If we’re not connected via FB or in real life, you likely won’t know what has been going on with me in the last few years. I’ll recap what some of you already know, first:
Around Christmas of 2014, I had plans to begin work/finalize what I had completed so far on a number of different works. I hoped to spend 2015 writing Davide’s back story (pre-Ask Me…, a la Alternate Rialto), and conclude a couple of new stories that I’d had bouncing around in my head at that time. But on the day after Christmas, I called my mother (as I did daily, during the week), and was given the news that she had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Naturally, all writing plans were put on hold, and I left for the US immediately, for what would become a nine-month stay, seeing her through her treatments and into her eventual remission.
After this experience, I was left drained and unfocused upon returning to Italy. I had lost my focus and writing no longer seemed as important as it once had. I felt guilt for leaving her alone (in spite of her remission status), and I struggled to get back into a writing frame of mind. I’m told this is normal for people who are caregivers, and I thought I could “ride out” this setback, focusing instead on my cycling and my general health.
2016 passed, and I was cycling more and more, feeling better than ever, and I spent the summer with my mother, ending the season with helping her clean her house in Tennessee, so she could sell it and live full-time in Florida, closer to her mother and brother, and to the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, where she continued to get treatment/checkups for her leukemia. The house sold in just shy of two weeks, and her final move was accomplished after I’d returned to Italy once again.
In December, I completed one of my longest bike rides yet, but got the ‘flu just after Christmas. My phone calls with Mom had continued, and she had been talking about feeling tired, and pressing on because maybe it was just the holiday madness wearing on her.
It wasn’t. The first week of January, 2017, found her back at Moffitt, with her leukemia back in full force. She died just a couple of days later, on the night before I was able to go back to the US. I flew home, Alessandro next to me, rushing every step of the way, even though there was no point in hurrying.
She was gone.
My uncle, Don, and my sister, Lisa, dealt with the arrangements for the memorial service the day after I arrived in Florida. Jet-lagged and grieving, I was in no condition to do anything.
Alle and I stayed in her condominium for the next month, trying to gather her things together, trying to assist my uncle where we could, and trying to make sense of what had happened. Nothing worked. Nothing made sense. She was gone and she wasn’t coming back.
In February, we came home, still dazed by the loss. Eventually, I understood that I wasn’t coping. At all. By April or May (I honestly don’t recall which), I told Alle I needed to speak to someone. I needed help, because I felt broken and nothing was coming together at all for me. I just didn’t care about anything outside of my pain, and I couldn’t stop hurting.
I began therapy and was prescribed anti-depressants. They helped, quite a lot. In time I was able to get out of bed, to function (at least a little) and I eventually wanted to do things. Vague notions of writing returned, but didn’t solidify into anything workable.
It was still a long slog, still overwhelming at times, and over the next three years, I didn’t go back to the US. I was still depressed, but I was functioning (somewhat). I spoke to my therapist at regular intervals, made some progress, and come January of 2020, I thought I might make a visit to the US in March after all. In mid-February, I had a Skype call with my sister, which went great, as we had made strides in repairing our slightly strained relationship via another call a few months prior. I truly missed my family, and now I thought I could carve out a trip that would go from Florida to Kentucky and back again, to get in touch with everyone.
That didn’t happen, of course. By the end of February, thanks to COVID-19, all of Italy was on lockdown, which, amazingly, didn’t bother me as much as it could have. The time spent with my hubby went well, and we enjoyed each other’s company in spite of the general anxiety surrounding us. We did what we could to navigate this strange and frightening event, relying on each other for strength.
Mid-March, however, the whole world was in chaos, and I had another personal blow. My sister passed away suddenly, just a day or two before all of Florida went on lockdown. I couldn’t go home, even if I’d wanted to. I mourned from afar, shocked and stunned by this unexpected loss. It was all too unreal – too much of a bad dream to have actually happened, and yet, it had. I was angry – the first time I’d ever reacted to a death in this way – because of the sense I’d been cheated out of something, and at the time we’d wasted in the meanwhile.
The months passed faster than I would have ever dreamed they could, and slower than I’d ever imagined possible. I had bouts of sadness and nostalgia, and moments of quiet appreciation for the things I still had, and for those I’d lost.
July rolled around, still not as hot or unpleasant as usual, with my birthday on the 13th. My brother wrote me and asked me to call him on the 12th, but I wasn’t able to. On the 13th, my uncle, asked me to call him. I knew this wasn’t good news. I knew what it would be.
My grandmother had passed away on the 12th. Another loss, yet not as shocking, as she’d been sick for a while and her 93rd birthday was a few days after mine. Still, I had no desire to celebrate, and once again, unable to go home and mourn with my family, I endured this loss from afar.
Which brings us up to now. As I write this it is the beginning of October, 2020, and still, nothing seems settled. I watch the ongoing chaos in the US with a heavy heart, always wondering what my mother, sister and grandmother would make of all that is happening. I miss them all so much, and wish I could have said a proper goodbye to each one of them.
Sometimes, I know, we are denied that. Every loss since I’ve been here has been a goodbye over the phone. The final embraces were just that, even though we didn’t know it at the time. I know I’m not the only one who has lost someone – especially this year. This year has been surreal and painful for most of us, and I don’t think I’ve known anyone who hasn’t had to confront this sort of pain.
As for myself, I’ve had the wind knocked out of my sails for some time now, and I’ve lingered in the doldrums longer than I ever have before. I hope to get back on my metaphorical feet and share my stories again, but I may be some time. I beg your patience in the meantime.