It has been ten weeks today since I took Hudson to the ER. Ten weeks today since I last heard her utter a word (the last two things I can recall her saying were “Bye-bye” to the nurses at the pediatrician’s office that morning, and “No” when I tried to offer her something to drink or eat later that day). Ten weeks today since I last believed that no terrible things could ever happen to me again. Ten weeks. One-fifth of a year. Almost one-eighth of the time that Hudson was with us on this earth.
I don’t know what I thought it would be like at ten weeks out. I think I imagined, definitely hoped, that this would feel both more real and less raw by ten weeks. It feels neither. There are still many, many days, including today, when I still can’t bring myself to believe that I will never see her again (at least not here on earth, and beyond that, I have no idea, only a vague hope). I look at pictures of her, of us, and I just cannot fathom how life can be going on without her in it. I cannot fathom that she is not coming back. There’s no trick of imagination my mind can play on me—I can’t imagine that she is just on a business trip or out with friends and will be back soon, because she never did anything without us—but my mind is just set against the concept. My friend Ann sent me an excerpt from a recent book review in the New Yorker. Nox, by poet Ann Carson, is what Carson calls an “epitaph” to her brother, who died after being basically estranged from her for over 20 years, and it is assembled essentially in scrapbook form. The last paragraph of the book review made Ann think of me:
When Herodotus was recounting a story he didn’t fully believe, Carson notes, he wound up “with a remark like this: So much for what is said by the Egyptians.” On the next page she has pasted a typed phrase on a slip of paper, which is folded over on itself so that we must strain to make out these sentences: “I have to say what is said. I don’t have to believe it myself.” It’s a piercing summation of the mourner’s secret position: I have to say this person is dead, but I don’t have to believe it.My secret position indeed. I have to say Hudson is dead, but I don’t have to believe it. Ten weeks later, I still don’t.
Nor does the grief feel any less raw than in the days following her death. If anything, on some days, it feels moreso. The days and weeks after Hudson died were filled with a million tasks, visits from friends, distractions of many kinds. And a protective numbness brought on by living purely on adrenalin. Ten weeks later, it is a struggle to motivate to do many things, a struggle to feel up to visiting, and distractions only work so well. Tears lurk just below the surface of every word, pain below the surface of every thought.
Ten weeks later, the rest of the world is turning at its regular pace, but our world rotates much more slowly, like we are living at the North Pole—all the times zones converge and it is just one long day or night. I have this way of thinking about time—I used to do it a lot when I was a kid, and still do it occasionally now. When I was really looking forward to something, I would think about how many more days or weeks I had to wait until the big event. Then I would count backwards in time that many days or weeks and think, “OK, great, that doesn’t seem like very long ago, so it won’t be very long until [name my favorite event.]” The last time I really remember doing this was when I was waiting for Hudson to be born. I was so ready to meet her and so burned out at work—I used this counting backwards method all the time so that I could feel better about how soon she would be here. Now, though, it works differently. I think about how many weeks it has been since Hudson died and think what she was doing that many weeks before she died and can hardly believe it. Ten weeks before she died, she was at the doctor for her 15-month checkup, impressing the pediatrician with all her words. We were still reveling in how much fun we’d had in the snow. We were looking forward to the kite festival coming up.
But even as our world keeps turning at a snail’s pace, it is turning. I still try to trick my mind into thinking differently about time. A few weeks ago, I was momentarily horrified to have counted only six weeks since Hudson died. Then I re-counted, and you can’t imagine my relief at discovering that I had counted wrong and it had actually been seven weeks. For some reason, it gave me immense comfort to know that we had survived seven weeks instead of only six—six seemed like nothing, seven seemed like something.
I don’t really know what ten weeks seems like, but here we are, I guess.