But I Am Nice to People!
“I will not accept your simple explanations,” I said.
“Because I am complex.”
“Why do you think that you are so different from anyone else who has experienced the loss of a loved one?”
“Can’t you do better than speak in clichés to me? How much are my parents paying you for this?”
“You are in the midst of the anger stage.”
“Why shouldn’t I be angry? You aren’t helping me.”
“We’ve discussed how this is your journey, not mine.”
“And stop with the journey metaphor! I’m not Odysseus!”
“In a way you are, trying to find your home, your place of comfort.”
“I wrote that in an English paper.”
“Your defense mechanisms are so ripe that I’d say you are still lodged in the denial stage.”
“Ripe? I’m ripe?”
“But it could be the anger stage.”
“But you said anger comes before depression. Clearly, I am depressed.”
“I said that there are five stages of grief, not that they follow any order.”
“I want to talk about the bargaining stage. How does that work?”
“Do you speak with a god?”
“A higher power?”
“But you muse about fate?”
“If you find yourself in a silent conversation, making a bargain, say, for not suffering any more.”
“What? ’Please let the death of Uncle Grant not hurt me anymore and I’ll be nice to people?’ That kind of bargain?”
“That’s sort of how it works.”
“But I am nice to people!”
“I would like to go over the anger stage.”
“Couldn’t there be something you’re missing? Maybe an ’in-between stage’? Between denial and anger, or between bargains and depression, or between denial and acceptance?”
“You can never go from denial to acceptance.”
“That’s not my point. My point is that maybe you don’t have the answer.”
“You have to supply the answer.”
“But then why pay you?”
“You seem to find the topic of money a source of antagonism.”
“Yes. My parents are desperate and are allowing themselves to seek a remedy that may not exist.”
“You mean that you are not here on your own free will?”
“Nobody made me come. Emma convinced me to come. Said my parents would like it.”
“Emma is your sister?”
“Your older sister?”
“By twenty-eight minutes.”
“Can we talk about her?”
“No. Tell me about this acceptance you think is so important, this place I should be. The last stage.”
“It’s not too complicated. You come to terms with your uncle’s death, accept it and move on.”
“But life is death for me. You might not want to understand this but I am not all cracked up about my uncle. Sure, I liked him. A lot. What I learned from his death is that death is nasty. And now I have that knowledge. I love my parents, and now I know they must die. I love Emma and she must die. Frank too. Screen. Dawn. Brink. Carrie. Tallie. Tuttle. Emig. They all will die! And that’s hard to accept.”
That shut her up.
“Tell me doctor. When did your parents die?”
“They are alive.”
“Do you have children?”
“Yes. Two. Both girls.”
“Championship figure skaters.”
“All four in their nineties.”
“Playing tennis and doing Sudoku? Have you accepted that they will all die?”
She reached for the tissues. I took one too. I didn’t cry much, at least not as much as I had been. Just the other day I said to myself “I must be moving beyond the depression stage. I must be near the acceptance stage. I must be getting better.”
And I looked at all of those vials packed with ash of Uncle Grant and Screen’s mom and I slipped back like I was walking up a muddy hill with nothing to hold on to. I was not getting better.
I understood that this may be my life, my thinking part of life, an awareness that death ruled. Grant’s death was nothing compared to that.
I looked forward to tossing his ashes in Lake Haloke. My worry was going back to shore and living a life caught in stages that didn’t define me.
I left the office before the hour was up. I would tell my parents that I was making extraordinary progress with the doctor. A true wizard, she was.
Wizard. What a word. I loved words with z’s.
Zeppelin. Zinc. Dizzy. Dizaster.