Issue 53 Oct 2017
The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not “get over” the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.
~Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, “On Grief and Grieving”
Part 1 – Denial and Dollhouses
Wren. She fit her name perfectly. Small. Shy. Quiet. Quick-witted. Mousy-brown hair and sharp, dark eyes completed her almost anthropomorphic quality – as though she were an animal trapped in a human body and perpetually perplexed by her state of affairs. She melted into the background if you weren’t looking for her. She was my best friend.
It’s still hard for me to talk about what happened. I’m still not sure I really understand anything about the events of last year. I still have trouble believing it. I keep expecting her to walk through my bedroom door, smile in her shy but confident way, and ask me if I want to go for a run. I thought I was the only one who really knew Wren. Maybe not. But this isn’t about me. It’s about her. And I think people need to know who she was.
Wren was well-liked by most people, though hard to get to know and slow to let people in. Generally, people admired her brilliance. Or were jealous of it. She didn’t have movie star good looks, but she had her own quiet charm. And she was always happy when she ran.
She was an amazing runner – star of the school’s cross country and track team and never-ending source of pride for Mr. and Mrs. Rabast, the husband and wife dynamic duo who had coached our school team from nothing to provincial champions three years in a row. Wren was their biggest success and they talked about her incessantly, in and out of training.
Thor falls off the coffee table and rolls under the couch. I scootch down, dig the fragile piece out of the dust bunnies and popcorn, and set him carefully on the coffee table.
Dana moves her Valkyrie a few spaces toward my Odin. “You are so screwed, Rocky,” she gloats.
Even though I’ve been out of chess competition for a year, my big sister is still the only one who can beat me. Dad tried grooming her for grandmastership a few years ago. But Dana has other plans. She’s going to be one of those scientists that combine two scarily difficult things, like astrophysicist or neurobiologist. She doesn’t have time for endless rounds of chess practice, club meetings, and tournaments.
I was Dad’s consolation prize. I’m not as straight-out talented as Dana, but I love the game, and I don’t care if that makes me a geek. When my brain lights up with a series of moves it’s like tiny alternate universes playing out inside my head. The world just makes more sense when I’m playing chess or even thinking about it.
At least, it did until about a year ago.
Dad’s truck rumbles up the driveway just as Dana puts me in check. But the reprieve is not entirely welcome. The Norse Gods set is one of the fancy ones Dad gives me every birthday and Christmas. “These are not to play with,” he always cautions me. “These are collectors’ items.” I try to appreciate his gifts, but I can’t help wishing I’d get Celtics tickets or a new gaming console instead. So sometimes I play with them anyway.