I expected the welling heartache, the tearing sense of loss, the hollow pain, the aching, slow, readjustment to a radically rearranged world. I've felt it before, to varying degrees: when my dad died, or a loved pet (fortunately have yet to lose a good friend to death), or I lost something of myself some other way. It's just another bereavement, I thought, harder and more intense than the rest, sure, but it's familiar territory, I have the map, I'll find my way to the other side.
I was wrong. This time there's a triple threat: along with the exquisitely distilled sorrow, there is horror and fear. The horror comes in sudden images from Chip's final month, like a slap in the face from an invisible hand: I'm not talking grand guignol horror (although there was a little bit of that), just the way that the disease took life from her bit by bit, slow and inexorable as a glacier, grinding away at that magnificent spirit until it was reduced to a simple need for help; awful, in the fullest sense of the word. I had to suppress these feelings to get by, to provide the only help I could give, simply by being there to the end, but after the slap in the face (you remember, a mixed metaphor or two ago), it comes back, and I have to feel it now, damp-faced and shivering.
And the fear – anxiety is a better word – manifests itself in many ways. All through our 30-year relationship, Chip was the worrier –
her glass wasn't so much half empty as smashed to pieces on the floor,
its erstwhile contents irretrievably staining a prized Persian rug. My role was to be a reassurer. Now she's gone, though, I seem to have taken it on (anyone here who's read Alfred Bester's The Pi Man
will know how this works). Scrap has diarrhoea (always outdoors I'm
pleased to report) and I'm assuming virus at best, fatal congenital
condition a possibility, normal puppy development an unlikely tale. A few floaters have appeared in my left
eye, and I'm thinking macular degeneration
or detaching retina, but can't get an appointment with an optician
Previously, I have always been able to reassure myself by relying on a natural resilience and good health, as well as a history of making the right decisions in a crisis, but the last year or so have taken so much out of me physically, emotionally and spiritually, that I don't think I can take another hit right now without sustaining some permanent damage, so I'm over-protective and fearful.
I have to keep reminding myself that 'It's only been x weeks [currently x=8] since Chip died, you can't expect to be anything other than you are right now,' but in one sense it seems an age, and another it's still happening now. I'm more or less fully functional in terms of getting out in the world, talking to people, 'acting normal', doing what needs to be done, but at the same time, I'm (temporarily, I continue to hope) also insane.