Entries Tagged 'Death' ↓

Cat Lives

I woke up this morning with a to-do list a mile long and a sick cat. She was having… bathroom issues. (Nope, I won’t go into detail, you’re welcome.)

And then we couldn’t find the cat carrier. And I didn’t get out the door as early as I wanted to. And then there was a huge bird poop on my windsheild that took forever to get off and totally grossed me out. And then the Starbucks carline was so long it made a “Y” with cars trying to push their way in and then I realized my contacts were drying my eyes out and I probably should have changed them. And then work got more “worky” and while I had a half-day today, that to-do list and various technical issues made all of us there feel more “Monday” than “Friday.”

But, oh yeah, my cat was still sick. I called and got an appointment for 2:30pm.

So much for grabbing the kids and heading to the beach, which had been my original plan.

Yes, my day was filled with “first world problems” — that stuff you feel guilty getting irritated by but let it get to you anyway and storm around and secretly feel sorry for yourself. Could that Starbucks line be ANY longer? Did that bird poop have to smear like that? My life is awful.

Heh.

So I gathered the kids after work and told them we were “going on an adventure to the vet!!! Oooooh.” They bought it, they were excited. Yay, we get to stuff the cat into a carrier and poke our fingers at her while she howls all the way there. Best day ever.

(Cue more feeling sorry for myself.)

My cat got poked and prodded. And then, when they took her in the back, that 16 year old granny-cat threw a hissy fit and King Fu chopped and hissed and lunged at anyone until they finally sedated her. I secretly cheered her on. That will be another $100.

It was a couple hours later, after the kids had enjoyed Frosties at the Wendy’s next door and then met about 10 different dogs (the vet may actually be better than a petting zoo), that I got my wake-up call.

The doctor talked to me about my cat. She is sick. And this medicine may work. But it may not. And it may be something bad. And there is more potential testing. Oh and today’s visit is about half a paycheck, thank you very much. But your cat needs to be treated so… what are you going to do?

He then gently said the dreaded, “Let’s see how this goes but we may need to have a conversation about testing and what it means for a 16 year old cat.”

I would trade a hundred “Y” shaped lines at Stabucks for conversations like those and dropping money like that.

Because I feel horrible about all of it. Yes, that’s my responsibility as a pet owner. But that money!! But what kind of person AM I to think about money when her life depends on this care?

When, as a pet owner, do you decide that your animal’s life is not worth the cost? When are the treatments and the money not going to give her a better quality of life? When do you arrive at that point? What is humane? When I am being selfish, when am I being reasonable? What is RIGHT?

That is an answer I have to arrive at.

With humans, you treat them until there is no treating left. No question, who cares what it costs, you do it. Not with pets. There comes a point when they won’t get better and cost matters and it’s up to you to “do the right thing” for both your family AND that animal.

I don’t like having to make decisions about money and health and whether a family member (because my animals always are family members) lives or dies.

Nope. I don’t like it one bit.

My cat and I go way back, after all. My husband and I picked her up in a fit of nesting after we first moved in together in… wait for it… 1997.

Times goes by and our cat is aging and decisions need to be made.

It’s funny how perspective kicks you in the ass and tells you to stop obsessing over to-do lists and Starbucks. It’s funny how your soul checks itself when it considers the very real possibility of choosing to end a life.

Compared to your children, it’s just a cat. It’s more than a cat, it’s family. Round and round I go.

Let’s hope these antibiotics work so I can go back to worrying about the little stuff.

(What a luxury to worry about the little stuff!)

For now.

16 Years.

Two Years

Somehow it has been two years.

So I wait. For something to hit. And it doesn’t. Or, at least, it hasn’t yet. And maybe it finally just won’t.

Of course something hit last year. Something hit her house, actually. I had asked for a sign. I got one.

But this year, things feel quiet. Two years is a long time. Two years is nothing at all. It doesn’t hurt less, but I’m just very used to having her death right there besides me. This is now normal.

Sometimes, I swear she is standing behind me at work or in the hallway at home, just around the corner. Don’t laugh. I know I have an active imagination, she always said I did. But there is something in the corner of my eye, a sound. I turn, it’s nothing. Shrug. Who knows.

Sometimes, I can hear her voice so exactly in my head that she may as well be speaking right to me. I hear her and I laugh and I think, “Ok, that’s exactly what you would say about that.” I suppose I know her very well. I suppose you can think up any person’s response to an issue if you think hard enough about it. But I suppose it’s a way to keep her here.

Sometimes, she is in my dreams. Maybe 20 years younger than she was when she passed. She is very calm and confident and into some busy project or another. Very much the “mom in charge” that I remember when she was well and strong. Sometimes, in my dreams, I tell her I am so relieved she IS alive and all is well. What a bad dream that must have been. She looks at me like I’m being dramatic again. That OF COURSE she’s fine. She doesn’t offer comfort or affection but her steady “Oh Caroline” is reassuring. I’m relieved and calmed and not upset any longer. Sometimes, I dream that she’s here and she never left, there was never any death at all. And she’s still annoying me as much as she ever was.

Whether my imagination is hard at work filling in this impossible void left in my world, or whether there is something more to it, she isn’t really gone for me. And I am getting used to having her there in a very different way. It’s never enough, but is your mother ever there for you enough, really?

I love this picture of my mother. This is how she was before she passed. Hardly glam, always a bit rumpled, but also trying to trap you in a picture that she will never develop or ever look at again. Her way of saying, “I really like being around you but I don’t know how to say that so I am going to harass you until you all huddle together and, strain a smile and say ‘cheese'”.

Her affection was never traditional so why should I expect anything otherwise in her death.

She called me “Carolyn” more often than she called me “Caroline”. She blamed it on her learning disability. She also called me “Carolvin” — a combo of my brother’s name and mine. She also called me “Boopie” and “Caroley” and (this one was a real favorite of mine, as you can imagine) “Spaceshot”. Because I tuned her out a lot.

I tune her out. Maybe still. Or maybe not.

Just trying to piece together our connection as I did in life. And, this year, there seems to be some peace, some resignation, in that.

I hope you have peace, Mom. More than anything else, that’s what I hope for you.

A Frog Hug

I got some bad news last week. So I’ve been kind of quiet around here. We had another death in my mother’s family.

The day I got the news, I wasn’t sure how to process it. So I walked away from my computer and phone, opened the door, released the kids and went outside. I pulled a folding chair out from under an awning and stretched it out in the sun. I figured I would sit there in my PJ bottoms and new Christmas slippers and just… well, sit.

Sadness and grief has made it’s way back for awhile. Maybe the Florida sun could outshine some part of it. Maybe.

Anyway, back to the folding chair. I opened it up and there, tucked quietly, was a small green frog. I know. Another frog. But I like these frogs. They like to hang out in our front door breezeway waiting for night to settle in and the front light to come on. Then they hop about their porch lit evenings, catching bugs. But during the day, they stay still and quiet. So this one had chosen my chair.

Of course, I didn’t brush him off. I just kind of scooched him to the side, where he stayed for awhile. But the longer I sat, the further back he scooched. Until he was tucked up under my hip. And he would scare me because I didn’t want to smoosh him. But he kept coming back. I gather my warm backside was some kind of amphibious tractor-beam.

A snuggly frog. Who knew.

And then I looked up. I saw those birds again. Remember these birds? I guess they must be seasonal because I saw them exactly this time last year. But I took them as a sign then. And considering the news I heard just that morning, I took them as a sign again.

Only I would find comfort in random wildlife sightings. As if, in my mind, animals and birds came to me like some fairy fricking Snow White princess, where they light on my finger and sing me a ditty. Right, not exactly. But they do bring me comfort. Because when I grapple with death and grief, it always seems something wild and alive comes to my attention.

My adoration for the wild and birds and all kinds of beasties has been directly passed down to me from my mother’s side of the family. And those remaining in her family would most solemnly agree. We dig animals. A lot.

So. It makes all the sense in the world.

Maybe not to you. But. To us. To me.

That a frog kind of gave me a hug that day.

Warning Signs

Let me give you a little advice. When you are missing your dead mother, don’t let Cold Play pop onto your Itunes shuffle. In particular, a little song called Warning Sign. Not when you are feeling the steady pull of loss for a woman who died without warning the day before you were going to see her.

Come on in.

I’ve gotta tell you what a state I’m in.

I’ve gotta tell you in my loudest tones.

That I started looking for a warning sign.

There were warning signs we all should have probably seen. She wasn’t well. She was aging so quickly. She was slow and tired and didn’t like to be left alone. I’m not sure we could have prevented her death but I think we all like to play with the idea that maybe we could have put it off awhile longer. Just long enough to have her come along for a few more years, let her watch her grandchildren become who they are and meet the new one on the way (not mine, my brother’s). She should still be part of the fray and fun. She should have been allowed a few more chances to connect with her family, no matter how impossibly awkward or tentative her attempts were. She never deserved to be left behind this way.

I don’t blame Cold Play for this pull today. You see, I dreamt about her again last night. And it wasn’t one of those comforting kind of dreams where she’s fine and all is well and I hand her back her wedding ring and breath a sigh of relief because she is really truly OK after all. It wasn’t one of those dreams.

I dreamt she was in her bed. And only vaguely conscious that I was standing there next to her. And she was being pulled into her bed, weighed down and spread out. She seemed immobilized, hardly able to look over at me. Covers almost drowning her, her chin unnaturally bent to her chest.

I know what this is. It is my mind holding onto the memory of seeing her in her casket.

And so I have this bitter, copper, cold taste in my mouth today. As if I am tasting the embalming fluid on her lips.

I know. But I can’t help it. It’s there. Stuck and dark. Yes, even 15 months later almost to the day. Still. There. Nothing warm or good comes when I remember like this. Its cold, mean and unyielding.

Yeah, the truth is, that I miss you so.

And I’m tired, I should not have let you go.

While I write this, I jump up and wipe little boy noses. And prepare dinner. And laugh at their little finger puppet show. Nick Jr’s Moose A. Moose tells me that days are the sunniest, and jokes are the funniest… It’s really fine. This is just another day. And the loss is nothing new. Not at all. It’s always there. People in unexpected accidents learn to live without limbs and move along with their lives. You learn to make it part of normal.

But sometimes, I need to just say it out loud. That I miss her. Even if I don’t always feel I have that right because we weren’t some sunny perfect mother-daughter pair, arm in arm, chatting about clearance sales and the kids’ preschool projects every day. Hardly.

A warning sign.

It came back to haunt me and I realized.

That you were an island, and I passed you by.

We didn’t know each other all that well. At times it was as if we spoke two entirely foreign languages to one another. I think we both thought it was impossible to rationalize with the other, we both thought the other was the crazy one.

But we knew each other perfectly because we were, are each other. I am in her body now, living my life with her hands, and her pointy nose and forehead with matching hairline. And I am pulling the same shit over on people just like she did. In fact, I have never felt more alike or connected to my mother as I have since she died.

And I have no idea if that is a very good… or very bad thing.

So, I crawl back into your open arms

Yes, I crawl back into your open arms.

The Tree

My mother died a year ago last Monday. When someone so close to you passes away it seems the world should shudder to a stop. Or come crashing down with loud, harsh fanfare that rattles you to your core. It seems the world should sense this enormous loss, recognize it, quiet down and wait. But it did not. The cars passed by and the birds chirped outside my mother’s home the day I stepped into her bedroom. She had been taken out of that very room only 24 hours before.  But the sun shone in. The breeze blew by. Her recently planted bulbs fully bloomed swayed in the yard below.

****

I inherited my mother’s camera after she passed. And I still have not deleted the last pictures she took. They were of branches strewn across her yard. They were also of a tree. An enormous tree in front of our house had been the object of her recent frustration. This tree, one that towered over and awed me as a child, was not well. The root structure was compromised and the city had been pruning it on the street side only. She knew it was not viable. And so in her usual determined way, she pressed the city, wrote the mayor and rose as much of a ruckus as she could about that damn tree. They never responded.

****

This past Monday I was on Cape Cod, with family all around. My aunt called me. “How are you today?” she asked. I was ok. I figured this was the best place to be to honor her that day. I just wished I could get some sign from her, you know? Just so that I knew she was still around. She understood. She told me she loved me and we hung up.

****

An hour later I stood in front of my mother’s parents’ grave. And my fathers’ parent’s grave. Both are buried in the same cemetery here on Cape Cod. I dropped a hydrangea bloom on each stone and packed the kids back into the car. We were on our way to collect my father from the airport.

****

I stood in the wind at Race Point on Cape Cod, the northern-most tip of this peninsula. There was a small airport and we expected my father’s Cape Air flight at any moment.  And at the top of the visitor center I finally found cell phone reception. “What do you mean the tree is down????” My brother had just called. There had been a terrible storm a half hour earlier and the tree – my mom’s tree, the one I still had pictures of on my camera in my bag – had fallen into my parent’s home. An entire telephone pole had snapped in half too. Wires were down and alive in the yard. The entire root structure exposed. No one could even see my home. No one knew the extent of the damage. There had been a great deal of fanfare this July 25th. Thundering crashes, traffic blocked, the everyday was stopped for the time being, total chaos.

****

My father was on the phone. We were all gathered in the living room of my family’s Cape cottage listening to him on the phone with my brother. “Who is there? Channel 7???… The Mayor????” We stared at each other. With live wires still sparking in my parent’s front lawn and the downed tree blocking the entire view of the house, the Mayor had arrived and had just held a press conference. Right there. At our home. He promised the city would be taken care of and that power would be restored.

****

The tree is off the house now. The power lines are being restored. The damage doesn’t seem to be anything desperate. I think it’s going to be ok.

A sign. I had only asked for a sign.

Things Change

Things change.

I wonder, with my 37th birthday looming, if it is a little late to learn this lesson. I am thinking it is.

As a child there are constants in your life. People. Places. Things even. There are traditions and cycles and schedules we depend on. This is where we always go for groceries. This is the bowl I always eat from. This is how my grandfather’s garden smells. This is where we go on summer vacation. This is what my mother always says. This is how it is.

I think as children, we fixate on these constants. In the first years after we arrive into our world, we experience extraordinary change. There is so much to learn and realize and grow up into. As our world moves and shudders under our feet, we steady ourselves with what is always there. What we know. If I walk into my home, my room will be up the stairs and straight ahead. The Cheerios are always kept in the cupboard over the stove. The house key is kept on a string inside the hall closet door. Always. And, as children, if we find our constants change even slightly, we panic.

My boys depend on routine. It is their religion. They move in their cycles, they are comforted by them. I joke about their OCD tendencies but completely understand them. What do you mean a fat man named Santa comes into my home once a year to deliver stuff? Are you sure thunder is perfectly ok even though it sounds like the world is exploding above my head? Wait, we’re floating on a planet in the middle of a wide unknown called space? *breathe* Mommy will have my favorite yogurt ready for lunch, we always drive this way to school and I get to stay up until 8:30pm on weekends. All is well.

But then there are life changing moments. You move. Your school changes. Your friends are far away. What was constant is no longer. A new normal is established.  I understood these changes well as a child. And, because children do learn new things quickly while clutching onto remaining constants, I assimilated when needed.

Because there is always some familiarity somewhere. My grandfather’s garden still smelled the same, no matter how many years had passed before I stood in it again. My mother always said those same kinds of far too annoying but strangely comforting things. And decades later, that very same grocery store I shopped at as a child still exists – with the same graying employees smiling down at me in line.

Death does a fairly good job at ripping most constants (the constants that were always always there no matter how far or how often I moved) apart.

Voices that soothed and moved you through a new world are gone. The world’s they created, the homes they kept, the things they bought to fill them, the foods they made, the gardens they grew, the traditions they kept, the sayings they always said over and over again… that is immediately gone.

You can’t return.

You can’t hear the door creak the way it used to and slam behind you. You won’t find the Cheerios kept where they always were. You won’t hear the sounds of your mother – her certain clicking, scuffing pace down the hall.  And, when you wake up far too late on a Saturday morning, you certainly won’t hear your grandmother singsong from the kitchen:  “Good morning Merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon? You chased the little stars away and shined away the moon!”

It’s gone.

And that is how the world is.

Things fall apart.

Things change.

Nothing is constant.

And as adults, we regroup and reshape and recreate our families. We make new constants. We surround ourselves with new everydayness. The Cheerios find a new home in your pantry. And maybe you redo what they did. You recreate it subtly with every hope that the constant in some quiet, private comforting way remains.

I miss those people. I miss those places. I miss those things.

With a nostalgic, regretful, desperate ache rooted and wound into my gut – I. Miss. It.

Still. I have new people and new places and new things.

Apparently this is how life goes.

Things fall apart. Things change.  But they renew again. And move forward.

Breathing and hoping.

But missing.

And eating Cheerios for breakfast every single morning.

Peace Out 2009

20091

It’s been a little quiet here for the past couple days. Because it happened again. Another tragedy in 2009. A friend and Florida blogger lost her two year old son in a very sudden pool accident.

It simply left me speechless.

Shellie and I met this year at a blogger event. She is wonderful. Recently, she promised me I could come watch the next shuttle launch from her beautiful front porch. She had just moved into her new home. She sent me a picture and its stunning. And now this happens.

Nothing shifts the world off its axis more than the passing of a child.

Nothing.

And unfortunately I have seen two other mothers lose their beautiful babies this year too.

First there was Maddie.

And then there was Maggie.

As if I got by unscathed. As if tragedy couldn’t touch my world either. As if.

2009 reared it’s ugly head with mighty force mid-year when my mother passed away.

I thought I understood how it felt to mourn. I was so wrong. I still feel like the world froze in its place on July 25th and now I’m looking around, blinking with surprise, asking “What’s with all the Christmas stuff? Summer isn’t over. No way. My mom JUST died. What the hell is going on here?”

And then, right before Thanksgiving, with visions of healing holiday joy dancing in our heads, news about Anissa‘s brain bleed was shared. And to say that her future is uncertain… well. That would be an enormous understatement. She is amazing, her improvements are mind boggling. But still, my friend is in a hospital simply trying to communicate when I know she’d rather be home raising her children and tweeting about bewbs.

In between all of this, there have unposted tough times too. A best friend moved away, friends have had miscarriages, there have been broken hearts, dramas, and far too many lost jobs.

So I was already counting down to the end of 2009. Totally ready to wipe my hands of it, away with you, don’t let it hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

And then this.

So. Now. For real. Sure, yes, there have been some great highlights to this year but I am so done. SO DONE. So pissed and angry and hateful for all the sad that has unfolded, one month after another. It’s outrageous.

Enough.

Peace out 2009.

And 2010? Karma kind of owes a few people one helluva year. Here’s hoping.

To those who have lost loved ones or suffered a tragedy or loss this year, my heart is with you.

A Phantom Mom Phenomenon

The brain is an amazing thing. It takes flying leaps of faith and swears to truth – when there is nothing. It fills in gaps with synaptic trickery to cover over painful voids. It holds on to years of experience and pieces together something realistic – simply because it remembers. It relies on the empirical but bases its final verdict on emotion. It simply wants to believe.

Have you ever heard of the Phantom Limb Phenomenon?

Yeah, well, it seems that when someone close to you in your life passes away, you experience the same kind of thing.

100_7192Phantom Mom Phenomenon.

No, it’s not what you think. My mother has not appeared to me in a shimmering, white form next to my bed insisting I buy a replacement pumpkin Mickey ball.

At least, not that I am aware of.

No, I’m talking about that phenomenon where you swear that person is really still there. Still alive. Still sitting in her office in her DC home playing solitaire at her computer with one cigarette smoldering in her ashtray, furry slippers on her feet and an Ensure on ice on the desk.

My father knows what I’m talking about. Without thinking, he has caught himself calling out her name while waking up in the morning. He finds himself picking up her usual groceries at the store. He assumes she is home when he arrives, her shoes tucked neatly by the door seemingly filled only minutes before.

I struggle in my own ways too. I assume that the call coming in from “DC Home” on my cell is always my mother – as it has been for years. And even when it’s my father’s voice, it takes a moment to register because my mind has simply given my mother’s voice a little extra gravel and depth – she just needs to clear her throat. No wait. She’s dead. It’s Dad. Whoa. Ok. Hi Dad.

And I have been having these recurring dreams recently. Or maybe they’re nightmares. I’m not sure. To put it in the words of the lovely Beyonce, it could be a “sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare“. Whatever you call it, my brain convinces me on a regular basis that my mother is in fact very much alive.

Cruel isn’t it? Although I am guessing this is all probably very typical. Nevertheless, here’s how my dream goes…

In my dream, my mother’s death is only her family’s collective nightmare. In my dream, it is early in the morning and we are all gathered in front of my living, breathing mother. Fresh from our beds, we stare in utter shock, while she stares back at us and laughs. We tell her we thought she was dead. “I’m FINE” she insists. “No really.” And she looks back at us again like we’ve lost our ever-loving minds. And then we ask her how she pulled off the memorial service, the whole casket thing. “Because Mom, you really looked dead.” But she seems to insist we all just had some doozy nightmares. No big deal. She is currently alive and well. And then she goes into full “Mom mode” listing off all the chores we need to accomplish, which stores we need to hit first, full of sass, full of too much “get up and go” that instinctively makes me roll my eyes and prepare myself to become her daylong personal assistant. It’s so real. She IS alive in that dream. And in the end we are all entirely convinced, shaking our heads at our assumptions, letting the nightmare fade away. It was just a bad dream. My mother isn’t dead. Phew, phew (even though we have to do chores now), PHEW.

But of course I wake up and she is dead. And that wonderful dream seems more like a nightmare. As wonderful as that moment was, the truth unlocks a fresh wave of grief. My brain, the tricky minx, brought her back to life. My brain knew exactly how to make her breathe and talk and task-master us with chores once again. My brain had convinced me.

Not cool.

But why do I have the urge to call my brother when I wake up and share with him that she’s actually fine? That she insisted she was, no REALLY.

Who knows. I mean, our brains are pretty smart things, right? And they may know something our rational, consciousness does not. Something could actually be setting off alarm bells deep within telling us she IS here. Somehow. Around. And fine. Whether she is real because of our rich, vivid memories, or she is now something more other-worldly and deeply spiritual. Maybe she is filling her own void in a new and different way.

I believe that. I do. But still. She’s gone. And my brain and I miss her.

My mom spent the last four Halloweens with us. She loved watching the kids get dressed up and carve pumpkins. She gladly held down the the fort and gave out candy while we set off to trick or treat. And last year, she helped me make a ghost for our front yard. I remember her finding the perfect gauzy material from the store. I remember her confidently running her hands over it, knowing exactly how much would work. After all, she had made these for my brother and I many years in a row, many years before. And before I knew it, she had created the very same ghost I grew up with, fresh from my childhood.

So yes. This Halloween, her ghost is here. In some way or another. In my dreams. In my memories. In my front yard. Or how she more often feels – only a breath away, over my shoulder, wishing me peace and whispering “I’m FINE. No really.”

Honoring my Mother with a Seasonal Mickey Antenna Ball

mickeyballMy mother was a stubborn woman. When she wanted something and she felt strongly about it, she gleefully dug right in. Logic often played a part in her decision making. But sometimes it did not. Sometimes she dug in simply to boldly stamp herself on a debatable issue – and she often did it in spite of herself. You think this idea is silly? Well, guess what. I’m doing it no matter what you think. Sometimes this tendency of hers made us crazy. But most times, it could be downright endearing – in a maddening sort of way.

And that’s what happened with my mother’s Disney car antenna decorative Mickey balls.

Let me back up a bit here.

When my mom passed, I got her car. And I don’t care what you think about such a thing, I felt really weird about it. Yes, I know we needed a new car desperately. And yes, her car had very few miles on it. And yes, I know, she would have wanted this but still. It felt plain weird.

Like throwing away her toothbrush, like tossing her favorite breakfast drinks, like rummaging through her personal things in the days following her death – taking her car seemed like one more thing I was taking away from her previously organized life. It was another way to officially proclaim her time using these things was over.

This car that she loved so much. This car, a practical shade of red so that she could spot it easily in the parking lot, would never be driven by her in that kind of jerky way that I tried not to hassle her about. This car of hers, that I’m now driving through the car line at school pick up, that I am now playing my music in, that now has two car-seats strapped into the back – this car, I don’t care what that title says now, it is still hers.

Before we drove her car to Florida a couple weeks following her memorial service, I grabbed a bag of hers that I knew came with this car’s ownership. I could not leave with out it. It was a bag of seasonally appropriate Disney car antenna decorative Mickey balls.

Yes, there is obviously a story about those decorative Mickey balls. And here it goes.

A few years ago, my mother was in Downtown Disney with all of us and bought one lone Christmas themed Mickey ball. When she got home to her car, she plonked it right on her antenna. And my Dad hated it. He was NOT a fan. Not that it was his car, but he was happy to announce he thought that seasonal Mickey ball was silly nevertheless.

Well. That simply fueled her fire. During her next visit down to Florida, my mother bought an entire kit of decorative Mickey balls for her antenna. She proudly owned Christmas, Valentine’s day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Except that she lost Halloween in a car wash. My father was over-joyed, until she stomped right out and plonked Thanksgiving onto her antenna. So there. It became a running joke between both of them. He shook his head at her while she religiously changed those damn Mickey balls as the seasons went by. Plus, much like her own mother (who used to tie gaudy, plastic flowers to her antenna), it was yet one more practical identification aid used while searching for her car in a parking lot. Oh yes, the red car with the Santa Mickey decorative antenna ball, that’s my mother’s car. My father would laugh and grumble under his breath and she would tromp ahead in the parking lot. She had dug in and that was that.

So today we put up our fall decorations. I hauled out the ghost lights and plug-in pumpkins and the favorite “trick or treat, smell my feet” sign that now hangs in our family room. The seasons are changing (in spite of the heat in Florida) and it was time to decorate appropriately. And once everything was out of its boxes and set up just so, I went into my room and found the bag of those dreaded Mickey Mouse balls. I rummaged around, knew I wouldn’t find the pumpkin, but pulled out the pilgrim Mickey ball instead. Then, I marched out to the garage, pulled off the 4th of July Mickey she had put on there months ago, and plonked that pilgrim right on.

Sure, I live in Florida and kind of cringe at that seasonal Mickey antenna ball. I mean I heart Disney for sure, but I try to be cool about it. Real Floridians wouldn’t sport Disney all over their car, right? But this isn’t a Floridian’s car. This is my mother’s car. And it is my very small, very silly but fully meaningful tribute to her.

Mom, I know you love that it’s on there. Happy Halloween. We miss you with the changing of every season.

Just Another Bad Day

So I should be blogging about something funny about my kids. Or some political issue that’s got my panties in a bunch. Or whatever new beastie has been spotted in my backyard.

But. I don’t feel like it.

I’m having a bad day. Yep. ANOTHER one.

It’s a strange thing, this grieving business. I used to think that when you lost someone in your life, it was like some horrible sickness. And in the beginning its very bad, and you need to tend to it and care for yourself and heal. But – given enough time – you get over it and come out well again, on the other side.

I was very wrong. Grief, who I’ve come to know very well, apparently sticks around. In fact, while it may stay out of the way more and more often, it never ever leaves. So I am working on making room for this very unwelcome newcomer in my life. The “new normal” I hear it’s called.

And still, grief springs from the shadows daily, like some over-served, sweaty, far too grabby guy in a bar forcing himself on me, grabbing my wrists and spinning me through some sorrowful dance when I least expect it. I am overwhelmed, I hold back tears – and then push it back and storm away. I don’t want to dance. I don’t have time for that. Cripes. Leave me alone already.

I know I should expect to be sad. I know I know, my mom died only a month ago. A month ago today exactly in fact.

(One entire month, impossible to believe, I wish it hadn’t been so long since she passed, I wish her life was more recent, I wish so much hadn’t happened since that I want to tell her about. And thus the explanation for my bad day.)

But I am sick of thinking about it. I’m sick of being so bummed out all the time, I am sick of being broken hearted, I am sick of making people sad around me, I am sick of not being myself and forgetful and not as functional. And unmotivated, and so damn tired, and guilty.

Did I mention the guilt by the way? Guilt is grief’s BFF. They hang in the corner together and cackle away about how miserable they make me. But guilt is a little smoother than grief I think. She saunters up innocently, leans into my ear and whispers questions. “So. Your mother drove you a little crazy didn’t she? What kind of daughter were you anyway to her? You could have come and visited her more often, right? She was alone when she died, wasn’t she? Do you even remember the last time you saw her?”

But if I ask these questions out loud, my loved ones balk and huff back at me that I was a wonderful daughter and I should not be feeling that way and insist that my mother would want me at peace right now.

I know I know. Guilt never makes any sense. But its very very real. She has made herself at home, carefully putting ideas in my head and slipping away while I crumple to floor. I hate her.

So yeah. Here I am. On a bad day. Missing my mother who I lost a month ago today. Wishing I could call her. Wishing her remains weren’t neatly sealed in some wooden box back in her bedroom – doing nothing, saying nothing, being nothing.

Yeah, oh this blog is AWESOME now. Woo hoo! So fun to read! I am so depressing I bet I make depressed people run screaming in the other direction. That’s me. A regular Debbie Downer blogger. (Insert trumpet sound effect: wah, waaaahhh….)

My new name? Mourningside Mom. Heh.

At least I have my sense of humor, right? And I have my family. And my wonderful boys who force the square peg of normalcy into my round hole of a day. And my husband who lets me put my ear to his chest to hear his heart beat and affirm that he is alive and loving and here.

All will be well. All will be well. All will be well.