Alone

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“We need others.  We need others to love, and we need to be loved by them.  There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

No one person can be everything to another person.  I need someone to talk to who knows my heart, but there is no one there.  There is no one I can pick up the phone and call who would understand…or not think that I have lost my mind to call and reveal to them the inner workings of my heart.  The fact that there is not one person I can reach out for right at this moment makes me feel so lonely. Continue Reading »

For Dad

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I heard this song today as I drove to work.  I had been driving along, looking at the now-barren fields, the beauty of the blue sky, and the wispy clouds overhead.  As always, I felt calmed and grounded by this land that I love.  It was during moments like this morning, that I would often pick up my phone to call my dad, my connection to all that has come before me and loved this land in very much the same way.  As tears filled my eyes at the painful reminder that I can no longer reach out and hear my dad’s voice, I remembered that his spirit is always near me.  And then this song played on my iPod.

Continuum

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Last night I spoke to my younger son for the first time in three weeks.  That is the longest time I have ever gone without hearing his voice.  We had exchanged a few texts, and I knew that he had talked to his dad.  Of course, T filled me in on his conversation with our son, but that was nothing compared to having Luke on the other end of the phone. Continue Reading »

Need a Refill

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I don’t even know what to write about.  All I know is that it helps me to write.

I’m traveling again, and I am lonely.  This is a trip that I’ve taken too many times.  I am at the state capitol for a legislative forum.  While I know that this is important, I also know that I have more important things going on locally.  More immediate issues require my attention.  I have brought staff along with me on this trip so that I can hole up in my hotel room and work from my laptop.  I wish that I could have stayed home, but the bureaucracy I am part of requires that I attend this forum. I tried my best to delay my appearance for an additional day, but that same bureaucracy won’t allow my staff members to drive an official car.  I could have asked them to take one of their personal vehicles, but I just couldn’t.  Even though they would have been reimbursed, it didn’t feel right to ask.  So I drove the official car.   It feels like I am their mother chauffeuring them on a field trip.  They are excited, and I’m happy to see that at least. Continue Reading »

My Roller Coaster Life

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T and I went to Chicago last weekend for an open house/parent’s day at Andrew’s school. We both took Friday off work. I was excited because we were taking the train for this trip, and it would be T’s first time riding the train. I had hoped that he would love the experience, but he wasn’t too impressed. I suppose I understand that. He didn’t like the lack of control he felt without a car. He did like not having to pay an arm and a leg for parking, though.

We had a great time. Our visit with Andrew was really, really wonderful. After checking into our super-fabulous room, we met Andrew at a Starbucks near the “L” station by our hotel. We talked. We hung out. We went for an early dinner at one of our favorite spots and gorged on BBQ sandwiches. Then we headed over to the Hancock Center to have a drink at the Signature Room on the 95th floor. The view was spectacular, made even more fantastic with the addition of the twinkling Christmas lights. We each had a martini. The bill was over $50 for three drinks! After we left the Hancock, we shopped a little and wandered our way over to another favorite spot where we feasted on crab cakes and filet sliders. The weather cooperated, and it was wonderfully warm for December. I did stop to buy some ear muffs, though, and T and Andrew laughed when they made me talk too loud and say, “what” each time they spoke to me.

The visit, demonstrations, and tour of Andrew’s school were impressive to say the least. While the changes in our son have been evident, we began to realize that his newfound focus and drive can be credited in part to an intense curriculum. The students are immersed in their discipline from day one. I can’t begin to express how very proud I am that Andrew has taken hold of his new life in Chicago and appears to be thriving and loving every minute. Our visit was over all too soon. They were golden moments that I am certain each of us will always cherish. It’s a rare gift to be able to have such happy, fun, content moments with our grown son. As we made our way back home, both T and I were quiet. We had taken a day and night to forget about everything that weighs down our lives. Now we were speeding right back to all of the things that made things not so perfect.

It didn’t take long once we got home to lose the relaxed, peaceful feeling we had in Chicago. All of our regular weekend chores were waiting for us. The girls had stayed home by themselves, and we had allowed Em to have a couple of girlfriends spend the night. They had a fantastic time, and I’m glad….but oh, what a mess was waiting for us. They had done A LOT of cooking. The made cupcakes, pancakes, bacon and eggs. While they had “cleaned up” the kitchen, it wasn’t exactly up to Mama Martha Stewart’s standards. You could have practically skated on the bacon grease that covered the hardwood floors in front on the stove.

When we got home, the girls were hungry. They wanted dinner. They wondered if I was going to go to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping. “There’s nothing good in the house!” Uh, no…not that evening! There was laundry to do, cat fur to vacuum, and I was feeling guilty knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fit in a visit to my mother that weekend.

While I enjoyed having a Friday without work, I should have been in the office. It’s budget approval time, and I had two really horrible meetings to prepare for on Monday. I should have been working on Friday, but being a Mom had to come first in this instance. It is such a balancing act at times. Panic was beginning to creep in while I was attempting to do a weekend’s worth of work in one day at home.

By Sunday evening, I was not feeling well. My batteries were running low. As I pulled into the driveway way after dark from my trip to the city with a load of Christmas gifts and groceries, T informed me that he had brought home a Christmas tree. Ugh! I put away the groceries and made dinner while he put the lights on the tree and Lola bounced around excitedly asking me when I was going to get the boxes of ornaments out of the basement. UGH! All I wanted to do was sit down, but what I really needed to do was a week’s worth of ironing. Decorating a Christmas tree had not factored into my plans for the evening. I could feel myself slipping. I was near tears. I didn’t want to be grouchy. I wanted to go back to that happy, relaxed feeling I had less than 24 hours earlier.

As I ironed, a friend sent me a text asking about getting together sometime with mutual friends to have a holiday drink. These are friends from “back in the day.” We are all past PTA presidents, and spent many mornings sipping coffee while our now-grown kids played. I loved the idea of getting together again to catch up on each other’s lives. We’re all working now. The kids (almost all of them) are all grown, and we don’t get together as often as we once did. My friend sent a text. “How about Sunday, December 11?” and I lost it.

December 11. I hate that day. It is the most horrible, despicable day. December 11 is the day my daughter Grace died. December 11 is the day my dad died. Two people I loved. It was on December 11 that I held my daughter in my arms as she looked into my eyes and took her last breath. On a December 11, I wandered through the pitch dark house, room to room, flicking on lights and calling my dad’s name. On December 11, I found my father dead on the living room floor. December 11 is full of horrible moments frozen in time.

I told my friend, “I’m sorry. I can’t on December 11.” I sent no more texts. I couldn’t. How could I explain that I am crazy on that day each year? How can I explain that I live in fear of that day? On December 11, I want to gather everyone I love all in the same room. I want to make them sit within my view. I want to hold a vigil over them. I want to lock the doors and stay in the house.

That one little text, with the words “December 11” threw me for a loop, and I still haven’t been able to recover. I sat in the bathroom and cried. I couldn’t help with the Christmas tree. I sat down later that evening and talked to T about it. He knew, or at least understood, my reaction. He’s seen it for years…The December 11th Syndrome. It’s real, and it sucks.

Things have been hazy since then. The cloud of depression has descended. I tried to explain that to T, too. The clogged-up, cottony feeling of depression. I told T about times in the past when I had wished for a semi to cross the center line while I was driving. I had wished for a patch of ice to spin my car around, out of control, and throw me off the road. I explained to T about the times when the depression became almost unbearable. I told him about times when I truly had not wanted to go on, but could not figure a way out of each day…the endless string of days filled with pain. I told him that sometimes, and now was one of those times, dealing with depression is an exhausting struggle. It felt better to talk and to say it all out loud.

Through the haze of this depression, I have been functioning as well as I possibly can. I’ve been working and taking care of my responsibilities. Life goes on. People are nice, or people are rude and mean. What I am going through is unnoticed and unimportant to most people around me. Most people don’t even know. I created the budgets. I attended the meetings. I answered questions and phone calls. Like an automaton, I continue to function day after day.

Strange moments have pushed themselves forward, to the front of the haze. Last night, I fell asleep on the couch and dreamed a happy dream. I had a puppy, a bloodhound (strange!) and I was happy. Something happened, though, and woke up. I was was awake for hours alone in the middle of the night. Near dawn, I fell asleep once again. This time my dream was full of fear and sadness. I don’t remember exactly what happened in the dream, but I was surrounded by grieving people. The room was full of despair. A door opened, and in walked a dear friend. I was up and wrapped in a comforting embrace. This morning, I sent my friend a thank you text for being such a reliable, comforting part of my real life. That steady friendship had made its way into my dreams just when I needed a friend.

And the strangeness continues.

This afternoon, I received a text from another friend. “Sorry I won’t be able to meet for dinner. Problems at work. Had to fly to CA.” I had no idea that I had even made dinner plans. So I rescheduled a dinner that I apparently would have missed.

Tonight, when all I wanted and needed was to completely relax and regenerate at the end of a bad day, I received a phone call from the hospital. My mom had fallen, and they thought her leg was broken. There was no need for me to come right away. Mom was being taken in for an x-rays, and I wouldn’t even be able to see her. They told me to wait for a call. I didn’t change my clothes. I didn’t throw on my comfy yoga pants and giant sweatshirt. I stayed in my office clothes in anticipation of a trip to the hospital. I waited. I did laundry. I vacuumed. I helped Lola with her homework. I made dinner. I carried my phone around waiting and waiting. Thankfully, my mom called at 8:30. Her leg isn’t broken. She can’t walk, though, and has been admitted to the hospital. No, there was no need come to the hospital tonight, but I need to go first thing in the morning. Arrangements will need to be made. The hospital will only keep her overnight. The assisted living facility won’t allow her back if she isn’t able to walk. It’s up to me, once again, to figure out where my mother will be going. Again. Again, and by myself. I have meetings scheduled for the morning. How am I supposed to fit this in, too?

After talking to my mother on the phone for a while, I felt reassured that she would be OK for the evening. I hung up and headed into the living room to let T know what was going on. There he sat on the couch with a 12-gauge shotgun on his lap. A man with a gun. It was shocking, and instinctively, I took a step back. It was my dad’s gun. We had brought it to our house, because it didn’t seem safe to leave guns in a vacant house. Of course, the gun wasn’t loaded. T doesn’t even like guns. He wants them out of the house, and was looking online for a fair selling price. Still…it’s a strange thing to walk into the living room and see your husband sitting there with a gun across his lap.

All evening, I thought of the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity…” Tonight I was praying, not for serenity, but a break from what seems like an endless series of crises. In closing this post, I ask you all to please be kind. None of us can know the internal struggles of those around us. A kind word, a smile, an act of friendship just might make someone’s day a little better at a time when they need it the most.

Lost Love

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I’ve written a lot about my son Andrew, my oldest son, the one most like myself, and the one most like my father.  His life has been spectacular and tragic all at the same time.   Very much like my own life when I think about it.

When Andrew was a senior in high school, he was selected to be part of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band.  Two students from each state were selected through an audition process.  (Andrew is a fantastic drummer, guitarist, vocalist.)  Students from across the nation marched in the famous Thanksgiving Day parade.  He had just turned 18, and was excited to return to New York City where he had been for the first time the previous spring on a school trip.  This time he was going alone, playing the drums in a famous parade, and would be with students from across the country.  On that trip to New York City, Andrew met Katy.

During their week in the Macy’s band, they were inseparable.  Katy was from Montana.  He told us all about Katy when he returned home, but we didn’t make too much of the situation.  After all, they lived over 1,000 miles apart.  As the months passed, Andrew and Katy remained close.  It’s a different day and age.  A thousand miles isn’t as far as it used to be.  They talked on the phone daily.  They chatted on Facebook.  They Skyped.  They cooked up a plan for Katy to visit us the following summer.  I didn’t think it would happen.  What parents would send their daughter off for a month to stay with a family they have never met?

Katy and Andrew were persistent.  They talked to us.  They talked to Katy’s parents.  They had us talk to each other.  Before we knew it, the plans were set.  Katy  would be staying with us for a month.  She would sleep in the girls’ room.  We made plans to have another “daughter” for a few weeks.  Katy even scheduled several college visits for her trip.  We were beginning to see what these two had planned.  They were attempting to bridge that thousand mile gap.

I was apprehensive to say the least about having Katy under our roof for an extended period of time.  How well did these two even know each other?  What if their feelings changed the moment they saw each other again?  What if we were creating a month-long problem?

The moment Katy stepped into the airport, I knew that I was wrong to have worried.  Katy and Andrew ran towards each other with huge smiles.  They looked and looked at each other as if they were seeing a mirage that might disappear at any moment.  There was no reason to worry.  Katy was everything Andrew had told us she would be.  She melted right into our household routine.  She was kind, helpful, funny, and lovely.  There were tears all around as we drove her to the airport at the end of her visit.

Katy and Andrew’s  long distance relationship continued to grow.  The following winter, Andrew spent most of his college break in Montana.  Once again, the following summer she spent time with our family.  When the school year began, the distance would be bridged somewhat.  Katy was transferring to a school within driving distance of our home.  I was so excited to have her (my other daughter) closer to our family.  We talked about holidays and plans to have her spend time at our home during school breaks.

Suddenly, it was over.  Andrew was away at school, and so was Katy.  To this day, I don’t know what happened.  One weekend Andrew came home from school, and he was a wreck.  Katy had ended their relationship.  She cut off all contact.  He didn’t know why, or that is what he told me at the time.  I’ll never forget my then 20-year-old son pulling me into the bathroom to talk.  I sat in a chair, and he sat on the edge of the tub with tears streaming down his face.  “I don’t know what to do, Mom.  It feels like I have lost my best friend.  I don’t know who to talk to about this pain.  SHE is who I told about my problems, and now she’s gone.”  Seeing his pain, understanding his pain, was horrible.  We both sat there and cried.  What words can soothe the pain of losing your best friend?

Over two years have gone by now.  Andrew crashed, faltered, failed, and hit rock bottom during those two years.  He dropped out of college.  His entire appearance changed.  His demeanor went from happy-go-lucky to oftentimes belligerent.  He had lost his best friend.  Many times during those two years when I would try to reach the Andrew I knew still lived inside of him, he would remind me.  “I have lost my best friend.  What is my reason for going on each day, Mom?”  He once told me that if he didn’t know how much I loved him and how much it would hurt his family, he would not still be here.  By here, I knew that he meant that he had wanted his life to end.  It scared the hell out of me, because yes, I knew that pain.  Thank God for the strength of the love he felt for his family.

They say time heals all wounds, but I know that isn’t true.  Some wounds never heal.  Time simply teaches us how to push aside the immediacy of the pain.  Time teaches us how to cope with the disability of loss.  Andrew is moving forward.  He is moving on.  He is learning to redirect his focus away from the pain.  Sometimes he smiles now, and the smile actually reaches his eyes.  He is now 23 and back in school.  There has not been another relationship in his life.

I have spent the past several Sundays cleaning, organizing, sorting, and throwing out 23 years of “boy stuff.”  Last Sunday,  I concentrated on the room in the basement where Andrew keeps his drum set and where he practiced guitar.  Along with about 500 CD’s, scraps of paper with guitar chords and lyrics, I found something else.  There were several boxes, neatly wrapped in paper, with the Andrew and Katy letters.  Alongside the letters were other keepsakes.  In the midst of the chaos of the music room, were these mementoes neatly tucked away and preserved.  An antique dresser stands in the corner of the room, and I cleared a spot in a drawer to save them all.  I didn’t read them.  I didn’t look through them…as much as I wanted to! (It about killed me!)

As I continued to clean, I found the handwritten eulogy Andrew had given at his grandpa’s funeral.  I remembered how eloquent and heartfelt his words had been that day.  My dad would have been proud.  I sat down in a chair to read it once again, and when I opened the folded pieces of paper, I found something else.  It was a letter to Katy.  Andrew had written it, but never sent it.  Maybe he doesn’t  even know where she is now after several years.  This time, I couldn’t resist.  Why was it tucked in with the eulogy?  Would this letter explain Andrew’s tormented past several years?  I opened the letter and began to read.

As I read, the tears began to stream down my face.  It was absolutely, stunningly beautiful.  He thanked her for loving him.  He thanked her for her friendship.  He apologized for perhaps not giving their love and friendship enough thought or enough value.  He apologized for taking things for granted.  He reminisced about happy times.  He told her that he loved her.  He said that he still misses her, that a part of himself will always be missing without her.  His closing words were, “If I’m ever lucky enough to be sitting across the table from you again in this life, you won’t have to steal my fries.  I would gladly give you every single one.”

After reading the letter, I walked upstairs to where T was watching football.  I sat down in a chair across from him and tried to speak, but I couldn’t stop crying.  I just said, “Andy and Katy.”  T knew that as I had been cleaning that day, I had been  finding the things Andrew had kept.  He knew that I wasn’t looking at them, but instead was tucking them safely away.  He looked at me as I sat there crying, and asked me what I had found.  I told him about the letter, about reading it, and about how much our son had loved this girl.  T listened, as he always does.  He rolled his eyes a bit at my reaction, but he didn’t make me feel stupid.  He just listened.

I sat there sniffling and trying to collect myself.  I looked out the window at the bare trees and the windy November day.  God, how I hate November.  I looked around the room at our stuff, the stuff of a family.  I missed the boys.  I missed my dad.  I missed my grandparents.  I hate losing things that I hold dear.  I hate change.  I hate loss.  I sat there thinking about all of those things, and I turned to Todd and said, “Sometimes life is just so hard.”  He replied, “No, MOST times life is hard.”  I sat there a little longer pondering his words, and I realized that he is right.  Life is hard.

Later that evening, I called my son Andrew.  No, I didn’t tell him.  I didn’t even mention Katy.  I told him that I had cleaned the music room and that I had saved his things in the bottom drawer of the dresser.  We talked about a project that he was working on for school.  We talked about soul music, his recent fascination.  If it were possible for words to be a hug, if it were possible to send peace and strength through a telephone, then that’s what I tried to do.  I told him that I love him, was proud of him, couldn’t wait to see him at Thanksgiving.

Last night Andrew called me and said,  “Mom, things are getting back on track with us, aren’t they?”  I said, US?  What do you mean?  He acknowledged how difficult the past couple of years have been, but that he was feeling so much better about everything now.  He and I, who had never had conflict, had weathered a tough time.

I said, “Sometimes, some people in your life know you so well that they can see into your heart.  I think that you didn’t really want me looking.  I didn’t want you looking, either, and we both resented the fact that we could see it anyway.”

He laughed and said, “No shit!”  Oh, how I love my son.  🙂