It’s cold outside and gray. The sky is the gray of lead and the air is gray with layers of soupy fog. The weather on television promised no sunshine until next week. On the short drive to our daughter’s elementary school the car’s heater chugs out streams of warm air, which she cuts off on her side of the car, leaving me a double portion of warmth. In my mind it too is gray, a fleece blanket of gray heat wrapping itself around me. Having dropped her off I briefly consider driving eight miles to get a decent cup of coffee but decide not to. I drive right back home and ready to go into the house.
The garage floor is gray, that fact penetrates my thoughts as I drive my power chair up the ramp into the house. I close the door on the grayness of the garage floor as I’ve closed it on the grayness of the world outside but I can’t close off the gray thoughts in my mind.
Grief has settled into my heart and seems determined to stay. It’s been 19 months and I should be past all this, I tell myself, but it does no good. I recall, in pieces, bits of a dream I had last night, a black and white dream fitting to my gray mood. My mother and I are talking. I can see us although I can’t make out what we’re saying. I dream a lot about her lately. She’s been in heaven almost 13 years now. I also dream of my father, not as often, he will be gone four years this coming February, just next month. In my dreams they are both still alive, still with us and when I wake I want nothing more than to pick up the phone and talk to my mother. Awake her death seems to hit me all over again but although it hurts, the hurt doesn’t linger like it did when she passed. Then it was overwhelming, the grief, the pain rocking my world and I remember that first night when I lay exhausted by the grief of that day thinking, “How is the world going on out there when our world stopped today? Don’t they know nothing is the same? It will never be the same again.”
Once in the house I want nothing more than to work my way back into bed, burrow beneath the covers and go back to sleep. My eyes are heavy with the need to just close. My mind seems detached as it reminds me of things I need to do besides sleep. The Christmas tree needs to be undecorated. I’ve got the family pictures to finish arranging and prepare for being hung, along with the last of the frames painted black. I should be on my way to Birmingham to pack up but I put it off until this afternoon. The heat is running, I can feel it blowing, but I am chilly. Again, the bed and the covers call to me.
As I move from my power chair to the bed I can’t help but be reminded of my loss. In my dreams I haven’t experienced this loss. I walk, drive, shop, and sing; all the normal activities of my prior life without the aid of anyone. The dependence I have now on someone to go with me to shop angers me. Though I can drive I can’t get out of the car and go into a place without a wheelchair. I can’t get a wheelchair out of the car without scratching the car and doing more damage to the wheelchair. Other things, such as singing in the choir or special music at church are gone, just gone.
Nineteen months. I want free of this grayness, this renewed depression but it seems to be part of my soul.
I want it back. I want to go back to those moments when the hospital staff are wheeling me out of the pre-op room and the realization I can still say no comes to my mind. If I could go back, would I say no? Yes, but to what avail? I would need to go further back and fix so many wrongs, remake so many decisions that I can’t unravel the paths of life that brought me to that operation 19 months ago. I can’t pinpoint the beginning of what resulted in the need for the amputation. Could I have gone back and turned the tide at any one place would it be enough? Again I am swept away by the realization regardless, it can’t be done.
Outside it is cold and gray. Inside, in spite of the electric lights, the heater easing away the cold it is cold and gray too. In my heart it is cold and gray. Only cold and gray everywhere…