Before, I was me. A 37-year old woman with a live-in boyfriend she wished would propose already, a dog that made us a family, a mom who's intensely watching while my maternal clock winds down, an ex-fiancee who just got married, too many married friends with kids, and a few treasured single ones who are still free on the weekends.
I also had a budding writing career, preparing to turn this blog into a memoir and, as I hinted at back in February, a new opportunity that seemed too good to be true (it was and it wasn't).
April 16 was when "After" began. It started out as a crappy day already, having received an email from Only Child (the ex that just got married), who was not happy about my recent blog post about his nuptials. I knew he read the blog, but he always said I could write whatever I wanted and it never bothered him before. But in hindsight, I admit I was just feeling hurt and regret writing it.
After emailing Only Child with a guilt-ridden apology, I went out to a long-awaited dinner with Wine Guy and two friends in San Diego's version of Chinatown- my favorite place to eat. We ordered far too much food and began chatting in happy anticipation for the feast that awaited us.
Then the phone rang. It was my brother Pat-Hole and I ignored it. Two minutes later he called again. And I knew.I quietly excused myself to take the call outside, a deafening pounding in my ears. My friends kept talking, oblivious.
When I answered I heard Pat-Hole authoritatively state my name - but then nothing. "What happened?" I asked, trying not to sound too hysterical. He made some noises, maybe said a few words, but nothing came together.
"Just tell me! Oh my God what happened?!"
It was my sister. And my 7-year old nephew. On their way to my mom's house for another nephew's 20th birthday gathering. A one-car accident on a rural highway. They're gone.
This was the same day my sister had put her beloved 14-year old Labrador to sleep and she was devastated. My brother insisted she drive up for the party. Family would make her feel better.
I somehow ended up back at the table and when I sat down, my friends looked at me like I was an alien. I was. This is "After." I'm not me anymore.
It's been 3 1/2 months and I'm only now starting to experience brief flashes of what "Before" might have felt like. But it'll never be the same. I never would've guessed that I'd miss Before once it was gone. It always felt like something I was trying to escape, like something better was supposed to come After. But it's not better here.
The freelance gig I landed at the local daily newspaper has become a regular thing and I just recently started to enjoy it again. Between that and my day job, I'm often too busy to indulge in self-pity, and I am thankful for that. And the extra money goes right in to the new house down payment fund. I give myself a pat on the back with every deposit.
In between the grief, the writing, and the desperate attempts to fall and stay asleep, I've also had more disappointing setbacks with my hip. Since my surgery in March 2009, I've experienced complications that have worsened to a point that even my normally overly optimistic surgeon was sympathizing with me. It's eventually fixable, but I have to wait it out- indefinitely. The pain is chronic, often intense and entirely exhausting. I've got a medicine cabinet full of painkillers that have my pill-popping friends drooling. But trust me, they're no fun when you really need them.
Wine Guy has stuck with me through it all. Remind me that I said this when I complain about it later, but...Fuck marriage. This guy is already my "husband" 100 times over. Better, he's my family. Things aren't perfect, but he is here and loving me as best as he can (and I'm trying to return the favor).
So you can understand why I haven't written. I feel guilty for even burdening you with this now. I shared what's been going on with a kindly co-worker last week and she burst into tears. (Better than another another friend who unwisely launched into a "Wow, that makes me really grateful for what I have in my life" speech.)
But this blog, for the most part, is about me. And I don't know how to be anything but honest in everything I do (a strength and, more often, a weakness), so there you have it. For all I know, nobody reads this blog anymore. And that's fine. But after I received a comment from a concerned reader checking in to make sure I was OK (thanks Elizabeth), I wanted to reach out to her and anyone else that might still be dropping by from time to time.
So I'm here to say this:
My world has shifted. My coordinates are off. But I'm still standing.
Right here, in this AfterWorld.
Right here, in this AfterWorld.