Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mama,

I just put a batch of forgotten cookies in the oven.  I remember the first time you made them.  I think we were on Robert Street in Zachary.  They are so good and light and crackly in your mouth.  This year, I've decided to make goodies and share with some people in the neighborhood.  I am trying to keep myself busy and my mind off the fact that this is yet another Christmas without you.

This year has been particularly more difficult than I was prepared for.  Funny how the grief thing is still full of surprises three and half years later.  You would think I'd be a professional by now, but nope.  Not at all.  I still choke back the tears in the line at Walmart from time to time.

We had our family get together this past Saturday.  I thought it would be neat to do breakfast for dinner.  You know how hard it is to please the finicky pallets in our family, so I thought that would be something everyone would enjoy.  I planned on doing pancakes but forgot the dang mix.  I made sausage pie but burnt the pie shell.  I did bacon which luckily is hard to do wrong.  And I made a new recipe of a smoked sausage hash brown casserole which was good but tasted like it was missing something.  I was so aggravated by the time all the food was done (on the inside, of course... can't let anyone see me sweat) that I thought I'd cry.  But all the food got eaten and there were no complaints, so I guess I was being a little hard on myself.

It was strange being there in your kitchen cooking by myself.  I didn't know where anything was, and I had to wash everything I used since it was covered in dust.  But I did it.  I confiscated your stand mixer earlier this month so I could use it for the divinity.  Wow what a difference it makes!!!  Now I know why you wanted one so badly!

The house looks so different without your tree and little Christmas stuff everywhere.  Last year, dad tried to do a little decorating, but this year the house definitely looks like a single man lives there.  Which is fine.  I am glad he's changed things around and made it his own, but sometimes I think it would be easier if he was in a different house, not the one where you lived.  It's just even more obvious that you're gone now and that you're not coming back.  I guess I could push that thought to the back of my mind for so long while things looked so much the same.  But now, it's real.  It's just so freaking real.

I used to think that the anger stage of grief was stupid, that I probably wouldn't deal with that much in my journey.  But I'm there, mama.  I'm there.  I'm pissed off.  My kids lost their grandmother.  I lost my mama, my confidant, my soft place.  And it makes me so very angry now.  And I find myself walking around day to day with this anger inside, feeling like I could scream or punch someone in the face at any second, not knowing exactly what to do with it all.  Where do I put my anger?  If I were a runner (which we both KNOW I am not), I think I could pound it out on the pavement.  I can't write it out me... writing makes me cry.  I don't know.  I need to find a good healthy outlet.  Just not sure what it is yet.

I can't even put out my Nativity set you gave me this year.  I don't even want to look at it.  I have the spot cleared but it sits empty.  I just can't do it.  I don't know how long this part will last.  I have absolutely no answers.  None.  Just get through this... just get through that.  Seems to be my mantra lately.  I know I will see it through to the other side, but I am just not enjoying this part of the trip.

Dad bought me an ornament this year.  It's a beautiful glass ball with the pink ribbon inside complete with a little led light at the bottom.  When you turn it on, it just glows.  I cried when I put it on the tree.  I never dreamed my daddy would be buying me a Christmas ornament at any point in my life, but here we are.  And I know it was you whispering in his ear when he bought it.  I know it.

I am starting something new this year... I've decided to start a box of ornaments for Madalyn.  Each year, I will buy one or two that represent something she's either done or experienced in that calendar year.  I found a beautiful glass ball with an owl painted on it.  We went to the 4H camp during the spring and got to see owls in person, and owls always make us think about you, so it has a double meaning.  And then I found a Santa on a four wheeler to represent her learning to ride her own four wheeler by herself.  I still need to buy a little journal so that I can chronicle what I pick each year and why.  I think it will be incredibly special for her once she's established a home of her own.  And it will be fun for me to find things and write down special memories from each year.  She's getting so big.  Growing up so fast.  I am sure this will be the last year she asks for anything to do with a doll for Christmas, so I am trying to relish in the last days of her girlhood.  It's fleeting.  I can sense it.

The weather outside is nasty.  It will be a warm and wet Christmas, which is so unusual.  There's a threat of bad weather today, and I do hope it doesn't get too bad anywhere.  I hate to think of any families having to deal with tornadoes this close to Christmas.  Just doesn't seem right.  But a lot doesn't seem right these days.

I love you dearly, mama.  So deeply and dearly, and miss you just the same.  Merry Christmas in heaven from here.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mama,

Fall is here.  Leaves are everywhere, and the temperatures are finally beginning to regulate.  This weekend promises to be absolutely lovely, so I plan on finding some things to do outside to enjoy the weather.  Tomorrow Madalyn has powder puff football practice... yes, you read that right.  So our normal riding plans have been thwarted (well, at least for me and her), so I will not be getting my normal dose of nature in the woods.  Funny how much I have come to enjoy it and look forward to it.  It's so interesting to watch the scenery change.  In the past few weeks I have noticed how the Kudzoo begins to fade away.  Little holes form in the broad leaves, and the vines retreat back into the woods.  I always thought freezing temperatures killed it off, but apparently it's more the fading hours of sunlight.  The leaves are coming down pretty quickly, but we haven't had the brilliant color change we normally experience.  I guess the past couple of months have been so dry that the leaves are falling before they reach their peak color.

The world really is a beautiful place.  In all seasons there is beauty.  Even if you have to squint or turn your head to see it, the beauty is there.  I didn't realize that until a few years ago.  I am not sure if it's from maturing or if it's from going through the whole experience of losing you.  It's probably more a combination of both.  But now, I stop to see things, to really see, and I find that it calms me deep inside my soul.

You came up in my Timehop again this morning.  Four years ago you gave me my copy of Jesus Calling.  I will never forget the day.  It was such a nice little surprise.  You were always good at that.  You listened to things I said in passing and remembered.  And then you would surprise me with it.  No one else has ever done that for me, so I miss it.  I miss having a person who just paid attention to the little things and thought about little ways to make me happy.  That sounds so selfish, doesn't it?  It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but it's so true.  Life is a different experience without that.  It's not even something I was conscious of until it was gone.  And I get it because I am a mother and try to do the same for my kids.  It's just part of it.  We listen to the little things and are constantly thinking about ways to make our kids smile and feel special.  And, on the inside, I think we all feel like little kids who just want to be appreciated and loved.  So I miss my mama making me feel special.  I miss it deeply.

It's that time of year... I visited our new makeup store here in Alabaster yesterday, and when I checked out, the lady asked, "Would you like to donate a dollar to breast cancer research?"  Of course I said yes.  I wanted to tell her I would donate all that I had if it meant no one would ever have to know the pain of losing their mother, grandmother, sister, friend from breast cancer.  Instead, I took my little bag and cried in my car.  Not an ugly cry, but just little tears that could easily be wiped away.  Three years ago, it probably would have been a very ugly cry.  But now it usually doesn't go that far.  It takes major things to put me into the sobbing, snotting kind of reaction.  But I did decide to just go home from there.  I had planned to go to Belk to look for Madalyn a jacket, but every time I go to Belk I miss you so terribly that I thought it best to just call it a day.

The kids got their report cards yesterday.  David got two Cs, an A, and two Bs.  Madalyn got all As and one B.  Of course I am completely satisfied with both of them.  Madalyn is completely independent, which is such a breath of fresh air after having to breathe fire down David's back for him to complete homework and assignments for so many years.  She is in charge of her work and studying and needs very little help.  I have really let David be this year, not checking his grades on a daily basis and not harping on him.  He has done well.  I guess some parents would be disappointed with his grades, but I am satisfied.  He is taking care of what he needs to do on his very own, and this means more to me than the actual grades.  He's maturing and taking pride in his work, which is something I was doubtful he would ever do.  They are both really good kids.  They make me proud.  Yes, they make mistakes, but they both have such warm hearts and good intentions.  I adore them both, in totally different but equal ways.

Not much else going on.  Things are quiet.  We are sort of in a season of change.  Friendships have shifted.  Life is just different, much more so than I could have imagined.  But that's okay.  It's just life I guess.  And I am certainly used to adapting to change.  Makes me wonder what things will look like three years from now.  I guess there's no way to tell.  No way to know what relationships sustain and what new ones will emerge.  It will just have to be a surprise.

Love you always...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mama,

The past few days have been busy, busy.  I don't particularly like busy, but oh well... I will deal with it. Madalyn is cheering this fall, so that means we have a lovely practice and game schedule.  The practice part isn't bad, but most of our games don't kick off until 7:45 (well, in theory... it's been later than that both games we've played so far) so that makes for late nights.  Late nights tend to make me grumpy.  Grumpy isn't good for anyone.  It's a short season, though, so we will make it through.

I do believe I've broken my left pinky finger.  I slipped a few weeks ago on a rock in the Cahaba River (words I never dreamed I would ever type) and came down on my left trying to break myself with my hand.  It bruised pretty badly and has hurt ever since, but now it's actually hurting more than it was when it first happened.  I was hoping I had just jammed my finger, but now I am leaning toward a fracture.  So I have an appointment next Tuesday to have it checked out.  Good times.  I can't imagine them doing anything other than giving me a brace or splint to wear so it will heal.  A couple of people have told me just to buy a splint at Walmart, but I just don't feel comfortable self-treating this injury.  I would prefer having a professional opinion.  And I think that's what you would tell me to do, too.  In fact, I'm sure of it.

Last Friday night, Erika and I went to the Homecoming game at ACA.  It's been 20 years since we graduated which is completely insane.  We never could get a good plan for a formal reunion, so we finally just decided that anyone who could make it should come to the game.  Ten of us showed up.  Of course, that doesn't sound like a lot, but we only graduated 50 in our class, so ten is not so bad.  We had a good time.  One of our classmates showed us around the school so we could see how much the building has changed.  We laughed and told old stories.  I got to see my favorite teachers.  And I walked up on the stage where I had so much joy through my years there.

It seemed so small.  The stage that felt so large and intimidating in my teen years felt half the size to me as an adult.  I guess our perspective changes so much once we age.  Things and experiences that seemed so large years ago now seem minuscule.  No doubt that stage was intimidating and challenging, but it's nothing in comparison to being a wife or mom.  It's nothing in comparison to the things I have lived through, like losing you.  I wonder if I had known that back then if I would have savored things more.  I don't know that it's possible when you're young to understand that what is big now will one day seem so small.

I drove home the next morning thinking about that stage.  How I stood there with great pride way back when.  Yes, I was nervous, but I was never scared of failure back then.  I thought about where my fear had come from... how did the seed get planted?  And I realized it was Tom that put it there, his voice continually ringing in my ear, "You're not good enough... you'll never amount to anything... you're plain and average... you will never be enough."  And thinking about that made that hate well up inside me again for him.  I am still angry at myself for ever allowing him that deep inside my mind, for ever believing the crap that spewed from his mouth.  And then I questioned myself... Have I ever really taken back the power?  Or do I still hear that same old tape of his asinine thoughts about me?

I am still afraid to fail.  Afraid to rise up.  Afraid to go back to school.  Afraid to take the next step.  Afraid to put myself out there.  All because a part of me still hears, "You will never be enough."  It's not the dominant voice in my head anymore, but it still comes through loud and clear when I am facing a big decision.  It paralyzes me.  Well, I allow it to paralyze me.

If you were still alive, I would talk to you about this, and you would say something like, "But you are already enough.  You just have to do what you want to do and push your fears out of the way."  How I would love to hear you encourage me.  Because, honestly, your opinion of me was always the most important to me.  Always.  Maybe it still is.  Maybe that's why it is still so hard to be here without you.  I'm still looking for that reinforcement, and I just don't ever find it anywhere.  Funny how grown up I am now but I still find myself needing my mother's voice to tell me that I am doing okay.  Well maybe I don't really need it but rather long for it.

Life moves on.  Time is flying by, and it won't wait for me.  And it really doesn't matter if I am feeling confident or insecure, it does not stop.  Finding a way to fully step into who I am and what I am worth to this world proves to be a bigger challenge than I ever dreamed it would be.  Wouldn't it be easier to just stay in my house and live out my days being wife and mom?  Most definitely.  But I have to find the courage to move forward with what I feel is the next step for me.

Oh how I wish you could visit for just one day so you could just sit down with me the simple way we did before.  But that's selfish wish, you know, to want to pull you away from the perfection of where you are.  And so I will keep on remembering the words you said when you were still here.  And, of course, I will love you forever...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mama,

It's been a while since I've written.  The summer has come and nearly gone in a blur, much like all the seasons in my life here lately.  What is that old saying... time doesn't stop for me.  Or is it wait for me?  Either way, it's true.  Everything keeps going, and it seems like it speeds up when you want it to slow down.

We had a great trip to the beach.  We went to the Ft. Walton area this year, and the beaches were absolutely gorgeous.  The water was crystal clear, and I do believe the sand was even more like powder there than it is in Orange Beach.  David is actually gone now with his friend.  Gone for an entire week. It has been a little weird letting him go, both literally and figuratively.  He's getting so much older and more independent.  In a couple of years, he will be driving out of the driveway by himself.  It just seems so strange.

I'm taking advantage of him being gone by painting his room.  It's LONG overdue.  I think he was seven when I painted his room last, so you can imagine the condition of his walls.  Yesterday, I took my wall spackle and filled in nail holes and gouges all over the room.  I even found a metal BB lodged in the wall.  Have mercy.  I shot him a quick text that we won't have metal BBs in the wall after I get done painting.  We are going with a medium shade of grey, which promises to be a challenge considering I'm painting over orange.  I guess any color over orange would be a challenge.  I invested in a good primer, so hopefully that will help.  And I have to repaint his ceiling since there are little toe and foot prints above his bunk bed.  So we are taking down the bunk bed, and I bought him a metal bed frame.  It's a dark grey, so that will go nicely.  I will paint his dresser navy blue, and we found a navy and grey and cream striped comforter.  I think it will look really sharp, very grownish.

Of course Madalyn is freaking out.  She said to me yesterday, "Ok, I will admit it... I'm a little jealous." She's still got a twin bed, and she's mad as fire that David already has a full size.  She's already tired of her pink walls (that I just painted 18 months ago) and ready to change that.  She wants a new comforter (even though her comforter is not that old and she picked it out herself).  It's been very dramatic around here lately.  I can't reason with her.  Or, maybe, it's just that she throws the logic out the window that David's room hasn't been painted in seven years and hers was recently done.  Madalyn is really good at throwing logic out the window.  I have assured her that she doesn't get the short end of the stick around here.  Truth is, we are waiting to get her a larger bed until she's older.  She still plays in her room.  And her room is laid out differently than David's, so there aren't many options for bed placement.  But it's drama, high drama!  She'll get over it.

She started cheer practice last night.  The last time she cheered was first grade, and you were alive.  Remember when I picked you up and took you to the game so you could see her cheer?  You smiled the whole time even though your mouth was covered in sores from that experimental drug you were taking at the time, the one that didn't fight your cancer the way it was expected to.  Seems so long ago.  I ran across a picture the other day of the kids from 2012, and I was shocked to see how little they were when you died.  I hate that.  I hate it that they missed out on you, and I hate it that you missed out on being their Gammie.  That sucks.  I was in Cracker Barrel with Madalyn one day last week, and we were walking around the shopping area looking at all the stuff (which automatically reminds me of you).  I saw this little sign that said "I love that you're my mom."  I almost cried right there in the middle of overpriced gifts and nostalgic candy.  I loved that you were my mom.  It's hard when you've lost something that big, something that so many people have but take for granted.

I'm at this weird place right now.  I notice older women every where I go lately, and I wonder to myself what you would have been like if you had lived.  How you would have aged.  What we would do together.  I imagine birthdays and milestones.  I imagine shopping with you.  Would you wander off the way Grandma Norris always did?  Would you drive me nuts?  I don't know, never will.  And that's hard.  I see older women, and I feel compelled to go up to them and hug them and tell them that seeing them makes me miss my Mama even more than I did when I woke up that morning.  But then people would think I had lost my mind, so I hold myself back.  Oh these little things that haunt me all the time.

I've decided I am going back to school.  Well, I am like 90% sure.  It's time.  I am sure you're doing cartwheels in heaven at the thought of it!  You always wanted me to go back.  I am thinking social work.  I just feel pulled that way.  Truth is, what in the world am I going to do once these kids are out of high school and beginning their own life?  And Scott... Lord have mercy, he's worked his butt off all these years and can't realistically continue pulling 70 hour work weeks into his 60s.  I can finish out a degree and start working.  Even though I will never bring in the money Scott makes, I can bring in some, and that will hopefully give him the chance to step back a little when he's ready to do that.  I have no idea if I want to work with the elderly or children or in a hospital setting, but I am guessing I will feel led to a certain place once I get in there and get my feet wet.  I'm just ready to do it.  I feel this excitement bubbling up inside me that I haven't felt in a very long time.  I'm ready to plug my brain back in and use it.  I'm terrified, but excited.

Well, I need to get up and get to work.  I have a bunk bed to take apart and get out of my way.  And lots and lots of painting to do.  Wish you were here to help!  I bet you're not one bit jealous!

Love you always...

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!