Monday, June 11, 2012
The band plays on
Wind whipped and rolled past the open car windows in thunderous waves as we sped along the highway, just the three of us, like old times.
Bear sat in the back behind me, her head shoved between the headrest of the front passenger seat and the doorframe to catch the eddies of smells swirling in at the window. Because it is a two-door car she does not get her very own window but has to share with either Morgan or me. It is how we traveled halfway across Canada and back again, three times; although on those trips Bear had to share the back seat with packs and dry bags and sacks of food.
Today we are just heading a short distance west along the trans-Canada highway for ice cream. It is almost a week since we found out about Bear’s two kinds of cancer and we are still in a bit of a bubble. Separate bubbles actually, just kind of rolling along and bouncing off of things, discussing it all matter-of-factly with friends and family and with each other too.
I try to imagine not knowing, about one day just losing her, or about always wondering about her lumps and the raspy panting and the seizures but still being able to convince ourselves that she’s really fine. And then I think about how, in knowing, there is a looming emptiness descending a little more each day.
“I guess so,” I finally say. “Because now we’re just sad all the time.”
We fly along the road past some farm land, more forest, a tree farm, and as the car zips around a gentle curve in the road, bathed in the golden light of an early-evening sun, I look over my shoulder to see Bear stretching out in the back seat and I want to talk about the thing we’ve both had on our minds.
“It’s so weird,” I say over the sound of the wind. “I was thinking the other day, and this is way over dramatic, because I know Bear is not our child and it is a completely different thing, but I feel like I get why sometimes couples break up after they lose a child.”
The feeling hit me like a great black wave a few days earlier when I walked up the sun-drenched trail with Murdoch. It was a perfect day except for that heavy shadow wrapped around my heart and as I thought about life without Bear I felt a great emptiness. The world dropped out from under me for a moment and I really didn’t know what to do because for the last nine years everything about my life has been so completely entwined with Bear, without her how can anything stay the same?
As I say it out loud I think it must sound ignorant because neither of us are parents and how could we know what it’s like, but then Morgan says, “Yeah.” And I know he gets what I am saying.
Morgan and I have never known each other without Bear. She defined us. It has always been the three of us, ever since that day at the pond nine years ago when Bear made sure we understood that she wanted us all to be together, all the time. And then she became our glue, our anchor in a world that has always pulled us in different directions.
“You know what it’s like?” Morgan says. “It’s like a band breaking up.”
And that’s it, that’s it exactly. “Yes,” I say emphatically.
“You know, separately they’re still great musicians,” he continues, “and they go on and do other things but it’s never the same. There’s always something missing after the break up, it can never be like the way it was when it was The Band.”
“Yes,” I say again. And I picture the three of us as a band and Bear leaving and Morgan and I kind of flailing around still trying to be a band but not making such a great job of it because Bear was the star of the show. It’s all sort of silly and funny because none of us are musically inclined.
So we kind of laugh about it and drive west for ice cream and know that there is a sharp turn ahead and we have no idea what’s around that corner, except that some day everything will be split up as ‘the time of Bear’ and ‘the time after Bear’. And that is heartbreaking.