I suppose my inability to recall the date should come as little surprise given my tenuous grip of which day of the week it is at this point. But somehow the fact that the 20th is sneaking up on me didn't hit until I entered Tennessee and Virginia was in my rear view mirror. As a consequence, I cried about the four month anniversary of Mike's death pretty much all the way to Knoxville. (It's not you, Tennessee, it's totally me.)
The thing about a terminal diagnosis is that all of a sudden you can't express anger or frustration anymore. And when the other person dies, you can't really say how supremely that pisses you off, either. At that point, your relationship shifts to being an inspiration to others; your determination to beat at least this one problem becomes the sum total of the story.
But you're still angry. You're angry about the hard and wasted years, about the unhappiness and anxiety that made joy so rare, about the constant searching for the next thing rather than a focus on the thing you had. And you're mad that then he left you alone, the fucker, to somehow contain all that anger alongside the love even as you struggle with the reams of paperwork. And so you drive through a perfectly nice state crying, and ranting, and railing, and talking to yourself like a crazy lady.
But then just as you hit rush hour traffic in Knoxville something else happens: forgiveness. (Not of all those drivers, they're still assholes.) All those hard years helped you grow like a mighty tree, straight and true. You learned to reach for the sun even as you tried to provide shelter and safety for someone else. And his death showed you that gale force winds may force you to bend and scrape and bow, but you did not break. And nobody thought less of you for getting whipped around or losing some of your branches. All those hard times have prepared you for whatever this third act brings, and in a way that was a great gift.
So, Michael, I release you. I forgive you the struggles, and I thank you for loving me even when I could not fix what was wrong for us and for allowing me to love you even when you drove me nuts. I'm okay, Mr. Man, and will continue to be okay no matter what comes. Be at peace now, because here in a hotel room in Knoxville, Tennessee, I finally am too. Maybe I just accomplished what this whole harebrained trip was about.