We were at our lake house in June 2011 when our friend Ryan died. We heard in the early morning, while still sipping coffee and staring out over the water. Our daughter was in the high chair. I was achy and pregnant. The minutes that followed the news, the phone call of confirmation, I’ll never forget that morning as long as I breathe.
Ryan’s death was a shock, a tragedy, and his public persona made it open for mass commentary. The following weeks were harried. There were multiple memorials and a re-shuffling of things and that permanent sadness was tinged with a little bit of panic.
It was the first really big loss for The Gorilla and for me as adults. Ryan was more than a friend, he was like family, part of a bigger group that made up our identity. His sudden loss changed everything and it took us a long time to get our footing back.
Also that summer we had a loved one in the hospital, the stress of that weighing everything else. Then in August, Dave’s diagnosis.
When my husband and I talk about 2011, we agree that the birth of Pirate was one of the only redeeming parts of that year. We were hurt and scared, and couldn’t quite catch up to any of it.
And now our family has suffered another loss. This one is different, of course. Deeper. Slower. Closer. Harder. Again, we’ve fled to the lake to heal. Our family was all together last week, sixteen people in one house, twelve next door, and it felt like the exact right place to be. But I still don’t know anything about grief.
Everyone mourns differently, and to see it play out on the porch, in the kitchen, openly and behind closed doors, it’s hard. We tip toe around one another and frequently embrace. This lake house was built new when we bought it, but in such a short five years the walls have seen an excess of joy and sadness.
This summer, and last summer, and two summers before that, have made us want to reshape. We fantasize about quitting everything and stripping down to the simplest possible life. We decide to follow dreams and seize the day and live big and chase it all. Both lifestyles feel like options in the space of a single hour. Neither seem right.
Late Sunday after all the houseguests had departed, I did load after load of laundry and we ate a smorgasbord of leftovers and watched The Discovery Channel on a messy couch. It’s been strange to have endless days together, just our little family, without work or much obligation. It’s not our normal rhythm, and it’s a gift. It’s also a reminder of the interruption. And then the grief is fresh again.