My daughter loved puzzles, in her honor, as soon as I find a place the cats won’t push the pieces off, I plan to put one out to work on. She could sit for hours looking at the various colors and shapes, forming the corners, then the edges and filling in all the spaces in between.
My mother was a sort of a “let’s see how it all plays out” kind of person. As the oldest and somewhat control freak of a child, it drove me nuts. I started at a young age, seeing a problem and then working every angle I could think of until I found a solution. When my parents said they couldn’t send me to the University I wanted to go to, I worked out joining the military and dating it for my 18th birthday so I could eventually go to the school I wanted to go to. It didn’t quite go as planned, but it solved my problem at the time.
When my husband and I moved up from California, we were newly married with two small babies and no hope to affording our own home. I was determined to figure out if it was even possible, so with the help of a family friend real estate agent, and living 6 months with my in-laws rent-free, I ticked off all the things she said to do to qualify.
Years later our youngest daughter would be diagnosed with one of the rarest learning disabilities. Having one side of her brain with verbal intelligence higher than average and the other side that deals with non-verbal information such as where letters and numbers are in space as average causes a disconnect. No one understood it then and most do not know unless they read about it. When she was diagnosed years ago it caused me grief to know I couldn’t change it, but I knew I could help her learn to have the best possible odds with it and I set out to learn and advocate for her.
Fast forward a few more years and I battled going back to nursing school with the help of a supportive husband and four kids after being told It wouldn’t be possible to get in. I ticked off each class one by one, crying through statistics with my husband dragging me through it.
A few more years later and the challenges became harder. An eating disorder hit. I tried to learn the cause, the solution, all the ways I could help. The disease was messy, complicated rooted in genetics and control issues, but we took it head-on and did everything we could. A couple years later major depression hit my daughter and we scrambled with all the tools and help we could find, unable to see the depths of the depression, I think she wanted to spare us to some degree.
Here I am today in the wake of her passing. I write, I walk, I cry, I read, I talk, I look for answers from her, from God, and I inch forward with the huge boulder of loss I carry throughout my day, and I try and focus on my children here living and learning as my husband likes to say.
Rumors around the online grief community warned that the months after the first year were in some ways worse. I couldn’t fathom how they could be worse than the ice pick to the heart pain of the first year. As I reached the 1.5-year mark I understood some of the comments. It wasn’t so much that is was worse but more difficult in another way. It was trying to accept the fact the situation wasn’t changing, that there is no solution to this problem, there is no accommodation, nothing to make it better it just is.
As the days and months went on, I was finding it more and more difficult to sleep. I had genetic test results I had received and I kept trying to understand the pages and pages of alleles, piecing it together with other factors, trying to understand the unsolvable mystery of losing my daughter. When I did sleep I was tangled in some dream of trying to rework the situation in some sort of natural disaster trying to save my family, a flood seemed to be my brains favorite scenario. Fear of the other shoe dropping somewhere in my life has started causing me anxiety to where I find myself badgering my husband to get his 50year old colonoscopy, skin cancer check, and anything else that plagues me at 3am.
I realized my personality, the control freak, problem-solver, doesn’t compute an unsolvable problem. I was like a computer with an auto-login just continually rebooting and rebooting until I shut down, or like a DVD left in the DVD player, just playing it over and over not getting a different ending. The cause of my insomnia was and is the inability to accept the unacceptable.
My youngest girls happened to be out of town for this last weekend as I contemplated my theory. I had a list a mile long of things we needed to get done around the house. Instead, thankfully my husband loaded the kayaks on the truck instead of stomping off to home depot with me for the remodel of the girl’s bathroom that needed to be done like five years ago.
Sitting in the kayak I floated close to the edge of the river, in the shaded side. I smelled the pine trees on the wind searching with my eyes for sucker-fish along the bottom of the river. Their whiskered mouths vacuuming up whatever delicacy lies on the bottom of the riverbed, their metallic blue fin shining against the sunlight. I watched a blue heron fly effortlessly by, though his body-shape not as streamlined as some birds, leaving me to wonder how he moves so smoothly and gracefully. A butterfly flits by and out of view. I assess my emotions, for one instance I recognize the feeling, it is not joy, that is an emotion I hope to still feel again someday, but it is peace. This moment I am thankful for the quietness of my mind and for this feeling of peace, even if it lasts only for the moment.
In the nights ahead I know I will still struggle with acceptance, I am not sure when that will come. What I will try and recapture is the moment of peace I felt and hopefully, with the help of Benedryl or melatonin, tea or whatever else, I will be able to sleep leaving the unsolvable unsolved, in a dream of tiny jumping fish and hungry blue herons filling the sky.