Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mama,

We had a crazy weekend, let me tell you.  It was one of those times in which I was so painfully aware that you are gone.  All I wanted to do was call you and talk to you about what was going on.  David fell off of a car... I know, I know, it sounds insane.  But I wasn't there to talk reason into the heads of any person involved, that sitting on a moving car is not a good idea at all no matter where we are or what we're doing.  You know, as a mother who has always, always, always stressed to sit down in chairs and be still so you don't fall, to wear your seat belt, to brush your teeth so you don't get cavities, to do all those little things we can to protect ourselves... well, being one of those moms, I never believed David would sit on a moving vehicle.  But he did.  And he has a staple in his head and a back of road rash to prove it, along with a story he will never forget.

I kept my calm, honestly.  I talked David down out of his frenzy a few times.  He was terrified he may have to have stitches (which I knew he needed the minute I looked at it) and that they would use a needle.  He was irrational about it all.  For goodness sake, HE HAD JUST FALLEN OFF A CAR, but there he was freaking out about the possibility of a needle.  Go figure.  So I was able to keep myself all together, staying tough for him, not shedding a tear.  Even when the doctor at the ER said she wanted to do an x-ray of his head to check for a fracture, I kept my cool.  Calm on the outside, hurricane force insanity on the inside.

But I learned that from you.  I really did.  You were always so calm as my mother, and I really don't remember you losing your marbles while I was at home.  And so I played tough, got-it-all-together mom, and then I got home and went into my bathroom and wept.  I felt like my chest was about to split open.  All the what-ifs and possibilities of how things could have been so much worse ran through my head without any control.  And I began to think of what my life would look like with more grief piled on top of what I already carry for you.  And it was too much to even think about.

I'm still fighting those visions of how things could have been worse, but I keep reminding myself that he's okay.  He is okay.  And I guess I am realizing that with every single day that goes by, I lose a little bit of control over him.  That one day, sooner than I would like, I will watch him pull out of the driveway and will have nothing else to do but pray for God to keep him safe.  Being a parent feels so helpless at times.  It's scary.  I want to wrap them in big fat bubbly wrap and pack them away.  But I guess that wouldn't be enjoyable for anyone.  Then again, the fretfulness is not much fun for me.

We had a good talk with David, and I think he has learned a valuable lesson, one in which there really aren't any words to describe, one about doing what I've always told him to do.  Slow it down and listen to that voice inside of you that tries to guide you with reason no matter what is going on around you.  Think, think, think.  Your mama is not trying to make your life boring when she says, "BE CAREFUL!"  She knows a thing or two about this world and what can happen.  And I looked him in the eye and told him, "We've already lost our Gammie to something we couldn't prevent; I can't handle losing you to something stupid that could easily be prevented."  And I had that twisted bipolar desire to both strangle and beat him and scoop him up in a bear hug all at the same time.  I think this is an emotion purely unique to motherhood.

Oh, Mama.  I've had an interesting opportunity arise to be directly involved with a local charity organization.  I'm set to have dinner and meet the other folks involved next week, and I'm really excited about it.  I feel like I've been so wrapped up in my own grief lately that I forget there are so many others out there still fighting the fight, so desperately in need of help and encouragement.  It's so easy to focus inward and turn your back on the rest of the world, especially when every single day hurts so much.  I have tried to keep patient with myself, to accept me for who I am and where I am, but I can't help but think there's more for me to do.  There's always more I can do.  To have the opportunity to love on people and share with those who need it most, well, I can't think of a better way to honor God and honor your memory.  So I am hopeful about this opportunity.  Really hopeful.

I may as well change my blog all together.  I am thinking of changing the title and layout since all I ever do anymore is write to you.  I just don't have much desire to write anything else.  I used to have grandiose ideas of writing something big and life changing.  Not so much anymore.  I've got a ton of characters in my head, and maybe they will come together one day, but for now I am content to write my little letters to you.  Writing to you seems a little less crazy than talking into the air at you, don't you think?

I wonder what you see of this place.  I wonder if you get to see the ones you love through the very eyes of Jesus, complete in His grace.  I hope so.  I hope you can't see how truly an emotional mess I am these days.  It's hard to believe I'm still a wreck over your death some two and half years later.  Hard to believe you're not here.  Still so hard to believe it all.  But I am making it.  I may be forever changed and scarred, but I am making it.

Love always.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mama,

Gosh, the summer is just ticking away.  Crazy how fast they go by now.  I can remember you telling me when I was young not to wish my life away, that time moves faster the older you get.  I thought you were insane then, but now I understand.  Now I see it.

The kids have really reached the age that it's not hard having them around all the time, not like it used to be anyway.  They can make their own sandwiches, fix their own drinks, and basically take care of themselves.  Of course, they never seem to want to do those things when it's convenient for me, but that's normal.  Madalyn gets a thrill out of being as difficult as possible (nothing new there!), and David... well, he will always be my little boy.  I find myself wanting to take care of him.  Funny how different the two of them are.  Night and day.

Madalyn is much easier to deal with, though, now that she's a little older.  I can talk her down out of her frenzy most of the time now with logic.  But she wants everything.  Everything.  That's hard on me, because I don't want to raise a selfish or materialistic person.  So I am working on making her wait, on flat out telling her no about certain things (even though it causes much grief between the two of us), and letting her work for things.  Funny, though, about a month ago, when she was doing chores to earn something, she came to me with a bag of spare change I had downstairs.  She had counted it all, and written the tally on the outside of the bag in Sharpie.  She asked me who it belonged to, and I told her it was mine.  But I had to let her have it.  There's no telling how long it took her to count it all, and I admire her creative thinking.  I really do.  There's so much I admire about her spirit, so many strengths I didn't have at her age, and so, I let her be most times.  I just let her be who she is with a gentle guidance  in her ear as much as possible.

My David is growing up so quickly.  You wouldn't believe how tall he is now, Mama.  Five feet even. Only a few inches shorter than me!  Oh how I wish I could see him stand beside you and show you how much he's grown.  He's a good kid, too.  Impartial to cliques and has a generally kind heart.  Oh, of course, he's a complete poo poo head to me sometimes, but I think he's got his head on straight.  He's playing in a summer golf tour and really enjoying himself.  His natural talent amazes me.  If he could only be a tad bit more disciplined!  That's what he lacks, the drive to put it all together (yikes... sounds a lot like me, huh?).  Perhaps that will come with a little maturity.  But we have learned that nothing can be forced on him.  It's best to gently guide him as well, provide the opportunity to do whatever it is he wants to do, but we don't push him to practice every day and don't put a lot of pressure on him.  I hope we are doing this whole parenting thing at least mostly okay.  It's hard, but you already know that.

One of my trees died in the yard.  Just boom, dead.  And I would have loved to call you and talk to you about it.  It was my favorite tree!  The one by the driveway that had the tiny long leaves.  Such a pretty tree, and now it's covered in crispy brown leaves.  We've already had a knock on the door, someone wanting to cut it down.  Such an expense!  I'm hoping, since it's not very large, that we can have a friend help (he's started working for a company that has a tree service, so maybe at least we could get a better price).  My knockout rose bush is struggling, and so is one of my hydrangeas.  Of course, I don't have a clue what to do, and you probably wouldn't either, but dang it, I would like to talk to you about it.  Oh well.

Just carrying on, Mama.  Just carrying on.

Love and miss you more and more every single day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mama,

Dad is in the cleaning out mood.  He's been going through drawers and closets that haven't been touched since you died.  And so, yesterday, I drove down to look through some stuff he didn't really know what to do with and to see if there was anything that I wanted to keep.

The contents of the extra bedroom closet pretty much consisted of stuff you had saved from your parents' house when it was sold.  There were little bird figurines and old sheets and the things they saved from their big 50th anniversary party.  I found a box full of cards and letters, so I brought that home and sat down in the floor to sort through it all.  There were a few letters that grandmother had written to grandaddy when he was away in the Navy in 1945, and that was cool to read.  And then I found this bundle of stuff held together with a rubber band.  So I took the band off and found a small white envelope full of those little cards that come with flower arrangements.  Immediately I knew what it was.

She saved it all.  She saved every single floral card from every plant and arrangement from Aunt Kitty's funeral in 1978.  And there was more... every single card that had been mailed to her, the list of addresses she had used to send out thank you notes with each name checked off in precise order.  She saved it all.

It doesn't really get better, does it, Mama?  The missing of someone lost.  The holding on of certain things, the letting go of others.  Finding that bundle made me realize that it will really never feel any better.  I have the same collection, you see, of every single card from every plant and arrangement that was sent to your funeral and every single card that was mailed to me.  In place of the rubber band, I selected the more modern form of holding things together, the Ziploc bag.  They are neatly tucked away, and I doubt I will ever be able to part with them.  And, so, one day in the very distant future (I hope) Madalyn will probably find them in the cleaning out of my things, and she will, in that moment, realize what I have come to know.  That the missing of people we love doesn't go away.

I opened every single card and looked at the signatures.  There were a couple of names I recognized, but most were completely foreign to me.  But I could imagine my grandmother receiving each card, opening the envelope, reading the words on paper that really don't make the grief any better, but feeling the support in knowing that someone cared.  And I imagine a lot of lonely tears, quiet and heavy.  And I know all the years that she couldn't even talk about her daughter that died so suddenly, tragically.  I hope I am grieving better than she knew how to do so long ago, keeping your memory alive while showing that it hurts so deeply.  My children need to know it's okay to keep you in the present and still miss you so much.

On a lighter note, Mama, I sure do wish you and grandmother both hadn't saved every single sheet set you ever owned.  I understand the keeping of an extra old sheet here or there, but have mercy.  Please know that the Olivia and Patricia desire to save every single thing that may, may, may be of value some day has been passed on to my Madalyn.  The pack-rat gene has been preserved for future generations.  I spent four hours in her room on Saturday holding things up and saying, "Keep or give away?"  We filled a trash bag full of toys and things to donate, praise the Lord.  And we cleaned out and we rearranged and made way for the media cabinet that used to be in your bedroom.  When we were down a few weeks ago, dad mentioned to me that he wanted to get rid of the cabinet, and Madalyn's ears perked right up.  She wants anything that came from Gammie.  Even when I mentioned painting it white or black to better match her room, she said she wanted to keep it "just like Gammie had it."  What do you say to that?

So here we are, right in the midst of summer, living it all out.  The 4th is Friday.  Gosh, how I would love to here my sweet grandmother's voice saying, "Let's barbecue some chicken."  And her homemade sauce and sweet tea and pound cake.  I hope there is pound cake in heaven.

I love you.  Always.



Friday, June 20, 2014

Mama,

It's been a while.  I haven't been able to complete a letter to you or a post on my blog in quite sometime.  Some kind of grief induced ADD, I think.  I have a lot of grief induced issues, though, that I really wish I could rid myself of.  But I will save that for another time.

It's not just the grief.  I will sit down to pick up my laptop only to find that it has been confiscated by Madalyn to watch videos of girls playing with American Girl dolls or to browse the website looking at over priced doll clothes and accessories.  And then, when I finally get the laptop back in my possession, it's almost always dead.  So if I had the notion to sit down and write, it is gone after all the trouble it takes to find the laptop.  I have now officially reached the point in motherhood where I understand that it is much easier to parent babies and toddlers than older children.  They are more easily contained and controlled.

We took a vacation a few weeks ago.  A family cruise stopping in Key West, Nassau, and Freeport.  It was fun, but we spent more money than I dreamed we would, and I got off the boat feeling completely sick to my stomach of what we could have done with the cash besides a cruise.  I stood on the beach in Freeport watching a woman peddle handmade necklaces and bracelets for a few bucks a piece while I paid $4 for a bottle of water.  Something about that doesn't sit right with me, and maybe not many people would understand that, but you would.  It feels like an injustice.  I talked with another man on the Freeport beach as he poured a cold beer into a plastic cup, the table in front of him covered in beautiful wood carvings of various shapes and sizes that his own hands had made.  As we talked, he smiled to reveal he had no front top teeth.  I asked him how he learned his craft, and he told me his grandfather beat it into him, literally beating him when he did something wrong.  He said it in jest, but I knew there was more than a grain of truth behind it.  And so I told him he was amazing and how his talent was obviously a gift from God.  He smiled the most genuine smile I had seen in a long time like he felt understood, and it was a beautiful moment.  I haven't told anyone else that story, but you would have loved to hear it.

And one night on the ship, I think maybe the night we got back from Freeport, I had gotten ice cream with Madalyn (her favorite part of the cruise, by the way... the free ice cream), and we were waiting on Scott and a couple of others to come down on the stools in between the pool and the bar.  And there was this group of couples, no kids with them at all, and one of the men was sporting his Carnival plush white robe and was obviously in charge of entertaining his friends for the night.  So I started talking to a couple of the ladies, and I asked them how it came to be that they all were able to vacation without their kids.  One woman pointed to her friend, hair very short, and said she had just finished treatment and this was their celebration.  And then I talked about you, and there were tears and hugs to go around.  I sat there on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean crying with women I will never see again.  It was such an amazing moment.  Painful, but lovely.

I went to the mailbox yesterday, and there it was.  Dad had mailed a birthday card to David who will be thirteen tomorrow.  Thirteen.  And I stood in the driveway and cried because you won't be a part of him turning thirteen.  Nor will you be a part of any conversations in the next several years about teenagery things I will have a bazillion questions and concerns about.  That really sucks, you know.  It does.

I feel like I'm treading water right now, Mama.  Like my soul is stuck out there on the ocean with no cruise ship.  I am living and doing and cooking and cleaning, but that is about it.  I'm trying to read more as it tends to preoccupy my mind.  I am just still stuck in this weird place, and the strangest of things set my heart off.

A young woman I know has been sent home with hospice care.  Just sent home to wait to die.  It's such a crazy thing thinking back on our week of waiting, what a blur it all was, how painful it felt and still feels.  And that's just it.  Every single day, we live out our course of life not knowing how today will affect our tomorrows.  Not realizing how today may actually be a day that we think about for the rest of our lives.  That family and her friends who are caring for her have no idea that in a few years they will look back over quiet painful moments and cry about them still.  They have no idea how their life is about to change.  No clue.

But I do.  I'm writing my dead mother a letter, for goodness sake.  This grief thing... it sucks.

I wish I could feel you more around me lately, but I find myself shutting off my senses trying not to feel anything at all.  But I still see you in the birds.  You have left the birds for me, and there's a lovely pair of Cardinals living in the neighbors yard.  They perch on our fence quite regularly, and I love to watch their brilliant red flash back and forth across the yard.

I love you, Mama.  I always will.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mama,

The house is quiet today.  Scott and the kids decided on a whim to go to Six Flags with some friends, and I stayed behind since I had so much to do to prepare for tomorrow.  Scott's mom, grandmother, and his brother and his family will be here for Easter lunch.  I've already got my mashed potatoes ready, and put together the banana pudding poke cake and popped it in the fridge to sit overnight.  You would love that cake.  It's all the goodness of banana pudding, but better.  So now I just need to clean the bathrooms and run the vacuum.

I didn't buy any Easter outfits this year since we won't be doing the church thing in the morning.  I'm just not in the perfectly-coordinated-pastel mood this year at all.  I do have a bunch of eggs to hide for the kids, and David is so excited to have family coming.  You know how he always loves having people in his house.  He always has.

Every thing just feels so strange right now.  I saw a man walking down the street yesterday dressed like Jesus carrying a cross on his back.  People were waving to him from inside their cars, and I did the same.  And I thought it crazy how numb I am to the meaning of anything here lately.  The sight of a pretend Jesus didn't bring up any emotion in my heart.  All I could think to myself is that you are dead.  And then I started to cry, not about the pretend Jesus with the cross but more about the fact that you are still dead.

Still dead, aren't you?

It's funny how I still have to question that.  I would think by now I'd have accepted it, but I guess there's still some tiny little speck inside of me that thinks I will pick up the phone and hear your voice, that we will go to Belk again and look for Madalyn an Easter dress, that we will go have lunch at Olive Garden.  But you're still dead, so we can't.

So I will cook a big lunch tomorrow.  Ham and mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and green beans and purple hull peas.  I will butter store bought rolls.  I will try not to eat too much of the kids candy from their baskets.  I will try not to cry in front of anyone.  And I will just get through another day without you.

Tuesday will mark two years since you've been gone.  I can't believe it.  It just doesn't seem real.  I think it feels less real to me now than it did when I touched your cool body.  How is that possible, Mama?  How have I not gotten used to this yet?  And when will I know what to do?  When will this new life become more like normal?

So today, I've got some music playing as I cook and clean.  And I think when I am all done with my household chores, I will run to Lowe's and get some flowers for my pots.  And I will think of you in nearly every second of what I do this weekend, remembering our last Easter together, remembering you and all you were to me.

I miss you so...
Tamara

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dogwoods...

I found myself in the middle of the woods despite the threat of rain.  They are beginning to fill in with new life, above my head and below my feet.  Green bursting forth, changing the bleak grey of winter into the brilliance of spring.  And there I saw them, white and lacy, as though someone hand-painted them into the scene.

And suddenly I am back at the kitchen table.  It's the wee hours of a Sunday morning, but one unlike any I've experienced before.  My whole family is there, but it is awkwardly quiet.  She is there, still, but not the way we wanted her to be.  She was in another room with two strangers, with each passing moment her earthly body losing its natural heat.  I sit with a pamphlet in front of me.  My father had passed it to me and asked me to fill as much of it out for him as possible.  I filled in the blank spots.  Date of birth.  Names of parents and siblings.  Name of spouse, children, grandchildren.  I looked over options for head stones, some more plain, some a little feminine, one perfect.

Dogwood.  A simple design in bronze.  A few delicate dogwood flowers at each corner.  She always loved dogwoods.

I remember the one in our front yard on Croydon Road in Montgomery.  At the time, her sons were younger, more rambunctious, still enjoying an intense game of wiffle ball or football in the front yard with friends.  And she was so protective of that dogwood tree she had planted.  I remember when I moved into my home I live in now and she first noticed the budding tree line behind my house.  She pointed out the dogwoods.  I think she even joked about digging one up for herself.

So there they were, white and lacy.  The dogwoods littered the woods in the same magnificent way my memories of her permeate each day.  And suddenly the weird blend of sadness and peace rushed over me.  Only those that have grieved deeply can understand this specific blend, one occurring only upon seeing or hearing something that reminds you so much of someone who is no longer alive that it brings about an equal amount of connection and sadness.  The bitter reminder of love and loss.  It's the most bizarre experience.

And it's in the simplest things.  Dogwoods and Cadbury Eggs and Christmas ornaments and recipes.  It's not limited to the traditional holidays and the birthdays and the anniversary days.  And now that I have lived it and felt it and grief has breathed its ugly hot breath in my face for so long that I want to scream every single day of my life, I will love differently because of it.  It's all different from that one point forward in a way I wasn't prepared for, in a way I could never be prepared for.

Dear Lord, I thank you for the mother I mourn, as I know she was a gift You gave to me, one in which some are not blessed to have in their lives.  I pray for those around me every day who are hurting in this quiet lonely way I have come to understand, for those that see the dogwoods and fight back the tears, for those who carry on with the bandages over their open wounds so no one can see.  I pray for them though I know not who they are.  I pray Your peace and comfort and patience rain down on them, sustain them.  In Your Son's Holy and Precious Name, may it BE Lord.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mama,

It hit me today in the seasonal aisle at Walmart as I walked among the pastel colored M&Ms and little bunny shaped chocolates.  I saw them, the Cadbury eggs, and the tears welled up inside my eyes unexpectedly.  All I wanted to do was pick up a few things for the kids Easter basket, a holiday that, for some reason, this year I would just rather skip over all together.  But I thought if I went ahead and got the things I need it would just be out of the way.

So I stood there looking at the Cadbury eggs remembering how we used to call each other at the first sighting.  How you or me, whichever saw them first, would buy a pack and share them with each other.  How we both loved chocolate so dearly.  York peppermint patties, Snicker bars, Three Muskateers, and Butterfingers.  And it's like all these memories come flooding in all at once.  And suddenly I am 18 again, and we are sitting at the counter at our old house eating together.  Or we are at the Dairy Queen eating a Blizzard.  It's nothing all that special really, but the fact that it was you and me, mom and daughter, enjoying one another so much... that's what made it so unique.

Damn, I miss that.

Easter is two days before the second anniversary of your death this year.  And, to be honest, Mama, I don't even know if I can handle going to church this year.  I just don't thing I can bear it.  There will be music, and I will lose my composure.  And I just don't want to feel anything right now.  I just want to let it all pass.  To buy the candy for the baskets, to fill them up for the big fake bunny, and to move on.  Just move on.

Someone told me that after the second year mark of losing their dad, things seemed to get easier.  I hope that's true for me, too.  I have tried so hard to keep my head above water, to honor your strength and integrity while you were fighting cancer, but the past several months, it's just been harder.  I miss the way things should be.  Even though I am all grown up with kids of my own, I still feel like I need your wisdom and support.

I bought two Cadbury eggs today.  I ate one on the way home.  It was so good.  And I can't help but think you're enjoying lots of tasty sweets without this stupid worldly worry of gaining weight.  And I can't wait to be there with you some day enjoying a perfect place with no grief or sorrow.

I love you still even though you're gone.

Always,
Your baby girl