When I was a kid, I was never fond of band-aids. Oh, I know lots of children like them, especially like being festooned with all the cute cartoon characters which adorn all sizes and varieties of bandages. Not even cute cartoon characters could make up for the things I hated about bandaids. Like the way they got all dirty and grimy looking. Or the way they came unglued when you got them wet, and would then hang limply from one end.
But by far the worst part of the bandaid was taking it off. Whether you inched it off slowly or pulled it off in one fast rip, it HURT.
Last night my husband left for Florida to pack and move our things from our home there. I was of course supposed to go with him, but because of my mother’s illness, I’m forced to stay home- at least for a few more days. As much as I’ve dreaded this week, it seems horribly wrong for us to be separated right now. It’s one of the perogatives of marriage, I think , that painful tasks should be undertaken together.
This is definitely a painful task, and one we’ve been dreading for about a year. Our home in Florida wasn’t just beautiful and bright and new, it was also a symbol of hope for the future, a time when we would shed this gritty midwestern workaday world for the relaxed lifestyle of a tropical paradise. It was our sanctuary, a place we could retreat and regain our sense of composure. In my darker moments I’ve likened the sale of this house to the sense of impending doom you feel while waiting for a terminally ill person to die. You know it’s coming, and part of you just wants to get it over with, even though you know it’s going to hurt.
Like the bandaid removal.
I was dreading and anticipating this week in equal parts, just wanting to get in the house and start boxing up the dishes, taking the pictures off the walls, folding up the clothes. Have the POD delivered. Load up the furniture, the entertainment center, the dining room table and chairs. Ship it all off to storage, where hopefully it will get moved into a nice new condo out here about six or eight months from now.
Just do it all fast, quick, clean and dirty.
Rip that bandaid right off.
Because it’s going to hurt, and my eyes will fill with tears (as they are right now) and a few of them will spill over and run down my cheeks. The wound under that bandage will be red and raw for a while until a hard scab forms over it.
Eventually it will heal, and if I’m lucky the scar will be tiny. It might pain me on cold winter days when I remember the sunny retreat I once had. I might feel a twinge when people talk about southwest Florida or when I hear the word “snowbird”.
Friends will mouth platitudes about “new experiences ahead,” and I will nod politely. But it feels like in my personal grand ledger of accounts for the past five years, the loss column has mounted exponentially while the profit column remains nearly stagnant.
As I've learned from my previous experience with loss - time heals. The scar becomes just one of the many others inflicted by a disease we call "real life.” You stumble through each day, happy for the tiny moments of pleasure you get from seeing pictures of your grandchild or hearing him laugh on a video, anticipate the times when you’ll be able to pick him up and cuddle him next to you. You have dinner or drinks with friends, you listen to music, read good books, sit on the back porch with a glass of wine and watch the sunset.
The sticky residue from the bandage finally gets scrubbed away and the wound underneath pales and dries.
And then one day you’re back to normal (or whatever passes for that in your new reality), and you’ve forgotten how much it hurt to rip that bandage away.
I’m looking forward to that day.
But first this bandaid has to come off.