I am not typically a girl who likes to use certain four-letter words. But you know what? I have found that under certain terms and conditions, the F-word is of best service. For instance, this morning I awoke with the heaviness of the “ache” of sorrow upon my soul. And to help myself from crumbling under its weight, I proactively began attacking chores such as cleaning in and around the house (a nice distraction to getting my bills paid). The unsuspecting cabinet that fell under my need to clean was the swimming pool “stuff” and beach bag cupboard. Now that’s a pretty benign cleaning adventure…or so I thought. Expired sunscreen, trashed. Old sun hat whose elastic band has expanded, trashed. Frida Kahlo and Deery Lou beach bags, saved! I do believe you are getting the picture, or are you? Waterproof, adjustable sunhat worn by my son during his Boy Scout adventures…saved. The ache upon my soul moves to the gut–stay ye down oh breakfast of mine–clean Rivka, clean. Sifting out the swimmers ear drops–the half used bottles, and organizing the ear plugs and wax, I came upon a prescription bottle. My first thought, “oh this must be an old prescription belonging to Buddy the dog.” I picked it up and read the name, Cole Bent. What? What is a prescription of Cole doing hiding in the swimming pool auxiliary pile? Then I read the prescription, Gabapentin, and the memories flooded in hard–the adverse effects this “hopeful drug” set upon the soul of my suffering son. The brain is such a complex entity and because his was so intruded upon with not only the tumor, but the hemorrhage and then surgery, he suffered unknown pain in severity. The team of specialists had hoped Gabapentin would be the cure-all medication that would quell the rogue messages of the brain. Nope, on the contrary my dear Watson…it sent him into a downward spiral, falling fast into despair. Well I will spare you the details of the dramatic trauma of that week as our family, doctors and close friends rallied to keep Cole from succumbing to the medicinally induced disdain of life. But I will share that this morning as I held that bottle in hand, and instantly was transported back to that time (coincidentally also in December), the only word that could honestly assist me in the moment contained four letters, none of which resemble anything close to eloquence but fitting to the occasion just the same. …I must have put that bottle up in the cabinet so that it could not be found, at least that’s my best guess.
Our family has several of these “little moments” frequently. We miss our Cole so very much. How do you cut off an integral member of the unit and not lament the absence? Their void is felt at every turn. In fact, at this time of Christmas we are faced with the dilemma of the Christmas Tree. The tradition in our family which not even the Marine Corp and their intrusive orders prevented from happening. In fact, it is only the transfer of Cole to Heaven that has impeded upon the Bent family Christmas tree tradition. For 22 years, Cole was a part of picking out the tree with Brian (and sometimes me) and then we would put on Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas and decorate the tannenbaum together. When Esther entered the picture, it became the tradition of the 3 with mom (me) waiting at home (mostly because the truck sits three people). Well last year, our first Christmas without our beloved son and brother, we ran away to Disney World in Florida. It turned out to be a good choice for us. But this year, with Esther being in college and the need to be fiscally conservative, we are having to stay home. So yesterday as I was, again suppressing the guttural pain of loss as I passed by many a Christmas tree lot, I announced to Brian, “We can decorate for Christmas but we cannot have a tree!” He looked at me quizzically until his eyes met mine, at which time he understood perfectly–No Cole, no tree!
Now not every day is full of inescapable pain, though the loss of our Cole is a constant upon us. In fact, during the Thanksgiving holiday we had quite a few opportunities to deviate to other emotions. For instance, when the oven caught on fire and the flames continued to grow as the chefs du cuisine were standing around watching the inferno rise, I’m pretty sure I tapped into the irritation and almost-panicked set of emotional responses. And then next day, post the firestorm, when sitting around the kitchen table playing a board game with family, my brother-in-law and I were tripped off by some nonsense, sending both of us into a 10 minute state of hysteria. The first time I have laughed, truly laughed, since before Cole’s passing.
It hit me in the moment, while I was listening to the joyous sound of my own laughter, that I was laughing. It is really tough to explain on paper, which is why the previous sentence seems ill constructed. But truly I had forgotten the sound of my own elation, and for a 10 minute window on Black Friday, I was given the gift of remembering…
In the remembrance, buried under the surface of the expressed emotion, is hope found. Perhaps just a glimmer, but enough to be considered of value. And because of that moment of joyful intervention, when I announced to Brian the “no Christmas tree” policy, the little voice of hope was simultaneously reminding me that one day, perhaps if we are blessed with a grandchild (or children) who need the policy overruled and a new tradition instated, a Christmas tree will return to the Bent house for a new round of memory making and joy.