A Topography of Disaster

 

Everything falls apart, crumbles to a fine dust that leaves a bone white cloud in its wake. This bone white dust coats my throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe. I gasp, my chest heaves as I struggle to draw air into my lungs. I cannot. I feel hungry for relief, a reprieve from this monster stealing the air from my lungs.

Your sister died.
What? I didn’t even know she was dying. How?
Stage Four stomach cancer.

Disaster. I didn’t know. I had a feeling, though, because of the lymphedema – mum told me about it. I don’t think Gail didn’t want her to tell me. She didn’t want me to know. She didn’t want me to know. She told our sisters. She didn’t tell me. She didn’t tell mum, either. I never got to say goodbye. She never gave me a chance.

We have to talk about your dad.
Okay. What’s going on?
He’s got Alzheimer’s.

Disaster. Mum never told me. I had to find out from my sister. Angry, I felt angry. And disenfranchised. Shut out. Living two provinces away intensifies the feeling of disenfranchisement. I can’t say find the diagnosis surprising. I certainly saw it coming. I can’t say exactly what tripped the breaker and when. I can only say that hearing the words your dad and Alzheimer’s in the same sentence shattered me. It felt like I’d lost him. Only worse, because I knew it was the beginning of a long series of successive separations from him, each taking him farther away from me than the previous one.

He’s deceased.
What? Oh. How?
Suicide.
Oh my gawd. How did he–?
Hanging.
Where?
In the park near his apartment. There was an apparatus.

Disaster. The guilt – inexorable, suffocating, profound. The grief – labyrinthine, eviscerating, the kind that finds me howling uncontrollably in the bath. My thoughts turned to morbid things – what did his last few seconds feel like, how long did it take for him to die? And my heart shattered to think of the despair that drives a person to believe death will make life better. When I ponder the 18 years we spent together, the family we raised, the life we built, I cannot compute the event horizon of this grief.

Welcome to some of the recent disasters of my life: events that have cast me into the frozen deep sea, banished me into the darkest forests far from all connection anything and anyone familiar (even myself), flung me over the edges of my world.

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