Monday, July 30, 2007

We did a lot of work on the house this weekend. Joe is making progress on the fence, though it is getting very hot to be doing that kind of work. The picture above is both sides of the project, before and after. It is very close to being done and he has done such a gorgeous job. Our tomato plants were really late getting into the ground but are finally starting to produce some tomatoes. The grape tomatoes are just going to town and soon we will need a basket to pick them all. Alex loves tomatoes and he and Joe have fun going out there and daydreaming about BLTs. Its a bit of a jungle with all the rain we have had and some of the plants are as tall as Joe is.
I got a huge portion of the kitchen painted yesterday and it is coming together nicely. I am getting antsy to get the floors in and the countertops done. That should be coming up soon. The next thing is going to be the backyard landscaping and Joseph's memorial garden. Joe got out the chainsaw and took down the peach tree that was in the back corner. All the fruit it produced was bad and attracted flies like crazy, and as Joe cut it down he discovered it was rotted all the way through to the stump down the middle, so it wasn't going to last long anyway. So now we are discussing what to put in. We both are favoring azaleas in at last a few spots. They grow well here in the heat and will add lush color but also they remind him of his Dad and that makes it an obvious choice. Joe let Nick hold the chainsaw and do some cutting...I am glad I was not out there for that....but the way Nick's eyes lit up it must have been a good and manly feeling experience.
We cooked hambergers on the grill on SAturday night and then went to see the new Shrek film. Last night we had corn on the cob and sausage off the grill. There's no lack of good eating going on around here!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Guess I have been a little MIA here for a while. I am constantly composing in my head for this blog but my opportunities to be alone enough to sit down, collect all those thoughts and write have been few and far between this week. I am hitting crunch time in school...finals for the semester are next week....and I can hardly believe it is already just about done. Then I have a three week break, then start my next algebra class at the end of August for the fall term.

Alex attended art camp this week. They studied all kinds of art including sculpture, painting, performing arts and song writing. He said the singing parts were his least favorite, but he did really enjoy the camp and wants to attend again next year. Nick will be attending the same camp next week for his own age group and after seeing how much fun Alex had, he is really looking forward to doing it. He has gone up in rank in Scouts and now outranks where Joseph was able to reach during his lifetime. It is a bittersweet feeling, at once making me so very proud of him and yet underlining the fact that he will soon surge past all the milestones of his brother. I am thrilled that Nick is turing into such a motivated and enterprising young man. He is about to start the first step toward earning his Eagle. Part of completing this rank will be to assist in a major household project, and I believe we are going to put in a memorial garden in the backyard. At least that is my idea. He and I will be talking about it further this weekend. It has to be something major, and I think that would fulfill him. He has mentioned several times wanting to plant trees and flowers and have a "thinking bench"for Joseph.

I get intimidated at the idea of starting a project of this magnitude right now, but knowing Nick needs it to move on in his life makes it worthwhile. Grief comes with a natural laziness and I suffer lack of motivation in almost every area most days, though it does seem to be tempering a bit. I have had a lot of thought processes lately that confuse and frighten me, times when I am not as raw in my grief, times when I think more actively about moving forward instead of going through the motions and faking it as best I can. It feels like little stab wounds into my heart, and yet I know I cannot maintain this level of sorrow all my life. That is not to say I have stopped crying or stopped hurting. It will forever hurt. It is more trying to find a place to put the pain where it lives with me rather than through me. It comes to me like whiffs of scent....I can tell its out there, but cannot quite identify it. It feels like a betrayal, to even conceptualize accepting Joseph is gone. But yet, he is. I have not seen him for six months. I have not heard his voice for seven. I have not shared a meal with him for eight or heard him laugh for just as long. His absence has become its own being and the desperation of missing him flows like blood. Its a physical feeling. I have daily proof he is dead, not off at scout camp. The panicked feeling of needing to get to the hospital happens less frequently now. I no longer "shop" for him when I go to the grocery store or Wal-Mart. At times the sadness now comes not in the sudden realization that I was mentally selecting things for a child who is no longer here but more in soft thoughts of how much I wish I could. I suspect it is a kind of continuum. I will hold him forever at this age, in this place, and always wish I'd gotten more of him, gotten to do more with him. I hold what we did get together softly in my hand, protectively, delicately. I still love him so burns around my heart when I think of him. I fear so much forgetting anything, both what he went through but also how he lived, who he was. I have not sainted him in my mind, yet I marvel as much now as I did during his life over the purity of his spirit, the gentleness he felt for the young, the old, the ill, the helpless and even the ignorant. He was a very compassionate soul. I want to write more about him. When I did his eulogy, his illness was all we ate, drank, breathed, slept, dreamed. It focused on that journey. I want now to remember and acknowledge the life that wove before and through that illness and I will do more of that here in the coming days and months.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Its been a crazy busy week for us. I did not mention, but last week Joe's golf clubs were stolen out of the back of the Blazer either while I was at work or school. Needless to say, it was just incredibly depressing...a link with his past and of course his key to a game he truly loves. We were both so very upset. We have a police report in, but the chance of them being recovered is almost none. Its very sad.

Then yesterday same said Blazer broke down while I was in line at the bank depositing my paycheck. Luckily I have a very good mechanic in my pocket and we have him working on it, but it won't be ready until Monday evening, so I am going to have to call my brother and see if he is able to give me a ride to work on Monday, which I hate. I just hate putting people out. But he was so nice about potentially having to take me home on Friday evening, so that makes it a little easier to ask at least.

Joe remains covered in this terrible rash from whatever type of poison plant he got into. Its made him pretty miserable, though we at least have a good regimen for him to follow for some relief after I called my doctor and asked her about it. Two Claritin in the morning, two Benadryl at night, hydrocortisone cream all day long and expect it to last a full two weeks. Poor guy. The worst part is that we don't really know where he got into it at. So it could happen again. But he is dealing with it well. Its mostly on his chest and belly and up into one armpit. Not on his face or anything.

We are going to paint the kitchen today, or at least that is the preliminary plan. He's not up yet, so we'll see. I know he wants to watch the British Open, so I will probably mow the lawn and get some groceries and another can of paint while he does that. We went out last night and just had a marvelous time at The Shops at Legacy in Plano. First we went to Cafe Amore, a BYOB Italian restaurant where we shared a lovely bottle of Viadur (highly recommend it....very good wine) that we brought with us for that purpose, then went down to the martini bar there at the shops at Legacy. Unfortunately it was pretty upscale and we were pretty casual...they didn't like Joe's tennis shoes for their dress code, so we'll try that place another time. Instead we found a hot little urban mexican joint who would sell us margaritas and let us take them out on the sidewalk to listen to the incredible Latin singer that was entertaining on the street. He was just amazing! He went for over an hour and a half without a break, playing awesome spanish guitar, singing super romantic songs in spanish and more up tempo and modern stuff, all with a blues/jazz spin that made it all his own. It was a perfect warm Dallas night and there were tons of people out and about, everything from singles eyeballing one another to familites trying to have fun even with the kids to older couples. Just a nice mix, good energy, great drinks, everyone moving around, up and down the street, checking out one another and the shops and restaurants. There's a wine bar there called Cru....I want to try that next time. We would also definitely go out of our way to see this guy perform again. Joe bought him a drink and then made me take it to him. I thought I would die. I have such a thing for dark, handsome men and I get so embarassed around them because I am sure the drooling makes it a little obvious that I am crushing on them. Dark handsome men just hit me with the stupid stick. Can't talk. Can't interact. Can't hardly think. Joe thinks its funny, so he made me take the performer a margarita. I thought I would die of embarassment. I had to walk across the street and give it to him in front of all these people...but I am telling you, the smile he gave me...wooowhee! I think I peed a little!

Then we drove home with the sunroof open and great songs from the 80s playing a little too loud, feeling young and free and so happy to be together. It was the best "date night" we've had yet. But I think I wore him out...its 9:00 AM and he is still sleeping :evil smile:

Have a great day everyone.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Algebra test again last night. I got a 93. This is going pretty good I think. But the lead up to the test was amusing and stressful enough to make me nauseated. I got a 100 on the first quiz, an 80 on the second quiz, a 65 (!!!) on the pre-test, then a 93 on the test itself. Gee, think I psych myself out much?

It is so interesting to walk around the college campus and watch the youngsters there. They are so blithe, their slender bodies poured into tight fitting jeans with casually mussy hair on the boys, sleek and straight with tummies showing for the girls. They wear a lot less make up than they did in my college prime. I marvel at the ease in which they move, the obvious assumption in their very beings as they hook hands into one another's pockets or cast sidelong glances at me as I pass by, the acknowledgement of my age showing in their faces by the very dismissal they contain, not so much rude as really quite oblivious, a feeling on my part of being on the outside looking in, recognizing a place where I used to be. They cannot fathom they will ever get old I think. The knowledge of their bodies still growing into full awareness, their place in the world not yet secure, potential written all over their posture. It is true I think that youth is wasted on the young....not really as any slam against them, but mostly just because they have not yet lived enough yet to know how quickly it goes away, too inexperienced in life (most of them) to have any perspective on the blessings of oh-so-flat tummies and breasts that stay where they belong without a bra and the thrill of just looking at one another. I watched a very young Asian couple having a rather terse conversation in what I would presume to be their native language, everything in her posture reflecting indignant offense, everything in his reflecting chastized batfflement. I hope they could not hear me giggling as I passed them by. I watched a lithe young girl let go of her boyfriend's hand to lounge back on one of the many benches scattered around campus and lean against the wall, a heavy sigh emphasizing female body parts, her legs seemingly longer than she realizes as she stretched them out and then snugged one beneath her bottom...every movement and motion provocative and sensual...and his hands going into his jeans pockets as he stood before her and struggled to look without looking like he's looking with a tension that made me wonder if she even realized the enticing display she made as heat fairly crackled in the air from him to her. The longing looks of a very pretty lab partner in my biology class toward one of her other partners, the snug fitting things she wears, the done up hair and pouted lips even at 9 in the morning on a Saturday, the incessant questions about him, his girlfriend, what they did, the way she manages to lean over and brush up against him whenever he looks into the microscope at our assignment, the way he doesn't seem to mind and also doesn't seem fooled. Its just....interesting. Like looking at myself from far, far away, wondering at all the incredible experiences now in my life that have changed me from that inward facing innocence to a creature far more aware of life, earth, death, love.

I swear I am learning algebra and biology somewhere inside all my gawking. The truth is, part of me envies....but part of me pities. I wonder if anyone escapes that age unscathed?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Joe managed to get poison ivy or oak over the weekend and he is covered with itchy welts. Maybe it will help me convince him to help me finish painting the kitchen instead of working on the fence this weekend. We had a contractor out here this weekend to get started on a quote for the hardwood floors and tile for the kitchen as well as gutting the master bathroom. Here's the living room now....still need to get some art work on the walls...the first picture is what it looked like when we bought the house...afters following.

Algebra has been good for me. Of course, I say that with gritted teeth, but truly getting into this class and through it successfully may just change the entire course of my future. That sounds so cheesy, but is so true. The depth of fear surrounding that subject and the anticipation of defeat has made my frustration level with it exceptionally low. But the importance of my goal and my passion for it has kept me plugging away, even during the times I want to yank my hair out and burn it in protest. It has taught me a lot about the benefits of seeing things through when they get hard academically. I was pretty bright in school as a youngster and I think coming upon this class that I could not learn simply by osmosis threw me for a spin, particularly when my older brother was so exceptional at it. Better late than never. I can say with emphasis that conquering a personal demon is a journey worth undertaking. School is over in three weeks for the summer and I am looking forward to slowing things up. It just got to be a bit much.

Joe made me dinner tonight. I came home to a house fragrant with garlic and butter..he made shrimp scampi and said it was for all those times I came home from the hospital to a dark, empty house only to struggle to find the energy to open a can of soup. Of course, the size of my ass belies that..I managed to eat just fine, thank you. I am working hard on undoing the damage now, but finding the will for that is difficult too. Its hard to deprive myself right now. Joe is, however, awfully good to me despite my numerous imperfections.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It has been so long since I have heard his voice or seen his face. I grasp his pictures now on my more difficult days and peer into his face trying to read the expression…the emotion…to bring back the moment and live it with him again. It is a futile endeavor and leaves me aching and lonely. I have his image from so many ages here at work, on my desk, my walls, my computer. There was so much more to his life than his illness, so much more to my motherhood than the beginning or the end. I yearn desperately for his presence. At times the need in my arms to wrap him up is a true, physical ache. Perhaps that sounds a little crazy. Perhaps it is. I comfort myself a bit that every parent can look back on photographs of their children at younger ages and yearn to hold that sweet nubile body again, to feel the warmth and intense love seeming to flow from one to the other, seemingly by osmosis. I remember his cheek tender against my shoulder, his limbs heavy and floppy with sleep in my arms, his blue eyes seeking and curious on my features or hands. How I would make tiny cubes of cheddar for him and how he would so neatly and carefully pick them up one at a time between thumb and forefinger instead of grasping handfuls and mushing them into his mouth the way he did with bananas. How he surveyed my expression one time when I was crying (he was a toddler, not even two years old), not disturbed by my emotion but rather watching intensely to see where on earth the water running down my face was coming from, making me laugh in the midst of my pain (I had tripped over his safety gate and bashed in my knee pretty badly). I wish so much he would give me something now to fraction the agony that way, to split it apart and help me see the wonderful energy and lightness of being that he brought to my life. Some sign of him that would drive home to me how incongruous my grief would probably seem to him. He was so full of compassion for others. So silly and pure of heart. So earnest. He would hate to see me hurting this way and yet be fascinated that he himself could engender so much emotion. Is there any way out of this darkness? I have is for me a mottled thing, not constantly black, but when the devastation is upon me there seems to be nothing else. Joe is so patient. I try to keep it quiet and put away when I can. It is not fair to those around me to wander around moaning all the time, so to speak. I try to ration my need for comfort to a level that is hopefully tolerable to those around me. I have isolated myself somewhat and that is not fair to him, to look to him alone for emotional sustenance. Maintaining my friendships though has become intensely difficult. I have such a well of intense need that is unable to be named and so little ability to relate to the concerns of those who have never known what it is to watch someone die. I am a bit of a hag. So much of what others complain about becomes so petty in my mind. I am not a compassionate listener right now and have never been good at biting my tongue. The two combined may quite possibly end up costing me people I still need to love me. So I just stay away and hope somewhere I will find my way back to a place where self imposed problems are still something worth helping someone else to solve.

I wish I knew where he is. I desperately wish we had time to say goodbye. I wish I knew if he was relieved to die, to leave his pained and diseased body. If he was ready to let go. I want to kiss that soft head. His absence is haunting and palatable. I taste its bitterness on my tongue, called to awareness even by the sweetest thoughts of him. Will I ever reach a day when I remember him and smile instead of fall into silent, private, hidden weeping at my desk or in the dark of night? In one of the books I am reading by another parent who lost a son, he talks about the darkness, the seeming lack of God’s presence in this place, the hope (that feels vain and angry) that by simply sitting and being quiet, not moving because the depth of nothing is so impenetrable..that somewhere in this place…God will come.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Domestic Sunday

I was so excited when we went to bed last night because today is Sunday and I could sleep in. Of course, my body awoke at 5:30 am and decided it was up for the day. Argh! But it has been nice watching the sun come up. I have not made the coffee yet but I should. My coffee maker can be set to automatically come on and brew at a given time of day chosen by me, but I didn't think to set it last night. We were having too much fun.

Yesterday was just familial bliss for me. I had class in the morning (Biology test this week and next week and algebra test this week too. Lord save me) and then came home and headed out to do some errands/shopping. Joe was working on the fence (I promise a picture is coming Mary Ann!). I called Mom and she met me at Sam's Club where I renewed my membership and we browsed around. Sam's is a dangerous, dangerous place. I could go crazy there buying stuff. I found a comforter set that would look very nice in the bedroom and some 400 thread count sheets in a lovely cotton sateen ivory. Right now the bedroom is just horribly dark and brooding. I would like to make it softer, warmer, more uplifting and inviting. The brown I chose for the walls is darker than I anticipated. That room just doesn't get good light.

I digress. So anyway, Mom and I shopped a bit, then I did regular groceries and picked up the boys. They were in such a good mood, all chatty and cute and smiley. We came home and they got busy building themselves a "fort" out of moving boxes that I let them cut up and color on with markers. They were determined they were going to sleep in it last night, an idea that lasted about five minutes before the both said the floor wasn't that comfortable and went back to their beds. At one point during the afternoon yesterday they wanted to know if they could take down a portion of the old fence for Joe with the "wrecking balls" they had made out of tinker toys. I guess Joe told them it was okay, because I came outside and the two of them were just whacking away (uselessly I might add) with great gusto while Joe looked on in bemusement. We joked how if we had TOLD them to take down the fence (with Tinker Toys or otherwise) it would not have been nearly as fun. They didn't manage to make the fence fall but if it will occupy them for an hour like it did last night I am all for them giving it another try today.

So we grilled steak last night and hot dogs (in case the boys didn't want to try the steak...they didn't...). I made cucumber salad with grape tomatoes, onions and vinegar with plenty of salt...yummo! Cucumbers just taste like summer to me. Our tomato plants are almost as tall as I am now, but only the cherry tomato plant is showing good signs of producing for us so far. We got them in about six weeks late, so it may be a while yet. Looks like they have been digging the rain though.

Around 9:45 PM the boys and I made a little trip to Braum's and bought a couple of half gallons of ice cream and brought them home, so Joe and the boys had bowls of ice cream with chocolate sauce right before bed. It was just such a lovely family day. I am sure all of this sounds so mundane and ordinary and probably not all that interesting to read about, but I was just so overwhelmed with the feeling of happiness and home. I had a hard week with missing Joseph and just being a little out of whack emotionally with lots of crying and hollowness. The tenth marked six months now that he has been gone and I guess that just really hit home. I miss him so much. But it felt good to feel the love in our home and to come out a little bit from that dark place. It helps.

Joe is very excited because I brought home a pork butt for him yesterday. He is going to smoke it on the grill today with some chicken wings and Mom is coming for dinner. He took a great deal of pleasure in massaging it with oil and seasonings yesterday and putting it in the fridge. I have never seen someone love to cook as much as this man does. If he isn't doing it he is watching others do it on TV. I think he missed his calling!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Time Travel

I heard an old song today that just carried me back in time. It was something by Johnny Cash, something about a train...its funny I know who the artist is and some of the words to the song but have no idea what it is titled. It first and foremost reminded me of my Dad, who liked to play music really loud on Sundays. Johnny Cash. Willie Nelson. Merle Haggard. Jim Croce. The mental image came to me of the small town where my parents grew up, smack in the middle of the bread basket of the world and a population of something like 200 people. The kind of place that has a bowling alley, a small grocery store, a huge cathedral-like church and about six differnt bars, all lining a brick-laid street. I can still recall going into the bars when we got to go to town, the kind of place that smelled heavily of cigarette smoke and Pabst Blue Ribbon and where sun-grizzled farmers with huge, calloused hands wrapped around their beers listened over the lunch hour to the hog report and weather forecast and talked with one another, the presence of kids in the bar not even an issue. We'd get cans of Mountain Dew and smile shyly at the people who would greet us with "You belong to Marv and Judy, don't you?" as our eyes adjusted to the dim neon lit interior, the buildings and doorways as old as the town itself.... the kind of place where your clan can be identified by your facial features alone, the town gossip confirming your identity because they know you are in town visiting for a week. It was in this kind of place that I learned a "fountain drink" didn't really have a fountain or come from a fountain or anything nearly as wonderful and magical as its name suggested, but was really just a plain old glass of pop with some ice (I learned to opt for the cans, which we could recycle for a dime and then take that to the grocery store and buy candy). The whole place felt like I had walked back in time, so that when I looked down that street, I could see the horse and wagons rattling along on their way to church, could sense the cold bitter winters of the Depression when there was not enough to go around, could smell and hear the 1950s when my parents were teenagers and, judging from the signatures in their yearbooks, a little bit wild...a concept I found fascinating. There was a sense of lineage, of heritage. My father was not a farmer, but this still was a place where I belonged, maybe not a farmer's daughter, but a farmer's granddaughter and one who every spring was made to leave her prissy city life and help slaughter chickens to freeze for the whole family (which meant aunts, uncles and cousins...Mom was the oldest of 7, Dad the oldest of 6), who ever summer helped pick and shuck the corn, watching grandpa toss the popping corn in the air from a basket held in his massive hands after taking it off the cob, letting the wind blow the debris from it so that later we could all dig in and enjoy. He would pop endless batches for us on this old stove in the basement, the scent wafting up from below to mingle with the sounds of raucous laughter from the kitchen where everyone crowded around the table to play cards, gossip and get a little drunk. My childhood is full of the memories of that laughter rising up to the highest floors of the house where I, small and too young to play, lay tucked beneath sunkissed sheets, listening, wondering what the mystery of being grown up might be that made people laugh so hard. I always assumed that comfortable, secure place would be there. I was too young to imagine my grandparents might ever grow old, retire, leave the farm...that I and my cousins would grow and scatter and see one another once every five or more years. That there would be no more family baseball games in the orchard until the sun went down, no more games of Green Ghost after darkness fell. I just knew in my head one day it would be US around that kitchen table laughing with everyone else. Nevermind that we'd never all fit. That just always seemed to work out somehow. Never too little food. Never too little space. It makes me sad now, that world passed away. Grandpa has been gone a long time and the farm is rented to another family. I always felt a bit smug telling my friends about that life. I was so proud of it, though I didn't recognize that emotion then for what it was. I feel it now and remember and long to go the days when my uncles wore mutton chops and there was always a lap I could wiggle into, when the greeting I got when I woke from my nap was so enthusiastic that it embarassed me and I had to screw up my courage to enter the room. When love was not something said, but a life that was lived...lived with hard work, team work, family pride. What an idyllic world it was....and I was too young to know.

Monday, July 9, 2007

On Monkeys and Lovers

Things are pretty status quo. I find myself having trouble writing here. There are times now the words just dry up, all that intoxicating fluidity that makes me want to write in the first place somehow gone. I miss those creative bursts in which my fingers just seem to itch until I can get to the keyboard, those waves of thought that get me composing in my head so intently that I shut out the rest of the world. It could be so useful to have that escape now, but it fails me. I write here in hopes that going through the motions will awaken that part of me again. Did it die too?

I registered just for the next part of my algebra journey for the fall semester. I had originally planned to take microbiology or Anatomy and Physiology I as well, but the very idea of it makes me want to sit down with my head in my hands, and it is a great relief to sign up for the self paced Algebra class only and know that my weekends I can spend tending my children, my home and my Joe. I was always the type who wanted a career and never wanted to be a soccer mom or a PTA mom or anything like that. This domestic side of me that has been on the rise for the last few years is surprising and fulfilling.

Of course, I say that. I type that with alllllllllllllll my heart...serious and contemplative and struggling to be fluid and verbose. And yet as I sit here pecking away at my keyboard while lying in bed, Joe is laying beside me laughing at the speed of my typing and the intesnity on my face, then making faces at me like a four-year-old and pretending to scratch his ass like a monkey (don't ask. I have, however, officially threatened to post a video of it if he wont' quit it) and laughing uproariously at his own goofy antics.... and making me laugh with him. And in the laughter I find the real ringing of truth. This is why it is important to me, caring for my home and those I love. These moments, this silliness, this kind of intimacy is what was so missing from my life. This keen awareness of what is true and what is not. This is one of the gifts Joseph's illness has given me I suppose. The ability to recognize what I have while I have it. In this moment, I have a sexy, handsome, very tan man in my bed (a man. in my bed. THIS man. in my bed. finally. FINALLY! oh yessss!) pretending to be a monkey of sorts. I never thought it would least....(especially?) not in a Ape kind of way.....A mental image I could have potentially gone my whole life without. But then...what fun would that be? Of course, when I then imitate him and scratched my ass in similar fashion he tells me to stop it....that Its gross when I do it. Somehow I don't doubt that. But the giggles go on. I love it when I find those again.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I'm a squeaky toy

What an incredibly difficult week this was! I feel like I was picked up by a dog and whipped back and forth and flung about and rinse and repeat. I think I have managed to crawl to shore now....both the looming tests are over. I got a 90 on my algebra test. I will find out what I made on my biology test this morning.

Joe and I had a long talk yesterday. My stress caused some friction between us this week. We are pretty good at communicating and the conclusions we came to are that I probably need to stop piling so much on. Time is more valuable to me right now than money since there is so little of it. I told him so many things are happening that I wanted so badly, but in the process of trying to get them all in (ie school, having a house to keep with Joe here beside me, yard work, flower planting, redecorating, renovating on top of working full time and trying to get in good, healing time with Nick and Alex) I am actually sucking the joy out of it for myself. So we are going to revisit the nursing school timeline. I don't think I will take two classes at once again. One class. Time to travel with Joe. Time to work on the house and yard. Time to read now and then. Time to play with Nick and Alex. Time to grieve, to visit the cemetery, to process this whole thing. My grief counselor said I am bogging myself down and that I need to really focus on my family and on making things with Joe work. Between him and Joe telling me its okay to let go a little, its all the permission I need to slow things down and ease off. I will finish this semester but I am only going to take the next algebra class next term. Then I will take statistics in the spring and that will finish my first degree, an Associates of the Arts. And then I will continue on with the other nursing pre-requisites (Statistics is a pre-req as well).

After the biology test last night a group of us (students) were standing around the courtyard waiting for the rest of the class to finish the exam. We all started sharing what we were majoring in and girl going into respiratory therapy because her son had RSV at five months, one fellow going into nursing because his grandma blah de blah etc. So the circle comes around to me and I say I want to be a nurse because my son Joseph died from leukemia in January. And the strangest thing happened. With the pace and the rhythm of the conversation, it was as if I had not spoken! I actually stood there and wondered for a minute if I only thought it rather than said it aloud. Nobody acknowledged I said anything at all. A little bit later they were talking about nursing specialities and I said I thought I would go into oncology or pediatric oncology......and this 19 year old girl looks at me and said "My Mom's a nurse and she said you probably really don't want to do that, because you see kids DIE and stuff". I kind of blinked a second, then just reiterated "Yes, I know. My son died of leukemia in January and I think having been on that side of childhood cancer will give me a unique perspective in helping families going through it as their nurse". And she said "Yeah but you just would not want to see it again".
I was just a little bit stunned by that. I HAVE seen it! I understand I may have some issues to work through but I also believe fully that I am very capable of turning those issues into positives, into perspective.

I was pretty angry as I played it over in my head driving home. The whole "Don't cast your pearls before swine" thing came to mind, because Tony, the grief counselor at my church, always is reminding me that my grief is sacred and mine alone etc. Then I just kind of made a mental analogy of it. I have lived things most people never will and it has changed my perspective in life and the wavelength I operate out of. I think we are just on different frequencies. Joe says its a bit like dropping an H-bomb on people, that they just freeze and have no idea how to react and that perhaps I should practice letting them know it is okay to talk about Joseph. From what I have read, learning when and how to tell people you have a dead child is very much a skill and it takes about five years to get it down. I am coming to understand why.

I am going to go to the cemetery today. I have not been there since Joseph's birthday at the end of May and it is bothering me. Joe and I are going out to dinner tonight, though we have not decided where. I am hoping to find somewhere new and different to try. We have decided to put down hardwood in the entryway, eating area and hallway, and then tile in the cooking area of the kitchen, and Corian countertops. We talked about doing granite counters but I don't think the cabinetry in there is going to be the right stuff to put something that fancy and elegant on. It would be out of place. Maybe in our next house one day. We are also going to start getting quotes on renovating the master bathroom. We have a couple of contractors in our pocket and feel comfortable we have good people to do the work for us. We brought home hardwood samples earlier in the week and both Joe and I are leaning toward a high gloss cherrywood floor with possibly travertine in the cooking area. It will be gorgeous!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Major Anniversary Today

One year ago today I got a call from Stewart while I was working. I had dropped Big Joe at the airport before work and it seemed a normal hot summer day. Joseph had a follow up appointment with his oncologists to have his monthly blood draw, but I wasn't really thinking about it. I had been practicing not freaking out with worry every time he went back in to have his counts checked. So it honestly felt like it was out of the blue when my phone rang and Stewart was on the other line.

He and the boys were at the doctors' office. Joseph's blood work had returned with cancer blasts present. Joseph had unambiguously relapsed. I remember sinking to the floor and sobbing hysterically. I remember racing out of the office and down to Medical City. I remember asking Dr. Lenarsky if there could be a mistake. I remember the pity and compassion in his eyes as he said no. I remember getting home with Joseph and sighing big as I pulled him into my arms and told him I was so sorry. I remember his matter-of-fact reply that he whipped it once and would do so again. I remember trying to figure out something "fun" to do for the evening because he would be back as an inpatient immediately the next morning to start the long process of getting him back into remission so that we could move on to transplant. I remember the sense of surrealism, rebellion, fury. I remember how calm and collected Joseph was. I remember marveling at his distinct lack of self pity. He wanted to go to a Chinese food buffet that night. I suggested a movie as well and he declined. We went to the China Buffet as a family. We pretended to be carefree. We suffered through debilitating sadness amidst the savoring. It was like the moment the Titanic struck the iceberg but before anyone but the highest levels knew the ship would sink. We still had hope then...lots of fear...but hope.

I am a devastated mess today. I tried so hard not to be. I didn't want this day to cloud over like this. It is Big Joe's birthday and he deserves me to be celebratory with him. My body is just weighted down with grief. This is the first countdown now of the many milestones that ultimately lead to the anniversary of Joseph's demise. I am overwhelmed with sorrow and wish I just plain had not gotten out of bed. This day last year we were together. We shared the sorrow and the fear. We rallied powerfully as a family unit. We planned. We prayed. We hoped. And ultimately we lost. I wish he were here now. I struggle to find what possible meaning his death could have. It is senseless to me.

There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my son is dead and gone.

Here we talked of revolution.
Here it was we lit the flame.
Here we sang about `tomorrow'
And tomorrow never came.

From the table in the corner
He could see a world reborn
And we rose with voices ringing
I can hear us now!
The very words that we had sung
Became our last communion
On the lonely barricade at dawn.

Oh my son, my son forgive me
That I live and you are gone.
There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.

Phantom faces at the window.
Phantom shadows on the floor.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my sons will meet no more.

Oh my friends, my friends, don't ask me
What his sacrifice was for
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my son will sing no more.

-adapted from Les Miserables

Monday, July 2, 2007

Domestic bliss

I am on an up swing and trying to enjoy it. I feel sorry for Joe truly is bipolar feeling, the way I can be trucking along just fine and then suddenly the bottom falls out again. I reckon (because I am from Texas and that is what we do. Reckon.) I will turn the other way soon. Thursday is one year since we discovered Joseph's relapse. I am not really dreading it how I thought I might though. Not like some of the other anniversaries. That day is also Joe's birthday and the first one I get to actually spend with him, so I am busily making my devious little plans to make his day fun. He already told me he would like fried pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner that night. It was his favorite meal growing up and one I am good at making. I am really looking forward to that. I have other things in store but I can't give all my secrets away here!

Anyway, I find I start dreading the down swing when I am in the up times and it makes me wonder if that isn't a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. It has only been six months since Joseph died and I know I am still in the thick of adjusting to it, but I feel tremendously guilty when I start feeling too good about life at the same time that I feel so grateful to have some moments that are not just infused with debilitating emotional pain. I am going to go to my grief counselor tomorrow.

Joe surprised me when I got back from spending time with Mom yesterday. He was cooking a smoked pork loin (did I mention how enamoured of this new grill he is? He is cooking constantly!) but had also gone to the store and gotten chicken wings to smoke just for me. That is my absolute favorite as he well knows. He does well not to make little grunty piggy sounds as he laughs at me digging in. In all seriousness, he just plain loves to cook for me. He managed to get two more sections of fence done despite the ongoing wetness and we have a line on a guy who hopefully will come haul away all the old fence sections this week along with a hunk of the peach tree that cracked and fell due to the weight of the peaches and the violence of some of the storms we have had. I am excited to see the peaches turning toward ripeness. It will be fun to see if any of them are viable or if the birds and bugs get them all first. The ones on the ground certainly attract a lot of flies. But the boys are intrigued by the growing fruit. It is good for them to see that food doesn't just come from Kroger.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sunday morning

I am up down up down up down. Remember the algebra test I was wigging over? Did I post here I was wigging over it? Because I was. Wigging. Massively. Sick to my stomach wigging. I guess all that wigging paid off because I made a 100% on the exam. Me. The Girl Who Sucks At Math. That is my official top secret superhero title. I may have to drop it soon. It may need to be changed to The Girl Who Cries About Good Math Grades In The Car.

On the other hand, I wiped pretty badly on my biology lab pratical with a 78%. Meh. Not good. I comfort myself (but only slightly) that I was one of the higher grades in the class and the only one in my lab group to pass. I obviously was not wigged ENOUGH about that one. I thought I would do pretty good, but I had never taken a practical before and the whole set up just blanked me. Most of it was spent in an "oh sh*t!! Dammit I KNOW this!" state of misery. But I didn't think I did as badly as I did. It had me in quite a funk for a while yesterday.

Joe is trying so hard to get the fence done. I got the giggles for a while yesterday because literally every time he went out to work on it, it started raining. He'd come back in and a minute or two later it would stop. He'd go back out...started raining. This happened enough times that it was truly amusing. I kept hoping he would give up and work on painting the kitchen. He did make us the most incredibly delicious ribs and sausage on the grill last night. Alex was quick to let him know he needed to save the leftovers and not throw them out. It was cute.

I am going to the movies with Mom today and just out to bum around in general. I feel stressed about it...there is so much to do in the house and so much studying to do. But I know I need some balance and I am looking forward to the leisure time. Joe is going to take care of the boys. I hope they behave. They all do so well together but I am always afraid Joe is going to go running off screaming into the night when they fight. But interestingly after the initial shock of Joseph's death wore off, they fight less now. It took them a while I think to figure out how their relationship would work without Joseph in the middle of it to buffer things. Not that he did that peacefully. It was more a Saddam Hussein method of keeping the peace. But keep the peace it frequently did.

I am going to shop for Joe's birthday which is this Thursday the 5th and I need to get a gift for my nephew, Zachary Joseph. He was born ten weeks ago and I have still not gone to see him. Shame on me, I know. But it is more painful than I could have possibly imagined and I am hard pressed in trying to understand why. I am afraid to see is a genuine feeling of fear of pain. But it is past time. I ran into Stacey and Jacob (my brother's wife and oldest son) at Target last night. I forgot how much closer we live now. She was buying baby diapers. It just hurt down into my heart and a deep feeling of envy. Not because I want another baby (oh Hayull no!) but because they have three sons and I now have two. It is out of the order of the universe for me to have two. I don't wish they didn't have another one. I just wish I still did. Seeing the tangible change is hard.

Let's hope for less rain today and some good, drying sun.