I don't consider myself particularly sentimental.
On Ian's birthday, I didn't have the sads; truth be told, I didn't think of it as any different of a day. Others did, however, and reached out. (Bless you, friends. I appreciated it very much.)
Last month I visited my grandmother. After our chat, we got up to leave, and I told her we'd be back again soon.
"Sounds good," she said. Exactly the same words, in the same cadence, that Ian said often, in response to many people and things in the last months of his life. It was his go-to, reflexive response because in the end, he wasn't capable of translating thoughts into speech. "Sounds good" rolled off the tongue as his default "see you later," or "okay."
My grandmother's innocent statement brought a white-hot flash across my face and into my chest. It was a weird, completely unexpected association. I'd prepped myself: Don't think about nursing facilities and equipment, don't look for decline and neuro deficits. Just visit with Gramma. But those words reached out and grabbed me from the depths of memory and sensory and sucked the air out of my lungs.
For just a second.
I think my sadness is about the illness itself. How it robbed him and us. I HATE the things that represent Diminished/Ailing/Failing Ian. I don't want to remember medical supplies or altered facilities or his swollen face because those things supplant memories of Well Ian. Healthy, happy, smart-ass, giggling Ian. Right now the last months' hardships cloud the previous, joyful memories. And that pisses me off.
As we sat at the dinner table on his birthday, I offered: "I thought that since today is your dad's birthday, we could go around and share a memory we have of him."
Audrey recalled he had a bowling ball cake last year.
His own life partner of 20 years was stumped to recall a single happy memory. The nothingness stung.
I think my brain is protecting my heart. If I conjure and dwell on the things I remember, or the things we'll now never get to experience, it will crush me. And so God has given me only small bits of grief on which to chew.