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  • Carolyn Lackey

Sucker Punch

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

Grief is just the darnedest thing. One minute you're sitting there eating a ham sandwich feeling happy as a clam, and the next minute tears are streaming down your face because an image of your long gone mamaw putting a clove-studded ham into her old goldenrod GE electric stove on Christmas Eve popped into your brain as you took your first bite. You can vividly hear the yawning squeak the oven door made as it welcomed the ham inside. Your heart squeezes tight. You feel a cloak of sadness falling down upon you like a soft nightgown. It was just a sandwich.


If you've never deeply grieved the loss of a human or a pet, let me explain how it will go down when you take your first stroll in the Valley of the Shadow of Death just before the comfort of “Thy rod and Thy staff" fully kick in.


First, will come the almost tangible sense of disbelief that this person/pet became totally and completely intangible. You slowly eye your familiar surroundings trying to verify that the void left behind is, indeed, reality. Tears may stream down your cheeks leaving telltale trails of agony traced in your makeup. Or not. Some people don't cry for days or weeks or ever. That kind of grief roils privately deep down in the middle of the gut with little to no relief.


As weeks roll by, the last of the funeral food is either consumed or tossed depending on how far back it was hidden in a freezer stuffed with crumply foil-covered disposable containers. The last of the thank you notes will be escorted out to the mailbox. That's when the Dog Days of grief set in. A sultry, stagnant period during which you wonder where all of the cars passing by your house are going. Where are all those cars going? Why are all those cars going? Why are those people acting like they don't know that I'm aching inside? I can't seem to make my own car go. Will everyone please. Stop. For. A. Moment. And, breathe with me?


Once the heaviness of the Dog Days begins to lift you will venture out to the grocery store. It's a simple errand really. As you plop your purse down into the baby seat of your cart, you suddenly remember how good it feels to simply stroll down a grocery store aisle taking in the 500 kinds of boxed cereal. Then, comes the Sucker Punch. That box of Grape Nuts reaches out from the shelf and tightly grips your heart. She (insert the name of the one you've lost) ate those every day because Miralax didn't quite get the job done. You can hear the annoying crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch. No amount of milk could quiet the crunchiness of those blasted "nuts."

As you stand in front of the army of cereal boxes alongside a family with three children ages 4 to 7, the sounds of their voices seep into your thoughts. "Mom! Look! The Boo Berry box has a prize inside!!!" In that brief moment you jump into your mommy head space and feel the urge to say, "One prize. Three kids. Don't set yourself up, lady." But, the box of Grape Nuts still has its hold on you. Discreetly dabbing away tears, you shuffle on to the bottled water aisle with not one box of cereal in your near-empty cart.


The sucker punches come and go. Eventually, the time between punches lengthens. Life begins to feel a bit more normal. Then. Boom. Another punch. A song. A scent. A ratty, but sentimental Christmas ornament.


Today, I innocently picked up my phone to wish a dear friend happy birthday on Facebook. I was thinking about how much I loved the birthday girl. She adds so much goodness to my life. Before I had time to migrate to her page, Facebook chose a "memory" for me.


The memory train blasted through my head. I remembered that day. Mom had her caregiver dial my number early that morning. She wanted ME and only ME to come help her put on her "costume" right after breakfast.


My thoughts began to randomly bounce back in time. The pictures she took of every trick-or-treater every year. (She had double copies made so that she could send them to me. I still have all 5,347 of them.) The creepy little boy mannequin that she dressed up and stood in her front window. The jack-o-lantern with the lip ring.


Because of Mom, I love Halloween. Now, where did I put that bewitching fascinator? Even though we are going dark this Halloween - hiding from the Covid goblin - I think I'll wear it and the orange and black boa all day long while I eat my weight in fun-sized Halloween candy. This sucker punch is a bittersweet one.



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