Saturday, October 08, 2005

Seasons in the Sun

Late yesterday afternoon I had to run out to the market for a few things. Still feeling a rather poorly, I wasn't in the mood to shop, so I picked up the few items on my list and headed for the checkout. Just as I stepped in line someone came up behind me and touched me on my back. It's funny how we become accustomed to certain things and react to them accordingly. I smiled, and turned, ready to reach out and hug my sister-in-law. We often run into each other there and in my mind it seemed reasonable that it was she behind me. As I turned to see the woman behind me, I had two immediate reactions. The first was reality that I didn't recognize her, the second was shock, that I didn't recognize her . She smiled politely and ask if I would hand her a package of what I think was crackers. I vaguely remember going through the process of checking out and paying for my purchases. As I slowly walked out of the store I was gripped by the most intense feeling of grief I've experienced in a long, long time.
I've never been particularly close to my sister-in-laws. The difference in our ages I'm sure contributed somewhat to that. They were all at least 10 years older than me and we really had little in common. Of the three I suppose I was closest to Wanda. We of course shared a name. We both had husbands who were stubborn, strong willed, and very much of the NASCAR dads, southern redneck ilk. We'd lived within 20 miles of each other for the past 15 years, so needless to say we ran into each other quite often. Some of our best conversations took place standing in the grocery store or out front, just catching up.
I don't think it fully hit me until that moment, that I will never see her again. We'll never laugh over something I've written in the paper and she had to go around telling people "that's the OTHER Wanda". Never again will we trade tidbits about some crazy, ridiculous thing Robert or Kenny had done. No longer can I rely on her to keep me updated on family gossip, who's getting divorced, who's having another baby and is STILL not married. She's really gone. Forever.
I sat in my truck for a good half hour and just cried. No, we weren't 'close', but she was an unfathomable part of my life. I know deep down this is what I was trying to avoid when I didn't attend her funeral. The finality of death. The certainty of grief, and the reality of life.
I don't do grief well. I never know the right thing to say, and ususally end up babbling on about some inane nonsense. I don't know how to make myself, much less anyone else feel better. Death is not an easy subject for me. These days my own mortality and that of those I love, is becoming all too real for comfort. I may appear to be a strong person, but I'm not. I tend to retreat within myself when I encounter a situation or an emotion I can't handle. Considering how I reacted yesterday and how I'm feeling right now, I'm not sure how I'd handle losing someone very close to me. I hope I never find out.

In tribute to the other Wanda I offer this .... Goodbye My Friend

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