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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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.

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.

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.