On Grief and Betrayal

While I commuted this morning, I listened to episode 523 of This American Life, which is titled “Death and Taxes.” In the main segment, TAL producer Nancy Updike tells the story of her mother’s husband’s death and how that brought her to a hospice care center in order to get answers about death and dying from “a place where they’re happening all the time.”

It was a hard piece to listen to. My grandmother, as you may know from past writings of mine, is not well. Yesterday, I was on the phone with my mom for a bit—Mom is with Grandma more than just about anyone else, these days—and I could hear in her voice how it was going. Our call was to see how Grandma was doing, but also to make arrangements for a family vacation this summer.

It’s that word—also—that’s killing me, lately. I feel as if the only thing I should be doing is worrying over my grandmother, as if I should be concerned with nothing else. And that’s stupid—what good is my worrying going to do?—but it’s how I feel.

I spoke with my brother yesterday, too. I could hear the strain in his voice, as well. We talked for longer than we’ve talked in a while, about his hurts, about mine. He offered me advice on how to feel better, how he copes with the depression and anxiety that seems to plague us both. There’s been a lot of that lately, a lot of people who can tell, just by looking at me—or listening to me, in my brother’s case—that something is eating me alive.

As I prepare to launch Geek Force Five: Volume Three on Wednesday, as I try to keep moving on with my work and my passion and my life, I can’t help feeling that every moment that isn’t spent in grief is a betrayal. I came home this afternoon to do chores around the house. I could have gone to the nursing home instead. Why did I make that choice? Because the house is a mess and it’s my wedding anniversary and I want my wife to come home to a clean place after a long day at work. But is that good enough?

It’s downright irrational to say “No, that’s not good enough,” but right now that’s what I feel like saying.