Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mama,

I had my regular six month check in with the rheumatologist on Thursday morning.  No big deal.  I was already thinking about you as I drove in to the appointment remembering how you would always say, "Now call me when you get home and tell me what he says."  I would rebut that he would only draw blood and all would be much the same.  You always responded, "Well call me anyway."  I miss that.

As expected, all was the same.  I've actually, other than the typical struggle with fatigue, been doing well.  Not a lot of pain this winter season, not even my usual arthritis in my right hand.  I don't know what to liken that to considering I haven't exactly been eating healthy or taking good care of myself (surprise, surprise).  But as the doctor said, "We'll take it!"  So he ordered the typical blood work, and I headed upstairs to the lab he uses.  I signed in and took a seat.  There were several people in the room already waiting, and I sat across from an elderly lady and a man.  She was such a pretty lady, and I was certain she was quite beautiful in her prime.  She was dressed in a pant suit with a scarf around her neck and topped off with a fur coat.  It wasn't overwhelmingly fancy, but she was very put together.  Her hair looked freshly set, and she had a little light shade of lipstick on.  I assumed it was her son sitting beside her taking on the duty of caretaker and gopher for the day.  He sat with his Ipad open reading something.

I watched them, both envious and pleased at the same time.  I saw her reach her hand over, placing the back of her thin hand against his.  He turned to her at the touch, and she said, "I'm so cold!" with a little chuckle.  He smiled, and responded, "You don't feel cold."  "Oh, I don't?" she replied, almost wishing he had agreed with her.  And he should have.  He should have said, "Goodness, yes you do feel cold." How could her tiny fragile hands not feel cold?  Oh, he has not idea how much he will miss this when it's gone.  Just no idea.  He will miss the hands and the doctor's appointments and the way she draped a second coat over herself to keep warm.

She tried to engage him two more times.  She asked, "So what is ISIS up to now?"  He breathed a heavy sigh, closed his Ipad (finally) and replied, "Oh much of the same..."  He sat it to the side, and she turned her head away looking as though she was trying to find something else to say.  So she asked, "I wonder if he got my ribs in that x-ray?"  The son replied, "I don't know.  You can ask when you go back."  To that she replied, "Well I'm not going back to him if I don't have to."  Her son, obviously having heard this before, said, "I know, I know."

Not long after that, her name was called, and she was taken back for her lab work.  He picked up his Ipad and began reading again.  I fought the urge to go over and sit beside him and tell him the truth about his day.  That he is lucky to have her.  That I don't know his story, what kind of mother she was, if she gave him enough of her during the time he was under her roof.  I don't know what resentments and bitterness might lie between them.  I don't know how hard things have been for him to take over the responsibilities of getting her here or there, of caring for an elderly mother.  But what I do know is what it's like to not have a mother anymore.  I know what it feels like to have had a mom that cared about a routine doctor appointment, and I know what it feels like now that she's gone.  I know that he will miss her when she's gone no matter what their relationship may be, that when the one who gave you life is gone, the whole world looks different.

And so for the rest of the day, I thought over all the many waiting rooms we sat in together over the years.  How many simple conversations there were.  How, as I sat in an uncomfortable vinyl chair alongside of you, I never dreamed the day would come so soon that you would leave me.  I didn't realize I wouldn't watch you grow old, see your hands in that thin, fragile state.  I feel a little cheated.  Well, a lot cheated, if I'm honest.

Yesterday marked three years since your brain tumor day.  I don't know how else to refer to it since we aren't really sure how it all went down.  Did you have a seizure and fall, or did you lose your balance and knock yourself out on the way down?  We will never know, and that really doesn't matter.  It was a selfish day for me, a day of pleading with my God.  I hit my knees when I found out you were on the way to the hospital, wailing like I never had before.  I wasn't ready.  I told God I wasn't ready to lose you, to please not let you go yet.  For several days, I wasn't sure if what was left of you was really my mother or would ever be again.  It was all about me, though.  About how I would feel if you were gone  or, if you stayed, what shape you would be in.  But that was the last time I thought that way.  From there on out, after watching you battle through it all, I looked at things differently.  I realized that your battle had nothing to do with me.  That when it was over, God would give me what I needed to make it through.  That when you took your last breath, it meant peace and freedom for you.  That letting go and admitting I had no control was freeing.  It made it somewhat easier to pray for Jesus to come greet you and take you to Heaven.

So it's almost been three years.  Seems crazy.  So much has changed in that time, and yet so much remains the same.  But the grief never really wavers.  It's there all the time.  When I'm in the waiting room at LabCorps or in line at the grocery store or in my kitchen cooking, there are always little things that pop up and bring the grief to the surface.  The kids still talk about you at random times here and there.  Madalyn does more so than David.  We still use your green comb nearly every night after Madalyn washes her hair.  There are little pieces of you scattered like confetti across my life.  And I am so thankful for that.

I do wish I could call you one last time and tell you all about my boring rheumatologist appointment, though...

Love always!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mama,

Saturday night, I drove down to Montgomery to spend the night with my sole remaining grandparent in the hospital.  Marzee is 92 now and is more than ready to join y'all in the Great Beyond.  She's so tiny now, only 91 pounds, just like Grandma Norris did in her final days.  It's so sad to see someone I've grown up loving decline so drastically.

So I made my way to the 6th floor, and immediately I remembered being there with my other grandmother a few years before and you, as well, when you had to stay there overnight with the brain tumor incident.  So I was already flooded with emotions, and when I was helping my grandmother in and out of the bed, I started crying hysterically.  Thank goodness she is 92, because she had no idea I was having an emotional breakdown right in front of her.  But the poor hospital tech walked in as I was standing there trying to force the tears to stop.  She probably thought I was losing it.  On second thought, though, I'm sure it's not the first time she's walked into a hospital room to find a family member wiping their face with a grainy paper towel.

I got my grandmother settled into bed, and she was out for the night.  So I lay there on the tiny vinyl love seat dozing in and out of sleep all night.  Around 4:00, I woke up (I think that's when they came in to do a vitals check) and was having a hard time dozing back off.  Random thoughts were popping in and out of my head like they usually do in the wee hours.  And then it hit me, though I had to go over it again and again in my mind.  We were in the very same room you stayed in that night almost three years ago.  The very same room.

So my emotional breakdown became more understandable.  Funny how the body and the brain work subconscious together all the time behind the scenes, ever more aware at the primal level than we are in the moment.  It's both amazing and frightening that even when I don't want to be aware, I am, and my body will react accordingly all outside of my control.

Anyway.  When I was standing there crying, I had this urge to run.  I just wanted to get out of there.  But that's not the most adult reaction.  So I thought about who I could call that could talk me down from this heightened emotional state, and my first thought was my bestie.  But she was in the mountains with her family.  So I realized there wasn't a person, so I prayed.  Eventually the tears stopped and my heart rate slowed and I felt in control of myself.  If you weren't dead, I wouldn't have had to stop to think about who to call.  But then again, if you weren't dead, I wouldn't have freaked out the way I did.

I'm raw right now, Mama.  Just plain raw.  Like someone has removed every square inch of skin from my body.  Everywhere I go, I feel like people can see inside me, and I don't like it.  I don't know where to turn or which way to go, really.  Lost and raw.  I guess I am missing the stability of you in my life more so than ever.  My grandmother is dying, which is a natural thing at 92 years old, but with her will fly away yet another piece of my history, of who I am.  I sat there watching her sleeping the other night thinking about who she has been in my life.  She taught me how to tie my shoes and cut paper snow flakes.  She took me and the cousins on nature walks and could name every single tree by its leaves.  She showed me how to use a typewriter and how to draw a proper stick man.  She wasn't a lovey dovey grandmother, but that was okay because she was spunky and active.  And now she's someone I don't recognize.  Sure, it's been a slow process, but this last part has come on all the sudden.

It's harder having lost you amidst all my grandparents.  You were such a huge chunk of who I have always been that the little pieces my grandparents have made up all these years feels that much bigger with your loss added to them.  It really sucks.

Anyway.  They are admitting grandmother to Crowne nursing home today, same place where you took your parents.  And I am glad they got her in quickly.  It's so hard to care for someone around the clock. It's physically and emotionally trying, and being at home without all the proper equipment and tools makes it more challenging.  I know they will take good care of her there even though a nursing home is never the ideal situation.  And now the family can focus on visiting her instead of caring for her.  It's been hard on them all.

As usual, I miss you much.  Just can't put into words how much different things are without you here, Mama.  Love always.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mama,

Today is Christmas Eve.  I woke with a heaviness in my chest as though the weight of your death is trapped inside my rib cage.  Funny how the body does this to me from time to time, and there's simply no preventing or controlling it.  I can plan and prepare and think I will be just fine, but then I wake up at 7:30 and my first thought is, "It's here."  That pressure and sinking feeling, the burning in my stomach, the physical manifestation of Christmastime grief.

I started thinking about Christmas when I was little on Croydon Road.  Back when Grandma and Granddaddy Tew would come on Christmas Eve, and we would open gifts with them.  I remember one year sitting right by the tree and Grandmother had given me Little House on the Prairie books.  I remember the add-a-bead and Barbie Corvette year.  I remember going to Grandma Norris's house on Christmas Eve night and eating all the fixings with your side of the family.  I remember laying in bed even after I knew the truth about Santa and thinking that maybe, just maybe, it was still possible.  Maybe there was magic after all.  I miss the days when I believed that magic was still possible.

I ran out to Target this morning and picked up a couple more things.  I just didn't feel like what I had for the kids was enough.  Sad to feel that way.  To think that my kids, who live in a nice house and have most everything they want, might look disappointed with what awaited them tomorrow morning.  But I have set the bar high, so it's my fault.  But I feel pleased now, and I am hoping they will be, too.  I'm sure they will.  I don't know why I fret about this from year to year, but it is a lot of pressure.

I'm just weary today, Mama.  Plain weary.  I feel so empty and lonesome.  And I know that this feeling will pass after Christmas is over, but I wish it would go away and never come back.  When will it leave forever I wonder?  Probably years from now, but I am ready for it.  Very much ready.

I'm about to put on makeup.  And then Madalyn and I will bake some cookies.  And I will go on with the day.  And I will try to play my part as best I can.  But you will be spinning in my mind all day.  All day.

Merry Christmas to you in heaven.  Love always...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mama,

For the past two days, I've wanted to talk to you more than ever.  We are having some middle school issues, and I never dreamed that middle school would be much more difficult the second time around.  It's harder to be the parent than to be the kid.  That's something they don't tell you when you embark on the parenting adventure.  It's something I never dreamed possible as I remember middle school and most of high school being pretty terrible.

So we've had these issues, and I find myself talking to a lot of people about it, mulling over details and exploring ways to handle things.  And every time I finished talking with someone about it, I found myself thinking the same thing:  Mama would know exactly what to do.  

And you would.  You would have listened, absorbed the information, talked it through with me, and helped me figure out what to do.  And even though I'm positive I came up with the same conclusion that we would have come to together, I desperately miss the process with you.  On top of that, you always had a way of making me feel sure of myself and my decision.  Now that you're gone, I second guess myself way more than before.

This is going to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Just like parenting, grief has proven to be way more difficult than I expected.  No one prepares you for the tears that hit at the most inconvenient moments or for the loneliness that wells up inside you when you're in a crowded room.  But no one can.  Just like parenting, if it's something you haven't experienced, then you just have no clue.  And it's almost better not knowing before hand just how hard it will be, just going into it completely blind and clueless.

It hit me in the shower yesterday afternoon as the hot water rinsed away the grime of a day's worth of living that parenting will be harder now that you're not here.  You were my sounding board, my confidant.  You always gave me the best advice and helped me find the answers I needed.  And there are so many parenting experiences ahead of me in which I will find myself thinking Mama would know what to do.  They will drive, and I will fret.  They will fall in love, and my heart will ache.  They will start out on their own, and I will have a hollow in my soul.  And I always thought you would be there helping me sort it all out.  But you won't.

I know I can do this.  That's not at question at all.  But it's hard, and I wish I had your voice in my ear just helping me through.  That's the way it should be.  Daughters should have their mothers much longer than I had you.  But we can't change that.

So I am thankful I have enough of your spirit inside me, enough words stored up to know pretty much what you would have said or suggested.  That's what keeps me sane these days.  And I can hear you tell me that I am doing just fine.  I can still hear it sometimes.

Miss you much.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mama,

I've hit that harried spot of December, the one where my head never stops spinning and I am constantly counting gifts and making lists in my mind.  Oh and calculating how much money I have left to survive until next paycheck.  Oh and thinking about what to cook to take where.  Oh and then there's laundry and housework to stay on top of.  My stream of thoughts is always followed with, "Why does it have to be this way?  I don't think this is what Christmas is about..."

This world is so strange, isn't it?  We've taken the birth of Jesus and turned it into turkey and dressing and Santa and presents.  And though I don't want to fall into it, I already have.  And though I promise myself I won't let myself get stressed out this year, I already am.  And so I will try to take a deep breath and stay calm.

Did you feel that way?  Cause I don't know if you did or not.  You never seemed to feel that way.  So if you did, I was never aware.  But then again, maybe my kids aren't aware of the constant tornado of thoughts spinning in my head.  I hope they aren't.  I hope I don't appear to be as stressed on the outside as I am on the inside.  I do hope.

We are doing our Christmas tomorrow at your house.  I made divinity yesterday, and I will make the cake today.  I texted dad and told him that if he ever doubted your love for him, he should know that if you made divinity for him every year, you loved him more than can be expressed in words.  It's a challenge.  And I think I will be cleaning splatters of white off everything in my kitchen for months to come.  Of course, I got it everywhere!  And this time, I think I cooked the syrup too long during that last part, but it still tastes good.  It's definitely not for the faint at heart in the kitchen, but once it's done, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming.

We are doing a traditional dinner tomorrow, and I am so glad.  I'm doing the dressing and some veggies, and dad got a ham and turkey breast.  I like going back to a traditional Christmas.  It will be weird cooking in your kitchen without you being there, but I think we will enjoy the meal so much better than takeout from somewhere.  There's love in cooking, you know.  That's something that I learned early in life from Grandma Norris.  She loved it so much, and now I understand why.  To sit back and watch people filling their plates and bellies with food you've prepared is so heartwarming and gratifying.  To be able to do it is an honor.

On Sunday, we go to be with Scott's family, so this weekend is busy, busy.  And maybe that's why my head is spinning at warp speed.  I've never had two back to back Christmases, so hopefully once I get through this weekend, my mind will simmer down a bit.  I think it will.  I hope.  One day next week, I've got to get all the kids' stuff out a have a look.  I don't feel like I have much of anything for them, but yet I've spent plenty of money.  Nothing is cheap these days.  I think Madalyn is on to us about the whole Santa thing.  She lost the magic sprinkles to her little elves, and she hasn't even freaked out about it.  And I think it's because she's figured it all out... if Mama and Daddy are behind the whole Santa thing, then they must be the magic behind the elves, too.  In a way, it's a relief.  But in a way, it's sad.  It's a feeling that we will never have back.  The magic.  The excitement.  The innocence.  But they are growing up, oh so quickly growing up, which has its perks, too.  Somedays, I wish I could freeze time with them.

Tomorrow just won't be the same without you.  I am starting to realize that it will take several years for anything to feel normal.  It feels weird to think that one day it will feel normal for you to not be here.  So we are just kinda stuck here in the middle, in between what used to be and what will be in the future.  We are stuck here in the I'm trying to accept this phase.  And it's hard and emotional and exhausting.  But it's reality.  I hope we can all make the best of it.  No matter what, we will never have this year back.  And who knows what tomorrow holds in store for us.  I'm trying, Mama.  I'm trying to enjoy each day even without you.  Some days are easier than others.  But we will make it through somehow.  We will make it through.

With Love,
Your Daughter


Friday, November 7, 2014

Mama,

Tuesday was my birthday.  It's a weird day without you here.  I find myself wondering what we would have done, because we would have done something either on the very day or on the weekend before or after.  You would have bought me a card and gotten daddy to sign it.  We would have eaten at either Panera Bread or Olive Garden, the two places you like to eat but dad doesn't have a taste for.  We would have gone to Belk or Hobby Lobby (or both) and walked around and looked.  You probably would have bought me something while we were out, saying, "Do you like it?  I'll get it for you for your birthday..."

That's what we would have done.

Instead, I played it out in my mind all day long while going about my activities.  I had lunch with Scott, and then I decided to run by Lowe's and get some pansies for the pots on my front stoop.  I bought the most unusual little flowering plant, its petals bright red.  From a distance, it looks artificial because the leaves are such a deep green and the petals so bright.  If you had been with me, you would have bought one, too, since it was unlike anything we had ever seen before.  I picked out a few different colored pansies and headed home to get them in the pots.  I always feel close to you when I have my hand in the soil, so it was especially nice to do this on my birthday.

The leaves are all turning their beautiful autumn colors, and my Camellia is full of buds.  Oh, and the Christmas Cactus is loaded with buds as well.  Last year it didn't flower much, so I was wondering what it would do this year.  Around Easter, it produced one single flower.  I thought that was pretty funny.  It bloomed like crazy the spring you died; I remember busying myself by picking up the dead flowers off the ground while you lay in your bed fading, fading.  Honestly, when I brought the cactus home, I was terrified I would kill the darn thing, but it's still going strong.  I miss having you to ask questions about plants.  That's one of the weird things you don't expect when you lose your mama, not having someone to call to ask all the odd questions.  But it's part of the drill, so I make use of Google or put it on Facebook, and those two things usually give me enough information to go on.

I don't know what I would do without my sweet Sadie Girl.  I don't think I've even told you about her... oh, how you would have loved her!  She's got those big, sad, love-me eyes, and she comes and cuddles in my lap when she gets tired of playing.  And she snores.  And she gives Buddy a hard time!  They romp and play and growl and tumble around in the grass.  I think it will make Buddy more active, which is good for his health.  That Sadie has brightened my life, I tell you.  And I tell her all the time how much her Gammie would have loved her.  Her puppy breath is pretty much gone, but she still generally smells like a puppy and definitely has a puppy personality.  She's so full of life and curiosity, so vulnerable and innocent.  She needs me, and what she doesn't realize is how much I need her, too.  I didn't know I needed her until I had her.  I sat outside telling Scott how much joy she had brought me, and I cried.  I cried over a puppy.  I cried because she brought me something I didn't know I was missing.  I cried because she makes me feel so close to you even though you aren't here.

So, things are moving on, Mama.  I have a new puppy and have made it through three birthdays without you.  You are still gone, and I am still standing.  Still standing.  This grief thing has thrown me for a complete loop, and I had no idea that I would still be working my way through the maze.  But I am.  And I am still working.  Still moving.  Still your daughter, even though you aren't here.

I will always be your daughter.  And I will always be proud to call you Mama.  With each day that passes without you, I reminded that I am so fortunate to have a mama worth missing.  Oh, you are so worth missing.

Love you forever with all I have.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mama,

Today is the first day of October.  There will be pumpkins and goblins and ghosts and candy everywhere I turn.  And there will also be pink.  Lots of pink and ribbons and awareness and survival.  But in our experience, survival wasn't the end result.

I was watching the Today show this morning, and they were doing a big thing for survivors, and they were all laughing and smiling and sporting the show's hashtag for this month: Pink Power.

Pink Power.

Today is only the first day of October, and I will have 30 more days of pink power.  I know it's all for good, for awareness, for raising money for research so that hopefully, one day, women won't lose their battle with breast cancer.  But it hits me in the chest and makes me a little short of breath that this whole month will be devoted to a war your body didn't win.  I wonder how many others feel exactly the way I do this morning, staring blankly at a television and thinking, "But this isn't truly the face of breast cancer..."

America clings to the catchy, to the pretty of all things, and they create phrases and mantras to match.  The worst I think is Save the Tatas.  Seriously?  How about save the Gammies and moms and sisters and wives and friends?  How about save us from sickening chemo and painful radiation?  How about save us from burying someone we love so dearly far too soon?  Oh, I don't know, Mama... maybe I'm just bitter right now.  Just plain bitter.  Why do some survive while others don't?  Why do some bodies react so positively to treatment protocol while others don't?  It's hard to swallow, that cold reality of life, that not all will be survivors.

If you were here, you'd tell me that's not the point, that the survivors should celebrate, that we should all keep on fighting.  Cause we're all fighting breast cancer in some way, whether in our own bodies or trying to get through a loved one's diagnosis and treatment.  Or like me, who is fighting the grief of losing my Mama to the ugly disease of breast cancer.  We are all warriors, all of us at war to keep our chins up and stay strong in this world that doesn't make a lot of sense.  A world where not everyone survives.  A world where mother's die.

You were such a strong woman, Mama.  The strongest I've ever know.  You endured so much in the last two and half years of your life.  Drug studies, brain tumor, pleural effusion, surgeries, and procedures.  Oh and let's not forget the completely unrelated broken arm!  That one was like salt on the wound!  But you took it all in stride.  You never complained, never lost faith.  Even in your final days, you didn't think you were dying.  You fought every step of the way and found a way to make it look graceful and effortless.

There will be no segments on the Today Show about you this month, Mama, because the story didn't end pretty and all wrapped up in a pink ribbon.  But you... you went down battling, and for that, you are and always will be my personal hero.  And I hope to carry on the legacy of your strength as I live out my life, no matter what lies ahead of me.  Even though your physical body is in the grave, you are Pink Power.  You may have lost the battle, but the cancer never had power over you.

I long to be with you in a time and place where there is no need for awareness of any kind of cancer.

Love always...