Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mama,

Spring is definitely upon us.  I've watched the little buds on the trees develop and break open in the past week.  Little tiny pods that slowly turn into bright green leaves.  Within the next week, the whole world outside my window will look totally different.  No more grey, just bright green.  Funny how much brighter things start to look with just a tiny bit of green in the backdrop.

We have begun our spring break, which I admit was more welcome this year than ever before.  Fourth grade is killing me in ways I never dreamed possible.  Madalyn's teacher has us sign everything.  Study guides, slips that say we've seen the study guide, every graded paper, notes about signing the graded papers, every homework page they do.  I should have a stamp made like doctors do so I could just whiz through the signing off all papers.  I'm over it.  Our society has shifted into this weird idealism that we need to know all things all the time.  I dare say you and dad had no clue what my average in any subject was except at progress report and report card times.  I can access David's averages and grades on individual assignments and tests from my cell phone at any time of the day.  Bizarre.  Helpful, but still weird.  I'm glad to be able to keep on top of things, but what happened to expecting the students to be on top of their own work?  And like Madalyn's teacher... we, as parents, are supposed to supervise homework and then check to make sure all answers are correct and then help them correct any wrong answers.  Overkill, I think.  I am definitely not a fourth grade teacher by trade or nature, so some afternoons are highly unpleasant around here.  I know more about fractions now than I did when I was in fourth grade.  And I have to do a lot of Googling.  But, by golly, Madalyn and I both can add and subtract mixed numbers.  Aren't you impressed?

Poor David has been down in his back.  Words I never thought I would say about a 13 year old boy!  We went to his pediatrician yesterday, and she feels certain it's a strained muscle or a little tendonitis from golf.  So we start physical therapy on Monday.  I do hope it helps.  He's been a little down about his golf game.  Of course, he has a high tolerance for pain (like you and I have always had), and he was just playing through it.  It wasn't until this past Wednesday that Scott realized he's compensating his swing because of the pain.  Not good for the golf game, let me tell you.  So he's annoyed and disappointed and ready to be back to normal.  I'm hoping it won't take long.

I got a kick out of something this past week, and you will, too.  David and his friend were working on a science project.  They had to design a chain reaction of objects, and the end result had to be popping a balloon.  So they had devised this scheme, and they needed a needle or something similar to affix to a cup to pop the balloon at the end.  I got out your old sewing box, the burnt orange Tupperware one, and gave them two of your old safety pins.  You're still weaving yourself into our lives, Mama.  I can't even remember if I told David they had belonged to you, and it really doesn't matter.  It just made my heart smile to know that a tiny piece of you went to school with David the next day and helped him complete a project.  How neat is that?

I haven't had a Cadbury egg this year or even pulled my few little Easter decorations down from the attic.  I just don't feel like it this year.  I'm not planning a big family get together.  It's just too draining, and I don't have the energy for it right now.  Almost three years that you've been gone.  Just crazy.  I guess I expected to feel stronger by now, but it's not the case.  I'm okay, but I still feel so raw, so vulnerable.  I wonder how long that will last.  I just have no idea.  I guess I will just keep doing what I do, and hopefully one day I will feel less like an open wound.  Maybe, as time goes by, I will begin to heal bit by bit and feel like putting myself out there again.  Until then, I'll just keep on being the best wife and mom I can be.  That's just all I've got in me.

Missing you more than ever, Mama.  Seeing you in every bloom of the trees and flowers.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mama,

I miss you.  In a little over a month, it will be three years since you died.  Three years of sunrises and sunsets, of birthdays and holidays, of laughter and tears.  Three years full of life since your death.  I look back to three years ago when I used to ponder in my mind what it would feel like once you were gone, never understanding fully that one day I would really have to feel it.  So here I am in the middle of it still completely uncertain on most days what it is I really do feel.

Lonely.  Sad.  Yes, even a little depressed.  Surprisingly tense.  A tinge emotionally unstable.  The latter two surprise me the most.  I never expected for the tears to well up in my eyes unexpectedly some three years after your death or to still feel anxious and tense in social situations where you may have been present.  I even find myself tense while mulling over problems or issues in my head, wishing I could call you and talk to you about it.

Just yesterday, I had this brief thought as I crossed my legs Indian style on the couch... Let me call Mama...  Absolutely bizarre.  I hadn't had that thought in so very long, and there it was, bubbling up with ease.  So I had to push it down, back down deep.  Just Sunday, we were in the woods riding, and I felt the tears in my eyes.  No, no not now, I thought.  And I pushed them back down, back down deep.

Everything around me right now reminds me of you.  It's spring.  The birds are happy, and green is popping up everywhere around me.  And there you are right in the middle of it all.  And no one realizes it.  No one knows that when I see a little bud on a tree that's been dormant for months, I really see you. A Bradford pear in bloom, it's you.  A bird gliding across the blue sky, you also.  Everyone else just sees the outside world coming back to life, but I see the world that you loved so deeply.  I can never look at any of it the same.  Never again.

I wonder why these times come that are just more overwhelming than others.  Times when I just want to curl up inside myself.  Times when I can't really identify with anyone around me.  Times when I feel isolated in my grief.  And where am I supposed to go with it?  I don't know, Mama.  I just don't know.

I think I will head outside this morning.  The sun is out, and it's quite a lovely day.  If you were alive, you would work in your flower beds until your back hurt.  There's not much work to do in my beds this year as I have a certain puppy who's intent on destroying it all.  She's a mess.  But, oh my, how you would have loved her.  She's everything a puppy should be.  Precocious but precious.  She tears something up, and then she feels so sorry for it.  I can't stay mad for long.  She's too darn cute.  You would have enjoyed all the stories of her escapades.  Of all the many things she's found a way to rip to shreds.

So I will go outside.  Vacuum the pool.  Watch the dogs play.  Think of you, sweet Mama.

Love you always.

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