Notes on Grieving: The lighter side of grief
Two guys girl-watching at a party
First Guy: What do you think of that tall redhead over there?
Second Guy: Not bad. I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers.
First Guy: Crackers maybe but I’m telling you pal, you better draw the line at popcorn.
One of the most difficult challenges facing any of us who have lost a spouse or a life partner is what to do about the bedroom. It is half empty now and so is the bed we may have shared for many years. The precious intimacy of this shared activity is no longer available to us. So what do we do, sell the house, redecorate the bedroom, buy a new bed set? And how do we get through the night, sleeping pills, using only our half of the bed, sleeping on our partner’s side?
Or, like me, do you avoid the bedroom altogether and sleep in another room. Any course you take will become a part of the larger process of coming to terms with your grief. No two people grieve alike and time is often not as helpful as we hope. I am a year into the process. I have no solutions for your bedroom or any other part of your grieving. What I can do is share a concept and a story. The concept is simple, laughter is good for you. The story: Save me from the Black Hole!
For months after Bernice passed, I couldn’t sleep in the master bedroom. I couldn’t stand the thought of her not being there beside me. I closed the door, permanently for all I knew, and set up camp in my office, which is equipped with a futon.
I thought I might stay on the futon forever. I had a good routine. Just sit in front of the computer until my eyes cross, then roll the chair over to the futon and flop. I’m ten feet from the guest bathroom and equidistance from the kitchen and the living room.
But as time passed I began to think about regaining control of my life. Moving back into our bedroom would be a good start. By this time I’ve been in and out of the bedroom several times but never the bed. The bed is the key, I thought. Climb back into the bed and get your life rolling again.
What you need to know about the bed is that, though low to the floor, it contains more mass than a Black Hole in space. When made up it appears flat, but closer observation reveals a slow moving flotilla of crocodiles. The bed is so big you could host an entire Tea Party on it. In fact, if I still have this barge when my Super Bowl XLVI party rolls around I’m going to use the bedroom for overflow, throw a tarp over the bed, prop up a dozen pillows and sit up to five guests in front of our 40” plasma TV screen, with snacks and drinks.
That is if the Bed doesn’t get me first. On my very first night back in the Bed I felt a malevolent presence. That presence has grown so powerful that I now believe it can cast spells, summons tornadoes, and even evoke the forces of outer space. Every night going to bed I fear for my very life. And yet I can’t sleep elsewhere. Nothing will have me, not the couch not the Futon. The spell of the Big Bed.
The only thing I have going for me is my mother wit. I know how the Big Bed’s evil force works; it turns my bad habits against me. Example, I employ a sleeping strategy that I call the Pitch and Pile. Pitch the sheets and blankets back and pile in. No problem. But Piling out, that’s where the forces of the Black Hole come in. As you know when an object such as a spaceship or a planet approaches the Black Hole Event Horizon the object is sucked in never to see the light of day again. I seem to be immune to the sucking in but nothing else in my little world is safe. I have lost socks, underwear, remote controls, novels, several sports pages, and a bunch of small change from my pocket.
Piling in I bulldoze the covers over to make room for myself, then I grab any piece of bedding I can and pull it over me. But the Big Bed uses this constant pulling of random bedding towards me to create a tornado that won’t dissipate until every object on the bed is swirling around me and settling to the bottom. Soon the foot of the bed is thicker than a python and I can’t straighten my legs out.
Night before last my legs became the attack point for an assault that almost put me in the hospital. I suffer from leg cramps, specifically my calf muscles. Hardly a night goes by I don’t have at least one calf cramp, a cramp so painful that in the past I would wake up screaming, much to Bernice’s dismay. She is a light sleeper in the first place. Fortunately I have discovered a remedy: roll out of bed onto your feet and just stand there. The faster you roll out, the less pain you endure. The cramp will immediately release its iron grip, you shake it off and back to bed with you. But not if you have pulled-sheet-and-rolled one time to many, resulting in you being wrapped like a mummy.
When the cramp hit I didn’t scream because I knew I could easily take care of it. Only this time I can’t separate my legs to initiate the roll off. Now I’m screaming. Not only am I in pain but I’m doing a claustrophobia freak-out. In desperation I raise my lower half high above me and swing away from the bed with all my might. My upper body gets jerked along and I literally fly to attention. It’s like landing a jet liner; the first hit is just a bounce. And that’s what I did. I bounced once and flew head first into the adjacent wall. Knocked myself out. When I came to I was still mummyized but I couldn’t fight it any more. Wait for daylight to sort the mess out.
Last night I’m watching the New York Giants whip the Green Bay Packers on my 40” plasma TV screen in the bedroom. I make some microwave popcorn, throw it in my big red plastic popcorn bowl, grab a beer, prop a pillow and bulldoze in. I was asleep before half-time.
Typical for guys my age, nature calls in the middle of the night. In the process of untangling myself from the sheets my hand brushes against a strange object. “Oh no. Oh please no.” I’m tapping on the overturned popcorn bowl. I feel around and my hand is rolling over layers of uneaten popcorn.
The next morning I have no choice but to strip the bed. Even I can’t sleep in a bed full of popcorn. The big kernels were easy to remove but the husks and the unpopped kernels clung like blood tics to the cotton fitted sheet. It was so bad I had to grab a broom, step up on the bed and sweep like an Olympic curler.
The Big Bed made its point. Get a new bed or die. Something between an army cot and a queen. And tall enough I don’t need help getting out. Does anyone out there have a friend in the furniture business?