I went through a spell as a kid where untying knots was pure joy. I had a puzzle or something once and it involved untangling these pieces of bent metal. From there, I moved on to string, yarn, rope … there was something therapeutic about picking at the strands to disentangle them from each other.
These days, I find myself being untied, untangled from the knots of myself. I want to be not-knotted.
Frankly, I didn’t realize how knotted I was: knotted in stress and strain, having carried it for so long. The epiphany came when I started dreaming of situations and people long past. Why else would such images haunt my deep sleep, other than to remind me that they had been? Christopher has been at the periphery and center of several dreams, smiling and being more active than he was in the last near decade of life; his visits from the other side of the Rainbow Bridge and into my slumber is both comforting and alarming. After all, if I were in the bright sun of the hereafter, why would I want to come back to the grey shadow of snoring brain matter, to smile and frolic as the dreamer cannot? We do not speak to one another, although at times it seems he is speaking to me, bidding me to untie the knot. Or is it to not untie it? I can never be sure but know that as pragmatic as he always was, he’d likely not want me tethered too tightly to anything. He knew I’d been tightly bound by the pain of previous intimacies and worked quite hard to release me from those wounds. It then makes sense that in his Leaving he wouldn’t want me re-tethered to the things I barely remember from our time in those last years.
Those last, difficult years.
It’s never easy to see someone struggle against Time, against thieves of health.
I still see and remember. I’m still tethered to the doctor’s visits, the hospitalizations. I close my eyes and even in waking moments see the struggles, feel the pull of muscles as I gave care, as the silent need for support beyond the both of us went unchecked. After all, ‘we got this’ was a motto we lived by, two only children drawn together because … well, because that’s what was supposed to happen, then.
Behind my eyelids I see his joy but upon waking, I feel the weight of pushing his wheelchair up ramps and through doors for yet one more treatment. I feel the weight of pushing it the last time and the bound emptiness of my arms when the doctor called to tell me he was Gone. I feel the stress of pulling on gloves to go through his belongings since he had the flu and they wouldn’t let me touch anything without the gloves. I feel the weight of his mobile phone in my pocket as I walked out of the hospital the last time. I feel the weight of loss as I remember driving by the hospital later on, looking at it from the highway; I remember walking past it, holding my son’s hand, as we went for lunch during one of the many visits there during one of his earlier procedures, earlier stays. I remember driving that same highway to travel to another hospital farther away, because the one where he died wasn’t able to do that procedure, that time. They stay, the memories, knotting and tying themselves tighter around my mind and heart, pulling more pain, trying to squeeze out more tears, even those that never fall.
I feel the weight of not remembering: how I paid bills, fed animals, went to the market for groceries, cleaned the house.
I feel the weight of wondering how heavy a box of ashes would be as I sat in the waiting room with other waiting families who’d arrived at the mortuary to make arrangements for their Departed or to collect what was left like me.
I feel the knots un-knotting as the trauma of life and death tries to hold on, making its last gasps into my night times.
The thing I remember most from untying knots is that it takes time. Sometimes the material being untied is stiff, resistant to being undone, so much so that trying to move it tears into finger flesh like needles or knives. It hurts.
I try to remember the good, the joy, the laughter, but the knots keep pulling me back, refusing to let go.
But let go they must, since time goes on and doesn’t stay knotted. And neither can I, stay knotted. I must untie the bundle of unrecognized then-trauma to release it, to release me, so I can see the new things.
It takes time, but my fingers are nimble and my heart is becoming more so as well.