I’m down in Texas this weekend. It’s my first visit in almost 6 months since moving to Ohio. Drew’s little sister is graduating… or actually, just did, yesterday. I arrived here on Thursday morning and immediately felt that beautiful rush of comfort of the familiar. The old, wide oak trees, the rolling hills, the warmth of the Texas heat… it all felt so wonderful. Like a dream almost.
I have moved away from many places in my 33 years that held a lot of hard memories for me. When I moved away from home, I left my dad in a terrible state – drinking himself to death. When I left, moving 8 hours north to Dallas, I had no idea if he would even be alive from week to week. There were a lot of difficult times that I left behind there… and each return home was filled with a strangeness similar to the one I felt a few days ago coming back here. That dreamlike feeling… that I was suddenly stepping back into a past lifetime.
It’s strange that only 6 months ago I was living here in Texas, my home state, and everything was very different. As we drove up to the house – Drew’s parent’s house, the place I lived for 3.5 years after he died – suddenly a WALL of trauma hit me. Suddenly, it was 4 years ago and my mind had no idea what was happening. My anxiety skyrocketed… I came in the house, dropped my bags off, grabbed the keys to Drew’s old truck, and took off…
I screamed as I cried driving down the old country roads. Suddenly, I was right back here. Suddenly, it was like he had just died and I was back in the middle of this horrible dream… this nightmare that was not a dream at all, but a reality. I screamed and cried all the way to the cemetery, where I sat a while, feeling completely disoriented. I’ve never had anything cause this experience since he died… this confusion in my mind where I was brought totally back to the beginning. But it makes sense you see… Drew died just a month after his sister’s high school graduation. And because of work, couldn’t make it there. Now, 4 years later, we’re at her next graduation… the one he promised he would make it to. Instead, I am here, flying in from Ohio, and everything is completely wrong.
After a few moments at the cemetery, I called Mike balling. It was the strangest thing… as soon as I heard his voice on the other line, it was as if it triggered my mind in a different way. It triggered me back into reality. Suddenly I could feel the pieces starting to come back together and make sense in my mind… no, you’re not here anymore. It isn’t the year he died anymore. You’re somewhere else, and there is this person in your life. Suddenly my mind started to know that it’s not May of 2012… and that everything is okay.
It was like that moment you wake up from a horrible dream and – for a moment – your mind doesn’t know what’s real… you know? That’s how it felt. For about 30 minutes… my mind was lost in that horrible dream again, and it thought we were at day one of death happening. Only that wasn’t a dream, it was real. I’m amazed at what a simple voice could do to bring me back. In my mind, Mike didn’t even exist… in that place of trauma, it couldn’t even see him, until his voice was there… and suddenly I started to come out of the fog.
I’m not at all sure what to make of it, except that it caught me so completely off guard… and terrified me to think that after 4 years, there are things that can and will still take me back to those first terrifying, traumatizing, naked, dangerous feeling months. Visiting Texas is likely, for a while, going to be a big trigger now. Because being here now only serves to remind me of the pain I endured in my life here. But I know, that would be forever. I know, the more times I return here and build new good memories with family and friends as I visit, I can start to re-associate some of that with good memories. As I heal, I will start to be able to embrace all the good in the past… I know this because it happened with my hometown eventually. I don’t only associate that place with my dad’s struggle with alcoholism, nor do I only associate my dad with negative memories anymore. Quite the opposite, I now remember the love and laughter between us, and the good memories back home. I know, that the parts of Texas which remind me of Drew will be that way again too one day.
But this trip… it’s a hard one. And it’s going to take time. This trip, was the first to make me see how different my life is becoming… and how it is now beginning to branch off into a new life very separate from the one Drew and I had. And, it’s a beautiful life full of so much joy and happiness and growth… and that’s hard too. It’s hard to feel like – at this moment – I want to run away from Texas and never return and just pretend that this past life of mine never existed. I never thought I’d feel that way… not about Texas. Not about Drew. Not about all the things and people that have made me who I am. And I know, I won’t feel that way always. I know even tomorrow I may not. But today… that’s just where I am today.