Some days are filled with a hundred reminders that Ana’s not here. It builds up, like a snowball, and I feel smothered with the weight of her loss. Yesterday was one of those days.
It started with a trip to the dentist to see if I was a candidate for implants (I lost both of my molars on the top left side in 2015 and 2016 because of clenching/grinding.) I’ve only been able to chew on my right side since then. That’s causing jaw fatigue and pain (and the persistent worry that I’ll lose my remaining molars). So, I went to see the guy who specializes in implants at my local dentist office and he confirmed what the oral surgeon told me over a year ago – I don’t have enough bone to hold an implant. Even if I did, I’m at risk for losing the implant because I’m a grinder and a woman (women have softer bones). But if I want to get the implants, it will cost me a minimum of $10,000 and could go as high as $25,000. Also, it will likely take three years to complete the entire process because I need a crap load of bone grafting and possibly some kind of sinus lift thing. After all that, there’s still a chance the implants will fail.
Thank you, no thank you. I paid $170 for the 15 minute consultation and made an appointment with my regular dentist to discuss my options of getting a dental prosthetic that will hopefully enable me to chew on the left side again.
All of this was triggering. Staring at x-rays, seeing medical professionals in white coats dispense bad news while surrounded by medical equipment, worrying about outcomes and costs, and remembering how I’d lost those teeth in the first place–from unyielding worry about Ana–well, it kind of set a dark tone for the day.
I ran errands after that, driving into Kingston to deposit a check and pick up breakfast for Emily at Panera. I thought of Ana’s favorite drink (iced green tea) and let myself wish, desperately, that I could buy it for her again, that she would be waiting at home for me to deliver it to her, that she would consume it.
Living means consuming. That I’ve stopped buying Ana the little things she loved and took for granted–iced green tea, makeup remover, incense and fragrant soaps, spicy Doritos, art supplies, cropped tops from Urban Outfitters–kills me. It absolutely ruins me.
Shopping is a reminder that Ana no longer needs these things because Ana is no longer here. But there’s so much more connected to the end of her life that hurts me right down to the deepest center of my chest–my heart–which aches and yearns and rails for Ana. There are the traces that lie all over the house, unfinished business collecting dust and losing meaning. The dentist visit kicked off a spiral of morbid, despairing thoughts that refused to let up.
Why do I need to spend $25,000 on dental implants when I’m just going to die anyway?
Why do I keep going to the places that remind me of Ana when it hurts so much?
But I know why–it’s because I can pretend, for an instant, that Ana is alive and looking forward to her iced green tea. Plus, I’m still alive. Emily’s still alive. Jim’s still alive. We still need to consume things. But that rationale can lead to the darkest of thoughts.
Why am I alive when Ana had to die?
And then at home, looking for Ana’s expensive graphic calculator that I tucked away somewhere because it was too painful to see it on the shelf, more dark thoughts.
In going through bins and drawers, I found evidence of Ana’s unfinished life–an external cell phone battery with some charge left on it, a half melted candle, a pad of sticky notes which read “To Do List” at the top of each page. Consumables that will never be consumed, not by Ana anyway.
They’re just things. They don’t matter. They’re not Ana and they never were Ana. We’re not what we consume, you know? We’re more than that. I know this, logically, but each item, no matter how small, is a reflection of her life, of the ordinary day-to-day living that requires we use things up. As time moves forward, the fact that Ana has stopped existing becomes more real.
With every empty shampoo bottle I throw away, every bar of soap that disappears from the shower, every package of makeup wipes that Emily uses up, Ana is erased just a little bit more from our day to day lives. A few weeks ago I found the wrapper from some junk food in Ana’s room and I couldn’t bear to throw it away. I picked it up, imagining her ripping it open with those beautiful, long fingers of hers and consuming the treat inside, then letting the wrapper fall to the floor, forgotten. It’s a meaningless thing, but I can’t bear to let it go, not yet. Not yet.
So, yeah, it was a bad day and I didn’t get to walk because of my errands and the rain. Going outside always helps because there is no consuming involved in walking (or riding my bike). It’s just me and Roo (or me, Roo and a friend), and the birds and the trees simply being present without consuming. I can’t wait for this rain to stop.