I have become obsessed with the calendar.

Here we are in the middle of January. It occurred to me about a week ago where we (as a family) are in time, that we’ve gone through Christmas, through the new year, and now February is so close. For more than 11 months I’ve feared this anniversary. I’ve handled birthdays and holidays, but the six-month mark was especially hard. So I have an idea what to expect of what’s coming, and I dread it and I want it to be over. It’s the last of the firsts in my life without my brother: the first anniversary of losing him.

And to be honest, describing my feeling as “dread” is accurate, but doesn’t go far enough. I’m scared. I’m just flat-out scared.

Because already I’m fixating on when I saw him (awake) last. Even in the hospital I couldn’t figure this out. The only encounter I remember for sure is when he helped deliver my desk, although I suspect there was probably a short visit after that. I just can’t remember for sure, and although it’s nagged at me, it hasn’t really bothered me much, until now. I guess because it’s been about a year since then, and I can’t obsess over the One Year Anniversary Of The Last Time We Hugged if I can’t remember when that was.

(And the first person who tells me that I shouldn’t obsess, that it doesn’t really matter anyway, is going to get slapped. Because I know all that. YOU try dealing with this and getting to this point. See if YOUR brain works exactly the way you want it to. You can’t force peace.)

I also replay the hospital. Several times a day. Not the entire thing, but bits and pieces — variations on the same slide show. I’ve done this all year, because you don’t go through something so intense and important and not go back to it over and over, looking for an answer or a sign of some sort. Or even just because it was the most fiercely emotional event of your life. But lately, I’ve been replaying it much more often.

I read somewhere recently that “our subconscious mind is a ruthless timekeeper.” Subconscious? Maybe that would be easier. Still, it pointed out that carrying a mental calendar is normal when you’ve lost someone. It’s nice to know it’s normal. But it doesn’t help very much. It doesn’t tell me exactly what to expect, or how to handle it. It doesn’t suggest how to talk about it with friends who’ve already heard it all from you within the past year and who may not get that the one-year mark brings it all back. It doesn’t suggest how to deal with people who want to treat grief like a contest or a formula: parental grief > sibling grief > friend grief. It doesn’t suggest a way for me to keep my temper when I’m stuck in a rut and life’s going on around me and I want to scream at people that I am not OK and stop acting like I should be.

It also doesn’t suggest how to show on the outside what you feel on the inside. I’ve gotten really good at this, and it’s really strange to do it: to feel like you’re falling apart, and never let on. To still be working, talking, laughing, joking. It’s not fake, it’s just a very incomplete picture. It’s not even something I do on purpose, not entirely. It’s just something that works in the short-term. The only problem with it is that it’s so isolating in the long term, because even the people you’re closest to may never see the upset below the surface.

I’ve learned so much since last February. I’ll go into that in a later post. But the biggest unknown is looming pretty large on the calendar. And I hope things don’t get much worse than they already are.

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