At 9 p.m., I point the
remote control at the TV and firmly press the OFF button.
planning to watch the 911 special, were you?" I ask David, almost as
"Well yes, actually," he
says. "I was
to watch it. But I'll defer to you."
I'd made up my mind,
days ago, that I'm simply not ready to watch a six-month anniversary
retrospective about the terrorist attacks. I'll admit it: I'm a coward.
I am afraid of all the dark and dangerous emotions it might dislodge.
Emotions that threatened to undo me six months ago. Emotions that can
still undo me, if
I'm not careful. Emotions that at the very least could make it
impossible to get out of bed tomorrow morning, and
at their very worst could send me dive-bombing into the nearest box of
"Let's split the
difference and watch 'The X-Files,' " I say, and we turn the TV back
on, with the sound on low, and settle into bed to relax and unwind and
begin the sweet comfortable descent into sleep.
At that moment the phone
I leap out of bed and run to
the kitchen to answer it. It's
Daughter #2 again, sounding agitated and garbled, calling from the
home of an undisclosed 'friend' ("Don't
ask me, dude," she says to me. "I can't tell you."). She is
requesting that I wire her a sizeable chunk of cash,
right now, so she can get her personal belongings out of storage. I say
no, I'm not going to send her any money, but if she gives me the
name and phone number of the storage facility, I will call them in the
morning and pay her overdue storage bill by credit card.
She hangs up
This necessitates a quick call
to the ex-husband, alerting him
to the fact that D#2 is 1.) on the prowl for money, and 2.) probably
going to require some help dealing with the storage people. He promises
to pay her bill and help her move her stuff on Monday, but only if
she calls and asks him to.
Another long-distance call,
this time to
D#2's voicemail service, where I leave her a message to get in touch
with her father. I love you
very much, I say, but
I'm too far away to help you with this one. Your dad is the person to
By the time I get back
to the bedroom, feeling heavy-hearted, The X-Files have devolved into
the usual incomprehensible blather and nonsense. David has abandoned TV
entirely and escaped into a library book.
I hand him the remote
and say, "Let's watch your show."
We've missed the first
twenty minutes -- we tune in just as the first airplane is
into the tower: an eerie parallel to the way we saw it the morning it
happened -- but after only a few minutes I'm glad I changed
The program turns out to be a bazillion times more uplifting than I'd
expected it to be. We lay in bed, side by side, and hold hands as we
watch. It is less a grim retelling of fact -- another heartbreaking
body-count -- than a celebration of human spirit and survival. The dark
emotions resurface, of course ... grief, fear,
rage, a sort of vague overall What's
the use? feeling ... but the
negative feelings are balanced by reminders of what is good and true
and worthwhile about people.
It is exactly what I
It's a fine line I walk,
these days, between looking toward the future and feeling like
there might not BE a future. Even on my best days I am aware of the
fact that there is a
lightheartedness -- an underlying joy of spirit --
that is gone from my
life forever, as a direct result of 911. In this, I doubt that I am
much different than anybody else. Most days, for me, it's a matter of
putting one foot in front of the other. Staying focused on the task at
hand. Trying to make things better for my children. Finding my
happiness in dribs and drabs, here and there. I don't consciously set
out to ignore the bad stuff. But on the other hand, I don't go out
of my way to dwell on it, either. Some people might call that
'avoidance.' I call it 'sanity management.'
Still ... every once in
a while I do need to force-feed myself a big stinky dose of reality, as
unpalatable and as unpleasant as it may be to swallow. It keeps me
human. It keeps me connected to the rest of the world. It reminds me
that -- as much as I may enjoy believing otherwise -- it actually isn't
all about *me.*
And it allows me to
confront those dark emotions ... instead of always changing the
throw a rock