Poem

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I wrote a poem today.  For some people that may not seem like too big of a deal, but I really don’t like poetry.  I’ve always found poems difficult to read unless they are at the level of a nursery rhyme.  Anything beyond that level is beyond my abilities.  I don’t understand the economy of words or hidden themes.  Maybe I am too literal.  (Or stupid.)  Ask anyone who knows me, if something can be said with three words, I’ll use 33.

But today was different.  It was gloomy, and it is Monday.  I didn’t sleep well last night, and I have a deadline looming over my head to complete the FY 2017 budget.  My house is covered in drywall dust with no end in sight to the constant stream of workers talking loudly and blasting music by 7:30 a.m.

I arrived at my office with a plan, but by lunchtime I had barely made a dent.  With constant interruptions, I was struggling not to lose my temper.  I ordered lunch and planned to eat at my desk while I continued working.  I sat back in my chair for a moment and closed my eyes.  My mind wandered from one thing to another, one person to another.  My thoughts are too often on those who are no longer a part of my life. I hate getting older.  There is too much loss.  I am tired of losing.  Too much change, and I’m tired of changing.

I closed out of the spreadsheets.  I wasn’t going to be productive in my present state of mind.  I took a bite of my sandwich and tried to shake away the gloom.  I remembered something I had done years ago that had often helped me during times like this.  I opened up a Word document and started writing.  So much was bottled up, and I needed to release the thoughts one by one in a sort of stream of consciousness exercise.

Before I knew it, something had begun to take shape.  I went back to the beginning, and I began to tweak the words.  I edited and arranged them.  I worked quickly.  It was as if the words were telling me where they needed to be placed.  The words began to make sense.  One thought followed another, and a deeper meaning began to speak to me from beneath what I had written.  It was a poem.

It wasn’t good, and it certainly isn’t worth sharing.  I’m certain it does not follow the “rules of poetry.”  I remember there were always a lot of poetry rules that didn’t make much sense to me.  I’ve never been very good with rules!

The process of writing my poem was therapeutic.  I arranged the words and thoughts.  By economizing, a theme began to emerge.  What had weighed me down was lifted just a little.  A small part of the gloom floated away..off into the distance.

 

Laughter

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I’ve recently started doing something that I haven’t done in years.  I’ve been laughing.  The sound often startles me, and the feeling in my belly is a delicious shock.  I lay in bed last night listening to an episode of Frasier playing on Netflix as I fell asleep, and I started laughing.  I jiggled the bed with my laughter.  I couldn’t seem to stop or catch my breath. Continue Reading »

Wild Variations

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One thing I have found is that if I am not able to maintain some kind of regular routine in my life, I quickly lose perspective in all areas.  I question myself and lose confidence.  I question others and wonder about their motives, or I perceive imagined slights.  (What did he/she mean by that???)  I become overwhelmed by anything even slightly resembling clutter.  The pile of mail on the kitchen table makes me feel like I’m very close to being eligible for my debut on “Hoarders.”  Worst of all, I see a look of wariness in the eyes of my staff.  (Oh, no!  She’s on the warpath!)  Thankfully, while my family notices my craziness, they don’t seem bothered by it. They usually just roll their eyes and ignore me. Continue Reading »

July 3

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I spent some time tonight looking at old pictures.  They weren’t really so old, just three years ago.  July 3, 2009.  My dad looked so happy, and yet he would only be with us for a few short months longer.  I’m glad we didn’t know.  I’m glad it was sudden.  That July 3, 2009, his last July 3, he was happy and surrounded by his family. Continue Reading »

Orphan

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“As T and I sat on each side of her bed, we talked quietly of the other deaths we have witnessed together.  There have been too many.  I looked at him and I thought, “One of us will be here in a bed like this while the other sits in a chair holding a hand.”  Just as I had that thought, my mom opened her eyes.  It was the first time all night that she was aware of our presence in her room.  She turned her head and  looked at T.  A big smile lit up her face.  She reached for his hand and said, “You are a good man.”

She asked him where I was, and he said, “Right here by your side,” and he gently turned her head.  She said, “I love you,” and reached for my hand.  It all only lasted a moment and she was asleep once more.  There was no more conversation or consciousness.

T and I sat there on each side of the bed holding her hand.  This mother who caused me grief, strife, and years of conflict held onto our hands, the three of us connected.  Forgiveness should not be something that is given lightly, freely, or without justification.  Forgiveness is earned.  Tonight, I forgave my mom huge, vast quantities of past injuries.  She confirmed the one thing I know to be true.  T IS a good man.”

I wrote those words a little over a week ago.  I was writing them during the final moments of my mother’s life, perhaps I wrote them even as she died.  That late night/early morning I sat alone in the living room cuddled under a blanket with my feet propped up on the coffee table and my laptop warming my lap.  I needed to write so that I would not forget those peaceful, touching moments.  I didn’t know that they would be our last moments together.  I knew the end was very near, but I thought she might make it through another day.

That night, I finished writing, shut down my computer, and headed up the stairs to get ready for bed.  Only moment later, my phone rang.  It was 1:30 a.m.  A nurse was calling to tell me that my mother had passed.  She had been alive at midnight when the nurse had checked on her, but now she was gone.  I was naked when I received that call, stripped bare and standing in the bathroom.  I stood there holding the phone, and my first thought was how ironic it was that I was nude.

I didn’t know what to do next.  The nurse wondered what funeral home we were going to use.  She wanted a phone number.  She said that they needed to make arrangements for “the body.”  I was naked, standing in the bathroom.  It was 1:30 a.m.!  I didn’t necessarily carry that kind of information around with me.  I wrapped myself in a towel, woke up T, fired up the computer and began making calls.  The ball was set in motion.  There were an amazing amount of details, arrangements, and phone calls to make.

This past week has been exhausting.  I was still borderline sick.  T ended up getting sick, and Lola woke up on Thursday with a 102 degree fever.  We have had a funeral, cleaned out an apartment, and had a son home for the weekend.  It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions.  There have been wonderful visits with family that I haven’t seen in years.  Our friends have been kind, caring, and supportive.  I love my friends who instead of bringing casseroles brought the ingredients for chocolate martinis.  In the midst of pain, there was laughter, friendship, and love.

This weekend is the first time in two years that I haven’t been drawn to visit a hospital or an assisted living facility.  I tried to see Mom on most weekends.  On the weekends when I wasn’t able to make it to visit her, I felt a weight of guilt.  This weekend has been the first time in over two years that I have been able to choose without conflicting feelings the activities I engaged in.  Still, it has not been a great weekend.  I am drained and exhausted.  My emotions are fragile as hell.  I looked at a tree today, and it brought back a memory that made me cry.

These past two-plus years have been terrible.  There is no other way to describe them.  It all began in December 2009 when I lost the person I thought was my best friend.  By choice, this person turned away, ran away, changed paths.  However you’d like to phrase it, this person who meant so very much to me, decided that I didn’t really mean that much to them.  A handful of days later, I lost my dear, dear father.  Losing Dad left me with the sole responsibility of my very sick mother.  Eventually, I was called upon to support her through the withdrawal of treatment and the weeks leading to her death.  Two years of senseless hell.  At times, it has felt like I have been trapped in my life, and there was no way out, nowhere to turn.  At times, I have crumbled and fallen apart, but for the most part I have just dealt with the circumstances.  Like a drone, I have learned to deal with what life threw my way.  I coped as best I knew how.  I trudged through the days, the weeks, the months, and it all added up to two-plus years.

In the sadness of this past week, there have been moments where HOPE has popped through like bright sunshine.  I can take a trip now without feeling guilty.  I will have a summer of working in my yard on the weekends instead of running to the hospital.  Little by little, I am beginning to see that I have a chance to reclaim my life.  T and I are talking about a short trip to Vegas or to a beach sometime soon.  I’m planning a trip this spring to visit a friend in Georgia.  We will be able to have moments of doing NOTHING, and not feeling like we should be doing SOMETHING.

The apartment is empty.  Now it is time to turn our attention to the house.  We need to sort through the rest of my parents’ belongings.  We’ll keep a few things that have sentimental value, but most of it will go on an auction in a month or so.  This afternoon, I went to the house alone.  I haven’t been there in weeks, and it was the first time to stand in my childhood home knowing that BOTH of my parents are dead.  It hit me hard.  I have no one left who shares my memories.  I went from room to room, and the memories were vivid.  I saw things.  I saw my parents as they were years ago.  I saw a little girl and her little black dog.  I remembered where the piano once stood, and the Christmas tree, and where Dad sat to drink his morning coffee.  I remembered addressing my wedding invitations as I sat on the floor of the living room.  I remembered my own now-grown children coloring at the little table in the sunroom.  Where did my life go?  Where did my family go?  I wandered from room to room, and I felt like an orphan.  I cried and cried.  I finally let it all out.  Two years of loss and pain.

I couldn’t stop crying until I walked into my dad’s room.  I stood in his closet and put my arms around the one special shirt of Dad’s that I had saved.  It was just a silly polo.  I had bought it for Luke, but he hadn’t liked it.  Grandpa liked it, though, so Luke told him to he could have it.  It cracked the boys up to see Grandpa wearing a purple American Eagle shirt, but I think that made Grandpa love it even more.  I stood there looking at that purple polo alone in the closet.  I put my hand out and touched the fabric.  My dad had been here.  He had been real, wonderful, and loving.  Oh, how I miss him!  As I stood there, I felt his love.  Yes, lives are too short, but the love lives on and on.

 

 

Bird Number Two

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Our mud room is full of stuff once again.  Almost as soon as we loaded all of Luke’s belonging into the car for the trip to Milwaukee, Andrew started hauling his boxes down for the trip to Chicago.  Tomorrow is his last day home.  Of course, he will be back to visit and for holidays, but I wonder if he will ever call this house home again.  No, this won’t be easy, but it is time.  I am excited for him.  I envy him the experience and promise that lies before him.  What a lucky kid!  He is following his dream, and I hope he hangs on tightly to that dream.

I have always known that Andy had a solid purpose on this earth.  I’ve never known what that purpose is.  I still don’t, but that’s not what is important.  Of course, we ALL have a purpose here.  We are all meant to be, but as Andrew’s mother, I have always known that Andrew was meant to be born.  Hard to explain…

Grace Elizabeth was born 12 weeks early.  She was beautiful and perfect, but she was so tiny.  She fought for her life for 17 days until pneumonia entered the picture, and the fight was over.  She was born quickly.  I gave birth to her suddenly and at home.  We weren’t expecting her for weeks.  We weren’t ready, and she wasn’t ready.  None of it made any sense.  What purpose did this fulfill?

A month or so after Grace’s death, I found out that I was pregnant again.  It was Andy.  It was a miracle.  After trying for two years to get pregnant, I was suddenly and unexpectedly going to have another baby.  So soon.  Maybe too soon the doctors said.  It wasn’t an easy pregnancy.  I was grieving.  At the same time, I was excited.  As the difficult milestone of Grace’s due date approached, I was already pregnant.  It was a mind-twisting mix of emotions.  Nine months after Grace’s death, my healthy baby boy was born.

Many times I have wondered if Andrew and Grace passed beside each other on their way from one place to another.  He floated in as she was floating out.  Anyone who has ever held a newborn baby has seen the sweet “involuntary” smiles they make in their sleep.  I have always thought that it was the voice of angels whispering in their ears that are responsible for those smiles.  As my sweet baby Andrew grew, there were times when I wondered at his existence.  If Grace had not been born early, Andrew would never have been conceived.  It would not have been possible if I had carried Grace to term.

Twelve years later, he was almost taken from me.  One of the most powerful moments I ever experienced in my life was on the day of his accident.  Andrew had been wheeled out of surgery.  The doctor had come into the “Special Horrified Family Room” to talk to us.  Andrew was in a coma.  The doctor said things I didn’t understand.  Frontal Lobe Injury/personality changes.  Profuse bleeding.  Orbital fractures.  External Fixator.  Respirator.  Echo cardiogram.  The doctor said that Andrew would probably not live.  If he did live, then he would most likely be profoundly handicapped.

No, I didn’t think I was going to let that happen.  I walked away from it all, my husband, the doctor, the crying grandparents, the friends who had gathered for the death vigil.  I walked away.  I went into the bathroom and stood in a stall behind a closed door.  I was furious.  No-Fucking-Way was my son going to die.  No way was my son going to be damaged.  No-Fucking-Way.  It was unthinkable.  I had lost Grace.  Andrew wasn’t even supposed to be here.  His birth and conception should not have happened….but they did.  No one was going to tell me that at 12 years old it was all over.  No.  For once, thankfully, I was right.  If it was the only time my hard-headed belief was ever right, then that’s OK.

I could write volumes on what came next.  Yes, Andrew’s recovery was a challenge.  It was a struggle and a fight.  Andrew and I fought together.  I pushed.  I advocated.  I demanded.  I made him mad.  I made other people mad.  It was all worth it.  ALL OF IT.

Ten years later, the accident and the fight and work of his recovery is in the distant past.  If you met Andrew, you would see nothing unusual.  If you didn’t know, and no one chose to tell you, you would never know that he was injured so badly that the doctors were ready to give him up for dead.  What would you see if you met Andrew?  You would see a young man who is excited about moving out of his parents’ home to attend his “dream school,” as he calls it.  He is well-spoken and well-read.  He’s a fantastic musician.  He talks a lot.  He has a wonderful sense of humor…just like my Dad.  He is so much like my dad.

I love all of my children with all of my heart.  They are my joy and my life.  But Andrew is something else, too.  I’m not sure if I can explain it sufficiently.  He was born out of my loss.  He brought happiness into my time of grieving.  He saved my life more than once, but that is another story.  Would he be here if not for my determination not to allow him to die?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That isn’t what is important.

In two days, I will let go.  This time, I will allow him to leave to find his way on his own.  He will find his purpose, and I will be left behind with a smile on my face and a heart full of joy.  I have been honored to have this young man in my life.  I have learned so much in life by being his mother.  Even before his birth, when he was nestled beneath my heart, he brought me joy and a strength that I never knew I could possess.

I am excited to watch as the next chapter of my son’s life unfolds.  This time I am not holding him or holding his hand, but the bond of our hearts remains.

The Worst Question In The World

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Yesterday was not a good day.  Today was better, but only because I was so busy at work.  I didn’t have many moments to think.

I have back-tracked.  I have revisited….again….that same old questions.  WHY?  Why….this?  Why…..that?  The question of why always leads me to look at myself.  What is wrong with me?  Why am I not good enough?  Asking those questions always leads me to begin the litany of my shortcomings.  I am not nice enough.  I am not patient enough.  I didn’t give enough.  I didn’t express myself well enough.  I am not pretty enough.  I am not smart enough.  Who would like ME?  Why would anyone like ME?  I am not worthy of love.   You get the picture.

 

Rejection:   refusal, spurning, dismissal, elimination. 

Elimination:  1.  to   remove or get rid of, especially as being in some way undesirable.  2.  to omit, especially as being unimportant or irrelevant.  3.  to remove from further consideration or competition.  4.  to eradicate or kill.

Spurn:  to reject with disdain; scorn.  2.  to treat with contempt; despise.  3.  to kick or trample with the foot.

 

Losing is not easy.  Losing a friend because they choose not to be in your life any longer is damaging.  Being a liability in  someone’s life means that you are a problem.  You are not worth their time or effort.  To them, you are disposable.  Who could not look in the mirror and wonder, “What in the hell is wrong with me?”

But wait, I have been dealing with this for long enough now to know that logic cannot always be applied to every situation.  Some people are guided by a set of rules that (thankfully) didn’t get passed out to the rest of us.  Adolf Hitler, Rev. Jim Jones, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Goebbels, Mussolini.  These guys didn’t care about the feelings of those they hurt.  They did whatever they wanted.  They did whatever it took to please themselves.  They didn’t own the damage they inflicted.  Guilt was a foreign concept.  They didn’t spend moments reflecting and agonizing over the results and consequences of their actions.  They certainly didn’t apologize.  Just as the abusive husband blames the wife.  “She was asking for it….  She shouldn’t have pushed me.  She should have known better. ”  Bad guys never take the blame for their own actions.  That blame is much easier to place on everyone and everything around them.

Of course, I have never encountered anyone with the level of evil of men like Hitler or Stalin, but evil and corrupt behavior, whether on a large scale or a small scale, hurts people and destroys lives.  Yesterday I was stupid, and I blame myself for that.  It does me no good to ask the question, “WHY?”  There are some questions without answers.  There are some people beyond understanding.  Not everything in life is neat and tidy.  Not everything or everyone follows logic.

T and I took our usual 3-mile Power Walk after dinner.  He made me walk with him.  Well, he didn’t make me.  I said I was too tired, but he looked so disappointed that I said I would go.  I didn’t want to let him down.  He’s really excited that he has lost four pounds.  I have lost none!  The Power Walks seem to spark my hunger.  I am ready for a snack as soon as we’re back home.

Tonight as we walked, I was lagging behind on the hills.  Beating myself up is exhausting business.  I am beyond tired this evening.  I was griping and grouchy on each hill.  I was whiny like a child.  “It’s too hot.  Do we have to do the whole three miles?  Can’t we go home now?  I’m thirsty.”  T refused to let us cut the walk short.  At times, he grabbed my hand and helped me along.  As we headed up the last, and largest, hill near the end of the walk, he put his hand in the small of my back and told me to let him help me.  It was amazing!  He wasn’t even pushing me, but leaning into the weight of his hand made that last hill easier than all of the others.

That small action of encouragement meant so much to me.  He was helping me and being a friend, and I didn’t have to ask.  I didn’t have to beg.  I didn’t have to sell myself to him.  He didn’t care what I looked like.  (ponytail, glasses on, no makeup, sweaty, and grouchy)  He was helping me, because none of those surface things matter to him.  He was helping me, because he is a good person.  So simple, and so welcome, and just what I needed at the exact right moment.