Mondays with Mike: Good grief

October 26, 2015 • Posted in Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized by

Ah, I remember my twenties when I was attending one friend’s wedding after another. But just barely. Because now I’m of that certain age – when you attend your friend’s children’s weddings.

This past weekend, I attended the third such event in the last three months. And it was splendid. Our friends’ son is a wonderful guy, and we’d already spent enough time with him and his future spouse to get that good feeling you get about people who match up well. They both have great friends, thoughtful, smart young people who make you optimistic about the future of the world. Of course, hanging out with his parents and their friends and family wasn’t bad, either.

Nothing beats wonderful friends. Or a live band, with horns.

Nothing beats wonderful friends. Or a live band, with horns.

The topper: No DJ. A live band! An eight-piece ensemble with a horn section and multiple vocalists who traded off leads and harmonized and there was Earth Wind and Fire and Chicago and Motown and R&B and modern pop stuff and everything.

As Beth will quickly and emphatically tell you: Nothing beats a live band. (Or a real piano, but that’s another story.)

In the midst of all this joy, though, I had a few moments of sudden and inexplicable melancholy. Not paralyzing, mind you, but real. And at those moments, I took quiet leave to take a walk outside or sit alone in a side room. And eventually, I figured it out: It was an old feeling—one that I thought I had retired, oh, decades ago—tapping me on the shoulder.

In a word, it was grief. Beth and I both dealt with it first when she lost her sight, and we realized that the life together we envisioned was not going to happen. And then when Gus was born with a genetic anomaly, and we realized, well, we weren’t going to have the child we thought we would. Of course, since then, there have been the inevitable losses of parents and loved ones that are just part of the deal.

The first time that Gus-grief tapped me on the shoulder was when he was an infant. And, for some reason—I don’t remember what triggered it—it dawned on me that I’d never play catch in the backyard with Gus like my dad did with me for hours on end. And I just lost it. Big puddle of sobbing, quivering goo.

And then I chided myself for being such a limp noodle, stiffened my upper lip, and carried on. Besides, in those days, I just couldn’t spare the time or energy to get stuck in a funk. Crisis-fueled adrenaline is a pretty good anti-depressant.

I’ve had other bouts with it—when Gus moved away, and I was no longer in constant caregiver mode, I hit a flat spot. I grieve for Beth’s eyesight and that other life we’ll never know about, too, from time to time.

Still, I’ve been to lots of young people’s weddings over the past couple years and never experienced anything like I did Saturday. It may have been because Gus has been on my mind a lot lately, I don’t know. But it doesn’t really matter. It just is.

Years ago Beth volunteered with a hospice program, where she was trained to help facilitate a bereavement group. She’d come home with these little gems of wisdom from the leader/trainer about how this grief thing works. For example, that people who lose a child can go for years without bouts of overwhelming grief and then something as simple as attending a wedding sets them off, realizing their daughter never got to be a bride, and so on.

Those little nuggets—that one in particular—have served us both well over the years. When Beth has a day when she’s just tired of not being able to see, for example, we both know that it’s real, it’s sad, and it’s natural—it’s not a weakness.

And so it was Saturday night. I didn’t panic, or feel bad for feeling grief in the midst of an overwhelmingly joyous night. I looked it in the eye and said, hey, I gotta get back to the party. My friends are out there. And this band is great.

Lois Baron On October 26, 2015 at 1:25 pm

That was wise and real, Mike. Thanks. Yes, some things just are and they can’t be undone. It is real life when things don’t turn out OK and one just has to find a way to accept realities somehow and go on. Both you and Beth seem to be great examples of people who look hard truths in the eye – feel the pain, and go on to make the life that is possible lively and joyous. Lois Baron

Mike On October 26, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Thanks for reading Lois.

Judy Roth On October 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm

It’s good you can recognize the grief for what it is, own it and move on. But it’s still very real and you’re brave to write about it. You GO, guy!

Hank On October 26, 2015 at 5:18 pm

I am so jealous of your ability to express yourself in writing and so appreciative of your willingness to share your innermost heartfelt thoughts and feelings. Thank you!

Mike On October 26, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Thanks for reading Hank. It’s therapeutic.

bigdebbyBigdebby On October 26, 2015 at 5:52 pm

“Crisis-fueled adrenaline is a pretty good anti-depressant”. I guess that is how we survived too. Well put! Thank you. May I use this phrase when ppl ask about our life? Not sure it was a complete antidepressant but it helped.

Mike On October 26, 2015 at 5:54 pm

It’s not trademarked, use freely.

Eve Smith On October 26, 2015 at 8:31 pm

I love your stories, Mike. And Beth’s too! I have been struck by melancholy lately as well, and working through it. Thanks for sharing. Eve

Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S® 6.

Mike On October 27, 2015 at 10:47 am

Eve, thanks for getting back to my earlier email. And yes, let’s try to hang out sometime soon. And hope the fog lifts. Play that funky cello!

Bev On October 27, 2015 at 9:10 am

I agree Hank. Thanks for sharing with us, Mike.

Mike On October 27, 2015 at 10:47 am

Thanks Bev. It really is therapeutic, and it’s great to have readers.

Janet On October 27, 2015 at 10:53 am

I really enjoyed reading this one, Mike. Thank you!

Benita Black On October 27, 2015 at 11:07 am

Big heart and big soul. A mensch of the first order, Mr. K. Love you for many reasons.

Mike On October 28, 2015 at 12:03 pm

That’s high praise, and I’ll take it, but only because I trust the source.

Colleen On October 27, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Well said, Mike. Thanks for tackling such a tough topic.

Mike On October 28, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Tnx Colleen. That class Beth took has been really helpful over the years. And some of this stuff, I think it’s like PTSD…you don’t have capacity to process in real time.

Joy On October 28, 2015 at 11:28 am

Gosh, Mike, Ihad goosebumps reading this, as it really resonates with me. I love how you just acknowledged your grief in that moment, didn’t fight against it or judge it, but just sat with it. Thank you for sharing.

Judy Ciambotti On October 28, 2015 at 4:26 pm

You’ve really made me think a lot this evening. Thanks for being who you are and writing what you write. Admire-able.

Deborah Darsie On December 19, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Thank you for this post. I appreciate your heartfelt essays. This one makes a lot of sense in a number of ways.
Loss takes many forms and the grief sneaks up and pokes you awake when least expected.

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