I remember a week after Andrew died, sitting at the little table at the gas station, eating Subway, with Greg. My cell phone rang and it was the manager from Cracker Barrel. He wanted to know when I was coming back to work. He insisted that he was not pressuring me, but I still felt guilt and pressure. He suggested that I just come back to work, and if I need to just sit in my office and cry that would be fine. I remember thinking what possible good could this do? What is the allowed grieving time for a working mother? I guess the textbook says two weeks, because that is what I did.
Andrew died on Monday March 26th and I was back to work on Monday April 9. One day after Greg’s and my 19th wedding anniversary and 2 days before Jessica’s 17th birthday. I don’t think we celebrated either of them.
I remember feeling scared to walk into the front doors of work. I didn’t know how I was going to face everyone. I wanted to go straight to my office and hide. I walked through the kitchen and everyone had the same look on their faces that said everything with out saying anything. I could feel the avoidance. No one knew what to say to me, so they said nothing. A few said, “I’m sorry.” While others said, “How are you?” with their tilted head and “that look.” They were praying that I would just say, “fine” or “good” so they could feel like they had done their part in being concerned, without really having to deal with me. “Fine” or “Good” is pretty much that standard answer that I offered. I would have loved to talk about Andrew, but knew that this was more than anyone could handle.
I am not sure how I didn’t lose my job over the course of the next few months. I was never on time. No one knew whether I was showing up for work or not, or at what time. When I was there I am sure I didn’t do a very good job. I hated every moment I was there. I just wanted to be with my family, in my little bubble.
In May, my sister decided to participate in the triathlon. She, along with several others, was participating in memory of Chris, who died while participating in the swimming portion of the triathlon the year before. I took a few hours off of work to go support her. I watched as she swam out into the lake. The people that swam out with her started coming up out of the water. The people from the next heat were coming up out of the water. She was not coming out of the water. Panic started to set in. It felt as though someone had set a cinderblock on my chest. I was staring to lose it. Had she drown? Had I lost my sister too? Was this even about her? Or was it about Andrew? Or was it about, how I would have to deal with losing them both? Eventually, the boat brought her in. She had been struggling in the water, and after getting kicked in the face one too many times, she was done. The pulled her into the boat. Unfortunately, we had no way of knowing that she was relaxing, out on the boat, while everyone waiting on the shore was having a “come-a-part.”
I left the lake and went back to work. I was a wreck. I was bawling. I called my boss and said that I need to give my notice. I was no longer a functioning, rational person, who could run a retail store. I hadn’t been thinking straight for a long time, and this was my breaking point. When I tried to quit, my boss talked me into taking a medical leave, in hopes that I would want to return. I must have been doing something right, or maybe they hoped that after a leave of absence I would start doing something right again. So I went to a therapist who determined that I qualified for the medical leave because I was depressed. For 13 weeks I was on medical leave. When the medical leave ended, I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t make myself be that functioning person again. At least not yet. I also needed to be with my family and couldn’t bear the thought of 60 – 80 hour weeks. I couldn’t bear the thought of all the time I had lost with Andrew, due to work, and refused for the same thing to happen again with any of my remaining children. So I quit.
Like I said, I have limited memories of life after the funeral. For the next year, most of my memories consist of sleeping, sitting in the recliner, watching TV, and eating ice cream straight from the carton. I ate a lot of ice cream.