In 2013, my husband John truly believed we were on the verge of an actual zombie apocalypse. When I am drunk, I laugh until I cry about this. The hype surrounding the immensely popular show, The Walking Dead, and my husband’s deteriorating mental state made for some interesting conversations with him in the final years of his life before he succumbed to suicide.
“What exactly do you think Zomies are?!” He hissed at me one night when I attempted to reassure him that Zombies were not going to come after us in the middle of the night.
“You know, they are like human bodies without souls that walk around eating brains in horror movies.” I said casually, trying to diffuse the situation
“No. Zombies are normal humans that got injected with toxins from the government and their brains got eaten alive and they are so sick from their brains that they try to eat other people. Michelle, this is something that could really happen, its not just in TV shows!”
The irony of my brain-sick husband trying to educate me on a species of humans with brain-sickness did not occur to me until I sat down to write this blog. Ugh. I’m so over epiphanies.
John would spend the next year and a half building a “Zombie-Rig” from an old suburban in our garage while stock-piling survival gear, and mapping out places in the desert we would be living once the apocalypse happened.
I would spend the next year and half building a fortress of denial around myself. He was just really into the Walking Dead, I would tell myself. End-of-the-world-prepping is just a trend right now, I would say as I flipped through TV stations watching reality shows on the subject.
After his suicide, I would spend hours and hours going through stacks of yellow legal pads with my mouth hanging open and gasps unwillingly surfacing from my throat. I had no idea how thoroughly he had planned for the zombie apocalypse.
It took me years to tell anyone about this. I didn’t need to admit to yet another sign that I missed.
John’s last Father’s Day on earth was in 2013. I asked him what he wanted and he gave me a list of survival gear. I asked if I could just make him his favorite dinner instead. He rolled his eyes at me. And so, I bought $200 worth of survival gear, put it in a large box with tissue paper, and had the kids help me wrap it; all the while trying to convince myself (and the kids) that we were buying all of this so that we could start taking camping trips.
I could tell instantly that he disapproved of the survival gear on Father’s Day morning. It wasn’t the right size, or brand, or color, or whatever. Nothing in John’s life was ever the right size, or brand, or color, or whatever. Nothing was ever enough. Nothing was ever good. Still, he politely smiled and thanked the kids and I, while I politely accepted, and pretended I gave those gifts to him from my heart.
Insincerity; the foundation of our marriage.
Insincerity; the twin sister of denial
So what have I done on Father’s Day with the kids since their father’s death? I have been asked this question a lot in the weeks leading up to this holiday. For all of the post-mortem holidays, I have decided only sincerity will do for the kids and I. The only obligation we now have in this new life is to be honest with what we are feeling and decide for ourselves what we want to do with those feelings, especially within the context of holidays.
So two weeks before a holiday or mile-stone, I will very casually say “_________ is coming up in a few weeks, let me know if you guys would like to do anything for that, we can do whatever you want as long as it costs less and a billion dollars.”
Then I remind them a few days before.
Then the morning of, I acknowledge it and say, “Lets go do _________ unless you’re just not feelin’ it today, then we can make other plans, or do nothing at all.” So far, this has worked for our family.
On Father’s Day in 2014, I woke up to a vase of flowers that the kids had picked from our garden. for me. We climbed a hill and spread John’s ashes.
In 2015, we went to his grave and took pictures.
In 2016, we did nothing because they sincerely didn’t want to.
In 2017, they wanted to stay with my parents and have a normal day. I wanted to surround myself with widows, Tito’s vodka, deep fried tofu, and music. And so we each did what we wanted to do. My mother sent me pictures of the kids swimming and lounging, and I found myself at 11pm looking around a very crowded table at a very stuffy bar with a group of widow’s I had, up until that moment, only known through facebbok. I took notice of each one of these bold women, and loved them all so dearly that I wanted to sit on a carpet and look up at each and every one of them as they explained to me in detail, the stories of their scars, and freckles, and tattoos. Maybe, that’s what Vodka and I will do for the next holiday.
Sincerity, I thought to myself when I ordered my third cocktail, the twin sister of healing.
©Copyright 2017 Michelle Miller
So…2022…Do you still feel like he was brain sick??
I’ve always enjoyed your writing style…after years of lies and denial your candor is refreshing! You’ve grown as an author..become a better one from the time you would send me tidbits in an email even before John committed suicide! You’ve found a groove that works for you right now…it will change as everything does, but it will be YOUR groove right then!