“Well, what if there IS no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”

Groundhog Day clock

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place
and every day was exactly the same,
and nothing that you did mattered?”
– Phil Connors, Groundhog Day

Days after E. died, I moved into a new apartment, one I’d been waiting for for months. It was a place he’d never seen, the top floor of an 18th-century warehouse with vaulted ceilings and only a handful of windows punched through the brick walls. On the ground floor was the shop where I’d worked for several years; some days, I only had to leave the building for the seven steps from my front door to the shop’s front door.

After my beloved friends helped me move, I fed them, and then they left. I was alone in a new apartment. It was full of boxes and clutter and furniture all at off angles, waiting for me to figure out where the couch should go, which tables went where and which lamps went on them, where art should hang on the wall.

I spent a long time in stasis in that new, dark apartment with all my possessions around me, waiting for me to take a deep breath, embrace my life again, and start living it.

It took a while.

One thing I did set up right away: my VCR. (That alone should tell you how long ago this was, how long ago he died, how young I was, how lost in this big world I felt.) Down the street was a great locally-owned video store with a huge selection and a proprietor I was knew well, even worked for from time to time, but some of those days – most of those first days – just getting to work and living through that day was all I could manage. Dragging myself a block to rent a movie was impossible.

I had a small collection of tapes to play, and the one I turned to over and over was Groundhog Day. Day after day, hour after hour, I’d watch Phil Connors live out the same day, over and over, hour by hour. Sometimes I’d stop the film in the first act, rewind it, and start it again. Sometimes I’d watch half of it, rewind it, and start it again. Sometimes I’d watch to the last few minutes, just before the end, rewind it, and start it again.

Sometimes I’d watch just the end, the last perfect day when Phil saved all those lives, averted all those accidents, fostered all those dreams, then rewind just that sequence, and start it again.

It turns out that Groundhog Day, with its peculiar pattern of repetitions and differences, is weirdly well-suited to this fragmented repeated viewing, and also weirdly ill-suited to it. The film’s chronology began to blur for me. Even when I watched it as intended, from beginning to end, I found I couldn’t remember what happened when, what had already happened, what might happen next.

To have something so familiar and comforting become suddenly unpredictable, confusing, even disruptive – that was just the natural result of my frantic, repeated viewings, of treating a piece of film as a pacifier, but it felt like a metaphor.

Not just that: it felt like an eerily apt metaphor. E. and I had a rocky relationship, but an unquestioned one. We’d known since high school that we would be there for each other, whatever we were to each other, for the rest of our lives. We just didn’t expect “the rest of our lives” to be so short for one of us, and so mismatched.

And now I was floating, flailing, untethered. Without him. A fundamental part of my life, someone I loved as wholly as I loved myself, was simply… gone. Everything I’d known about life as an adult was suddenly uncertain. For a few months, I was incapable of surprise, just a numb mixture of confusion and acceptance.

I was sad and small and lost, and I became careless of my own life and safety in a way that, when I finally noticed it and sternly set myself straight, scared me to my bones.

I won’t say that Groundhog Day saved my life. But it was a companion to me in a time when I needed one, and watching it and laughing and crying day after day, night after night, felt very much like holding hands and swapping jokes with the person I missed most in the the world, and whom I would never see again.

Rest in peace, Harold Ramis. I wish I’d thought to thank you when you were alive, in any of the long, happy years since the dark hours and weeks I’m describing here. I thank you now with all my heart.

36 thoughts on ““Well, what if there IS no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”

  1. You have captured the deep feelings of grief. It could be said that grief is the greatest emotion of ones life, and yet as we fall in love we may say the same. Saying goodbye to anyone is difficult, but that is made more problematic by it being a soul mate. Groundhog Day is an example of the many tools by which we seek to make this journey. That repetitive and safe place it offers, slowly but surely helps in the reconstruction of your heart. It is an unfortunate soul that cannot feel the deep and unique feelings associated with grief as it comes to all. May your journey continue and as the sun begins to warm you once more and the fond memories fill your heart, you will not have forgotten but set about living.B

  2. I’m sorry for your loss, too. It is so hard to lose someone so close. I’m glad you found an apartment. I’ve been looking for one since April. Not many places take dogs. I love that movie. He is such a great comedian. Take care now.

  3. It is amazing when some one or their work touches our lives in ways we didn’t realize until they pass on. It sadden and warmed my heart simultaneously to read your story. RIP Harold Ramis.

  4. An amazingly raw and honest account I’m sorry for your loss. I’ve never lost someone in that type of relationship but, I’ve had a lot of loss. I am sure Harold would be honored to know that he helped you through such a hard and scary time in your life. Is that not an artists greatest hope? To touch and move their audience in profound ways? Bless you for sharing such an intimate part of you

  5. Reblogged this on thatstorygirl and commented:
    Very lovely post – an honest and very truthful account of grief – I empathise and totally connect with what is written. Also a brilliant example of how integral story and films are to our lives. I too thought of this film when I hear Of Harold Ramis’ passing. He was a great poet and storyteller and I have a great amount of affection for this film. Read on and learn.

  6. Beautifully written, deeply emotional, may you always remember the light he bought to your life and equally important, the light you gave to his…

  7. This went straight to my heart. Your words. “And now I was floating, flailing, untethered. Without him. A fundamental part of my life, someone I loved as wholly as I loved myself, was simply… gone. Everything I’d known about life as an adult was suddenly uncertain. For a few months, I was incapable of surprise, just a numb mixture of confusion and acceptance.”

    I am very sorry for your loss. Stay strong.

  8. Thanks for sharing. I have been in deep grief for two months, during which time my brother and two of my friends died. Nothing helps me more than writing about it, and surprisingly, my blog posts have been very popular. I had feared driving people away w/ all my talk of death and grief! Just goes to show, people want to connect at that level. It’s something we all share. Thank you for sharing yours. I had the same experience with being careless of my own life. Weird. Like I just stopped wearing my seatbelt…scary!
    Thanks again – congrats on your FP. I hope we’ll get to stop writing about grief and loss soon!!

  9. I respect you for your courage and endurance…for being strong enough to share this with the whole world. Harold is still with you. And lucky enough to have such a brave like you.

  10. Thank you for sharing your deepest feelings on such a fragile time in your life, it was tragically beautiful. I too am familiar with such feelings…that of the loss of a child. I sometimes write about it on my blog. So sorry for your loss. Be well.

  11. I adore this movie, harold ramis, and bill murray. I adore how you used it as a metaphor to your relationship and life. I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. I adore your writing, too!

  12. Sorry for your loss. The story of life is the story of death. Its a loop of constant change, every day a different struggle to adapt and be reborn again to face another day. Like groundhog day, the obstacles we face may change, but they all seem to wear the same face. We live to face challenge. Without the struggle, we lose purpose, fade and die. Struggling to find context and meaning, through a love or a loss is as much a battle as physical survival is. Brave heart, you are not alone.

  13. First of all, I love this movie. It’s a tradition in my family to watch it every year on Groundhog Day, because we are original like that.
    Secondly, this was so beautifully written. You capture the strangeness of loss, of your experience with it, and make me feel as if I’m living it, too. I am so sorry for such a loss.

  14. Pingback: yeah write #150 weekly writing challenge winners: crowd favorite + top row three | yeah writeyeah write

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