The Lost Year.

It has been a year since I wrote and published my last blog.  A whole year.  Even as I write that, I find it impossible to believe.  Where has the time gone?

This is what it always comes down to – the reason I don’t write.  Or, the reason I do write, get frustrated, and give up:  the ‘where has the time gone?’ question.  Not that it’s hard to be honest about it, but more that it’s hard to be accurate about it; it’s hard to explain things in words because words don’t suffice.

There is so much of this last year that I only vaguely remember – it’s all shadowy and dark and covered in fog.  The year passed in a blur of very sad things.  Devastating phone conversations, funerals, insomnia, nightmares, more funerals, difficult decisions, sifting through personal belongings, trying to make the best of things, trying to figure out the right thing to do, trying to be strong for other people, trying to find the silver lining, trying to learn the hard lessons, trying to get through the holidays, the birthdays, and working, working, working.

After a string of very sad things, it has been five months since the last very sad thing, and I’m starting to believe that maybe I’m done for a while.  Maybe the universe has finally decided to give me a break, so I can stop holding my breath and start to heal, instead of just getting good at going through the motions, at faking it till I make it.

The first very sad thing was the biggest.  If sad things were measured on richter scales, this would have been the 9.0, the earthquake that triggered the aftershocks, the tsunami, the nuclear disaster.  The first very sad thing was the death of my mother, which happened 11 months, three weeks, and six days ago.  Life was far from perfect before the ‘big one’, but it was that particular very sad thing that catapulted me into uncharted territory, and set off the chain of months that I’m calling ‘The Lost Year.’

Amidst the shadows and fog, here’s what I remember from this last, lost year.  I remember an enormous full moon – astrologers called it a monster moon– lighting up the whole sky the night of my mom’s memorial.  I remember how broken my dad looked that day, and how frail he was.  My hair was darker than the last time he saw me, and he was confused and barely recognized me.   I remember visits to Olympia where it never stopped raining, and how bad my parents’ house smelled – like old people and cancer.  I remember alternately worrying about dad, and wanting to strangle him, because he made life so hard.  I remember feeling guilty for wanting to strangle him.  I remember thinking in spite of the terminal cancer diagnosis he was going to live forever, just to torture his children and see how much devotion he could squeeze out of us.  I remember my heart skipping a beat every time the phone rang and ‘Dad’ came up on the caller i.d.  And if it was a 206 or a 360 area code (both Washington) that I didn’t recognize:  immediate panic.  I remember the 11:30 p.m. call from Capital Medical Center – a nurse on the other end – fearing the worst.  ‘Your father’s o.k., Ms. Kelly, but he’s very worried about who’s taking care of his cat.’

I remember other calls too, with my grandmother, my mom’s mom.  How confused she sounded, how sad.  I remember talking to her frequently during my commutes between North Hollywood and Venice.  I remember that she was obsessed with a sewing machine that my mom had borrowed and she wanted it back.  I didn’t know where it was, knew I would probably never find it, and knew it wouldn’t really matter.  I remember the last phone call I had with her, on Thanksgiving Day.  I was in my car, heading out to hike Fryman Canyon.  She asked what I was doing for dinner.  ‘Going to a friend’s place,’ I said.  She thought that sounded nice.  She complained about the rain, and that dinner would be late because my aunt and uncle were preparing it, and they were always, notoriously, late.

Less than three months later, back in Olympia helping my sister go through my parents’ house and handle details surrounding our dad’s funeral, I went to see my grandmother in a nursing home, a place specifically designed to care for Alzheimer’s patients.  I remember thinking how all of the residents looked like children, how my grandmother looked like a child, with barrettes in her hair and painted fingernails.  How she knew me, but not really.  How she asked where I lived and when I replied, ‘Los Angeles,’ she paused, looked me square in the eye, and said, ‘Well, no one will look down on you for that.’  I remember the call I received from my 87-year-old grandfather, on a Saturday in April, when she died.  I was in tech rehearsal for a play and didn’t answer.  His voicemail said simply, ‘Another one’s left us, Sar.’  When I called him back, he said they’d plan a low-key memorial at my grandparents’ beach home on Puget Sound – the same place where my mom’s memorial had been held –  on her birthday in late July.  Said grandpa, ‘it’s too damn cold to do anything now.’

I could keep going.  I could tell you about the worst birthday party I ever had – that I stubbornly insisted upon having – even though two of my best friends were across the country at another close friend’s funeral, a funeral that I felt guilty for not attending, but couldn’t because it was too expensive to get there, and I had a work obligation that I couldn’t get out of, and it was my birthday for godssake and really, really I just couldn’t take one more very sad thing.

I could tell you that smack dab in the middle of The Lost Year, in between all the death and the sadness, that my identity was stolen and I spent four months fighting faulty credit card charges, filing police reports, getting documents notarized, and spending hours on the phone, and that I was almost glad for the distraction because while horribly inconvenient and time-consuming, at least it wasn’t another very sad thing.

But it’s all just too much, isn’t it?  This is why I’ve kept my head down and worked hard and blocked out entire sections of time for the last 360ish days.  Because it’s too much.  I’ve learned to lie because I’ve learned to hate the look in someone’s eye when I actually do decide to tell the truth about the events of the last year.  It’s a look of pity and helplessness, but mostly, a look that says there’s something wrong with me and they’re afraid they’re going to catch it.

I’m not an idiot.  I know what’s gone is gone, and nothing can change that.  I know that like it or not, I’m different.  Too many things have happened to shape me, and change me.  But I do want to feel like I’m in charge of my own life again, that I’m not just a person that bad things happen to.  I want to be happy again, in spite of all the very sad things.  And more than anything, I want to be able to express myself, and to be able to write from my heart, again.

So here it is, after one very long year.  Thanks for reading.

Until next time, friends.

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