The closet is dark and quiet

This year, I’ve spent a lot of time in my closet. Sometimes sitting, sometimes face down and sometimes curled up into a ball, a mess of what was once a capable, strong human a few hours earlier in the day. The crying varies: heavy, heartfelt sobs that emit strange sounds, like those that come from someone else and heard through thick, tough walls; or, quiet, lacking any emotion at all, a simple stream that flows for seconds or minutes or hours.

I think about everything and nothing at all, sputtering around in this deep void that searches endlessly for purpose or reason or hope. Sometimes, after a few deep breaths, I’ll find it — whatever it was that I was looking for in that moment. Other times, a song or a memory plays over and over and I’ve lost all track of time. I don’t know what I’m doing there, except asking with every single fiber of my being to not let this moment, this year, this life, crush me.

But, in many ways, it already has. And I can’t escape it. This year has, indeed, crushed me and all the things I thought I was.

In March, my husband was forced to take a promotion and move across the state, where he lives Monday through Friday, and will for more than a year still (tips hat to single parents everywhere). I have one teenage daughter (AKA Monster) and one almost there (AKA Who Knows What She’ll Be Today). Shifts in work have brought on a new schedule that rarely resembles a 40-hour work week. I’m a glorified taxi driver, single parent of two busy kids, a needy dog and a house that’s not been cleaned since Obama’s first term (OK, maybe not quite that long). Those things are hard, but those are normal life things, and I don’t need my closet to survive those.

But then, May came, normal enough. During the quick struggle of pants and bras and blankets on an already late Wednesday morning, the phone rang.

"Tara, I found your dad. He’s dead. He shot himself. He’s dead. What do I do?”

A series of events that I generally only relive through what others tell me: Hang up. Call 911. Wake kids. Don’t tell them. Drive to school. Ask about their day. Drop them off. Drive at ridiculous fast speeds the 35 (this time, 20) minutes to my parents house. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks. Officers. Written statements. Coroners. Quiet.

That’s the thing, really. The quiet. When you watch TV shows, sometimes they show them taking the body away, but there’s never really indication of what happens immediately after that. The officers hand over their cards, they say they’re sorry one more time and they go, leaving traces of grass behind on the kitchen floor, all the doors unlocked and the “scene” there. Just there. Quiet.

For me, tragedy or chaos strikes a responsible, business-like, matter-of-fact response. I sat down with a beer and the phone (I don’t know why beer. It was his beer. It was warm and expired and 9:30 in the morning. I drank it anyway.). We made the calls: family first, friends, other relatives; the required calls: attorneys, bankers, insurance companies and, finally, someone to clean it up — because there are places for that, I’ve learned.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but suffice to say that the next week and a half were a series of more calls, more paperwork, more funeral arrangements, more hugs and comfort and care of others. Until one night, I ended up in my closet. That time, it was the sobs. A gut-wrenching pain that I’ve never known before. An end to everything I once knew about me and my life as it was just a short week ago. After 42 minutes — exactly, I know because I looked — I got up, brushed my hair and went to do the dishes. Why? That’s just who I am.

The closet seems to be my place this year. After that, the small things seem like big things, driving me to my space even more than normal.

This year has crushed me. The closet is quiet and dark, but I’ll find my way to a brighter place eventually.

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