I lost my brother-in-law in September, a few weeks after Robin Williams in approximately the same way. For me, that caused a lot of turned-down glances, some grabbing of the face, the cutting of my hair. It was like everything slowed down and I wanted to avert my eyes from my own life, like it couldn’t have happened at all. Noises became too loud.
From then to now, there has been a spiral in my spirits, but I have plans to fix myself. “My biggest apprehension,” I say to a sibling over the phone, “is spending time working on myself, and not getting any better.”
“I totally understand,” she says. “Why go through all the damn work if you’re doomed from the start.”
In this lively, supportive, and convivial manner, my sister and I catch up. We exchange and compare our news items as they have come to us over the week: our moods, our other siblings, our parents, the newest grandchild, the weather.
“Well, you sound more up,” my sister finally says, after an hour.
“Thanks,” I say. “Happy birthday, a day late.”
If one more person dies or another relationship blows up in the near vicinity of me this year, I’m not sure I would be able to take that. My mom e-mails that my oldest cousin is in the hospital with intestinal blockage. I get my brother on the phone and we talk about how rotten it would be if another one of us gets cancer. But that’s all there’s left to do, if we’re counting numbers and keeping track. It’s going to be one after the other, one thing after the next.
I talk to a high school girlfriend I haven’t seen in months, since I’m going away soon myself and want to keep in touch. I tell her the story of my brother-in-law’s death, me still sitting catatonically on the couch like it happened yesterday, her on the phone like it couldn’t have happened at all.
“No, no, no,” she says. I imagine her eyebrows furrowed.
“That’s what I thought,” I say. We sit in steady silence, telepathically understanding one another. It is the most relief I’ve gotten out of life in a year.
I sit with my eyes swimming in tears, taking those deep breaths you take before jumping out of a plane, or saying a permanent goodbye. There isn’t anyone to talk to because I have talked to everyone already.