Canary In a Coal Mine

I feel like a canary in a coal mine.

The sadness being the air that I sometimes think will kill me.


Ezra age 1.75 with Ricki (with a dad)



Ezra 8.75 with Ricki (without a dad)


All week long the sadness has been spillozing out of me: hovering above me like my own personal little dampener, echoing at the end of my laughter, pushing through my sighs, sealing my senses shut for moments. It sneaks up on me, shouting “Boo!” or knocks gently on my bedroom door, “Can I come in?” (as if I said no, it would go away!) Or announces its presence with callers, trumpeters and confetti!

It shows up at Trader Joes as I reach for the milk, in the conversation with the Apple Care person or as I blow cool air over my hot tea. It shows itself when I find the hairbrush … in the refrigerator.

It is thick and … indescribable. My smiles come slower and never reach the normal height.

I remember when it arrived. It’s been longer than a week. It was a few days before Pallas’s birthday. I suddenly found the planning for her birthday to be not so hard as it was last year. There was surprise, pride and joy! I’m functioning! I turn to him to say “Hey, this birthday throwing thing isn’t so hard!”

Only he didn’t answer.

Later I look at Pallas. A low, heavy moan rose from my belly. “Oh honey. Damn it Honey. You’re missing this. You’re missing all of this! ….and everything else.”

That is when sadness slipped in, started to get thicker than it had been for months. The difference between now and last year is that I know there is no outrunning it. So I sit down and let it come. It finds me in places.

At Pallas and Ezra’s school holiday celebration,

When a tall man moved passed me and

for a brief moment

I thought

“Hi Honey.”

And like going directly to jail in Monopoly, I went directly to sobbing. (I didn’t know I could do that!)


It found me in an email from my mother-in-law

Acting as if everything was fine between us

Like nothing had happened at all.


It found me when I called after our mailman, running to give him his Christmas gift. “Arthur, wait!” I sang. I never called Art Arthur but the sadness didn’t care.


It found me at the ranch, where the kids and I are now

When I was walking by myself, from the main house to the house off the garage. I turned the corner and walked right into it’s soft, cushy, familiar, frightening deafness.


It found me in another email, this one from a neighbor reminiscing about seeing Art and the kids heading down the side walk towards his house for a swim.

That is where I am right now. Stuck in this sadness. It’s socked me in, layering around me. There is no escaping this. So I don't even try. I sit with it. I nod my head, I sigh, I cry. I have learned to keep walking. The direction I walk is not important. The sadness always has an end. I just need to get there.


Written on Christmas evening

This morning Pallas stomped off, mad that she did not get the gifts she wanted. I follow her to the bedroom. She was back in bed, under the covers, thrashing. I sat at the end, listening to her tirade of the perceived inequality of the gift giving.

“And the worst thing is…I wish daddy were here.”

Her words come at the same moment I am thinking them. We both started to cry. We laid in bed, hugging and crying.

We cried for awhile.

And then we were done. As we leave to rejoin everyone, I felt lighter as if layers of sadness had fallen away.

Then I remember, sharing the sadness has a way of doing that. Knowing that I am not alone, that someone else misses him makes it bearable.


PS Ricki is a parakeet

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.