Feeling exhausted? Me too. Falling-asleep-on-the-couch-at-7-p.m. exhausted. Muscles-aching-like-I-just-ran-a-marathon exhausted. Snapping-at-my-family-over-missing-lunch-boxes-and-Who-ate-the-last-piece-of-cake? exhausted.
Several years ago, when my family moved up the river from Bath, one surprise that came with our new home was a tenacious apple tree. Despite the tall grass and thistles that threatened to choke it and a deluge of water that had loosened its roots, causing its trunk to grow sideways, it continued to bear fruit.
If you’ve caught me wandering around town on one of my infrequent escapes from work or home, you might’ve noticed the dark crescents shadowing my eyes or the stringy weight of my unwashed hair. For most of the past year, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed before dawn to sit at my laptop and write a novel about three children who try to stop the emerald ash borer from destroying the world’s ash trees.
Saturday would have been our daughter Ruth’s eighteenth birthday. Instead, it marks the ten years she’s been gone. What more is there to say? Except that I am still unable to comprehend her absence. Not a day goes by that I don’t imagine how she might look, what hurdles she might have overcome, what goals she might have held for her future.
One year ago in February I was so sick that for two weeks I could do little more than sleep. For most of that time I lay on the couch with a fever that topped 103 degrees, coughing so violently that I lost my ability to talk. Anything I managed to eat tasted like sulfur. My oxygen level was low, and at one time I was wracked by chills so severe I nearly lit my clothes on fire, trying to warm myself by the wood stove.