I don’t know why it’s hitting me so hard, this seasonal change. Maybe because last autumn was so hard. Tony’s mental health had already started to deteriorate by then, but the last two or three months were often spectacularly difficult. He was having what I can only describe as paranoid delusions. He feared that everyone was after him, that so many things that would have meant nothing to someone not in the throes of serious mental illness were ominous to him, signals that the world at large was sending him messages. A red tee shirt meant the person wearing it was part of a conspiracy. Anybody riding a bicycle was suspect too. Any pair of people, because the number 2 meant something. Most colors – red was the first, but as the autumn progressed other colors joined in – blue, green, pink. Toward the end, especially pink. And then on October 15th my boss called to tell me his wife had taken a terrible fall and he would be out for the foreseeable future. He was so distraught when he called that for a while, I thought she’d died and my heart broke for him. He told me that the owner of the company would be in to do the daily financial transactions, things that I wasn’t yet authorized to do.
And she didn’t show up. 9:00 came and went. 10:00 came and went. I emailed her, I called her cell phone and her home phone. No response. I knew something had to be wrong. I called her elder daughter, not realizing she was in Mexico and thus without her cell phone. Later in the day I finally called her younger daughter, who was away at college in northern California. I got her voice mail, but she called me back that evening and told me that her mother had had a stroke, and she cried and told me that I had probably saved her life. Throughout the day I could feel my back tightening, and by the end of the day it was really hurting. I had a trip planned to Seattle for the end of that week to celebrate my sister’s birthday, and by the time I got off the plane I could hardly walk. By the time I got back to San Diego it was clear something was really wrong with my back.
Tony, I think because he already planned what he would do in December, thought for a while that my injury was psychosomatic. Meanwhile, I couldn’t walk upright, couldn’t stand comfortably or sit comfortably or lie down comfortably. I had horrible pains down my legs. I thought it was sciatica, which I’d had before, but it just got worse and worse and pain meds didn’t help. Finally I was diagnosed with a herniated disk and had surgery December 6. Fifteen days before Tony died.
Autumn has always been my favorite season. But this year the cooling weather, the falling leaves, mark the beginning of the end of my first year without Tony. The mark the approach of dates that I wish I could erase from the calendar forever. The mark the approach of my birthday, tomorrow, and all I can think about that is that I’ll be 45, and Tony never will be. He never saw 43, let alone 45. He’ll never be any older.
The other things this early autumn have brought are the death of my sister’s beloved dog, CJ, who helped me immeasurably with her sweetness after Tony died; and the impending death of Tony’s mother, who last week was told she has about two weeks left to live. I was not at Laura’s when CJ died, and I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. I know she knows I loved her, just as I know that Tony knew that I loved him; but that doesn’t make it any easier. And Tony’s mom? I can hardly stand to think about that. She’s been battling cancer for nearly five years. In that time she lost most of her colon, part of her liver, and her only son. Now she is going to lose her life, soon, and I’m not sure I can bear it. I don’t want to bear it. I wrote before about walking through the fire, leaning into the pain. Now, for the first time, I truly fear it. I don’t want to think about the time leading up to Tony’s death. Already, a few times, I’ve had to type that date, December 21st, and each time it makes me want to vomit.
I can’t think about my birthday. I can’t think about the anniversary of that awful day that Tony’s life ended. I can’t think about his mother’s impending death, or about anything really. I don’t want to. I am wallowing and I know it and I can’t seem to stop. I just want someone to take this away from me, to tell me I don’t have to feel all these awful feelings. I know that’s not the way it works. But somehow, today, this fall, it’s not helping. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep going. I’ll feel the feelings. I just wish I didn’t have to.