Upon Her Return…

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Imagine what it would be like to be plucked from your life for a year, two years, maybe even longer.  Then quite suddenly, you were back!  Well, you were back to the same place, but of course, things had changed during your absence.  That’s how my life feels now, but I’m sure no one around me notices a thing.  They hadn’t even noticed that I had been gone.

Before I go any further with these thoughts, let me say that my intent is not to criticize my family or friends.  I have been blessed with a supportive family and truly wonderful friends.  Unfortunately, some of the burden of these past few years has been mine alone to carry.  It was my dad who died.  It was my mother who was sick.  I was the one the hospital, nurses, and doctors called when there was an emergency.  I was the one who made the phone calls to check in on my mom.  T made many trips to visit my mom.  The girls went along many times, too.  When the boys were home, they made their obligatory visits.  They helped haul and carry things during her three moves these past couple of years.  The one constant in my mom’s life was ME.  If T was there, so was I.  If the girls were there, or the boys paid a visit, I was there, too.  I was there, there, there.  And now I am not.

It has been two weeks now.  Two weekends in a row I have gotten up on a Saturday AND a Sunday morning with the entire day in front of me.  It has been a strange experience.  Oh, I have plenty to do, plenty I should do, plenty I can do, just nothing that I HAVE to do.  The obligation is over, and it’s sad in a way.  I feel sad to feel so lightened.

I feel like a stranger in my own life.  I look around, and so much has changed.  My parents are gone.  Just gone.  Poof!  It suddenly feels sudden!  Two hellish years, and it feels so sudden!  What in the hell happened?

The past two weeks have been so strange.  I miss the boys.  Did you know they are gone?  Of course, they’re gone, but suddenly the house feels very empty without their messes, their loud voices, and their laughter.  They are both so happy and so involved in their own lives.  What is/has been going on here at home has been secondary at best to them.  That is as it should be, and I’m proud that they are happy and haven’t felt that I am their responsibility.  I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Em is almost out of high school.  We will be celebrating her 18th birthday in a matter of days.  She is “in love” for the first time.  Yes, they use those words right in front of us!  Her boyfriend is sweet, protective of her, and has the most beautiful smile.  The funny thing is, he bears an almost eerie resemblance to T at that same age.

Lola is a big girl now.  She’s selling Girl Scout cookies, volunteering at an animal shelter, and has perfect grades.  They have all grown and changed so much.   When did that happen?  I have been so busy dealing, just dealing, with all of my responsibilities that I haven’t really seen a darn thing that has been going on around me.

What about T?  What has happened during the past few years with T?  Like always, T is there, has been there, will be there if I need him.  He is the foundation.  He has made sure that the necessary things have gotten done.  He has cooked many (most?) of the meals.  He does the laundry.  He drives Lola to Girl Scout meetings.  He helps with the homework, gives advice, and listens.  Of course, he doesn’t even know that he’s doing these things or that it is anything unique.  He just does them.  He doesn’t think things to death.  He just picks up the slack when it has been necessary.

I am trying to remember who I was before these past two hellish years, and where I fit in now.  The problem is, two years ago, I was a different person.  I had different dreams and vastly different ideas of where I thought my life was headed.  My view of my family and my marriage were different, too.  Remembering, or trying to once again become, who I was two years ago is irrelevant.  I don’t even want to be that woman again.  Anyway, it would not even be possible.

I had an extra-long weekend.  Lola stayed home sick from school today, and I took the day off to be home with her.  As we took an afternoon snooze, I laid there thinking about this strange, disoriented feeling I have had since my mother’s death.  I thought about how it feels like I have been plucked from some strange place and plopped down right back where I was two years ago.

As I laid there, I thought about Doris Day in the movie “Move Over, Darling.”  She had been rescued from a deserted island and returned home expecting to find her family as she had left them.  There aren’t any further similarities, thankfully, but that’s how I feel right now.  I feel like I have been on a deserted island and have returned back home expecting to find things unchanged, but that isn’t possible.  Life goes on and on.  Even if it seems at times that we, as individuals, have been stuck on a hamster wheel, those around us keep moving on and on.  I’m just going to have to work hard to catch up with everyone else.

Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfection.  Advance and do not fear the thorns in the path, for they draw only corrupt blood. ~ Khalil Gibran

 

 

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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.