I used to be pretty good at playing hide ‘n’ seek—finding a place I thought the seeker would never find me, and then waiting, waiting. I’d hold my breath when the person came so close I could nearly touch him or her, praying I wouldn’t do anything to give my location away. Even if discovered, if I could outrun the seeker “home,” I could still play the game. The fear of being caught both terrorized and enlivened me. Sometimes, however, I found such a great spot that no one could find me, and the rest of the players, discouraged, gave up and started a new game. The terror dissolved, but so did the fun.
These days we have myriad ways to hide, especially from Pain. Oddly, most we think of as communicative: the internet, cell phones, chat rooms, iPods, work. Oh, yes, WORK. I believe that’s still number one, and not only because it incorporates most of the other methods (and adds a few of its own). Work is holy in the U.S.; inviolate. Work is the perfect hiding place (unless you owe child support, of course). Extreme circumstances must occur to allow time off from work—attending a funeral (only of a near relative, though). It never ceases to amaze me, however, that allowing people to spend time with that loved one while she’s still here is verboten.
My mother was diagnosed with her second, and what turned out to be fatal, round of tumors while I was in Ireland. Not only had I been in the country a mere four months, I had begun a new job, working as a classroom assistant at Dalkey School Project in Sallynoggin/Killiney. (The boundaries still mystify me, so pardon me, my Irish friends, if I misremember.) Christine Lennon, the principal, immediately suggested I return to visit—and not for a mere few days, but for three weeks. With pay. Stunned, I simply did not know how to respond, except with a flood of tears and many hugs. I think I went for two weeks at that time, still not trusting I would keep my job, and then I had to make a further trip about six months later, and then, for the funeral, yet another five months from then. All with pay; all with prayers. The people I met at DSP—Alice, Lindsey, and Adela pop into mind first, as we are still friends nearly 20 years later—not only did not hide their support, but would not let me hide, either. I think our strong bond of friendship has come about through the sharing of grief.
Likewise, my former classmates and new friends chose not to hide from the Pain of losing one of their friends. Last Friday night, I sat with people I’ve known for 50 years, and 40 years, and 10 years, and 5 years, at the Bodega in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. They didn’t hide: and I know they’ve all lost precious people. They think I’m precious, too (Bless Them!), and they weren’t going to miss the opportunity to say goodbye. More than one person asked me to say “hello” to a loved one when I get to the Other Side. And I will. (I might add that this party happened before the final episode of Lost; talk about eerie!)
Today, my dearest friend, Deb, is here with me in Minnesota. I know how hard it is for her to leave work, but she did this for me. I didn’t want to be alone during this last trip for treatment, and then to head off to spend precious time with my daughter Katrisa, my granddaughter Cassidy, and Kat’s soulmate and my son-in-law, Kevin. I haven’t been strong enough to drive, and this week, incredible as it’s been, has taken its toll. That she is here with me means so much.
You see, I thought I was out of the woods, once the party had been such a success. There was no need to hide from Pain, because I’d made it to the party! I lasted until 10:30 p.m. Delighted with myself, I ignored my usual Pain, and spent Saturday with “the Debs” (Martin, Holthaus, Kundy), hiding from It: snapping pics on Grandad’s Bluff, enjoying the sunshine on the Alpine Inn’s patio, going back to the Varsity Club (scene of many “firsts” for the intrepid trio of Jen, Kathy, and Deb; here’s to the Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress!). However, Pain got me, as surely as if I’d been a Hider eating a potato chip with the Seeker nearby. Crippled, all I could think was how glad I was that I wasn’t alone. I need to get to Salt Lake City, and then Portland, to experience a life without work, even if just for a while. I pray I can make it, and I’d appreciate your prayers, too.
Some people have said to me, “Work will help you get over [divorce, death, cancer; just fill in the blank]. It’s the best thing for you.” I disagree. I so, so, so disagree. We need to spend time with those we love; we need time to grieve. We need time to forgive, too. This is something I sure hope I get, because I’m not there yet with my family (as in siblings and father, not my kids; I’m good with my kids, I think). Although I know I need to be forgiven, too, I’m having trouble forgiving my family. (Not you, Melissa: you get me.) I’m hiding behind Deb, who is my protector, and who is using all the techniques at her disposal: cell phone answering machines, hotel privacy laws, whatever, to protect me from the Pain my family represents.
My family is like an English hedgerow—beautiful, complex, flowery, prickly, full of secrets. It’s a great place to hide when it’s new, but there’s no way to get back into an established one to hide again. Not without a lot of Pain. And I’m just not willing to enter that thicket again.