the disorder is genetic and because of the more than passing resemblance between E1 and Ethan in many photographs, I once again return to that disorder as something that slowly overwhelmed my son. Of course, there is no way of knowing, nothing that would show up on an autopsy or any of the many IQ and standardized tests he took while alive. It's just a feeling in my heart that had we known, had it even been a recognized and treated disorder 20 years ago, my son would have had the life he and I dreamed of and he deserved.
Then there is the fact that the schedule I'd grown used to, the one that worked for me and helped me keep my balance (perhaps I know where the SPD gene resided in my generation), has been disrupted not once, but twice. First my daughter takes the schedule shift, and the girls are no longer a part of my evenings every weekday, instead arriving bright and early every other week and by Thursdays leaving me stumbling through the day and with time to get things done on the alternate weeks (I'm not saying I don't like it overall, but it is adjustment). Then, just as I'm taking advantage of the free evenings to enjoy more time with my PiYo and Zumba companions, the studio closes for a month and I lose that entire fragile network of support where I'd been able to count on smiles and hugs and feeling for an hour or two that there were people around me who knew I was sometimes fragile and cared.
On top of that it's been so long since I've heard Ethan's voice, since I've felt his arms around me and his big bear hug, since I've heard him laugh or mimic my dad or put on one of the phony voices he'd use for fun. I may sleep in an old pair of his shorts, and keep his sweatshirt in a freezer bag to save the smell, and find myself unable to do anything with his old toothbrush, but I cannot reach him in any way. I cannot touch him and feel him. I cannot save him or myself from what happened or the path I'm now stumbling down alone.
Instead of just going on like none of those things bother me until I'm simply overwhelmed and crying on a baby's shoulder, I've got to start dealing with my grief again. If I don't give myself this time, somehow find a way to carve it out of days that feel impossible, then it's going to come back and bite me even though I thought I had it tamed.
As I've already realized, grief is a journey where the path loops back on itself time and time again. I can only hope the circles get bigger, instead of smaller like a whirlpool that sucks me down, because I know there won't be an end to the journey.