Ten Years / 29 Days / 1 Year

It’s been two days shy of a month.  The days and weeks since the beginning of February are blended together; most of the time I’m not sure what day it is, and barely what month.  The time has both flown by and dragged.  My oldest daughter turned ten yesterday, and it was bittersweet.  The tenth anniversary of the day I became a mother, and the first of those anniversaries without my own mother by my side.
The song Lightening Crashes by Live was on the radio yesterday afternoon.  I have always felt the lyrics to be powerful:

Lightning crashes a new mother cries
Her placenta falls to the floor
The angel opens her eyes
The confusion sets in
Before the doctor can even close the door

Lightning crashes an old mother dies
Her intentions fall to the floor
The angel closes her eyes
The confusion that was hers
Belongs now to the baby down the hall

The song always brings me close to tears; yesterday it took me all the way to tears.
Ten years ago, I became a mom, and my mom became a grandma.  I never imagined being here now without her.

The pain is fading, somewhat.  Or maybe I’m hiding it; I’m a little worried about that.  There are moments when the realization that there are things I will never be able to talk to her about hits so hard that it feels like my heart is tearing open.  In those moments, I push the feelings down, bury them, because the world keeps turning.  I feel like I can’t bear to face them without breaking down.  That worries me, knowing that it will probably build to a breaking point, but I don’t know how to face those feelings.  I can’t conjure them up on demand when I am alone and have time to deal with them, and when they happen, I rarely have time to deal with them.  I have kids and a job and a house and responsibilities.

I talk to the girls about her often.  We stopped at the cemetery last night to be sure her solar lantern was working.  V showed grandma her new glasses, well, she held them up to the sky because that’s where grandma is.  She waves to the sky too.  Before we left she kissed her hand and put it on the still too fresh dirt on her grave, leaving a kiss for grandma.

I had to take V to the doctor last week because she kept saying that her heart hurt.  After some examination and conversation, the doctor determined that she is probably physically feeling her grief and stress.  She talked to V about expressing grief, crying, and remembering good things about Grandma.  The whole thing broke my heart even more – my tiny baby is so stressed that she is physically feeling pain.  She shouldn’t have to go through that.  Her heart has only hurt a couple of times since then though.

The doctor said that it took her three years to be ok after her father died.  Three years is a long time.  It seems like forever right now.

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8 days

It’s been 8 days since my mom died.
When I say it out loud, I say “passed”.  It sounds nicer.  But either way, it’s been eight days since life changed forever, eight days since we gave up hope and let her go.
I can’t tell, really, if it’s been 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months, but the calendar says 8 days.  My sense of time has been so distorted, especially for the first couple days.  Time passed so slowly yet so quickly at the same time.  People ask how I am, and I answer “Hanging in there.  One day at a time.”
Really, it’s one moment at a time.  Not one minute, one moment.  One piece of time.  There are moments that life is normal, working, watching tv, window shopping online.  There are other moments that are crushing, when nothing feels right and everything feels wrong and there can’t possibly be any way that it will ever be good again.  I’ve had more of those moments today than in the last week.  Maybe it’s the stages of grief I’ve heard about – the first one is shock and denial.  I’ve had shock, for sure, but not denial.  It just doesn’t seem real.  The next is pain and guilt.  Check.  The third is anger and bargaining.  I don’t think I’m there yet.  I can’t imagine bargaining; there’s nothing to bargain.  It won’t bring her back.  Next comes depression, reflection, and loneliness.
I think these are out of order.
Or maybe they just happen all at once.  I don’t know.  Where’s “I cry randomly when I’m driving” and “I just want to sink into the floor and be unconscious for awhile”?  What about “I can’t concentrate on anything because my mind is everywhere”?  Or “I think I’ll try finding a guy to date so I can direct my energy elsewhere”?
There was this guy I had been talking to in the weeks before 8 days ago.  We talked quite a bit, and finally met in person the day before 8 days ago.  It was nice – we sat at the bar and talked for upwards of three hours.  He asked me out again, and kissed me before we parted.  We talked pretty steadily over the next week too, me trying to keep things normal and him saying he was thinking of me.  On Saturday, he asked me when he could see me again.  We made plans for the following Saturday.  On Sunday night, we were chatting about normal stuff, mundane stuff really.  And then nothing from him.  All day Monday.  All day Tuesday.  I sent a couple messages – “Good morning”, “I have a babysitter for Saturday, what time works best for you?” – but nothing.  He disappeared.  He’s blocked his profile from me on the site we met on.  I’m flabbergasted.  Why no explanation?  I truly have no idea what happened, and now I’m kind of pissed off.  Lead me on then abandon me?  Bad for my self esteem.
So I had a little pity party for myself, then decided that it would be a good idea to get back on the dating site I met Stephen on.  I created a new account – didn’t reactivate the old one – and uploaded a photo.  I started looking.  I “liked” a few guys.  I came across my ex-husband (we were a 45% match, ha, I can attest to the inaccuracy of their matching system), then I came across Alan.  The guy who led me on then disappeared.
Of course I sent him a message.
It said something like “I’m kind of annoyed that you just stopped talking to me, with no explanation.”  He looked at my profile at 4-something this morning.  I know he’s alive and has internet access, which makes me even more upset.
I spent alot of today talking to guys who find some aspect of me appealing.  It’s freaking exhausting, trying to remember who’s who and what they do and where they live.  At some point, I realized that it was a mixture of grief and the sting of being “dumped” that made me feel the way I did over Alan yesterday.  Then I went on to realize that I got on this site for a distraction, for an ego boost.  I like being told that I’m pretty as much as the next girl.  It makes me feel good to have guys talk to me.
I also realized that I want to be wrapped up in someone’s arms, comforted.  Someone who loves me and cares about me and wants to take care of me.  I missed that so much, and I grieved that too.
A stupid thing to be grieving at a time like this, which made it all worse.  It brought on the “nothing is right” hollow feeling, the panic welling just below the surface, waiting to be unleashed in some scary way.  What if I never find love?  I’ll never be married for 44 years like my parents, not at my age.  What if I never have someone who cares for me and loves me and wants to take care of me?  What if it really is me and my 27 cats when I’m 95, chasing kids off my porch with a broom?
So I sit back and think about it, and I sigh.  I don’t know what else to do.

 

Eulogy

In this digital age, we don’t think much of taking a photo. Most of us could take out our phone right now and snap one. In the last couple of days as I was looking for photos of mom, I was struck by how few there were. This means two things to me:

  1. Don’t wait. Take the picture. You will be glad you did some day.
  2. There are many more pictures of things that mom did for us or with us than there are of her – birthday parties, holidays, trips, crafts, pets. She always made sure we had what we needed and then some. She always took care of us. She put everyone else ahead of herself.

I owe my mom more than I could ever express. I think that you don’t fully realize the sacrifices that a parent makes for their children until you, yourself, are a parent. Parenting requires selflessness. You want nothing more than for your children to excel and succeed, from their first steps on. Mom wanted this for Joe and I, and did everything in her power to make it happen, never complaining about what she was giving up in order to make that happen. She played with us when we were kids, drawing and coloring and playing games with us, helping us with whatever crazy project we wanted to undertake next. She has done this for my children as well, giving up the free time that retirement brings so that she could care for Kaely and Vidia while I worked. I never told her how very, very much I appreciate that. I will be forever grateful that my girls got to spend such great time with their grandparents. Not every kid gets one-on-one attention year round for their first four or five years. My girls are lucky. I am lucky.

What will I remember most about my mom?

Her patience. She rarely raised her voice. She didn’t get frustrated when we didn’t understand something. When she could see me start to lose my cool with my very strong willed first born, she would tell me “Patience, mama, patience.”

Mom was the only one who could buy makeup for me. She could pick out the exact shades that would look good on me when I wasn’t even in the store with her. I can’t even do that for myself.

It was the same with clothes and shoes – she had a knack for choosing just the right size, style, and color for me, even as my size and tastes changed.

Her memory – mom had a memory like an elephant. She could tell you the date she got her tonsils out as a kid and what she ate after. She remembered the birthdays of all her siblings and their spouses, and all her nieces and nephews.

I learned to be thoughtful from my mom. She was always doing a little something to make you feel special – a note or a sticker in my lunch box, a card mailed to our family post office box just so I would get my own mail, cards and mail at college even though I came home every weekend. A gift for me on my first mother’s day, a valentine every February. I try to continue these things with my kids, but I’m just not as good at it. I don’t have her memory either – maybe that’s the problem.

I don’t know how I’m going to raise my girls without my mom to talk to. We had some tense times when I was a young adult and was sure I knew everything, but we grew into friends as I got older. I am going to miss talking to her terribly. I already have a whole collection of mundane things I want to tell her, because that’s what we did in the afternoons when I picked the girls up from her house after work. I never imagined a time when I wouldn’t be able to do that. I expected her to be around to see the girls graduate from high school and college; get married. I hoped that she would be able to meet her great-grandchildren some day.

If I can be half the mother that she was, I will consider myself a success. I miss you, mom. We all do. We love you. I hope that you’re living it up with Annie again. Until we meet again.

An Update on Life

“How are you holding up?”
“I’m OK.”

That’s the standard answer.  I’ve been up and down and up and down and up and down so many times over the last month.
My mom’s spleen burst in the wee hours of Sunday morning, resulting in its removal.  She received hemoglobin today.  The swelling in her hands is down, but it’s worse in her legs.
Last time I saw her was Friday.  She was a different person then.  She was regaining mobility in her hands and arms and feet, slowly, but making progress.  There was talk of moving her to rehab soon.  She complained regularly that her stomach hurt, but everyone attributed it to the not one but two feeding tube incisions.  There was an air leak in the first one, so a middle of the night surgery pulled it out and put a new one in.  Maybe those stomach pains were her spleen failing?
She was working hard to communicate with us.  My brother installed an app on a tablet and she was having some success using a stylus with it to give us some words.  We printed out communication boards; I made an alphabet board complete with commonly used phrase cards interchangeable via Velcro.  We were getting better at reading lips.  My dad was pleased, to a degree, by the fact that it seemed that she figured out that if she said her stomach hurt, they wouldn’t try to sit her up in a chair that day, and she got a little smirk about it.
Prior to that, she was sedated in the ICU, non-responsive and unable to move her extremities.  She finally received a diagnosis of acute demyelinating neuropathy.  A plasma transplant worked wonders, and she was alert and responsive and asking questions again, after two weeks being out of it.
Today, I arrived and she was sleeping.  I sat and let her sleep.  Within two minutes, a doctor and nurse arrived to check her incisions, and I was quickly shooed out so that they could take care of the “oozing”.  I would call it less “oozing” and more “dripping blood”.  I was quite unnerved.  They let my mother lay in a bed dripping blood down her abdomen?  What kind of hell is this place?
I found a waiting room, then a restroom.  Then I made my way back.  They needed more time.  I decided I would wait outside her room, trying to hear the talk from behind the curtain.  The CCU is surprisingly loud, so that didn’t happen.  The nurse came to tell me that it looked worse than it was, that the edges of all her incisions were weeping because of her thin blood, and they had bundled bandages on top of bandages so it looked like more blood.  They had packed it with a medicated dressing this time, she said, to help stop the bleeding.  She was empathetic; I appreciated that.  A minute later, the doctor came to me.  He had consulted with the surgeon who operated, and he concurred with the nurse.  The blood thinners should be out of her system completely in a few hours, and they would check her again.  If the “oozing” continued, they would take her to the OR and wash out the wound so that they could look for a single source of bleeding.  He was empathic too, in the detached manner that a doctor needs to be.
Finally the imposing nurse let me back in.  Her demeanor changed; she introduced herself and went about making my mom as comfortable as possible.  She got her a cold washcloth for her forehead and adjusted some things.  She chitchatted with me.
My mom was, I hope, loopy from pain meds.  Her left eye looked funny, like it did when she was heavily sedated a few weeks ago in the ICU.  She tried to tell me some things, but she was less distinct than the last time I saw her, or maybe I’m just still bad at lip reading.  I couldn’t find the letter board and I couldn’t interpret the letters she was trying to make in the air with a shaky hand.  I did get this, though: “You shouldn’t be here.”  She tried to tell me why, but I couldn’t make it out.  “You don’t want me here?” No.  “I should be with the girls?”  She nodded her head yes, but I knew from her expression that it was her giving up on me, not the right answer.  She tried hard to tell me something else too, but the only words I could get were “lost on”.  And “on” might not even be right.  If I don’t get it after a few tries, she gives up. It’s frustrating for both of us.
I hope that my dad doesn’t get that late night phone call that they’re headed to the OR to flush her wounds because she’s still bleeding.  I hope that her body starts to work, to clot in the right places, and let her heal.  I hope that I get a chance to find out what’s lost.

The Honest Answer

“How are you?”
I answered honestly.  “I’m tired, sad, worried, and irritable.”
My mom is very ill.  She went into the hospital Thursday and was moved to the ICU Saturday.  She is sedated and on a ventilator to allow her body to rest and heal.  We can’t even talk to her because her body responds to voices by spiking her blood pressure.  My dad has been by her side most of every day.  My brother and I went to see her and him yesterday.  I realized partway through that really we were there for him, to give him a break from just sitting there with her.  I don’t know what to do for him.  There’s not much I can do for my mom at this point, I don’t know if she even knows that people are there.  But what can I do for my dad?  I got him some groceries today, brought in his mail, fed the cats.  Probably sit with him.  It occurred to me today that he’s got nobody to lean on right now except my brother and I.  Nobody to talk to, to vent to, to worry to, to cry with.  He tears up when he talks to me, and I know he doesn’t want to do that in front of the kids.  But they’re always with me lately.  That’s making me tired too.  I take them to school in the morning, then pick up V at noon and bring her to work with me since my dad is at the hospital and can’t watch her.  Then I leave work early to get K off the bus; bring work home with me not so much because I need to keep up with it so much as I don’t want to use up my PTO.
The situation is affecting the kids too, even though they don’t know the extent of it.  They know that their routine is off, that grandma is sick, that mom cries sometimes.  They suspect that grandpa does too, even though he says that he has something in his eye.  They’re a little wild, and I don’t have much patience right now.  I snap at them; I yell when I probably don’t need to.  Their girl shrieks and whining grate on me now more than it should.  They don’t listen and they don’t follow directions.
V had a 20 minute meltdown today because it wasn’t her turn to push the shopping cart and a line of other injustices.  They asked repeatedly to have a sleepover in the living room, which isn’t allowed on school nights.  K put on the roller skates that are four sizes too small and that she’s been told dozens of times not to wear.  V stripped down to her underwear and left her clothes in the kitchen.  They were both shrieking and tattling on each other.
I remembered the one time that my mom got fed up with us and needed a break.  One time, out of of 15 years of being a stay-at-home mom.  I remember that day, my brother and I were arguing and irritating each other, and not listening to her.  The next thing I know, she’s backing out the driveway in her big old car (Cadillac or Oldsmobile, I can’t remember, but my dad always got her big boats to drive because they were safer), a cigarette in her hand (this was the 80’s).  I was in the driveway, crying, asking her where she was going.  I could see the tense anger on her face as she said she would be back soon.
She was probably only gone a couple minutes, but she came back a different person, my calm, collected mom once again.
I understand that feeling now.  I understand needing just 2 minutes of quiet, of not having to referee fights.  A miniscule amount of time, but so beneficial.
And I feel ashamed of my outbursts at my kids.  I don’t have the patience my mom does.  I’m not the mother she is.
Every year that goes by, I appreciate my parents more.  The sacrifices they made, the things they did and didn’t do.  What they put up with, what they taught.  My mom is the same age her father was when he died.  I’m the same age my mom was she lost her mother (though her mother was older than my mom is now).  My grandma died on my brother’s sixth birthday.  I have always envied her for holding it together through that day, through his party with a bunch of wild boys, and me with my questions: “Why is grandma’s chair here? Why won’t you tell me?”  Finally, later, after the cake had been eaten and gifts opened and guests picked up, she told us.  Every year on my brother’s birthday, I remember that.  How a day she experienced great joy would be a day she experienced great sorrow a few years later.  How strong she was to hold herself together for his sake, for our sake.  How I don’t think I could do that.  I know I couldn’t do that.
My daughter’s birthday is approaching.  I’m not going to lie, I’m afraid of history repeating itself.
I’m afraid that I’m not strong enough to handle that, not anything close to that.  I desperately wish in some moments that I had Stephen to hold me.  He was so good at that, big and strong and knew how to hold me and make me feel safe.  I am tired right now, tired of standing strong on my own, tired of holding it together, so sad for my dad, so worried for my mom.  I want to be with her and him and make it all better, for all of us, for them, for my girls, for me.  My mom is the strong one of the family, and we are all struggling to be half as strong as she is right now.  I wish I could give up half my breath to her, give her a lung to help her breathe.  I’m not ready to lose her.  I need to thank her for everything she’s ever done and still does for us.  I need to tell her how much I admire her and love her and need her.  How much we all need her.
Please get well soon, mom.

A Rough Week

It’s been kind of a rough week.

I went to Paint Nite Monday with my friend Joelle.  It was fun, but the evening was a rush, as it always is when I try to get the kids home then right to their dad’s so I can get where I’m going on time.
I decided mid-week that I needed answers from Stephen, about why he made the choices he did.  So I sent him a message, and the ensuing conversation took place over a 24-hour span.  I got the best answers I’m going to get, but it opened up that floodgate of feelings.  I don’t deal with feelings well.  When I first met Stephen, I had this wall built up around my emotions.  He quickly figured out how to get in there and tear it down, and held me while I cried because the destruction hurt.  That was one of the reasons I loved him like I did.  My best work friend, my “cool aunt” because she’s too young to be my work mom, told me, nicely, that I either need to forgive him and see if he’s interested in trying things again, or let him go.  I agree.  I guess I feel a little more settled now that I have those answers, though I worry that he just told me what he thought I wanted to hear.  I’ll be damned if I don’t find myself longing to be in his arms just one more time though, feeling safe and loved as he kisses my forehead.
That whole thing put me in a bad mood for a portion of the week.  It was payday this week (yay!), but that meant it was also bill paying day (blech).  I got my creative on a bit.  I had some ideas of different ways I could do the painting we did on Monday, so I started those.  They have to be done in stages though, to let the paint dry.  I haven’t figured out if I’m using a different kind of paint that it takes longer to dry than when I go to a class, or if I’m just glopping it on thick.  (I do like glopping it on.)  I also decided to do one of my own design, which didn’t come out as planned but is still decent.  I’m not a good painter, but I do like using it as a creative outlet.  I haven’t felt much inspiration for photography lately – I need to take my “inspiration move me brightly” tattoo more to heart.  I’m just not seeing anything I want to capture.  When I do, it’s early in the morning or in the evening when the light is that wonderful, full, brilliant last light of the day.  I never have a camera nor the time to stop on those occasions it seems.
V came home from school sick yesterday.  She has a fever and a cough and a stuffy nose.  I hope it’s nothing more than a cold.  RSV is going around her school.  We’re supposed to go to Disney on Ice tomorrow – a Christmas gift to them from me – and I hope she’s feeling better.  No one got much sleep last night between her coughing (I let her sleep in my bed) and K’s sleep over with two friends.  Nine and ten year old girls are like short teenagers – they are loud, messy, and eat everything.  Plus there is gratuitous eye rolling.  I still have that weird headache over my right eye that I attributed to the lingering sinus infection.  I’m going to the chiropractor Tuesday, as it does align with the spot that has been tight in my neck for weeks now.  If that doesn’t help, obviously it’s a brain tumor and I should seek medical advice from WebMD, right?
Off to eat the leftovers from the pizza I brought home for dinner last night but nobody would eat – the short teenagers don’t like pizza this week, apparently.

So you raised a liberal…

I watched some coverage of the Women’s March on Washington today.  I wish I had been there.  My girls and I wore our pink cat ear hats instead, and I talked to my 9 year old about why so many people were marching.  Later in the day, I imagined someone commenting to my dad that he raised a liberal.
I don’t generally discuss politics.  I identify as many things, a liberal being one of them.  My general thought is that as long as you’re not hurting anyone, you should go about your business and no one should bother you, and vice versa.  You want to wear a pink polka dot chicken suit to the grocery store?  Fine, as long as you can see well enough to not trip anyone.  You want smoke some weed on your day off?  I don’t consider that much different than having a few beers, just stay home and stay safe.  And keep your agenda out of my uterus, thank you very much.
My father is a registered Republican, though I think he identifies with more conservative lines.  He seems to enjoy arguing about politics; I do not.  I don’t usually make outward gestures of my political beliefs.  So I don’t discuss it with him.  Every once in awhile, though, I’m more passionate or vocal or visible about something.  He realizes that I’m pretty liberal in all things.  So I wonder what would happen if someone made that remark to him, “You raised a liberal.”
Yes, you raised a liberal.  But first and foremost, you raised someone to stand up for what she believes in, to take action if she thinks something isn’t right or could be better.  You raised someone to respect others’ opinions, and their right to have them, even if she doesn’t agree with them.  You raised someone to believe that, with enough will and the right resources, you can make a difference.  You raised someone to believe that everyone should offer everyone else equal respect, unless they demonstrate that they are not deserving of it.  And that even then, it’s better to walk away or to state your case calmly.  You raised someone to see that your way isn’t the only way.
You raised a liberal.  Rock on, dad.  (And mom.)

#MarchOnWashington
#pussyhatproject