Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mama,

Summer is here.  School is officially out, and I now have a 5th grader and 9th grader in my house.  Seriously?!?!  I can't believe how big they are getting, and it's happening right here underneath my nose every day.  David was in 5th grade when you died, so I think that's why it's so hard to comprehend that now Madalyn is going into the 5th grade.  It's been so long since I last saw you and talked to you.  You wouldn't recognize the kids... well, I'm sure you would, but you would be shocked.  David is maturing, and Madalyn is shooting up tall as a sunflower.

I was so ready for summer this year, more than usual, I will admit.  4th grade got the better of me.  It's the first teacher that I just could not connect with.  Could not.  I guess because as Madalyn shifted to the intermediate school, there comes along with it a greater divide between parent and school.  They expect them to be a little more independent, and I get that.  But I only got to attend one class party, the one at Christmas.  And I got tired of signing every single sheet of paper that came home.  And I'm just glad 4th grade is over.

8th grade was no less challenging, just in different ways.  David started the year off well, and then after Christmas break just struggled with some test grades.  And in the middle of that was golf, which was so difficult this season for him.  He was trying new techniques, he messed up his back, and then he just never got the zeal for it again once he could return.  I don't know if it was pure discouragement or if it was fear he would hurt himself again.  Whatever it was, he just stepped back from it.  We had him set up for weekly lessons, but he wasn't showing any desire to practice or put in the time, so we called it off.  We'll see what his future holds.  Right now, he's all into his four wheeler and learning how to do different things to it.  He's good with his hands when he wants to be.

I picked up reading my Jesus Calling again.  It's been months since I sat down with it.  When I get in a funk, it's hard to read it because it just reminds me of you and all of our struggles as you fought cancer. It's amazing, though, how much better I feel when I read it and focus my mind on the things that matter.  I've been a bit of a mess lately, I will be honest.  It's like I keep looking and waiting for someone, something that can fill your spot, desperately wanting someone to love me the way you did.  In the past few months, I've started to realize that I will never have that again.  No one will ever love me the way you did... it's just not possible.  You were my Mama, but you were so much more because you were you.  I'm even more convinced now than ever that our souls knew from the minute we met that we would not have an entire life span together, and that is what helped create our unusual bond.  It's not that our relationship was perfect... I drove you crazy, and you got on my nerves, and we had the normal ups and downs any parent/child relationship has.  But we didn't have the big issues, the screaming and fighting and other things like that which bring about deep regret.  I don't have any regrets, and I am confident to say you didn't either.  And that's a gift.  I think it eases my plight with grief a little, and then it adds in something that not many others can understand.  My hole is larger than most in daughters that have lost their mothers because our relationship was so much broader and deeper than the typical mother and daughter relationship.  It's something to be grateful for, and yet it is what makes me ache ever more.

I'm getting this.  I'm recognizing that I can't look to anyone else to take your place.  I can't put that pressure on anyone because it is an impossible task.  But to think about it and realize makes me so angry.  So very angry.  I've got to stop expecting people around me to nurture me like my Mama once did and get back in the Word.  That's all there is to it.  And it makes me mad to admit that, because inside I feel like a five year old little girl that wants to crawl into her mother's lap and read a book.

I remember sitting in your lap one Saturday morning.  You had your coffee cup beside you.  I don't think anyone else was awake yet, and you sang your original musical masterpiece, The Saturday Song. It's just a little snippet of a memory, like a clip of a movie immortalized in one of my brain cells.  That's where I would like to be.  In a Saturday, a safe Saturday, in a world where you still exist.  But that is not to be, is it?  So, here I am.  Learning to live without you is more painful than I ever dreamed it would be.  Learning to let my assuredness bubble up from the inside.  Learning to love myself.  Learning to stand on my own two feet without you beside me or behind me or wherever I need you to be.  But I am learning, Mama.  I am trying.  And that's the best I can do.

I love you dearly.  Always will.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mama,

If you were still alive, I would call you this morning, or you would call me, and only minutes into the conversation you would ask me what was wrong, say that I sound down.  Because I am, and you could always tell by the tone in my voice.  I could hide my feelings from anyone but you.  And I totally get that now that my kids are getting older.  I can tell if something is wrong with them by their body language or how they talk.  I know them that well.  You knew me that well, too.

I would have to confess that I am down, not about any one particular thing, but more or less a lot of little things that I'm allowing to weigh on me more than I should.  We have an abundance of minor repairs that need to be done around the house.  There's a freaking dead tree beside my driveway that's been dead for almost a year now that I would chop down myself if I were physically able.  The pool is a total disaster with liner issues and the salt generator needs replacing.  The septic tank is acting up, and that's just a nightmare in and of itself.  And I just sit here in the middle of it with no clue as to where to even begin.  I guess the pool is the least of my worries.  We know how much the generator will cost, so it will have to wait a month or so.  I can control the chlorine levels myself in the traditional way.  I need to do a walk around the house and make a list of things that need to be done, one of what I can do myself and another for things that we will have to pay to have done.  And the septic tank, well I have modified my washing schedule, and we will try to wait until the fall so the yard won't be a mess all summer long.

Honestly, it's not all these little things that bother me so.  I feel so damn lonesome, completely disconnected.  And no one around me really has a clue.  I know it's because of the time of year... the anniversary of your death just passed, and now Mother's Day is next weekend.  I know I get this way, but I still don't know what to do with it all.  Where do I put the grief?  I can't lay it down and go about my day.  I carry it with me.  I smile and make jokes and fix lunches and scrub toilets with it all on my shoulders or balanced precariously atop my head.  It's at its heaviest right now, and even though I know in a couple of weeks it will be lighter, I won't feel the relief until then.

I just miss you so much right now.  I'd love to rewind time, not to be younger but to be able to have a Saturday with you.  I would drive down with the kids, and we could go to Dairy Queen.  And what a pleasure it would be to go sit in my grandparents' living room with you again, to talk and eat pound cake and drink sweet tea out of those brown plastic cups.  And then we could just go back to your house and sit and talk either on the couch or outside on the back deck.  It's the simplest things I miss the most, the casual conversation and just being with you.  I miss the way you loved me, the way it felt to be your daughter.

I guess I am finally beginning to accept that it is gone.  People love to throw those cliche phrases out at me... she will always be with you!  She's forever in your heart!  But it's all crap.  I mean, seriously?  You're dead.  You aren't with me.  You are woven permanently in my spirit, but it's not an experience anymore, only memories.  And while memories are wonderful, they are not the real thing.  So now I have to accept that my mama is gone.  I will live the rest of my life missing our relationship.  And to be honest, that really sucks.  It hurts and makes me mad at the same time.

I guess I've had a pity party this morning.  Time to pull up my boot straps again and get moving.  I'm about to go out back and vacuum the pool and get it treated with some chlorine.  Then off to Publix, and I desperately need to run by the little vacuum cleaner place to get some bags for my vacuum.  And I may run to Lowe's and pick up a few things there.  David has friends coming over today, and I'm sure they will stay the night.  It's just business as usual around here, but I do it all with a big hole in my heart.

Missing you much today, and loving you always.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mama,

This afternoon is just the kind of afternoon you would have loved.  Low humidity.  Light breeze.  Moderate temperature.  It's lovely.  I'm currently barefoot but in sweatpants, so that tells you what it feels like.  It would make you smile.

The past few days have been hard.  It's all this build up to the day you died.  Remembering every little step along the way is painful, especially the unpleasant stuff.  Because so much of the physical act of dying is incredibly unpleasant.  I wasn't prepared for that.  I don't know that anyone could ever be prepared for that part of the death experience.  You just have to navigate it one second at a time, and then you'll have to deal with it one day at time once your loved one is gone.

So here I am, the motherless child, awaiting the 22nd.  Since you died in the wee hours of the morning, I will wake up that day and begin a new year without you.  Another year without you.  So hard to believe still.  I will begin another year of my life as a wife and mother and friend without you.  I guess I look like I am doing okay if you look at me from the outside.  But no one understands what's going on inside of me.  No one.  Not my husband.  Not my best friend.  Neither one of my kids.  Absolutely no one except the Deity knows.

Last week, Madalyn had a big field trip.  We left on Wednesday and headed down to the 4H center on the Coosa River.  It's a science/conservation center that focuses on educating children about the environment and all the animals that live in it.  We spent two nights there, and during the day we were divided into groups to attend classes.  They were all really interesting, and I was surprised at how much I learned.  At night, we had an evening program, and the first night was about birds of prey.  So they had all these cages sitting on a table.  They were solid on the back and all the way around, so we couldn't see what was inside.  They brought out the first two birds, and they were these little owls.  Have mercy, they were adorable.  And there I sat in the middle of 80 fourth graders fighting back tears cause I knew how much you would have loved to see those owls.  You would have loved it.  In all, they brought out four owls.  They were just beautiful.

Everywhere we went around the property, I thought of you.  The ferns and moss on the forest floor, the blooms on the random plants scattered around.  The peace.  The sound of the light rain hitting the newborn leaves of each tree.  It was just you.  I can't explain it.  I never enjoyed these things until you left.  I never paid attention.  Funny how losing someone so dear to you changes the way you see everything, even the trees.  Everything looks different, both good and bad.  And it can be heavy and painful, especially around these big dates like the anniversary of your death.

So Wednesday, I have this planned... pull weeds and plant some things in my pots.  It's supposed to be a nice day, so I plan to spend the majority of it outside in your memory.  It definitely won't be the same since I won't be able to call you and tell you about everything I do.

Love you always.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mama,

It's Easter morning, and I've got a sausage pie in the oven.  The discovery of that recipe certainly sparked a long standing tradition.  You always did it for Christmas morning, and now I've added in Easter morning for my family.  It's a favorite around here.

No church this year for us.  No coordinated outfits and new shoes.  I just won't be one of those people who graces the door on Easter morning and no other to try to prove something to the Man Upstairs.  He knows me already.  Him knowing me is scary and comforting at the same time.  He knows the worst of me, the dark spots, the areas where I don't trust Him the way I should and all the ways I cope with that. But He knows why I am where I am, He knows my hurt and grief, and He understands.  That's the comforting side.  He is the only one who really knows what goes on inside my head from day to day.

You spoke to me this morning, Mama, and I heard it.  Madalyn came into the kitchen while I was browning sausage and handed me a gift.  It was wrapped in a handmade envelope of lime green duck tape and had a little bow tied around it from the roll of white curling ribbon I keep in the cabinet.  Inside was that bracelet I gave you, the one that was pink leather strapped and had the stamped metal thing on it that said hope.  So I opened it up, and the word was staring me straight in the eyes.  Hope.  HOPE.  It's something I have lost vision of here lately, Mama.  It's something way off in the distance.  Funny thing is that when you were dying and shortly after you died, I had more hope than ever before. But as time and grief have worn on me, the hope has faded into the horizon.  I know it hasn't moved; I know it's me.  I've moved.  I've drifted.  

I've fooled myself into believing that when I reach certain marks, it will get easier.  Grief will be easier. Missing you will be easier.  It's what everyone has tried to convince me, too.  After the first year, all the firsts will be gone, and it will be easier.  Not so true.  After two years, then it just hurts less and less.  Not so true.  Here I am coming up quickly to three and it hurts more today than it ever did before.

But maybe, in reality, if we're honest with ourselves, maybe that's how it's supposed to be.  With every morning that I rise, I have to accept that you're gone.  And each day presents its own challenges in which I have to hold onto my acceptance.  So that's where I am stuck.  In the acceptance part.  And as I work my way through it, all the other emotions weave themselves in and out at the same time.  Depression.  Anger.  Those are my big ones.  Truth is, you prepared me for this world without you.  You did an amazing job in raising me, counseling me along the way, setting an example for what I should be.  I can live without you in the world.  I am fully able.  But being able doesn't mean it's the way you want it to be.

I'm sad that my daughter doesn't get to pick out a tacky purse for Easter with you.  Do you remember how Grandma Norris would make me a dress and then take me shopping for shoes and a purse?  Madalyn doesn't have that.  David won't know what it's like to sit in front of his Gammie and her just naturally scratch his back the way you always did, the way your mother always did to each of her grandsons when we were growing up.  I'm already coming to grips with the fact that you won't be here for so many conversations I will want to have with you.  All of these things, and many more, make me both angry and depressed.  But every day, I have to get up and make a choice.  I don't ever want either of those emotions control my life, and I don't think I have ever given them that much power.  But it would be easy to do... to just give up and let them take over.  In writing you this letter, I am finding I have more hope than I first thought I did.

I guess it's the hope that keeps me going, that keeps me from curling up in a ball and giving up.  Because I could.  That's how bad it still hurts.  There's this sunken place in my spirit, and at any moment I really could just lie down in it and stay.  But I do believe there's more to life than that.  More than the love and grief, there's a tomorrow land where you are now.  A place where things are as they should be.  The way He intended them to be.  A place where we are safe and loved and comforted.  So sometimes I stop and think about Heaven when I am feeling my saddest, and knowing that you're there makes me feel a little better.

Last night, Madalyn and I dyed eggs.  I honestly don't think I've ever dyed eggs with my kids.  You know I'm not that mom.  I am not one of those crafty, hands on kind of mothers who can just sit back and relax while her children make a monumental mess.  As I stood there with her, I was transported back to Croydon Road.  I was at the kitchen table, eggs in front of me, kit in hand.  And you were there.  I don't remember a lot of details, but I remember enough.  I am so grateful I had you as a mother.  So eternally grateful.

Enjoy your Easter in Heaven, Mama.  I love you always!

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!