My relationship with December 31 has never exactly been pleasant.
The first New Year’s Eve I can really remember commemorating was at my best friend’s house. She and I sat up for hours through the night as she sobbed on her kitchen floor, begging me to convert to Christianity because she didn’t want to die and go to heaven if I wasn’t going to be there. I was nine, I believe, and could not comfort her. I could not pretend I would convert, and neither could I lie with conviction or intent. I wasn’t Christian, had a deep love and connection to my own faith background, and was full of indignation such as I had never known. What kind of religious practice tortures children like this, I wondered, considering not myself, but her. What kind of sick, twisted culture forces a child to grieve her living friends because their backgrounds, their souls, their inherent value means nothing if they don’t say a magic word to a magic figure in a magic sky? What can possibly be gained from using fear to try to create love?
It was my first real lesson in coersion, and I never forgot. I never forgave Christianity. I never blamed Jesus, but I still blame the church. And every time I begin to make my peace with Christianity as something other than a vessel for traumatizing people, children even, some Christian with a grudge against secularism or multiculturalism or atheism or me personally brings me right back to that dark kitchen and my weeping friend.
Last week it was a friend of Mike’s who left a note in our mailbox telling Mike that it doesn’t matter how good a person is, unless they accept Jesus as their savior, they’re going to Hell. A nice thing to tell a dying man with a Jewish wife. But back to New Year’s.
I have written at length about my New Year’s Eve, 1999. I have written less about New Year’s Eve 2005. I was raped a second time in December 2004. I struggled to rally, to get out of my house, to be up and about. To move on. The first place I went after my assault was a friend’s New Year’s Eve party. I was one of the first to arrive. Whether because somebody posted it on their nascent social media or because he was already following me, I don’t know, but it was well before 10 pm when my assailant arrived. I snuck out the back door and ran home, and by the time I got there, my answering machine was full of messages from him. That was the start of his stalking. It did not let up for over two years.
Plenty of other terrible things have happened to me on New Year’s. I was robbed. I got food poisoning. I was betrayed by a friend. I nearly broke my elbow. For Y2K I took a weird batch of LSD with some friends in the woods, and we were pretty sure the world was ending. New Year’s is not my holiday.
But the first year I was with Mike it was one of the greatest nights I ever had. We drove around and looked at Christmas displays. We watched “Follow That Bird” and “Harold and Maude.” We ate pizza in bed and fell asleep greasy and full. When the sun rose in the new year, we made love for the first time. Mike knows it’s not my night, that it is inherently triggering and painful for me, and he has always been cautious, always supportive, ready to stay home, watch a movie, and let the new year come quietly.
This year, though…
I am writing this post at 6:30 pm on December 31st. I do not know that when the sun comes up tomorrow I’ll still have a husband. I do not know if my long history of shitty things happening on New Year’s will include Mike’s quiet exit from the earth. I know that were it up to him, he would pick whatever day would hurt me the least. I know, too, he has very little control in this department. And he is losing his handle on what it is to live. Time is slipping away from him. When he talks he might be 23 again, or in a distant future. He speaks of my death as something imminent and sad, but inevitable. He speaks of our lives beginning from scratch. He asks what hour it is, and the answer is never what he expects it to be.
I have no quarrel with God, if God exists. I have no quarrel with life. I have been unspeakably grateful for the fourteen New Year’s Eves I have spent with the love of my life. I am grateful for this one, too.
Part of me is looking forward to 2021, a year without the fear of losing him hanging over me. Part of me is terrified to dip my toes into a year in which a single day must be lived without him. There is no right answer. There is no security. There is nothing I can bring with me into the new year that I don’t have with me now. I have no goals. I have no plans. I didn’t even try to clear my inbox. I have not set up my new calendar.
There have been times in the last decade I have screamed into the void about mindfulness, about living in the moment. This is why. This moment is inescapable. This moment is horrible and beautiful and will live in my heart and mind as always present. This is the feeling of trauma happening. This is the feeling of a soul torn apart. For all the incredible things I am learning from my husband regarding death and dignity and peace and comfort and contentment and love, and I am learning so much from him now in his final days, this is still the feeling of trauma tearing holes through my amygdala. If this moment had a sound, it would be my hippocampus screaming.
I know it from many New Year’s past. From my childhood sadness and anger, from my adolescent terror and humiliation, from my young adult disassociation and despair. Nobody is hurting me. Nobody is hunting me. Nobody is hounding me. But I feel it in my skin. I feel the cold in my bones. I smell the snow, and the linoleum, and the cognac, and the sludge in the streets.
It’s December 31st, and I am waiting to see if I survive the night.
You can donate to a GoFundMe for Mike’s end-of-life care here: Love for the Grover Family
You can read more about coming to terms with the end of Mike’s life here: When All You Have Is Time
Read my most recent post here: On Mike Ending Treatment
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