On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won't understand
"Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away"
-pink floyd "on the turning away"
Life has been difficult for me lately. I've felt a lot of blame, guilt, and sadness. Some days are harder than others, of course. There are days I rise out of bed ready to go, but then there are days in which I don't understand why things have to be the way they are. Why do they have to be so hard?
One thing is for certain: life has changed since Stephanie died.
There are those who don't know what to say, so they don't say anything at all. There are those who have simply disappeared from my life altogether. And I sit here sometimes with so much anguish in my heart that I am not sure how to handle it all.
The anniversary of Stef's death was healing, in a way, but a year didn't make it all better. I went to Wytheville, VA, to meet my son so he could get his memorial tattoo with me in attendance. I had meant to get mine, too, but I was only a week out of the hospital and was still running fevers. Besides, I had to get a tetanus shot, which I did the following week. My ex showed up with the bulldogs, which was only right. He didn't want to spend the anniversary alone, but Bodhi had been sick (and is still sick). Poor dog has MRSA and is on a lot of medication. More about that later.
Sean's tattoo experience was not uneventful. He has Asperger's Syndrome, so I wasn't sure he could actually sit there and deal with being repeatedly poked with a needle. It's hard enough for him to have a blood test. Yet he sat there and made it through getting the outline and preparing for the inner inking and shading. I left with my ex to take the dogs out (they were at the hotel) and pick up some supplies at the local drug store. When we returned, almost everyone who had been inside the shop was now outside the shop. A bevy of biker types greeted me with laughter.
"You missed all the excitement," one woman said.
"Oh, no! Did he pass out?"
"No, but almost."
Turns out he had thrown up, a little, and had gotten woozy enough that they had to lie him back in the chair. All of the artists were gathered around, watching this beautiful tattoo emerge and bonding with my son. Stephanie was a tattoo afficianado and designed most of her own. It was her world, and we never quite understood it or stepped into it. Instead, I distanced myself from the type of people she hung around. How fitting that on the anniversary of her death, I was inside a nice little tattoo shop, surrounded by people she would have befriended, letting go of my own prejudices. In fact, I got to know a woman who was there with her husband and little girl. Mostly I got to know the little girl.
She gravitated to me and we began to look through the flash books together.
"Pick out the ones you like," she commanded. "I like pink ones and blue ones."
I picked out a few that I liked on each page as she flipped it over. It wasn't until almost time to go (some 3.5 hours after the artist started on Sean) that I learned the little girl's name.
"My name's Casey," she said, "but I wish my mom had named me Madison Casey."
Precocious little thing, and she reminded me so much of Stephanie. Here was a child who was growing up around all sorts of people. She was even doing a little head-banging to a Metallica song. I remember my own daughter doing that when she'd watch her dad's band practice.
Indeed, it was fitting that I was in that place with the two other people who lost the same girl I did, watching her brother get his first tattoo. She had meant to take him to get that first one, but for whatever reason, that never happened. He combined the koi fish she wanted him to get (immortality) with a dragon (strength) that formed a yin-yang in the middle (male/female). Her full name, full birth date, and full date of death are written in script across the top. It was perfect.
My daughter taught me a lot about just letting people be who they are, with no preconceived notions about them, no turning away. I always thought I was open-minded, but she opened it a little more. I thought I was compassionate, but she taught me true compassion. I just hate that she isn't here to teach me a few more lessons.
As for Bodhi, he is at the vet's office right now, waiting on some tests to come back. He has lost 8 pounds in the last few days because he cannot keep anything down. The MRSA treatment may be at fault, or it could be something else. The bloodwork results are expected by the end of the day. Pray that he makes it. Another loss, after losing Leo and Stephanie, would be hard to take, especially for my ex, who has become very bonded to this little dog. Keep him in your prayers.
Peace - D