Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grief is such a shape-shifter. I continue to do well, to hover in a more peaceful place, and I am so grateful for that. But I find myself overtired, reactive and overstressed, emotional. I tend to get that way at this time of year as a rule anyway for some reason, but I have to wonder how much of it is some unconscious, internal effort on my part to muscle through and get on with life?

Joseph is gone. I can say it now without the edges of my world decaying and curling in on me. I will never forget the first time Joe spoke those words aloud and how just hearing them dissolved me. Now I can hear it and say it with some air of reality making it a grim ut solid truth. It no longer surprises my soul that he is gone. I can look at the moon again without that far away feeling of stress and worry that one of my children is unaccounted for. Where he is, is the worst a parent can imagine, but at least I do know where he is. For a long time I felt as if he had gone off on a journey without saying where and without appropriate preparation.

I envy people who are able to burrow themselves into a strong faith after losing their child. I admit though, most of them sound shrill and desperate to my ears. And I suppose they are. I desperately want to believe...I think I really DO believe in all honesty....but I am just so bruised from the rejection of all of our prayers. I always imagined if God said "NO" about something, it would be a booming, meaty declaration that would devastate in its intensity. Instead, it was more like a long, hissing whisper, like fingers of fog that come in and steal away hope, making it cling to a humidity of grief that leaves you cold and unsure of what just happened, the hairs on your neck standing on end as you look in stunned silence at the blue/gray hue that took life from the cheeks of a boy. How hard it was for me to gaze upon his dead body. I was encouraged to lay with him and hold him after he passed, and I to this day feel like a failure that I could not bring myself to do it, that in my mind, I was running down the hallway with a banshee's howl where I would thrust myself from the edges of earth and be swallowed. I turned away, turned on such numbness that it took months to really clear from my system, to the point that I wondered why I was not grieving much at times. I see now that I was, but in the moment it felt wrong that I was not hurting more. The brain only gives you as much as you can handle, and this loss has taken everything from me. I have had to rebuild, myself, my life, my relationships...silently, slowly, within the new definition of my existance. I have rebuilt enough to feel more solid standing in myself. But the sadness is a hollow shade of twilight, ever with me.

The Irish festival is this weekend and Joe and I will go on Sunday, hopefully meet some friends there, drink some beer. The Rennaisance Festival arrives at the end of April. I was almost too fat for my costume last year and its the one time of year I hate having short hair. I may try something different this year, rather than dressing as a pretty wench. Maybe I will go for a begger look or something more baudy, less prissy. There is still time for me to lose some weight before the event arrives. My hair is a lost cause. I try to grow it long but it just doesn't look good on me.

Jimmy Buffett tickets go on sale today and its our mission to try to score some this time. They are so hard to get! The weekend after this one I go on a grief retreat with Stewart and the boys at the same campground where Joseph would have attended leukemia camp. We shall see how that goes. I have found that wallowing around in my sadness has not done me any favors in the past, so this may be the last thing of that sort that I let myself attend, depending on how I do.

Statistics continues to go well. Its actually pretty fun. I found a website about nursing and I probably need to quit reading it. There are a lot of really unhappy nurses out there being really vocal and it makes me wonder if the bad conditions and treatment they describe is really something I want to bust my butt to be a part of. I am following my heart and the advice of good friends at this point and sticking with it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I love to get up early on Sunday mornings. I like to watch the light spread across the sky, to know Joe and the boys are warm and snug in their beds and sleeping deeply. Sometimes I stand outside their doors and just listen for a moment. I scheme and plan, look up recipes, try to think of something homey and warm to make everyone for breakfast. Sometimes I make a very early morning run to the grocery store and I always seem to give in and buy better-than-our-average coffee, partially for the pleasure of serving it to Joe, but I admit, partially for my own pleasure of smelling it brew. Today there was a marked down liter of buttermilk. I think I will use it to make Emeril's Irish Soda bread, which has bacon in it and is so yummy. Eggs. Coffee. Milk. It smells like a divine coffee house in here. The newspaper was on the front walk when I got back from the store.

We are supposed to have a pretty warm day today, about 65 degrees or so. I am hoping to get out and clean up the Infiniti and do some work on the crepe myrtles and flower beds in preparation for spring. Joe and I are going to rent a tiller and get the yard re-seeded this year, along with getting the tomatoes in nice and early. I need to cut back the monkey grass. We got rid of this really ugly, ill-placed evergreen out front in the fall, so it frees up vision of the house from the street rather nicely. I also need to clean up our bedroom, which has gotten disgustingly cluttered. I did the floors, living room and kitchen yesterday along with the boys' bathroom. Today will be our bathroom and bedroom plus whatever I can get done outside. Joe and I have been invited for Italian food with friends for brunch, not sure if there will be time to squeeze that in. I hope so but am okay with it if not. Life is full and I love it that way. I would like to get in a 2 mile walk too if I can, probably this evening. I prefer to walk at sunset.

So quiet.....all I can hear are the birds outside. Ahhhh.....

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I have had a lot more peace inside me the last few days, and I am so grateful. Right when I returned from the cruise it seemed as if I were to be completely swallowed up again in grief. But that particular wave has passed, and from time to time I think I feel his spirit near to me now. I am awash in memories of his illness and treatment, but with those memories I find my focus is more on his strength and his spirit, the funny interactions we had. I am so glad I kept his caringbridge page, that detailed journey of his illness. It brings so much of his spirit back to me. I was laughing out loud yesterday reading my account of trying to make sure he would shower while I was at work and how he would try to avoid doing it, my own matter of fact reporting on the ensuing tension and resolution that turned into a fun and funny evening for both of us. And a few days later, how he had sent me a text message on my phone that he was going to "horf down two hot dogs" (teenage speak for letting me know he was eating okay) and how I teasingly texted him back that I hoped he would not "hork" them back up.

I don't know about every parent who has lost a child, but I know in my own nature and with some of the major mistakes I have made as a mother, I can get so completely spun up in my guilt that I almost wish I were dead myself. Reading back on that time gives me a better, more well rounded view of myself. I made some major mothering errors when going through my divorce from Stewart. I had major depression that was untreated and I was not really seeing the world very plainly nor the importance of my own role in it. I was not a particularly attentive or good mother for a while there, not until I got all that straightened out and became free to pursue my own happiness free of an unhappy marriage. After that, I got better. A lot better. By the time Joseph became ill, he and I were very close. We talked. He told me things, things that I would not have told my own mother, and we would discuss them.

We laughed together. One time he left the nozzle of the shower in his hospital room pointed the wrong direction. It was handheld and didn't sit exactly well in its cradle, and he had hung it up with the part that causes the spray pointing toward the shower door, so that when I went in to start his shower for him I got absolutely soaked. There was a moment of initial shock for both of us and then I started to laugh, which made his whole body exhale in relief, to see I was not angry. We sat there and giggled at my soaking wet clothing for a good while and we had big smiles through the rest of the evening. I still smile when I remember that shared moment of absurdity. I did a few things right.

The older my kids get, the better I get at parenting them. I try to see them as already adults who just have not grown into the role yet...that its my job to help them become effective at that role. It helps somehow with the frustrations that can come. If I see them as children, I react to them as children. If I see them as small grown ups who aren't quite there yet, somehow I feel less wound up in terms of my own ego needing to be satisfied by certain behaviors and as a result I am more objective. I don't know if that makes sense, but it has helped me be a better mom in terms of not losing my temper with things. I would so easily find myself yelling at them in a way that I would never have talked to an adult like. So if I see them as adults in the making, I don't yell. I hated myself being a screaming kind of mom and I have not done it for years now...another thing I have done right, I think. I guess there is no way to know really until they are all grown up and become who they are going to be. Except for Joseph. He was complete in his own right, as complete as God intended him to be anyway, at the time of his death, and if the way he was, was something I can judge how Stewart and I have parented then I think we are doing pretty good. He was such a good person, full of life, humor, compassion, ambition, sensitivity, strength and character. I feel so blessed to have had him in my life. It is like a breath of fresh air to fall into this particular vein of my grief and find, suddenly, I feel a little bit better and yet do not feel as if I have lost him even further. If anything, I feel him more near.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A community college is such an eclectic mix of people. A beard like Jesus here, a woman with a cane there, a middle aged Mom looking lost and insecure, a gaggle of young adults all speaking in frantic sign language in the hall, a cluster of 19-year-olds that seem overwhelmed by life and each other...its interesting just walking in the door. A whole other world of community, tolerance, a place where being different is encouraged and embraced.

Statistics class continues to go remarkably well. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I got a 93 on my first exam, which blew me away, as did the murmured "Veddy Goot" the instructor gave me as he handed me my test back. You'd think I was in fourth grade again, where a kind word from the teacher means so much. I had to work hard not to preen. Most of the class did not do that well. Last night, the instructor opened the class with the announcement that what he was going to be teaching was very important...and if we didn't understand it, we need to drop the class, as we will not understand the rest of the class if we don't understand this. Daunting to say the least, and I was a note-taking fool. But so far what he taught is very understandable to me. I am convinced half the problem with the low grades much of the class is getting results from the excessive socializing and flirting going on (lots of young'uns in this class), the hope for curves and extensions (has not happened yet and sounds not likely to) and an anticipation that this is going to be excessively difficult. I fear it will be excessively difficult too, but then I remind myself that the semester is 1/3 over already and I am doing well. It is heartening. I can get way ahead of myself all too easily and sink into fantasies of sailing into nursing school with a GPA of 4.0 in my prerequisite classes and then graduating top of my class and getting multiple job offers and ....and.... and they lived happily ever after. Then I rein myself in and get back to work.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

We are back. I have been slow to come here to update this blog, but getting back into school and readjusting to normalcy again has been pretty all-encompassing. I returned to class the day we got back, back to work the next day and yesterday Alex had a basketball game, so its been pretty busy.

I posted a few pictures from the cruise above. We had a WONDERFUL time. It was everything we hoped it would be...relaxing, romantic, fun and carefree. We saw some Mayan ruins in Progreso and smoked Cuban cigars in Cozumel..and of course there was much tequila and plenty of dancing. The ship was rough for most of the cruise, but neither Joe nor I had any trouble with motion sickness and it actually seemed to help us sleep really really well! We were super impressed with the ship, the staff, the food and the fun. I thought of Joseph only a little bit while we were vacationing and I felt very carefree and easy the entire time. Of course, it was all still here waiting for me when I came home and that has been a painful realization, finding I cannot get away from it. My heart hurts and on Friday at work I ached all over again like I did right after he died. But there is a softness and peace there too. Joe and I are so close...he knows most every nuance of my personality and we just have such a good life together. I know I am not alone and that helps more than I can say. I feel Joseph's loss so much more now, more every day it seems, but it is also getting easier to carry it with me and let it have its space. We went to a party at a friend's home last night and have a great time and we have been just doing the usual puttering and Sunday morning bonding today. I feel pretty much happy and that is great, not only to feel it but to be able to acknowledge it without the debilitating guilt. I am growing. The vacation was so good for me.

Alexander turned 10 on Valentine's Day. He wanted to invite his "girlfriend" (yes, the 8th grader!!) to go to the movies with us and to a chinese buffet afterward, so she and her Mom are joining us today to celebrate the full decade of life that he has achieved. My little punkin. I can't believe how big he has gotten. He is a light in my life and I love him so much my heart aches with it. He has survived more in his 10 years than many have to in a lifetime. He is a cancer survivor, defeated a brain tumor at age 5 and continues to amaze me with the many odds he has conquered every day as he continues to excel in school, sports and life. He inspires me every day. The pictures of him above range from just prior to finding his brain tumor up to present day. I have not figured out yet how to format here to put the pictures with the appropriate paragraph, so they just all stack up at the top!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Its been a crazy busy day. We leave tomorrow on our cruise (yay!!), so I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off getting everything ready to go. Joe and I have taken an ugly house with a lot of potential and turned it into a charming, warm, inviting home, and I think we are both looking forward to returning here as part of our trip as much as anything else. So I have felt compelled to clean clean clean today along with the packing. Stewart took my picture with Nick at his orchestra concert two nights ago and I was stunned at how old, tired and shabby I looked, so I hauled myself to the beauty parlor for the first time in eight months and got a spunky new haircut. I love looks great...and Joe loving it sealed the deal. I probably ought to start keeping up with that again. I worked half a day this morning, then left at midday to come home and clean, but also to go up to school and take my first Statistics exam. I think it went quite well. But all of this has made for one tired girl when combined with not being able to sleep last night due to anticipation, lists running around in my head regarding what to pack and what to do prior to leaving and also lists of formulas and problems, rehearsing mentally for the exam. So now I am turning weepy and melancholy. I will miss Nick and Alex. And of course, this is a little bit bittersweet. My first vacation since Joseph died. Heck, my first real vacation since he got sick. I almost feel a little bit afraid. I am excited, but I have always gotten anxious when wandering from home for a while. I am a homebody. I love my home. My family. Caring for both. I could be very happily dull I think. This will be good for me.

So, I will write again and post pictures when I return. I leave you with a picture of Nick from his orchestra concert, which was amazing. He did so well and I am so proud of the young man he is becoming.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

We are leaving in a week for our cruise. Its been fun getting things together, preparing for it....and also very emotional. We have tried to take this trip a couple of times now and actually would have been on the cruise the week Joseph started prep for transplant had he not relapsed...It feels like a kind of sad full circle that now we get to go. And yet it also feels a bit freeing and very connected to him, as if he is saying "Here Mom..Do this". He has been with me so much this week. I continue to do the vast majority of my crying in the car. I was listening to Evanescence (I probably spelled that wrong) My Immortal yesterday though and kind of realized that I was feeding my own grief, so I stopped. The song is perfect but sooo dark and hopeless. I have to try harder to focus on things that are not so dark.

Statistics class is going well. I keep wondering where the catch is. I expected it to be unbelievably hard. Either its something I "get" more than I thought I would (which is possible..that happened to me with Economics, Business Finance and Accounting...though I would suck and instead made straight As) or its just easy in the beginning and going to get hard later or I just have a really good instructor. My first exam will be on Friday next week, Feb 8th. I will miss one class due to the cruise but my instructor tells me he will teach the class to me at the math lab if I need it. I get a little intimidated when I really think about what I am trying to do here. Me? A nurse? I have wanted to do this for years, long before Joseph got sick, but I seem to have this fear of failure. Its why I don't try to get published and probably a lot why I never finished school. It can make me quake to think too hard about what I am trying to accomplish.

Alex is doing great in basketball. He honestly is quite talented, and when I watch him doing a lay up or zipping around that court, I am stunned at the miracle of modern medicine. He had his dose of growth hormone increased a few months back and its really starting to show. He is growing and is taller now than most of the boys on his team. Granted, most of them are younger than him, but considering he lost an entire year of growing after his tumor was removed, its pretty good. Its amazing they could take out a tumor right in the center of his brain and none of his cognitive abilities or coordination be affected. The tumor was right up against his optic nerve and he could have been rendered blind, but he wasn't. He lost his pituitary gland and would die within a few days without his pills, but isn't it amazing that there are pills that can replace all his endocrine functions? So well that other than the taking of those pills and the daily growth hormone injection, he's just like any other kid? I am stunned by it sometimes. Particularly now, that Joseph's situation is over and turned out the way it did..and I didn't think about or worry about Alexander's tumor much through Joseph's cancer simply because we handle the most imminent worries first, and Joseph's situation didn't leave a lot left over for other concerns. Now I look back and realize that all through Alexander's tumor I honestly didn't grasp how serious it was...nor grasp the edge we live on every day, expecting and needing those pills to be available to us. We are so blessed that Alex is doing so well.