If my normal approach to reasoning is logical but not quite rectilinear, the death of my 26 year old stepson Jesse, on September 27, has created something more akin to a Jackson Pollack canvas. Emotions that are normally in check are running wild in all directions. I feel a bit like Mr. Spock when his human side overpowers his Vulcan one, and while unlike Spock I am not at all ashamed of my broken heart and loss of composure, it does make it difficult to go about my job in the usual way.

Let’s face it. A tragic life event like this cannot but cast virtually everything in a new light. The bricks of an established worldview are thrown up like feathers and it takes time for them to settle back into a new pattern. Things that seemed vitally important three weeks ago now seem trivial, and perhaps some things that were on the back burner now have greater urgency.

The last thing I wrote before Jesse died was a piece called A Perilous Week of Deadly Land Mines. I was anticipating the negotiations over the Build Back Better reconciliation bill: “Following along with what’s happening in Congress, it’s easy to see how someone could have a panic attack.” I knew things were coming to a head both in my family life and in Washington DC, and I really was having panic attacks.

On Friday, we’ll bury Jesse and on Saturday we’ll celebrate his life with friends and family. We’ve been keeping busy making preparations for these solemn occasions, but come Sunday our friends and family will go back to their regular lives and we’ll have to sort out what happens for us going forward. I can’t say what that will look like because I don’t know what it will feel like. I know it will take some form of putting one foot in front of the other, but the actual path is obscured right now.

Maybe I’ll go back to writing about politics in much the same way I always have, and maybe I won’t. I’m not sure how much of a say I actually have in that decision. It feels like I’ll be learning things about myself that I never knew, and I can’t predict how I’ll learn to function. If I can function at all, I’ll consider that a good sign.

For now, my focus is on grieving and celebrating– on enjoying seeing the faces of people I love and who cared about Jesse, and who care about me and his mother Erica, father Bert, and his brothers Randy and Finn.

Come next week, I’ll try to get back in the saddle. If the horse bucks me off, that won’t be at all unexpected. I’ll get up and try again.

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