I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
“Why did you call me, Sarah?” the counselor asked.
“I have no one else to turn to,” I told her. “I don’t know how to deal with all this.”
She looked at me, hands patiently folded on her lap, eyes meeting mine, and she waited.
She already knew. I had told her on the phone. My mother died. My father is struggling both physically and emotionally. I’m living with him with my two youngest daughters, at least until the storm subsides. Staying 70 miles from home and husband puts strain on a marriage.
She moved a box of tissues next to me on the couch.
“Would you like me to talk with you about grief?” she asked.
I nodded, but I struggled to focus on all her words. They swam like minnows, darting here and there, not staying still long enough for me to really study them.
She tapped her middle finger to her forehead. “Grief is befuddling,” she said. “Don’t try to do too much.”
If only that were an option. I have so many people dependent on me.
My father has days of confusion. He doesn’t remember so many things. But if I’m befuddled, how much more-so he.
The other night Hannah was throwing up sick. I couldn’t say to her, “Could you just hold off on that while I grieve?”
In fact, though, the act of cleaning up vomit from a braided rug proved to be cathartic. I mopped everything up as best I could at 2 AM and then, the next day, I really went after it. I washed the floor multiple times with disinfectants and again with dilute white vinegar. I sponged away, over and over, at the vomit-soaked area of the rug, above and below, first trying to leech out the bad stuff, then using cleaners to neutralize anything left in it.
The counselor had used an analogy of being in an angry ocean. “The waves are tossing you around now,” she said. “You need to put on floaties.”
I wondered if she knew that I taught swimming. I’m not a huge fan of floaties.
She began listing the floaties I might avail myself of — calling on other people to help with my father so I could go home sometimes, talking more to my husband about what I need, leaning more on my brothers, crying.
“It’s okay to cry,” she said. “It’s lubricating.”
“I’m afraid if I start I won’t stop,” I told her.
Don’t get me wrong — I’ve shed tears, but I feel an ugly cry coming, and that’s what I keep fighting off.
In the end, I think grief may be more like vomit in a braided rug than using floaties in the ocean. I can work really hard to move past it, but the smell may stay for a while.
And I suppose it’s okay.
I miss my mom.