She had already–carefully, obediently–stepped through all the stages of bereavement: anger, denial, bargaining, Häagen-Dazs, rage. Anger to rage–who said she wasn’t making progress?
Archives for July 2010
from “Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens”
As far as I can tell the stages of grief I have moved through have been: shock, euphoria, sorrow, chocolate-covered pretzels, and now finally, anger. The thing is the anger hasn’t been directly about the fire.
Update: I began this post in the early hours yesterday morning. Almost immediately after that I entered the new stage of rage. Isn’t that funny?
I don’t have time to tell you about it now but I think there might be a cyclist out there who just might be a little bit more circumspect in his dealings with motorists, in general, and almost certainly with female drivers of slow moving mini-vans, specifically.
I’ll be honest, having a house fire isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
At first you’re all “Whoo Hoo! I’m alive!” and nothing can get you down. You are clear on what matters and a house full of stuff doesn’t make the list. You’re not crazy or anything, YOU aren’t in denial. You just know what can be replaced: stuff, and what cannot: your family, so you’re happy.
But then you realize that you only have four pairs of underwear (1. you were wearing as you evacuated your burning home, 2-4 your sister purchased in a massive emergency shop at Target the same day but are not, alas, your preferred style) and you remember that laundry was never your strong suit back when you had your own home and about 30 pairs of underpants and you weren’t fire-addled.* And it occurs to you that this is what it’s like walking a tightrope without a net so you make getting more unmentionables your life work when you aren’t helping your children cope.
Unfortunately your kids really bug you. They are traumatized and CLEAR that a house fire is not a bag of giggles, so they’re needy. But you understand (because you’re a really good parent), so you listen and hold and talk and play, whatever the child needs.
Regrettably underpants buying gets shifted to the back burner and this is about all you do, other than meet with insurance people and try to get dressed every day. You find yourself, wandering around your room – and you are no stranger to a bit of wandering and a spot of disorder – but this is the limit; it takes you two hours just to get out of the house.
And then you remember that you HAVE to buy more underwear!
*The form of brain damage that Paul and I seem to have incurred. He’s dazed, which I was before the fire, but back then I had an extensive vocabulary. Now, if I had a dollar for every time I have said, “What’s the word, I’m looking for?” we could forget about the insurance and start rebuilding now.
It’s been two weeks since the fire but it seems so much longer.
I have a lot to tell you.
First of all, I want to tell the story of the fire itself, but I’m finding the writing of that slow going as you can imagine. And yet I want to make a written record for our family and hopefully to help others. I’ve already heard from so many people who, upon hearing about us, checked their fire alarms, some installed fire alarms, read their insurance policies or made an evacuation plan.
I know that the fire alarms saved our lives. I also think contemplating what I would do in the case of a fire helped. My plan had been – and I had considered it without Paul because he travels for work – was to get the girls up, direct Lydia to help Eden and tell them which way to go, then get Christopher.
Christopher’s room is down a short hall and I had already decided, if access was blocked, I would run outside, claw at his screen, break the window, climb inside and push him out.
This wasn’t necessary, but just the little bit of thought I gave it propelled me when I needed it. I never really considered what I would take beyond my children and the dog, and even he was secondary.
I don’t want to scare anyone but rather point out some specific, practical things that can be easily done. Paul and I had made some good choices on the front end and then, after the fire, we have received some advice that was so timely and helpful we can only consider it Providential.
Bottom line, we are in a state of grace. The outpouring of concern and practical help from our entire community has been utterly amazing.
Stay posted for some tips, observations and stories. With us, whatever our circumstances, there will always be stories.
“Do you know what day it is?” I asked Christopher.
He glanced at his watch, “July 8.”
“And what special day is that?” I raised my eyebrows.
He smiled. “Happy Birthday.”
“What festivities do you have planned?” I asked as he flopped across the foot of my bed.
He thought for a second. “Well, if you pick some place cheap – not too fancy – it’s on me.”
That’s my boy.
The night of the fire I asked Christopher, “How are you doing, Buddy?”
He shook his head “I’m feeling regret that I wasn’t able to gather some of my belongings,” his voice broke, “I just think I would feel more secure if I had some of my possessions.”
A couple of days later, suited up with fire boots, the fire investigator took him back into his room. Paul and I had laughed that the fire marshall would declare Christopher’s room a total loss, whether or not there was any damage; it was that messy.
He found his wallet, a magnifying glass, a few stuffed animals and the smoky and waterlogged book he’d been reading when he fell asleep the night before. What impressed the fire investigator was that he asked to go into his sisters’ room where he out a few things he thought they would want.
He came home with what looked like a load of rubbish. I sorted through some things that were obviously trash and my sister-in-law, Dawn, has been devotedly washing everything that is washable.
The grieving process has only begun but this was the turning point for Christopher. He will continue to mourn what was lost and he is already being comforted by what remains.