Facing the Unfaceable

We who have lost our spouses, life mates, soul mates often have to show empathy and understanding to others rather than receiving it from them. We are the ones hurting, so why do we need to be understanding of their feelings? Because it is far easier for us to remember what it felt like to be in their situation, than it is for them to imagine what it must be like in ours.

Shortly after Jeff died, I had to let a man know of the death, though I don’t remember how I conveyed the information. It took months before I could actually say the words, “Jeff is dead.” But I do remember his response. “I know what you’re going through,” he said. “My dog just passed away.”

I stared at him, unable to process those words. To this day, his remark appalls me, though I have come to understand he was reaching out the only way he knew how.

Death is shrouded with an element of blank. It is the great unknown and unknowable, and our brains are not equipped to handle the immensity. While we are in the grip of our grief, the survival mechanisms of those around us are triggered. To avoid facing the unfaceable, people close to us will indulge in self-protective behaviors that shut us out.

Sometimes long-time friends, especially couples, draw away from us. The death of our spouse and the demise of our couplehood change the dynamics of our friendships. People fear we will now be uncomfortable in the company of couples. At the same time, they are uncomfortable with us because all unwittingly, we are a reminder of how fragile life really is.

This drawing away is often an unconscious reflex — they know we are hurting, know they feel helpless in the presence of our pain, but they don’t really know they are acting any different and certainly they don’t know why.

The jargon of grief is that of illness, of negativity, of . . . fault, as if somehow we who are grieving chose our state and now we have to overcome, heal, recover, move on, get over, return to normal. By blaming us for grieving too long, by refusing to admit that our grief is normal, onlookers to our grief can more comfortably return to their job of surviving, and leave us alone with our sorrow.

Even those who are kind to us bereft, even those who continue to be supportive, lose the urgency they had at the beginning. They cannot sustain that same level of support because grief takes way too long, and they need to focus on their own lives.

Despite these protective behaviors and the almost bumbling way people treat the bereaved, and despite my occasional acrid comment about the insensitive things people say to grievers, people do care, and they do want to say the right thing. In the last couple of days, more than 3,300 people landed on my blog post What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving at Christmas? after Googling such things as “how to say Merry Christmas to someone who is grieving.” “how to wish someone a Merry Christmas after a loss,” “Christmas greeting for grieving person,” “how to wish Merry Christmas to someone who is grieving.” In fact, since I posted that particular blog in 2011, more than 80,000 people have viewed the article.

Many thousands more have viewed What to Say to Someone Who is Grieving.

The true villain here is death. While the very idea of death drives non-grievers away, it draws us grievers in, forces us to face the unfaceable, makes us an accomplice. And yes, even allows us to show empathy to those who don’t understand but who try to show sympathy the only way they can.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Dreaming of Our Dead

A friend told me the other day that she reads my blog, and she agrees with all I say about grief, but that I never mention one thing: dreaming of our dead.

The truth is, I hate dreaming. I don’t like the feeling of weird and inexplicable things happening, I don’t like the feeling of being out of control, and mostly I don’t like being controlled by any nightmarishness. Researchers say that to aid in dream recall, one should take Vitamin B6 before bed. When I read that, I immediately stopped taking any B vitamins before bed, and that certainly aided in my ability not to recall dreams.

That being said, I have the impression I do dream of Jeff, though mostly as a reflection of my everyday thoughts. He is seldom far out of mind, so it makes sense that he would appear in my dreams as a nebulous character.

There were times, though, that I had specific dreams about him, and those were terribly upsetting. One dream, for example, seemed to be about the end of his life when he was so often disoriented. He was trying to cook something, and he continued pouring whatever it was into the pan after the pan was filled, getting the food all over the stove, him, the floor, even me. I tried to catch his attention so he’d stop, and when I couldn’t, I slapped him to bring him back to reality.

I woke feeling ashamed. I’d never raised a hand to him, never even raised my voice, and yet, in the dream, I did both, and I couldn’t bear it.

Dreams about the dead seem inordinately real. Sometimes they feel like a visitation. Once I dreamt that he came into my room, stood at the foot of the bed and touched my blanket-covered feet, then climbed onto the bed, on top of the covers, and cuddled up to me. He was in his underwear, and in the dream, I knew he’d come from where he’d been sleeping, though I had the impression he’d been with someone, as if he had another life. He said, “I miss you.”

When I woke, I felt as if he’d come to see me one last time, though I have no idea what is true when it comes to life, death, and especially dreams.

Even when we know it’s a dream, what happens in the dream affects our waking life. Once I dreamt we were going somewhere on foot, and I realized that it would be cold before we got back, so I went inside to get a coat. In my closet were two of his coats — a jacket and a trench coat, which I have in fact kept. As I was pulling the jacket off the hangar, I remembered that I had gotten rid of most of his things after he died, and I panicked, wondering how to tell him that his stuff was gone. I left the room, and met one of the moderators of the grief group I had attended. He asked how I was, so I explained the situation, then I added, “It’s a good thing this is a dream, otherwise he would be really angry.”

When I woke, I was still glad I didn’t have to tell him his things were gone even though I had done what he wanted me to do with his stuff. The reason I still have his coats is that he wanted me to keep them since coats are always a good thing to have.

The most powerful dream came at about six months. After a restless night, I finally fell asleep in the early morning hours, and I dreamt.

I dreamed that Jeff was dead, but I woke to find him alive and getting well. It was wonderful seeing him doing so much better. I could feel the tension of grief seep from my body, and a quiet joy seeped over me.

I started to wake. In the seconds before full consciousness hit, I continued to feel the joy of knowing he still lived. And then . . .

Wham!

The truth hit me. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. Then, like an aftershock, came the raw pain, the heartbreak of losing him . . . again.

I’d been feeling a bit smug that I was getting a grip on my grief so early in the process, and the dream caught me unaware. In the depths of my being, I believed that he hadn’t died.

It took me weeks to regain the equilibrium that the dream cost me.

When it comes to grief, it seems as the dreams are a facet of our reality. What we feel in the dream continues into our waking state. There is no separation. Even if in a dream we act a way we would never act, we still have to deal with the effects of those acts once we wake. If the deceased in the dream acts in a way they would never act, we are left to deal with that, too.

Although I would love to visit with Jeff once more, if only in a dream, I’m just as glad it never happens. Except for an occasional brief episode of grief, I am in an okay place, both physically and mentally, and any sort of visitation would upset that equilibrium.

Maybe that’s why he never visits me in my dreams. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s why I never dream of him.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

A Toast to Mother

Today is the twelfth anniversary of my mother’s death. I have thought about her more since I moved here to my new home than in all the years I lived at her house.

Admittedly, by the time I got to her house to take care of my father, it wasn’t really her house any more. During the last nine months of her life, she’d cleared out all of her things, and returned all the presents we’d given her over the years. (As one sister said, “If I had known we’d get this stuff back, I’d have given her better gifts.”)

There were a few things left that reminded me of her, like the cupboard full of unmatched stemware. I kept those goblets, and so now I too, have a cupboard of unmatched stemware. I also kept a few interesting utensils, ones that I didn’t already have, and a tiny cutting board, just perfect for cutting an apple. Also a few bits of furniture.

Ah ha! Now I know why I think of her so much. After my father died, I’d packed away the gifts she’d returned to me along with the few pieces I kept when I closed out their house. Now those things are part of my daily life, and every one of them reminds me of her.

When I got my first apartment, I asked her for the recipes that I especially liked — things like pierogis, tuna roll with cheese sauce, and hamburger rolls (known to others as Runzas or bierocks). I found it interesting that I was the only one of my siblings who had those recipes, so several years ago, I made each of my siblings a “Taste of Childhood” recipe book, which included those recipes as well as a Friday staple of our youth: creamed tuna and peas on toast. (Sounds disgusting but was actually quite tasty.)

I didn’t copy all of her cookie recipes. Neither cherry winks nor date nut pinwheels were favorites of mine when I was young, but luckily, my sister kept them, thinking that mother’s treat recipes shouldn’t be thrown away so now I am collecting some of the recipes I didn’t back then. Also, I imagine that at the time I got that first bunch of recipes, I wasn’t considering the distant future when she’d be gone.

Well now, she is.

She wasn’t much of a drinker, though she did love Bailey’s Irish Cream, so in honor of her this day, I offer a toast — in a Bailey’s glass that once belonged to her!

Here’s to you, Mom. I hope your new life is what you’ve prayed for.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Remembering

It’s amazing to me that after seventy-six straight days of blogging, I can forget to blog. I didn’t actually forget because here I am, and it’s not quite the end of the day. The truth is, I am here only because I happened to catch a glimpse of my note reminding me to blog. I’ll probably have to start leaving myself a note reminding me to remember to look at the note reminding me to blog.

Not that it’s important — I’m sure you wouldn’t mind a day off from my mental meanderings — it’s just that I challenged myself to write a blog every day for one hundred days, and it’s the one challenge I’ve ever managed to complete. (This is the second time I’ve done this — the last time, once the hundred days were finished, I kept going for four years!) It seemed like a good idea back then, but right now? Not so much. I’m too tired to make sense of this day.

I spent most of the morning and afternoon baking, and now my freezer is filled with cookies, not just those I made today, but those I made a couple of weeks ago.

It’s strange to be doing all this baking. I don’t usually keep things like flour and sugar on hand because I try (not very successfully) to stay away from both wheat and sugar, and if I have treats on hand, I eat them. I don’t know where this urge to bake has come from. Maybe it has to do with having my own grown-up Suzy Homemaker kitchen. Maybe it’s because I’m remembering my mother, which I have often done ever since I got this house. I’ve been especially interested in making the cookies she used to make at this time of year, like Cherry winks and date nut pinwheels.

I’ve been remembering my father, too. Some friends invited me to a VFW Auxiliary dinner this evening, with the hopes that I would join the organization. My father’s Navy service in World War II would make me eligible . . . maybe. He didn’t serve in a foreign country, unless the Bermuda triangle can be considered such — he was one of those tasked with trying to track down the planes that disappeared in that area. More than that, he was a great one for making notes to help him remember, so every time I make a note, I remember him.

Now that I think about it, I’ve been remembering all my dead — not just Jeff and my mother and my father, but also two of my brothers. The memories seem strong here where I now live, though this is neither a house nor an area where any of them have ever even visited. But I am here. And the memories came with me.

I might need notes to remind me of certain things, such as writing a blog, but I do not need a note to remind me of all those who are gone.

I remember.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

All I Have Lost

Grief seldom visits me anymore, but last night, I couldn’t keep the tears from falling. I thought I’d gone through all the firsts — first Christmas after Jeff died, first birthday, first everything. But there was one first I hadn’t expected.

I’d gone to a women’s club Christmas dinner, and it turns out that husbands were invited. In all the years since Jeff died, although I’ve often been in the company of married women, this was the first time I’ve been in a group with mostly couples. I had no idea that such a first would be a problem. But it was. Since the couples wanted to sit together, I got shunted toward the end of the table, between two husbands, both of whom were faced away from me.

I didn’t know any of the men at the dinner, barely knew the women, didn’t know any of the people they talked about, didn’t understand any of the local issues they discussed, so there I sat . . . alone. Toward the end of the evening, a couple of women made the effort to talk to me, so I was able to keep my tears in check, but as soon as I got home, I started crying.

I thought I was over this part, this feeling out of place in a coupled world. I’ve been spoiled in that most of my new friends are widows (or once were widows). There is no feeling of being a third wheel or fifth wheel or any sort of wheel when I’m with them, so the feeling of being superfluous hit me hard. I’m still feeling sad and unsettled. In a little over three months, it will be ten years that Jeff has been gone. It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve lasted this long. It doesn’t seem possible that I can still feel so bad and for such a silly reason.

I’ve been doing a good job of looking forward instead of back, of not lamenting all I’ve lost, but last night, it was simply too much. I wanted go out into the dark and scream about the unfairness of it all, wanted to wail, “But I didn’t do anything wrong.”

But death doesn’t care about fairness. Death doesn’t care about rightness or wrongness. Death came ten years ago, and sometimes, like last night, I can still feel the cold winds of grief it left behind.

Part of me feels as if I’ve been playing a game, playing house, playing at being sociable, and I was suddenly brought back to the reality of my aloneness. Luckily, there’s nothing I have to do today, so I can find my center again before I once more put on my smile and act as if this life is what I wanted all along.

Don’t get me wrong — it is a good life. But sometimes, oh sometimes, I can’t help but think of all I have lost.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

My Life as Told by a Set of Dishes

My Christmas presents the year I was in sixth grade were a used Featherlight sewing machine that my father bought from someone he’d recently met, a set of Melmac dishes that had been a giveaway at Safeway (one piece each week with a purchase), and a new school uniform.

I was pleased with these gifts, even the uniform. My uniforms were the only clothing that was ever bought specifically for me; generally, I wore hand-me-downs from a tiny cousin. (And boy, did having the seams let out to the maximum give me a bad body image at an age when most girls were barely aware of their bodies!)

Back at school, when kids asked me what I got for Christmas, I told them. All day, I could see kids huddled together, glancing at me, and I could hear their tittering. As often happened during those years, I had no idea what I did to make myself a figure of fun. One day, though, a friend came to the house, and with a snicker, she asked to see my gifts.

The snickering stopped when she saw the real sewing machine and the grown-up set of dishes. Apparently, she along with all my classmates thought I got a toy sewing machine and a child’s set of dishes, and they’d been making fun of my childishness.

After that, they still gave me the cold shoulder, which taught me that people blame the victim when they have erred. Apparently, too, being given toys at the advanced age of eleven was infantile, but being given grown-up stuff was plain weird.

I kept the sewing machine until after Jeff died, but I couldn’t keep all three of my sewing machines — my Featherweight, an additional Featherweight that had been handed down to me, and the Pfaff that I had bought in my early twenties when I managed a fabric store. Selling those two Featherweights cheap was a mistake — it turns out they were worth 50 times what I sold them for, and even worse, the Pfaff is so heavy, now that I am getting older, I can barely lift it. (It is solid metal, and I mean SOLID.)

As for the set of dishes, I still have them. They were a source of contention that last year of Jeff’s life. As he pulled away from me, I pulled away from the hurt of his pulling away, and I did not want him to use my plates. The Melmac plates are a nice size, so we used them even more than the Corelle dishes we purchased together since the Corelle plates were too big. But that year, I got concerned about knife gouges and food stains, so I asked him not to use them. But he still did. He liked using things in rotation, so I put Melmac plates at the bottom of the stack. He still used them.

It seems silly now all the emotion I invested in protecting those silly plates. I felt guilty, too, at my selfishness. It took me years to realize the symbolism. I couldn’t protect him, couldn’t protect myself from the pain I was going through at the time, couldn’t protect myself from the grief I would feel after he was gone, but I could protect those plates! But I couldn’t even do that. He simply did not understand what I’d asked of him, and if he did understand, he didn’t remember. Now I know that the cancer that had spread to his brain caused the problem, but at the time, I thought he was being . . . I don’t know . . . inconsiderate, maybe. I don’t use the dishes much any more. Perhaps I’m still protecting them. Or me.

I vaguely remember also having a problem with his using my silverware. (Stainless steel flatware, actually, that had been a giveaway at the bank when I was in my late teens and early twenties — one piece for each deposit). Jeff and I had always intermingled the household things we each brought to the relationship, but for some reason that last year, he began exclusively using my spoons. I preferred those spoons to his because they were a bit narrower and thinner, and seemed to fit me better. Maybe as he got sicker, they seemed more comfortable to him, too, but it left me having to use his thicker spoons, and I resented it. The irony is that after he died, I started using his flatware, and that’s what I mostly use now.

Do you see a pattern here? A set of dishes that’s lasted this long with only one cup missing and a couple of chips on the edge of one small plate. Flatware I’ve used practically my whole life and still use. A sewing machine I bought decades ago and still have. A car I bought new forty-odd years ago and still drive. Could be those kids back in grade school were right — maybe I am a bit weird.

It does seem odd though, that these things are still here, while both my parents, two brothers, and Jeff are gone.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

Good Deeds Going Awry

It’s really a joy being part of a community. I’ve had a bad cough the past week, and in the past few days, more people brought me soup and crackers or offered to run errands than in all the time I was housebound with my mangled arm.

I’m not worried about paying the favors back or fore (I know the common phrase is “pay it forward,” but that terminology only works if one also says “pay it backward,” and we don’t.) When people need help that I can give, I will do so — it’s all about being part of the community.

Or is it?

I recently watched the movie Pay it Forward. (If you haven’t seen the flick and want to, don’t read ahead. Major spoiler!!)

The movie is about a kid who gets the idea of doing good for people and then having them pay it fore rather than back. As a concept, it’s kind of cool, as long as the person who did you the favor knows you’re going to pay it to someone else rather than to them. (Not that we do favors for others expecting to be paid back, but it is nice when they in turn do favors for us — it helps cement the community bond.)

The kid ends up dead (he tried to rescue a friend from bullies, and got knifed). The finale of the movie shows hundreds of people coming to the house bearing flowers and candles. What was supposed to be a tear-jerking moment, showing all the people whose lives the kid had touched, just made me shake my head. There is no way such a display could bring more than a momentary comfort to the mother. In the cold light of day (and the dark of night), she would rather have her son than this evidence of his impact.

I also had to shake my head at this proof of the old adage: no good deed goes unpunished.

The movie reminded me of a CSI show in which Grissom told a story about a guy who found a spider swimming in his toilet. For a couple of mornings, the guy watched the spider struggling to survive the maelstrom of flushing. One morning, the guy decided to rescue the spider. He took it out of the water and set it on the floor. The next day, he found the spider dead. “Why,” Grissom asked, “did the spider die? Because one life impinged on another.”

Yep. No good deed goes unpunished. In the movie, the doer died, in the show, the do-ee did. Generally, no one dies after doing good deeds, but occasionally, as in these examples, the good deed backfires. Sometimes the favor leads to demands and expectations, and when those expectations aren’t met, the benefactor is seen as an evil-doer rather than a do-gooder. Other times the punishment is benign: people resent the interference or are simply ungrateful.

Come to think of it, the destruction of my arm that I mentioned above is another example of a good deed being punished — if I had stood my ground and not done the dance performance as I wished, I’d still have a perfect arm, but because I did a good deed (performed in place of someone who couldn’t make it) I have a humpty-dumpty arm.

I just hope no one is going to be punished for bringing me soup and crackers. I certainly appreciate the favor, don’t resent it, won’t expect more than what was offered.

I’ll pay the favors both fore and aft.

And I’ll hope that none of our good deeds go awry and that we all survive intact.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Generally Considered Safe

After seven months of living in my new community, yesterday I got friend requests on Facebook from a slew of people I’ve met here. It’s lovely, of course, being connected in myriad ways to people, especially when once has hermit tendencies as I do, but . . . (You knew there was a but coming, didn’t you? With me, there always is.)

But . . . once people I know in offline life start seeing me in online life, I have to be more circumspect in what I blog about lest I inadvertently hurt someone by a thoughtless word, or alienate with an ill-advised observation.

This is especially true in a small community where most of the people have known one another their entire lives. I learned that lesson shortly after I moved here. Someone asked me about an activity I had participated in, and I said it was nice except that one particular person monopolized the conversation. It turns out that the monopolizer was a good friend of the woman I was talking to. Oops.

So I try to be careful even in my thoughts because I am one of those people who, if I’m comfortable, will say whatever comes to mind. And after having opened up about my grief and other private matters the past ten years, I tend to be comfortable almost everywhere and with almost everyone.

The solution, until I get comfortable with my posts being available to new friends as well as old, is to be careful what I write.

Local weather is generally considered safe to write about and in fact is something I’ve been thinking about of late. For weeks, I checked the forecast, and the forecast was always the same — high temperatures until about October 21, followed by weeks of temperatures in the 60s. The first day the temperatures slid down the 60s, I planted my bulbs, and it’s a good thing. I don’t know what happened to all those weeks of 60 degree weather, but somehow they evaporated. The current forecast shows frigid temperatures for a long time to come.

Today was a gorgeous day — deep blue skies and warm temperatures. By Monday we might have snow, and by Wednesday, we’ll be down to a low of 2 degrees. Nope. That’s not a typo. 2 degrees. Almost 0. Brrrrr!

I’d hoped to have my garage foundation finished by now to give me a protected place for my vintage VW, but with this forecast, who knows when the contractor will get to it. I just hope he manages to stop by to insulate my kitchen pipes before the freeze hits.

Thanks to everyone who takes a peek at my blogs. I appreciate all of you, even if I do have to be especially nice on this blog for a while.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

What Did You Do When You Were Dead?

I saw an appalling movie last night — the 2004 film Birth with Nicole Kidman.

The premise is a perennially interesting one: a reincarnated soul remembers who he’d been and tries to reconnect with his old life. In this case, though, the premise is the only thing that was interesting. The movie tried to be a thriller (I think), and to the extent that it was a perfect example of a folie a deux (where two people share a delusion, and in the end they make each other crazier), it succeeded. It also tried to be uber mysterious and only managed to be annoying, especially with the long, long, long close-ups of alternately Kidman and the kid. The movie might have been fun if the kid had been charming, but he came across as an incipient serial killer. Which, I’m sure, was intended.

But none of that is important to this blog except as an introduction to the question the movie poses: what would happen if a ten-year-old boy showed up at your door and claimed to be your dead husband?

What struck me is that the kid, even if he were the husband reincarnated, would not still be the husband. Do the words, “To death do us part” ring a bell? And he’s a ten-year old kid. He might have memories of being someone else, but in the end, he’s only ten, and still needs his mommy.

If this kid came to my door claiming to be Jeff, I’d probably be interested, but in no way would we be able to continue the relationship we once had. He’d be ten years old, for cripes sake. He might have the memories of being Jeff, but he wouldn’t be the man I loved — wouldn’t have the same mind, the same smile, the same thoughts and inclinations. He wouldn’t be the mature, even-tempered man I knew. He wouldn’t be an adult, and by the time he was, I’d probably know first hand what it was like to be dead.

For sure, he wouldn’t be someone I could be the old “me” with. He might be resurrected, but the part of me that died with him would still be dead.

If he truly was Jeff, we would sit down and reminisce a bit, maybe catch up on what we’ve been doing the past ten years. “Hey, Jeff. What did you do when you were dead? How did death treat you? How did it feel? Did you have fun? Did you learn anything? Did my grief bother you?” But, wait — he’s ten years old, which means he’d have been immediately reincarnated. He wouldn’t have had a whole lot of experience being dead, which wouldn’t leave us much to talk about since I wouldn’t particularly care about his experiences in the womb or being a small child, or his problems as a young boy (except to hope that this childhood was more pleasant than his previous one).

If he were Jeff, he’d be glad to know I was doing okay, but he wouldn’t put me in the position of being responsible for him. He wouldn’t stalk me. Or make me crazy. There’d be no thriller, no chiller, no folie a deux in our reunion. Definitely there’d be no creepy bathtub scene. I don’t have a bathtub, and even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. Taking off his clothes and getting in the tub with me would be the last thing on his mind.

We’d just talk, and when we finished our chat, he’d wish me well, tell me he loved me, and then he’d let me go.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Plots and Plats

During the past few days, I’ve seen movie trailers on Facebook that are all about guns and killing, seen ads for games focused on killing one’s opponents (both human and cartoonish monsters), started a movie that began with a cyborg war, and I read a so-called romance that was nothing but a guy manipulating/abusing a woman because even though she repeatedly said no, he knew she really loved him and keeping after her was the only way to get through to her.

At the same time, whenever I’ve gone on Facebook, I’ve seen many anti-gun rants, anti-men rants, anti-everything rants. Well, anti everything but violent movies and books and games. Those seem entirely acceptable.

And yet people blame guns alone for real-life killings. And yet they say the violence people see every day, the violence their lives are steeped in have no affect on what they do.

How can it not have an effect? If an impressionable youngster (or oldster) sees how easy it is to get rid of a problem by blowing it away, why wouldn’t they attempt it? Especially since, in the violent fictional world, those blown away never truly die. They are resurrected for movie after movie, or game after game.

And how can young folk believe they have the power to say no (and that others have the need to heed the “no”) when they so often see that no means yes?

There is a growing movement in our culture today toward all dark and light without shades of gray, though one person’s dark is another’s light and vice versa. (This sentence is a graphic example of the dichotomy I am talking about. I originally wrote our world today is “all black and white,” but I feared some would see in this rant a racial slant that wasn’t intended, so I had to change my wording.)

It used to be that the two sides of a political or cultural discussion were more about ways to achieve the shared goal both sides wanted, but today, the goal itself is up for grabs. Making things more confusing, many of the folk (for example) who are attempting to make guns illegal are the very ones who are cashing in on the gun-ridden movie business.

I’m not sure I would even have noticed how truly bizarre and confusing all this is if I hadn’t been spending way more time off line than on. Maybe my life, my world, is so much less confusing than it’s been for the past decade that I am more aware of the confusion in the not-me world. Maybe I’m seeing a bigger picture and am not so swayed by those who wish me to focus on a single aspect of a situation. Maybe . . .

Maybe I should go back to talking about my house — which is still a sheer joy — and ignore the confused signals being blasted into the ether.

My neighbors and I have been trying for the past two months to figure out where our property lines are. (Apparently, the county assessor’s office knows how big the various properties are, but have no indication of property lines.) It wasn’t a big issue because we are all rather easy-going, but still, I needed to know where to put a fence. So I had my property surveyed. When I got the finished plat, all confusion was gone. We now know exactly where we stand. (Two feet to the north of where we thought we stood.)

I find the plat fascinating. At a glance, I can see every aspect of my property and how it fits in the whole, which made me think how nice if every confusion or dilemma were resolved so easily — if instead of political and cultural plots, we had plats.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.