**Written just a few short weeks after Jenny died….
I laugh when I am nervous. I laugh when I am embarrassed. I laugh at myself when I’ve been foolish. I even laugh when I am heartbroken.
I laughed the day we extubated Jenny, when we were remembering how she tried to negotiate for 3 chocolate puddings just a few precious days before. I laughed at the funeral luncheon when my mother requested they sing “The Climb” because Jenny loved it, when I KNOW she would much prefer something from Lady Gaga, Black-eyed Peas, or Pitt Bull. I laughed when my brother-in-law with a look of disbelief and chagrin broke the axe while digging Rexi-Normal’s grave. Since then, I have laughed at Elijah Almassy calling my Great Dane a cow, in honor of her coloring. I have laughed at Logan McCloskey insisting on a band-aid on his winky because there was an owie there. I have laughed at Adam Blake’s new nickname, “Destructo-baby”. I laughed when I tossed the lifeguard his water bottle and smacked him square in the face. I have laughed at Morgan and Ethan’s newest joke, “What does a chicken with a chainsaw have to do with anything?” in response to my asking them what something or other had to do with the price of tea in China.
The guilt that you feel for every happy feeling or moment after losing someone can weigh you down. So, every morning I build my wall, brick by brick, a good foundation of strength and faith with layers of perseverance and hope–my wall of protection to get me through the day, to keep me functioning. I’ve always had my wall to keep my emotions in check, to pretend or to make the world think everything is ok. Some days I get that wall up quickly, sometimes it takes all morning. Some days I get through without losing a brick, but most days the wall topples and I crumble. A shoe, an unfinished coloring picture, a song, a dance, an unbidden picture in my mind… The wall comes down and I want to know why or I feel guilt for something or I feel angry.
When the wall is in place, I am strong. I am functioning. Sometimes I am smiling or laughing. The pain has been leashed so I can get through the day. At night, I take out a few bricks and look inside. I let the sadness out, I pray, I sleep. I dream, I wake, and down comes the wall. In the morning, I start again. It does get easier, I’ve been told. Not yet, for me; but I have faith that it will.
Someone commented to me that I seemed pretty upbeat so I must not be taking it too hard. The shock and guilt that statement released in me was astounding. I have been contemplating that callous statement for a few days. I have seen people on tv who should be showing more grief. I have always felt that they had a wall, just like me. A wall to keep themselves going because without it, they cannot go on.
So, when my wall is up, I live, I smile, and sometimes, I laugh.
Twenty-seven years and four months ago after dating only four months, we presented ourselves to the Justice of the Peace and were legally bound together in the eyes of the state of Pennsylvania. Twenty-seven years ago in a redneck pageantry of color produced by my mother, we pledged ourselves to each other with God and family as our witnesses.
When I look back at the dysfunctional girl I was, I am staggered that he risked it. When considering my circus in the bargain, it is to be considered an amazing act of bravery or extreme foolishness to have embarked on this journey with me.
I remember our first “date”. It was my policy to show potential boyfriends the full extent of my circus early on. I knew from an early age that someday my brothers would be my responsibility. I knew in my teens that my mother was not training them to be self-reliant in any way. In fact, it was quite a bone of contention between us that despite her best efforts I, myself, had managed to become independent. Poor Johnnie was thrown to the wolves within hours of our getting acquainted. Now, I realize soldiers are taught to stand in battle and not flee. Maybe I am obliged to the military training that I didn’t see him fleeing out the door without a glance back never to be heard from again. It had happened so before. I knew it would take a pretty staunch fellow to withstand my mother–not to mention my future responsibility.
It is amazing to me that he could love me so much. He loved me enough to bear my mother’s impossible intrusions and destructive behavior. He loved me enough to accept that the circus would be mine, one day. He loved me enough to support my cape-wearing crusades to save the world–or as many people as I could. He loved me through EVERY heartbreaking loss of a child I determined to love and rehab. Oh, so many kids….He loved me through EVERY hard impossible moment of my adult life.
No, it hasn’t been a perfect marriage. Everyone knows we have had rough patches. It is easy to love each other through the good times. Together, we have pushed through each test of our marriage’s strength and come out the other side. Despite the impossibilities strewn like landmines through the path of our lives, here we are.
Behind every woman in a tattered cape, is a strong, loving man guarding her back. To my own personal bulwark, thank you for loving me enough to take a chance on us. I love you. Happy anniversary!