Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Wrinkles 'Round My Baby's Eyes

Truth be told, I am not a man blessed with many natural gifts. I am not particularly handy -actually I am hardly handy at all. I am not particularly athletic. I am the height that I have read is the average height for men in these United States, which makes me neither particularly tall or particularly short. And for years, my weight has yo-yo'ed. Sometimes I look particularly round and on rare occasions I have appeared a bit gaunt, but unlike that hard to find bowl of porridge or bed, I am rarely just right.

About the sole talent with which I am imbued is my ability to solve problems. As an attorney, much of what one is paid to do is problem-solve. This is particularly so when one is a litigator. All of the folks who I represent have made my acquaintance because they have a problem - they are being sued. In civil litigation, there are any number of ways to solve a client's problem. The trick is to know which way will work for a particular client in a particular set of circumstances. For better or worse, it is a trick I perform well.

The secret to my success - such as it is - is that I lack a "panic button". There are many emotions that play a predominant role in my life but panic is not one of them. Candidly, given the value of time and its eternally short supply, it boggles my mind why anyone wastes his/her time in the company of panic. All panic does is forestall the inevitable, which is trying to figure out how to solve a particular problem for if there is a problem laying squarely in front of you and your initial reaction to it is panic, then once you have finished having your "moment" two constants remain. First, the problem that you allowed to scare you witless remains before you. Second, you still have to devote the time and energy necessary to solving it - except now you are down a quart or two, having spent whatever energy you spent in panic mode. Energy is like time. Once expended, it is never coming back.

Sometimes however even the best problem-solver runs into a problem he cannot fix. Such is the case 'neath the snow globe these days. In the immediate aftermath of the death of her mom/her best friend Sue, Margaret is struggling. While that is not surprising, the depth of her despair is more than a bit unsettling. She confessed to me the other day that she dreads both the early morning and the late evening. No confession was necessary unfortunately as she wears the pain of her loss on her face - and in her eyes. Even one as obtuse as I am can see it.

The most frustrating thing for one accustomed to solving that which ails others is the feeling of being powerless to solve a problem for the one I love most of all. I have had an experience similar to the one Margaret is living through presently. My father has been dead for 2/3 of my life - dying as he did when I was fourteen.

Yet, watching how hard Sue's death has been on Margaret, I wonder if I had been wrong thinking, as I have for these past twenty-eight years that a parent's death is harder for a child to handle when the child is still a child. I had issues as a teenager dealing with the death of my father - with whom I had a contentious relationship. There was nothing extraordinary about my relationship with my father I suppose. And perhaps had he lived through the completion of my teenage years, then where there was no relationship at age fourteen we might have found one by age twenty-one. He did not. And therefore we did not.

And for the past (almost) thirty years I have wondered what could possibly be worse than a kid dealing with the death of a parent (other than the readily apparent dealing with the death of both parents). Sadly, I think I have found the answer. Whereas my old man and me simply co-existed by the time he died, Margaret and Sue were - in the immortal words of Forrest Gump - like peas and carrots, carrots and peas. Sue's death has rocked Margaret on any number of levels and the sadness that is located front and center in my bride's eyes as she goes through her day-to-day routine reflects that profound sense of loss.

It is a sense of loss that I appear powerless to help her overcome. I tell her what one tells another in the wake of a loved one's death, which is that a day will come when she feels something other than awful every second of every day. But the journey from here to there is a tricky one. It is one of indeterminate length. It is hard. And there are no signposts along the roadside to tell you when you have reached your destination. Suddenly, there you are.

And since I know not how long it shall take her to get there and I know not what hints will appear to let her know she is approaching it, I am woefully ill-equipped to solve my wife's problem. A worse feeling I cannot possibly imagine.

-AK

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