The Unwanted House-guest

You opened the door upon hearing the ominous knock and there stood a stranger, a grim look on his face, surrounded by cases and bags, expecting to be let in.

“I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you. You are…?”

“My name is Grief. You’ll have met my friend Loss already. She said I could stay at your place for as long as I needed to.”

And, just like that, your new roommate moves in and takes over your home. Of course, you haven’t prepared a room for him–you didn’t even know he was coming over. Reluctantly, not wanting to be rude, you pull out the sofa-bed, tell him to put his things in the hall closet and, with a sense of foreboding, go about your business.

When you return to the front room, he’s pulling things from his case and placing them around the room. “No, no, no. Don’t do that!” you exclaim. “That’s the way I roll!” comes the reply.

You need to get to work, so off you go. Oddly, your receptionist tells you upon your arrival that you have 28 messages, all from someone named, Grief. Throughout the day, your phone rings and you are text-bombed. You can’t seem to communicate the fact that you have other things on your mind, things to do and you don’t need the interruptions, thank you very much.

But as soon as you pull into the drive, you realize things are not going to go well. Grief sits on the front porch, waiting for you, front door wide-open. You step into the front hallway and see his things everywhere, in the hall, in the living room, in the bathroom, your own bedroom–it seems there’s no place that he hasn’t assumed he belongs and can occupy. You kindly help him pick everything up and return them to the closet and the confines of the sofa-bed, though you end up conceding most of the den area to him, as well.

No sooner have you laid your head on the pillow than the door opens and there he stands. “We need to talk!” He sits at the foot of the bed and reminisces with you. And the tears flow freely. For an hour he speaks of your loved one, painting pictures of your life together, places you’ve been, sweet summer vacations in the sun, your wedding day and your favorite tryst.

Next night, the same thing. Only, this time he brings up the fights you had. The nerve! He wants to review every argument, every nasty word uttered, every failure to communicate, each horrible memory. Stop it! Stop it! you cry. But he doesn’t. And you weep, bitter tears. Tears of regret, of anguish and shame. Long into the night he haunts you with reminders of failure and disappointment. Eventually you succeed in asking him to tell you about your last vacation together. He obliges; and with tears still streaming, you finally drift off, restlessly dreaming.

For weeks and weeks, you find Grief’s reminders everywhere. Just like an unwanted house-guest, whose presence annoys you because of the smelly socks you need to remove from the living room floor, Grief’s evidence is ubiquitous: the articles of clothing and remnants of a life of togetherness are strewn carelessly about your home and your life, painful reminders of love lost, a relationship over, a way of being come to a sad end.

All your efforts to reason with Grief, to tell him that he’s outlived his welcome, that you need your space again, that he needs to go, seem to fall on deaf ears. You try to rearrange the living room furniture and hang different pictures, but he won’t let you. You suggest he move out and go somewhere else; but very quickly you realize you just might be wishing him on your best friend, so you relent and tell him, reluctantly, to stay. Come to think of it–and you can’t believe you’re actually saying this–some of those late night sessions have been kind of comforting of late; you are starting to look forward to them.

And the months and the years, even, roll on, lonely days, weepy nights, alternately longing for Grief to just go away and sometimes quietly enjoying his company in the den as you leaf through the albums, flip through photo files on your iPad, your love’s favorite drink, coffee with Bailey’s, in your hand, while Garth Brooks serenades you with The Dance:

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared beneath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d have to miss the dance.

Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn’t I the king
But if I’d only known how the king would fall
Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
Yes, my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance.

The tears still fall, gently now, salty emblems of a treasured love. But a strange new sensation pervades–a tender rumbling of hope. You are pleasantly surprised to realize you’ve been feeling it for some time now. You really don’t want to curl up and float away, like you used to feel in the beginning.

And then, one winter’s day, you realize on your way home from work,  that you’ve been laughing more lately, that you had fewer intrusive memories today than ever. You arrive home to discover that Grief seems to have packed up and gone. Upon opening the front door, you notice his coat is gone, the sofa-bed made up and the hall closet empty. No wait. Not completely gone. A few evidences of his obnoxious, yet strangely warming presence remain, a card on the mantle, your favorite photograph prominently displayed on the coffee table–and one missed pair of socks sticking out from underneath the Lazy Boy. Oddly, you are aware that you miss him, that he hasn’t awakened you for quite awhile now, content to spend the evenings with you in the den, wistful and gentle with you, quiet as Garth sings again, and a tear forms in the corner and falls on your cheek. And now, you realize that you are in fact grateful for his unannounced entry to your home after Loss (your real enemy) so cruelly struck down your love. You’re glad you had Grief as a companion, helping you to stay connected, pointing out how wonderfully imperfect your life had been, standing by as each sinew and tendon of togetherness cauterized after the amputation.

You sit in a chair and gingerly touch the photograph…and you smile. And the thought comes to you: Grief is really just love looking for a place to go.

 

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