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.

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.

Worn Out

I’m worn out today.  I wanted to write about it.  I have a few blogs, but what I wanted to write didn’t really fit in any of them.  I considered starting a new one, but it would likely meet the same fate as the others – a few posts, then abandoned.  So I’m giving up the facade that I started this blog with.  Oh, it’s all still true, but I’m much less angry and wound up about that part of my life now.   I’m just not going to put so much effort into maintaining the stage names I gave everyone to start with.  If they happen to find their way here and don’t like reading about themselves, oh well.
A quick recap on the last six months (it’s January 2017, so that would bring us back to June 2016):
Stephen and I took the kids camping together for a week in July.  It was alot of fun and we made some great memories as a family.  Chris (my kids’ father) and Danielle (his now-former) girlfriend and their baby (Hunter) got evicted from their house and moved in with aunt (the one he moved with when he first left my house).  In October, they moved into a different apartment in another town.  Also in October, Stephen admitted to seeing other women for the last few months so that relationship was over in a heartbeat. (Cheating is not something I tolerate, at all.)  I was blindsided by this; I had no indication that anything was wrong between us.  That situation has caused me alot of heartache over the last few months – I wish I didn’t, but I still think of him daily.  My feelings are shifting a bit though, and I’m just shaking my head about his lack of respect for me lately, and (right or wrong) hoping that he misses me and that he’s sorry for the way he treated me.  Don’t misinterpret that – I wouldn’t take him back even if he came begging, but it still hurts deeply that he destroyed everything that we built, between us and with our kids.
Chris and Danielle broke up near the end of November if I remember correctly.  There’s always drama there – first the story was that he was filing for custody of Hunter and needed to get out of the house for a couple days while the shit hit the fan.  Then she broke up with him but he had nowhere to go so he was still living there til he found a place.  Then he had a sob story about how she’s been physically, emotionally, and verbally abusing him for the last year and a half. In lieu of getting a job, he started a GoFundMe page for himself to raise money for an apartment and bills and a car.  Then she apparently came home at 4am with her new boyfriend saying that she is pregnant with the new boyfriend’s kid and that Chris needed to leave.  So that was the second time in less than a month that he begged me to let him sleep on my couch. (I didn’t let him.)  Eventually, he took Hunter and went to live with his other aunt (the one he lived with right before he moved in with Danielle).  He now lives 25 minutes away from me and I won’t drive the girls there multiple times a week.  Due to circumstances there, it’s not really possible for him to have them on weekends, and I’ve taken away any overnight visits until he gets his shit together.  Twice now he’s claimed he is starting a job “next week”.  I give up; I don’t listen to him anymore.  Anything he tells me could be, and likely is, at least partially a lie.
So that’s the skinny on the drama in my life.  As a result of the above *crap*, I have few occasions where I don’t have kids home with me.
Which leads us back to the whole reason I wanted to get on here and write and vent.
It’s Sunday afternoon.  Yesterday, I took the girls to see Sing, a movie they really really wanted to see.  Then I had to run in to a store for 5 minutes and they were asked explicitly not to touch anything.  All I did while scrambling to find the things I needed was repeat the mantra of “don’t touch, don’t touch, pleeeeease don’t touch”.  By the time I was at the register I was at my wit’s end and raised my voice, to which the clerk looked at me like I was evil.  I didn’t care.  She should be glad I didn’t let them tear the place down, which they could have and would have done in 3 minutes flat, given all the breakables and “cool” shiny stuff there.
Then we had to go to the grocery store.  I shop at Aldi so it doesn’t take long – maybe 45 minutes when they are with me.  We go through the door; the whining commences.  “Held me pick out some things for your lunch box.”  “I don’t like any of these things.” (In an aisle full of cookies, snacks, crackers, fruit cups, pudding cups, candy and other diabetes inducing joys.) “Then what do you want in your lunch?” “I want to go to Wal-Mart.  They have stuff I like there.”  They have the same. damn. things. here. “Honey, they have the same things here, just different brands.  If you don’t choose some things, you won’t have anything for your lunch.”  “Then what will I eat?”  “You’ll have to buy your lunch.”  “But I haaaaaaate school food!” “Then pick out some snacks!”
The rest of the shopping trip was some variation of this, plus “stop running”, “put that down”, “don’t climb on that”, “stop spinning in circles”, and “we’re not getting toys here”.  Plus that bathrooms were out of order and V had to pee, so I was trying to move at hyperspeed so we could get somewhere else with working plumbing.
K has a book report due Tuesday.  Her procrastination skills are superbly honed for being only nine years old.  She chose the shortest biography she could find – Mark McGwire.  This child could couldn’t play baseball if you stuck her in left field with a mitt on each hand, let alone follow the game or care about a retired player.  She swears  that the book doesn’t have enough information to fulfill the requirements of her project, so she has had to google.  Repeatedly.  Which leads to watching YouTube and playing Roblox.  Redirect, redirect, redirect.  She requires a break every 30 minutes for relaxation and snacks that she hated in the grocery store yesterday.  There are three parts to the project.  One of them is finished.  The second is started.  The third might never be.
They scream at each other.  These children don’t have a normal volume – everything is playground level.  My throat and my ears hurt today.  It hurts me to talk, let alone raise my voice.  I hid in my room just to get two minutes of quiet.
K insists on watching “live” ghosthunter videos on YouTube.  This led to “creepy dolls that move”.  This, in turn, led to V getting scared and wanting to play with her dollhouse instead (ironic).  K decided she wanted to play too; I had already told her to go finish her book project.  After much protesting and full-volume arguing, both children were banished to their rooms so I could get three minutes of relative peace.
I’m worn out.  Mentally, emotionally, physically.  It is a hard job to be a parent 24/7.  I’ve been a married parent; I understand that there are many relationships where one parent does the majority of the work (because I was in one).  But now there is NO ONE to settle an argument, no one to do the yelling when my throat hurts, no one to make me a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner because I don’t feel like cooking but don’t want to go out into the arctic for takeout. (And I’m too cheap to pay for delivery very often.)  I have to be the nurturer, the disciplinarian, the teacher, the cook, the maid, the chauffer, the bank, the handyman, the doctor, the vet, the comforter – the good guy and the bad guy, all day every day.  I’m not complaining about that and I’m not saying that I don’t feel appreciated for it.  I am glad that I can do all these things and that I’ve shown myself and everyone else that I can support and manage the family that I’ve created, by myself.  People tell me that they’re proud of me, and that makes me feel good.  Even though my kids rarely express it or even act like it, I know that they appreciate at least some of what I do, and years down the road they will understand it even more.  I am mostly content where I am now – raising my kids, working on making my house mine, and building relationships with friends.  I like being the sole adult in the house – most of the time – not having to consult with anyone before I spend money or change the decor in a room or spontaneously decide that we’re getting a pizza.
But I’m still worn out.  I want fifteen minutes to read or take a power nap or just stare at the ceiling without wondering where the next outburst will come from, who will be tattling on whom for what, what the next crisis will come from.  I’m sick of constantly telling people to pick this up, put that away, clean that up.  Sunday’s chore is cleaning the bathroom – one for each kid.  It takes five minutes – it’s just a surface clean – but it will take 30 minutes because I will have to stand there cajoling and coaching and prodding and reminding that allowances depend on this.  I just don’t feel like it today.  But I know that I have to, to teach them that responsibility, that work is tied to pay and that we are responsible for pitching in and helping others.  I’m counting the hours until bedtime (5 minus 8 minutes, I’m bad at math).  I desperately want a glass of wine then, but I think my sore throat will indicate otherwise (although alcohol kills germs, right?).  I need to vacuum, and get their stuff ready for a day at Grandma and Grandpa’s tomorrow (holiday, but I work).  I just don’t wanna.  I want to whine and complain – it’s my turn.
Time to go make that grilled cheese sandwich now.