I had a lot to talk about, a few weeks ago. My parents came through town, we went shooting, I hosted the biggest training camp yet, ironman training has been different some more, Hunter is getting big and fat, all the normal things of my life. And then last Sunday, my grandma passed away, and none of that exactly seems to matter right now.
I was up to my neck in camp, crazy weather in Colorado meant that almost every single session on the original schedule got moved or altered due to pouring rain and then snow, I thought I was holding my shit together okay though but I woke up Sunday morning and saw that my mom had called at 3:45am and I knew. My grandma had been sick for a while, she had Alzheimer's which I know affects a lot of people in a lot of different ways but the disease is disgusting, it steals precious moments from everyone that it touches. But I don't want to talk about the last two years of her life and how she suffered. I don't even know what I do want to talk about, but I know that this space is part of how I've processed so many important moments in my life the last five years and I feel that I need to use it now. For me. To take a moment and remember.
Grief is a physical manifestation. It is heavy on my chest, it clogs my throat. It affects everyone differently, true, but the emotion is the same and I know anyone that has experienced it understands. It shows up whenever it wants to, grief is like a puppy, it's rude. It has no manners, no sense of propriety, you can be fine in one moment and the next bent over, unable to support the physical weight of sorrow, folding your heart into your knees, desperate to remain intact. I wish it could be private, I am a person that does not like showing emotion at all and I am angry by the intrusion that grief brings into my tightly controlled life.
Being home, being around my family, it helped. The end of a life is the time where all the good that you brought into the world is recalled, and my grandma brought so much. She loved me, she loved my sister, we were her only grandchildren and there is not a lot that I am certain about but God, I know she loved us. And we share so many of the same memories, the Slovak lullabies, crocheting backwards, walking on the beach in North Carolina, wrinkling her nose at my mom when she thought she wasn't looking, putting Benadryl in my grandfather's spaghetti, sleeping over Friday nights and getting three donuts - each! - on Saturday mornings. Against the backdrop of our childhood, she and my grandfather were always there. Constant. I know that everyone in my family is hurting right now, but I know that my sister is feeling a lot of the same things that I am, and there is comfort there.
The last time I saw my grandma and she knew me was when the poet and I flew home for my dad's surprise birthday party about a year and a half ago. She hugged me, and she called me by my name, and I told her that I loved her that day, I am sure of it. I talked to her on the phone over the next few months as she deteriorated, sometimes she recognized my voice and we chatted and sometimes she silently handed off the phone to my grandfather, but that was the last time I saw her while she still knew, and I have grieved that day for months. Over the past year, my family - in particular my mom and my grandfather - has had to make some difficult decisions about her health and how to take care of her, and it has been hard to watch, and to process. And the last time I was home, the last time I saw her, she was already gone. Her body was here with us, I believe that somewhere inside she was still fighting, but she wasn't free. That is what I have said over the past week, while we are all relieved that she is no longer bound to this earth in sickness, we still don't want her to be gone.
A close friend of mine had his dad pass away earlier this spring, and I hope that I am not disrespecting his mourning by mentioning it, but he is a friend that seems to understand what I need. So many friends have reached out, I am lucky to have so many people in my life that love me, but I don't want to talk to any of them and that, I know, is selfish. But he seems to understand that what I need is not words of comfort, but someone to sit beside me and simply, quietly, bear witness to my pain.
I sang at the funeral. My mom asked me to, and I said yes after rejecting her first request (Ave Maria being impossible to sing well on a normal day, not to mention ten years out of practice). Probably not many people in my life now are fully aware of my history as a musician, but it exists. My undergraduate degree is actually in opening my mouth and letting music fall out, it was a huge part of my life when I was young. And when I stood up at the pulpit I had to close my eyes to even be able to start, because I can't think of a time when I sang in church, even as a tiny little bratty kid, that my grandma wasn't there watching. It was imperfect, three verses of Amazing Grace felt like an insufficient tribute and I'm not sure how I made it through without falling apart. I hugged my grandfather, people said nice things about it to me later, they were very kind, but all I could think of was how unfair it is that power in music is so often driven by sorrow.
I have barely even thought about ironman. I don't care. Any movement I have done over the last week or so has been an attempt to be alone, an escape, and the fact that I have been moving my body at all is only a side effect. To even call it training feels like a joke, I am numb. Michelle has been supportive and kind, and that has surprised me, not because she is a jerk (she's not) but because I don't understand how to be on the receiving end of compassion, or how to allow myself the same grace. I am not making any decisions or even asking for advice from anyone about what to do or expect from Coeur d'Alene later this month, but I know one thing is true about ironman. To get through it, to run that fucking marathon, you need to care a whole lot. That's what I learned in Arizona last fall. I still care. And right now I don't care at all, and I can't imagine what it would take to muster up the energy to do so. But I am also not expending a great deal of effort worrying about it, or what is going to happen, instead I am simply letting time flow over me.
I flew home on Saturday night, and I've spent the last few days going through the motions of my life. I can work, I can do that. I can take my still-ticking QR to the shop and pick up groceries and fold laundry, I can do these things. I can show up at masters, ride quietly off the back, and inch by inch feel some stress drop away. I can go see Charlie with all my first-world problems of my bicycle and my hamstrings and the only moment where I tipped over was when I asked for one more needle in my whatever-spinatus on the back of my shoulder and he asked, how did you hurt this? swimming? and I replied, grief. Time helps, the days slide by, my friend says chop wood and carry water. Part of loving people is significantly and deeply feeling their absence, allowing it to be a loss, and the depth of my grief right now is only a testament to how lucky I was to be loved for so long, how lucky we all were.