A Dry and Troubled Land

Shortly after Dustin died, the rain stopped.

Here in the midwest we were already behind on rainfall for the year after the unseasonably warm and dry winter. Spring brought fitful rain and hope as the farmers got their crops in earlier than anyone could remember. But by the time Dustin lost his battle, the weather had turned traitor.

The sun blazed overhead, day after day, thumping down on us like a hammer. Temperatures soared into the 100’s on daily basis. The grass withered and turned brown and crunchy. In the fields, the corn’s leaves became stiff and spiky, then browned and died. People were cranky, worried, and angry, by turns. Air conditioners ran overtime, barely keeping up, and some just gave up and sputtered into silence.

It has been the worst drought in 25 years. Farmers began selling off livestock they could no longer afford to feed; wells began to dry up. A part of me was grateful Dustin wasn’t here to see this, the blinding sun, the dying crops. Not only did he sweat through his shirt at 75 degrees, but the dying, baking landscape would have broken his heart, as it was breaking mine, day after day.

And all the while, I was going up in flames.

My own personal hell had been given vivid, searing life. My previous losses had felt like winter, barren and cold. But now, grief has a new landscape: the too-blue sky, the absent clouds, the dropping leaves of trees, and a sere and desolate land. I began to crave gray days, thinking they would cool the anger and the pain.

The anger is the hardest part to deal with. The last night the anger got the better of me found me crying, thumping the steering wheel on my long commute home, alone in the dark. The injustice, the feeling of being cheated, and how he had suffered without ever getting to enjoy the love and joy he had earned, our future turned to smoke and ashes…I was speeding as I left the interstate. I had stopped crying, but had settled into a hard, glassy kind of rage. I was driving carelessly, and too fast, and I didn’t care what happened to me.

After a short talk with the state police and a $120 speeding ticket later, I was abruptly shaken out of my mindless temper. I was terribly sad and utterly exhausted. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold out trying to ride the whiplash mood swings. Thankfully, my medication began to kick in the next week.

God knows there’s enough blame and regrets to go around, but oddly enough, I am not angry with Dustin himself. He was doing the best he could, despite all the challenges he faced, and he never had enough resources, enough support. But his family, now, that’s a different story. The ones that didn’t actively abuse him abandoned him. I am not currently in contact with his family, and don’t expect to speak to them again. I will never set foot in Michigan again, either.

But I still have questions, questions I am never going to get answers to. Trying to let go of those is like trying to get spiderwebs off my face. The doubts begin to creep around the edges, and I find it harder and harder to remember his voice, his face alight with wonder and joy.

I’m losing him, piece by piece.