Lately, I can’t stop thinking about my life in September 2009 and all the changes it brought with it. I can safely say it remains among the worst times in my life. That month, I lost two people close to me, both of whom I knew most of my life, and my ex lost his job at a time when I found it impossible to find one. The aftermath of that particular month still haunts me with unanswered questions and things left unsaid.
It started with Joyce. She passed away on September 2nd. It left me in shock as it was her husband who faced serious health issues at the time. The thing is Joyce and I always had a special bond. She babysat me from nine months of age until I was old enough to stay alone. We always referred to her as the “babysitter,” but she became so much more to me, my sister, and my brother. The truth is more complex. She and her husband were essentially another set of grandparents whom happened to live next door. When it came to grandparents – biological and otherwise – my siblings and I won the lottery.
As an adult, I tried to talk to her about subjects such as infertility and faith, but I never found the right words. I found her increasing pessimism as she aged hard to take at times, even though she had every right to feel the way she did. I knew that she would have wisdom to share, but I could never bring myself to ask her the hard questions. Now, a bit older and wiser, I would love to have those conversations with her.
Shortly before or after Joyce passed away – that time frame is still fuzzy in my mind, even though I am fairly certain it all happened within days – my ex lost his job. He just came home one morning when he should have been work, completely devastated. It turned out that the company he worked for at the time slashed their workforce by 20%. Only a few months prior to the layoffs, I had hoped to work there as well. They never filled the position I so eagerly sought.
In fact, nothing I did during the years 2006-2009 seemed to matter much. There were openings in my field. Unfortunately, those positions would remain forever unfilled or I would be competing against someone with 20 or even 30 years of experience – for an entry-level job. There simply were not enough jobs. Period.
As cruel as it sounds, I wish I would have known then that things weren’t meant to work out for us. My ex and I spent years trying to make it all work. It never did. As soon as things appeared to be getting better, something would happen to force us to start back at square one. Out of all the years we were together – 2004-2014 – we both held jobs only one year. One year out of ten. The rest of the time, one of us remained unemployed, even though both of us held college degrees (three between us) and had plenty of work experience, not to mention looked continuously for jobs in our fields. Still, both of us were far too stubborn to give up. After all we had been through together, it took two years of our relationship essentially unraveling before we finally had had enough, although the end wasn’t nearly that nice or simple. I haven’t looked back.
Just when I began to adjust, one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away. To this day, I think of him all the time. I came home from work only for Brian to tell me that Derrick passed away. It is the closest I’ve ever been to experiencing shock without physically being in shock. Derrick and I went back so far I can honestly say I have no idea when we met – elementary school or possibly earlier; I don’t know. What matters is the fact that I don’t remember life without Derrick prior to September 25, 2009. We experienced so much together from elementary school to college. I tried to capture our memories here.
First, nothing prepares you to lose a good friend who happens to still be in their 20s. Nothing. I didn’t know how serious his issues were. Now, of course, I’d like to think that I would have been able to help in some small way. Second, when you are unable to attend a close friend’s funeral, it does affect you – family or not. I still remember trying to keep it together because I had to work the day of his funeral. Later, I still found it difficult to be around his great aunt E. Memories came flooding back as soon as I would see her. I became so uncomfortable that I didn’t see her nearly as often as I should. Now that she is gone too, I regret it. Finally, I still see Derrick and I sniping at each other 50 years in the future, somehow managing to end up in the same nursing home. Frankly, I feel cheated knowing it is simply not possible.
Ten years later, I am not the same woman. I’ve experienced more loss in those years – and a lot of happiness. I know myself better and worked hard towards new dreams and goals. Still, when I think of those awful days of September 2009, I’d like to think that Joyce and Derrick both somehow know where I ended up. I can only imagine the conversation Derrick and I would have had in the aftermath of my awful breakup with Brian. He had been so happy that I’d finally found someone. I can also imagine how happy Joyce would be to know that I am now a teacher and how deeply her faith affected me. To Derrick and Joyce, I still love you both.