Unmoored – eighteen months later

I wrote the post below a couple of months ago now. It has been patiently sitting in my post folder as a draft. I decided to go ahead and post it today even though it is dated. The eighteen-month anniversary of the passing of my parents has passed. And although I didn’t feel so just a few short weeks ago, I’ve begun to feel as if I have turned a corner. I feel like the fog is lifting and I am recognizing myself again, caring about things again, having more self-direction. I can’t promise this feeling will stick, but I am hopeful that the intense grief has passed and I am becoming accustomed to life without Mom and Dad.

That being said, I woke up crying one day last week from a vivid memory of Mom. When I was attending college in my hometown, I lived on campus. My long-time, four-year boyfriend and I broke up and I was pretty torn up about it. I gathered my dirty laundry in the morning after a sleepless night. And as soon as I deemed it late enough to arrive, I drove over to my parents. My roommate had called my mom without my knowledge. When I got there, Mom was standing at the door, in her robe, waiting for me. This makes me cry again today just thinking about it.

But what I realize today is that I may always have moments of tears about Mom and Dad. That’s okay. I suffered a loss. And the truth of the matter is that life will never be the same. It’s a new world.

June 29th, 2014

In a couple of weeks it will be the 18-month anniversary of my mother’s death. A year and a half. And the reason I’ve paid attention to that is that somewhere earlier out I Googled how long we grieve for a parent and I read somewhere that it’s different for everyone, but somewhere from 9 to 18 months is typical.

I’m approaching the 18 month mark for my mom’s death. And two weeks after that, it will be 18 months since my father died. So I wonder again whether I grieve for them simultaneously or consecutively which would mean I get three years to grieve.

Eighteen months. Is that all the time it’s been? it seems like forever.

Most days I think I am doing quite well, but every now and then I have a bad day where I find my self sobbing, with a deep gut-wrenching pain that reminds me how much I miss her, him, them, and how I’ll never see them again.

Am I getting through this okay? I wonder.

My sisters are my reality check.

My sister C. will call and say, “I had a really bad day the other day about Mom and Dad.”

“Me too. I’m not sure why, but I found myself crying again,” I say.

Then I’ll talk to my other sister. “I had a bad day earlier this week.”

“I did too,” K. answers. “I don’t know why. I have trouble at night before I fall asleep. I just think about everything that Mom went through, and I feel so bad for her. We really went through a traumatic experience.”

“Sometimes I cry for Mom and what she suffered and went through in the last years of her life,” I say. “And sometimes I cry because I want to talk to her, or because she doesn’t know I had a hysterectomy a few weeks ago.”

“Sometimes I feel really bad about what Dad had to go through,” K. will say. “I really hope I don’t have to depend upon other people to take care of me.”

Life does go on, but for me life will never be the same. Some things become less important, like finding the right window treatment for the dining room. And some things become more important like my personal relationships. I try harder to stop parenting in what can only be received as a judgmental way. And when I’m not able to hold my tongue, I find myself explaining my perspective and apologizing more. I try to nurture the sometimes fragile relationships I have with my siblings. And I make an effort to find ways to enrich my husband’s life.  How I will be remembered is much more important to me. Being in control, having things my way, and being right don’t matter so much.

I still continue to feel like an unmoored ship, directionless, no one behind the wheel.

But maybe that’s okay.

 

See more posts about my journey through grief.

Advertisements

Where’s my stuff? — Anna moves to Chicago

Mark and I helped Anna move to Chicago at the beginning of March. Her new company gave her relocation money that included paying for the movers, so we didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting as we have so many times in the past with her and our sons’ many moves over the years.

We drove to Chicago the day before the moving van was scheduled to arrive, Anna’s car packed with necessary and fragile items.

 

02-accomodations-2
A new take on “bed-in-a-bag”

After arriving at her new apartment and lugging our survival supplies up three flights of stairs,

First stop - Chicago pizza
First stop – Chicago pizza

we headed out and walked a few blocks to Clark Street where amongst the shops, bakeries, and bars, we found Calo’s, a restaurant that served excellent Chicago-style pizza.

06-Basic necessities
The bare necessities

Well-armed with paper products, leftover pizza in the ‘frig, and our electronic devices,

01-floor seats
Waiting

we settled in for the evening to wait the arrival of the moving van in the morning.

03-neighbors
A rear window

The weather forecasters were calling for snow. No big surprise this year. You can barely see that the snow had started by morning.

04-snow
Snow delay

These rear windows to Anna’s apartment tell the story. And the early morning arrival of the moving van became a hopeful wish,

05-alleyway

and then a disappointment, as the day dragged on and Anna continued to ask, “Where’s my stuff?”

06-waiting
All the comforts of home

We passed the time and entertained ourselves with our iPhones in the comfort of collapsible lawn chairs.

07-stuff
Boxes and paper

Alas, the stuff arrives. It’s packed in boxes.

08-bed

It’s on the bed,

09-bathroom

in the bathroom,

09-odds and ends

and on every available surface area. But it is here. We spend the rest of the day helping Anna unpack with the goal in mind of emptying and then removing empty knocked-down-flat boxes so she wouldn’t be suffocated by stacks of disarrayed boxes in her cozy apartment. Then we tried out another local restaurant for dinner. In the morning Mark and I head south for home and our plane to Arizona in the morning. (The tickets for the Red’s spring training in Goodyear, AZ  purchased before any of Anna’s job-search and relocation were more than a passing gleam in her eye.)

10-possibilities

We drove away, leaving Chicago, and Anna who was happily settling into her new home, behind–the yet-to-be-explored possibilities making it all worthwhile.

 

This post is part of a continuing series – Anna moves to Chicago.

With suitcase in tow

In the short and cold days of January I drive to Hospice where spots of packed down and slippery snow coat the parking lot. I pull my loaded overnight case with wheels out of the trunk and settle my tote bag on top. It contains my iPad, a book to read, Werther’s original candy, some Dove chocolates, and important papers that include the Healthcare Power of Attorney documents for both my Mom and my Dad that I have been informed I need to have with me always. The tote bag also holds a small purse that I am never ever without. It contains my cell phone and a small notebook I created with all the information that I need at my fingertips including phone numbers, social security numbers, doctors numbers, medicine lists, insurance card numbers, and other pertinent information.

I turn around, pulling my bag through an inch or two of snow, and move towards the door with care not to slip and fall. The man with the silver hair in the enclosed golf cart pulls up beside me and offers me a ride. Although I accepted one the last time, today I decide it is just as easy to keep walking than to lug my suitcase into the cart and back out again for such a short distance.

I sign in at the Hospice front desk and make my way down the halls to my mom’s room with my suitcase in tow. My sister K. has packed her things back in her bag and is getting ready to go home. The air mattress she brought, after we determined the chair that pulled out into a hard bed was beyond hope even with the addition of a foam pad, is leaned on its end against the wall in the corner behind the recliner. K. was right that it fits on the floor between the two chairs in the room, but just barely.

I remove my wet boots and place them behind the door where they will make a small puddle that I will clean up later. Mom is awake and we all talk for a few minutes while I remove my hat and coat and get my slippers out of my suitcase. K. and I keep our spirits up for Mom and our tone has an element of celebration to it. We are all here together chatting. We are family and we need each other.

K. goes over the highlights of her 24 hours with Mom and hands me the stenographer’s notebook with green lined pages that we keep a running journal in. She puts her coat on and leaves, pulling her overnight bag behind her.

Mom dozes off.

I settle into the recliner and read K.’s notes from yesterday:

Lunch: 1/4 C of tea

3 small pieces of turkey

3 small bites of sweet potatoes

1 sip of milk

3 oz of vanilla milkshake

1/2 roll

Supper: 3 spoons of chicken and noodle soup with crackers

10:00 p.m. We had to wake her up for her meds. She was very groggy. We used applesauce to make it easier for her to swallow.

4:30 a.m. Mom woke up and went to the bathroom alone. She was in pain when she got back to bed. We got an I.V. for the pain.

8:30 a.m. Breakfast. Very groggy—couldn’t focus on eating. She took 1 bite of eggs by herself. I gave her a few sips of tea. I gave her one small bite of eggs, a tiny bite of bacon, and tiny bite of toast. I put the tray to the side—

*Meds are being given with vanilla pudding now (or apple sauce).

*She can have more pain medicine at 2:10

*Ask about the IV. How does it affect grogginess?

I try to rest with my feet elevated. If tonight goes like the previous ones, I will be up a lot helping Mom to the bathroom and trekking down the hall and through the sprawling building to the snack area where I can warm up Mom’s heating pads that seem to bring her comfort.

I go through the routine of watching Mom not eat, and recording it, watching the clock and asking for her medicines on time even if she is sleeping through it. We have learned from experience that we don’t want to delay the meds. I have a few short conversations with Mom when she rouses, primarily about the minutiae of her daily life here.

“I have busy days here,” she tells me from her hospital bed from which she only rises to use the bathroom.

I do the best I can to keep her comfortable and anticipate her needs. I sleep when I can. I talk to the doctor and nurses when they come and tell me again that Mom is on a steady decline. They don’t tell me anything I can’t see for myself.

I keep detailed notes for my sisters all the while.

Sometime before noon my sister comes to replace me. I have returned the air mattress, that I wrestled into place on the floor last night, back to its spot against the wall behind the chair. I have returned my things to my bags. I pull on my hat, coat, and boots; kiss Mom good-bye and leave with my suitcase in tow.

~~

Five months later I watch for my sister K. to arrive for an overnight visit. I’ll show her how I arranged Mom and Dad’s china in the cabinet, and the display I created with Dad’s flag and army badges and metals. I’ll show her the shadow box where I arranged my share of Mom’s costume jewelry pins that Dad always gave her. I’ll show her the scrapbooks I’ve finished and the photos I’ve still to scan.

She arrives, parks her car, pulls out her overnight bag and enters our house, suitcase in tow.

We are family.

We need each other.

Family reunions and the passage of time

According to Einstein, “an object in motion actually experiences time at a slower rate than one at rest,” (http://science.howstuffworks.com/warp-speed2.htm). According to this theory, which I will likely never fully comprehend, last weekend should have crawled at a snail’s pace. Our children and their significant others were here for a weekend of wine, food, and games. I was in motion much of the time, or at least much more so than my normal quiet sedentary life with Mark and Arthur.

But that wasn’t the case at all. The weekend passed in a fast blur of motion and color and laughter and a baby’s cry. The preparations for the weekend that occupied my thoughts and many of my activities for the two weeks prior, are completed, used up, and cleaned up. The baby gate and porta crib are folded and stored away. The guest set of dishes, warm from the dishwasher, are stored on a high shelf in the pantry again. Clean sheets and towels folded in stacks on top of the dryer and in the dining room wait to return to the lower level where empty guest rooms are bereft of any lingering reminders.

The well-stocked kitchen refrigerator is nearly empty. The refrigerator in the garage, so recently packed full of beverages is now an empty shell save for a lingering can of Diet Coke or two.

The Fisher-Price farm and zoo, the wooden train track running through the room, are all stashed away in containers where they will lie untouched for months.

Arthur, exhausted from his nonstop surveillance of a toddler, lies still and limp in a  curled position on the sofa, then the bed, and now on his pillow in the study.

I stumble around with a foggy head and try to remember what I should be doing.

I may wish that the time we had in motion this weekend passed slower. I may wish it would have lasted forever. But that is not the case.

Now I’ll sit at my desk and type to you, or in my rocking chair on the porch and read, or in my recliner in the evenings beside Mark as we catch up on the news or a television show or two.

And I’ll hope that my slowness will make time pass faster until we are all together again.

Waiting for miracles

I debated whether or not to post this. It came to me like a flash a few days ago. That often means there’s a revelation or message for me in it. I realize now that this is more about Annie miracles than book miracles. It’s a journey I’m on. Growing up with Annie had a profound effect on me; I’ve never denied it. As I mention in Dancing in Heaven, a lot of things got buried out of various needs: not to be a problem for my parents, not to feel guilty about my abilities—there’s probably a whole laundry list of things that happen in a child with a disabled sibling.

I debated because I don’t want everyone to think I’ve given up on Dancing in Heaven. I feel more at peace with its publication than ever. I hang on to the words of one of my faithful readers, William, who commented, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I think I’m off the starting blocks and well into the race. I’ve worked out the early kinks and pains, and am settling into a comfort zone in this particular marathon. I intend to continue to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. And I’ve got an idea or two that I hope to try. I’m just going to enjoy the view as I run, or in my particular case, walk.

(You might enjoy these humorous posts from William at Speak of the Devil: for dog-lovers—A day in the life of a dog, and for those who prefer feline friends—A day in the life of a cat. I promise you will at least smile and likely laugh. I did.)

~~~~~~~

I join the ranks of all the other writers I’ve read about who want to write, want to publish, but do not want to do the work necessary to promote their books.

Maybe it’s Annie’s story. Maybe it’s because it’s history, and family, and love. Maybe it’s because we always treated her gently and held her close. Even though talking about Annie’s story with others is rewarding, sending out press releases, holding book launch parties, and drumming up business at bookstores has never felt right.

Maybe if I wrote fiction, a fantasy or suspense. . .maybe then I would feel justified in beating the bushes and announcing to the world at every opportunity that I had a book to sell. Maybe I could approach it in the more professional manner I am continually encouraged to do in publishing-and-promotion-self-help posts and articles I read.

Maybe deep back in the dark recesses of my mind I always thought a miracle might happen for Annie’s story. Just like I grew up hoping for a miracle to happen for Annie. But miracles for Annie didn’t happen then. Why should the miracle of her story happen now?

Books from unknown authors, particularly self-published authors, don’t sell without people knowing about them. Promotion is required.

I see now that I may not be able to adequately promote that which is closest to my heart.

So I’ll wait for a miracle. That’s nothing new. I’m used to waiting for miracles.

R.I.P. Annie.