Shortly after Bobby passed away someone told me that I should expect to grieve for at least two years. Two fucking years! It seemed like such an amazingly long time to feel the way I was feeling at that time. I could not imagine that horrible sorrow staying with me for so long. But here we are, two years later and that person was right. I am still grieving. But that person was also wrong. When you lose someone close to your heart, grief never truly goes away. There is no day that comes when you suddenly don’t think of them anymore and there is no moment when you suddenly stop missing them.
Grief. It’s an invisible rider. A rider that slyly let’s you think you are in control of your emotions when all the while it is lying in wait to take the reins. It may ride with you so quietly that at times you forget it’s even there. It will sit silently allow you to laugh at movies and enjoy lighthearted conversations with friends. It will let you shop for groceries without incident. It will allow you to tap your foot and sing out loud to a song. It will let you snuggle up on a cold day and read a book. It will let you take pleasure in the little things in life. It will let you think that it is gone. It is not gone. From out of nowhere, and without warning, it will spur you so viciously that you lose your breath. You begin to shake. The tears start flowing with the same burning intensity that they did on the day that you lost your loved one. Grief does not call ahead. It does not knock. It does not announce it’s arrival. And it certainly does not bear gifts. Grief is a rude mother-fucker indeed.
Grief never truly stops being a part of our lives when we lose a loved one. It’s always there. We just have to learn how to live with it and how to manage it.
Am I just as sad today as I was the day Bobby died? Yes. My sadness just doesn’t show through as often or as fiercely as it did in the beginning. But when it does come out, it reveals itself in exactly the same ways that it did two years ago. The difference is how I react to it today. When something triggers a memory and the tears begin to flow, I just fuckimg let them. It feels better not to fight them. They are a part of me now and I have accepted that. However, the tears flow silently now. The body wracking sobs that once dropped me to my knees; clutching my stomach with one hand and covering my eyes with the other, have not shown themselves in quite some time. For that I am thankful.
I still cry when “Wild Horses” comes into play on my iPod, yet I cannot bring myself to delete it. I still wear his “I heart NY” t-shirt to bed at night. I still drink my coffee from his “I heart NY” coffee mug that I found in his office. I also refuse to let my husband remove that mug from the house to take on his morning drive to work for fear it would not come back to me at the end of the day. I sit in Bobby’s recliner and look at the houseplants that I saved from his home in Colorado and wonder why they are alive and he is not. But it does no good to question such things. I just have to accept that this is how things are and there is no changing any of it. This is my new normal.
The chair will age. It will wear out and become useless. It will most likely, be discarded and become forgotten. The shirt will become threadbare and un-wearable. The mug is made of a fragile material and will, most likely, break in time. But the memories I have are not fragile and they will last. They will not wear out. They will not break. They will not be discarded. And they will most certainly never become useless. For my willing heart and my ability to hold on to those memories and feelings is absolutely unbreakable.
Some of the things that trigger memories of Bobby don’t make me cry at all. Whenever I see a Burger King, I think of Bobby and giggle. I giggle because it reminds me of something that he did so many years ago. Bobby stole The Burger King. I mean he stole the gigantic, hollow, fiberglass face of The Burger King that covered the speaker box at the drive through in Montrose. He took it back to our house and drilled two eye holes in it. He then hopped in his Corvette with the top down and went through the McDonald’s drive through dressed up as the Burger King, ordering Whoppers. I remember laughing so hard when he did that. The fact that the King lived in our basement for many years after that makes me laugh even more. I treasure that memory because it is quintessential Bobby: a funny fucker. If you’re reading this, MPD, you can close the books on that one now. You’re welcome.
I smile and think of him whenever I see a corvette. I think of that amazing car of his that he loved so much, not only because it was his fathers; an Uncle I never knew, but because hey, it’s a 1966 Convertible Stingray and it’s fucking badass. I smile now, thinking how his son has it and cherishes it just as much as Bobby did. After Bobby died, Bruce and I stayed in his house in Colorado for several weeks before moving to Seattle. So many times I would find myself in his garage just sitting in that car, touching the aged steering wheel, looking at the gauges on the dashboard, noting the mileage recorded on the odometer, taking in the smell that only comes from vintage cars and thinking about him as tears streamed down my cheeks.
Bobby came to live with us in Colorado from New York when he was of high school age. I was about seven or eight years old at the time. He came from bad ass New York to farm town Colorado. He resented the hell out of that shit and he voiced it often. He was, of course, way cooler than me and everyone else. How funny it is now to think back to when our two horses, Britches and Patches, escaped their corral and went missing and Bobby was the one who was crying. Myself and everyone else in the family knew that the horses did not go far and we would have them back soon. The big city boy didn’t know how quickly a farm community would track down the horses and have them safely home. He was so not the New York bad-ass that he claimed to be that day.
I do not have the same set of beliefs that I know most of (if not all) my family possess. I do not believe in a god or a heaven. I get no feeling of comfort by “knowing they are in a better place” because I cannot imagine where that place is. It just isn’t real to me. I do, however, respect those who do have a belief in those things. If a belief and a faith in something makes someone feel better and makes their heart happy, I respect that to no end. By revealing my lack of faith in religion, I can only hope for the same respect in return. I don’t know what happens to people when they die. What I do know is that they are no longer where we want them to be; which is here with us. I hope that the energy that their body held is released and absorbed somewhere where it is needed. I hope that their good energy goes to good people and their bad energy, if they possessed it at all, goes away forever.
I miss my cousin very much. I miss him everyday. In two years, not one day has gone by where I haven’t thought about him and the life he had. I think about his amazing love for his two children. I think about how hard he worked to get where he was and to build the life he had. I think about how tragic his death was and how he was far too young to die. I think about how my life was shaped by him being in it; and forever changed by him leaving it. Sometimes when people refer to him they say he was my cousin. That’s not how I think of him. He is my cousin. He’s just my cousin who isn’t here anymore but will be in my heart for as long as I live.
Bobby had flaws. He had flaws just as we all do in one way or another. He had his proverbial demons and he made some mistakes. But those flaws and those mistakes do not define who he was as a person. He is defined by the love we all knew he had for us and the goodness in his heart that I know to have been soul touching, honest, and real.
I chose the song below for this post for two reasons. First, because shortly after Bobby died, myself and several others were at his good friend Rudy’s house. Rudy, like all of us, felt the devastation of Bobby’s passing and seemed almost inconsolable this particular night. He played this song for us and we sat there in his garage, crowded with motorcycles, and cried together. The words of this song have stuck with me ever since. I also chose it because I believe when we cry over the loss of someone we love, we are not crying for them per say, but for ourselves and each other. We cry because we acknowledge that there is now a void in our life and we know that we are forever changed. We cry because we hurt. Crying is born from pain, sadness, and emotion. Those, my friends, are feelings. And feelings? Well those are a burden of the living.
I love you, Bobby.
And yes, I’m still crying.