I’m really good at hiding my emotions. Maybe I learned it while growing up, always trying to hide the fact that my father was an alcoholic. These days people can talk about that openly, and it’s healthy to do so. But it wasn’t like that when I was a kid. We talked about it at home, just not in public.
In high school I was showing off a purse my dad had brought back from a recent work trip in North Africa. A friend of mine who had known me since first grade exclaimed, “Your father? I never knew you had one!”
Not only did I have one, he lived with us.
It wasn’t just that I didn’t talk about him. My dad did not really exist socially in our town. He’d go to the bar rooms in another town, was friends with everyone there. He worked overseas, so even professionally he didn’t exist where we lived.
Don’t jump the gun and think I’m repressive. I’m not, I deal with my shit as it comes. It’s just that there are partitions. On my very worst day I can “act” like my normal self. This is a skill polished while working in the hospitals. We had to have these emotional divides, leave our personal messes at home and the hospital messes at the hospital. It is the only way to survive, for medical professionals as well as the patients.
Yesterday though. I was about a hair off from having to be taken out of the grocery store in a straight jacket. I can almost always see something coming. I’ve been in so many different situations that have tested my nerves beyond the normal.
It was a three-year old that almost took me out. In the grocery store. Not my kid or anyone I knew. I was just looking for a pound of coffee and this shopping cart bumped into my backside.
I take a look back and see in the cart, a little girl who looked exactly like Candace at that age. I hurry and look away, feel a tsunami of ache. All I can think is to look at this kid again, maybe pretend for a second that she is really still alive. For just a moment. It might keep me from breaking down in the store.
So I did, I looked again. It wasn’t pleasant. It felt like a ninja star was slicing up the inside of my chest. I walked away, stopped by the hot sauce and tried to intellectualize the situation. I had grieved the loss of my 19-year old niece, the adult. I had never grieved the loss of the child she she had been for most of her short life.
That was something that even on my most creative day I could not have imagined would happen.