Monday, October 20, 2008

Wanting a Day

I am so emotional today. I have been making efforts to divorce or distance myself somewhat from the world of childhood cancer, to figure out why I am struggling so much this semester wtih school, not just academically but on a motivational and satisfaction level as well. I have given myself permission not to go to the websites for grieving parents, not to go to the websites for sick kids. And as I drift away from that, I find my priorities changing, my desire to be at home very strong. I am happiest when I am at home, doing home-like stuff. If you had asked me when I was a teenager who I thought I would be and what motivated me, being a homemaker would definitely not be it. I still dont' want to be a stay-at-home mother or any kind of change that dramatic. I am just noticing I am most at peace with the world when I am taking care of Joe, the boys, even Stewart to some extent. That is my family. That is what matters.

Since I have been slowly separating myself from a world completely saturated in my loss, hearing news of other children passing away from cancer has become more rare than it had been. I heard of one who died though over this weekend in a place that I don't normally hear news of children dying, and heard about another today who is likely to die in the next 24-48 hours. Sometimes it is like it comes to find me.

Stewart took a picture of Joseph's headstone decorated for halloween and there is this sweet little ghost seeming to rise up from the ground, a goofy, happy smile on its face, so reminiscent of our son. My heart just hurts today. Halloween was his favorite holiday. I imagine he would be less interested in it now, or that his interests would be changing to something more teenaged and less boyish, as he would be 15 and in high school. Probably more an opportunity to hang out in the dark with girls than an opportunity to get free candy and dress up. But he's stuck at 13 in my head, and thus his boyish passions will always be there. I can see where this could actually get more poignant as his brothers out-age him and outgrow childish pursuits. I will have no frame of reference for their older sibling anymore. He will continue on and ever be a boy.

The sadness is physical. The back of my neck aches, my shoulders, my spine.My head is throbbing softly. There is a lump in my throat that is easily summoned to watering eyes and my hands occasionally tremble. I yearn for home, for a nap, for Joe's chest to snuggle into, for a project with Alex or Nick, for something to cook or bake (I made cookie dough, homemade bread and chicken stock yesterday already) and for somewhere cool and woodsy to walk, listen, think and be alone. I want a day to retreat from the world.

I am headed to a family wedding in San Diego on Friday, and I intend to make time to walk the beach by myself. I can feel very excited to contemplate that...that ocean I last saw wtih Joseph at my side (from the beaches of Hawaii). The ocean had loved him. It was as if it called to him, played with him. They flirted and tumbled together, Joseph a lithe, unafraid creature and I seething and hissing against the urge to snatch him back to absolute safety on the sand, restrained at times by my own recognition that he needed to play and explore, at times by Stewart, who was less fearful in those days than now. I hope I find a bit of Joseph in the sea air and waves. I need to. I am missing him and questioning all of my priorities these days. I spend far too much time away from home on an every day basis. I don't like it.

Monday, October 13, 2008


So, here it is, 3:30 A.M. and I want to start crying. I am exhausted...everything in my body is heavy, fatigued, sleepy...but my mind won't let me sleep. I am fretting over things that I don't need to fret about and remembering things I don't need to remember and feeling guilty for things I don't need to feel guilt for. I am trying to solve problems that have no solution and fretting about the fact that I can't sleep and I have been up since 1:30 and I have to get up in an hour and a half and yadda yadda yadda. It is so frustrating. I don't do this a lot, but when I do, it makes me crazy. Far too late to take a sleeping pill now, and I am wishing I had taken a quarter dose of one when I first felt this coming on not long after midnight.

I have not been writing much here. The world is so full of angst and fear, and it rubs off on me and makes me anxious. Joe seems to be good at picking up on this and frequently brings how okay we are up in casual conversation. Even the kids, who enjoy watching the news, have picked up on the fearfulness of the country about the economy and the elections and they sought clarification and reassurance from me on Friday night, wanting to know what "recession" means and if our government can go bankrupt and if our house is in danger of foreclosure (it is most definitely not) and what all that would mean to our lives. I spent time talking to them about recessions and depressions and the fact that money can get tight but we will still have plenty to eat and a warm place to call home, we just might not get to go to the movies as much for a while. That seemed to help them feel better, but I am fretting now about them fretting, wondering if I ought to be restricting their access to news that they are not old enough to fully comprehend yet, if I am being irresponsible for letting them watch it. Alex had a grief attack about Joseph on Friday night, kind of out of nowhere..he definitely had trouble differentiating between the term "depression" in the economy and "depression" in a person. Just talking about the word in the economic sense brought back for him the time in his life that he felt most depressed and he was tearful and broken and not wanting to talk about why. He came home and lay down on his bed and did not move. It was just heavy on his shoulders. I bought him a pumpkin and just felt inadequate to help him. I am so so so sorry your brother died Baby. Here. Have a pumpkin. Yeah. Impotence at its finest.

Joe took me to see Michael Buble over the weekend as my birthday gift. It turns into a mini-vacation. We spent the night in Fort Worth at the Hilton, just one block up from the convention center. He'd gotten us a suite on the 9th floor, a corner room that overlooked the convention center itself. It was SO nice, probably the nicest hotel room I have personally ever stayed in. We got there early and so walked the downtown streets, found a sushi place and had a little snack, wandered through a beer festival going on, went to a Cajun place and drank beer and sampled alligator and gumbo while sitting on the patio watching the crowds go by, people watching. I had fun pointing out the most attractive ladies for him, which seemed to amuse him. One saw me smiling, us laughing and stopped to comment on how nice it was to see a happy couple having a good time and in love. She is right. It is so nice. There were brides everywhere, having their portrait taken in the evening light before their ceremony, gaggles of bridesmaids looking on, just married couples waving giddily from horse drawn carriages, and our hotel was swarming with wedding parties and the relatives in from out of town to attend. Romance was in the air and being the Hallmark girl I am, I breathed it in and enjoyed every minute of it.

Michael Buble was fantastic..he is such an entertainer, so genuine, charming, funny, risque. It was amazing that he made you feel like you KNOW him...his mannerisms reminded me of my brother Ryan a great deal, who is also very charming. Michael's voice is like smooth and slick. At the end he gave a very heartfelt speech of thanks that we would spend our money to come see him, that other entertainer friends of his were having to cancel tours and he was cognizant that it was a choice we were making when we decided he was someone we wanted to see...I was just blown away by him. He seemed so genuinely touched....he then silenced his band, silenced the crowd...and this was amazing...he sang "Song For You" without accompanyment AND without a microphone. His projection was THAT good, in a convention center where the acoustics SUCK. We could hear him perfectly and the crowd was positively rapt, and the song itself after the speech he gave was perfect. It is the first concert I have ever gone to that I got misty-eyed when it was over. I could have watched him all night long. We spent the night in our lovely hotel suite, slept in until past 9 AM (unusual for both of us), drove back to Allen and stopped for lunch before coming home to plant pansies in the flower beds. All in all probably the best weekend I have ever had. I am so sad to see it end.

School is not going as well as I would like and I am questioning myself and doubting my decision to be a nurse. I just don't seem to have the same brain capacity this fall for whatever reason. I failed my first exam, but aced the extra credit quiz. I got the second lowest grade in the class on the exam, second highest on the quiz. And the questions on the quiz were also on the exam. Got them right on the quiz. Got them wrong on the exam. All I can think is that it was just nerves and emotional fallout from Grandma's death. I am trying to decide whether to drop the class, take the rest of the semester to deal with other things and try again next year. I definitely cannot afford to have anything less than a B on my transcript, and I can only make the requisite A now if I am pretty much flawles for the rest of the term. Given how I dread attending class on school days and that my stress level is through the roof (the main reason I am not sleeping tonight is fretting over school), maybe I should. I don't know.

My cousin is getting married in San Diego in two weeks and I am attending with my Mom. That will be fun. Halloween is not far off, then Thanksgiving and Christmas. Usually this time of year I start to get anticipatory and excited for those upcoming holidays. It is still painful, the jolt that hits me, that as I see the decorations coming out in the stores and start thinking about shopping, the pang of raw pain that hits me. I don't know if Christmas will ever be what it was before. Joseph was dying through the Christmas holiday and that year was pure, spiritual and raw as we muddled through without him and clung to our family. I miss him so desperately and can get very bogged down wishing for some sense of closure and peace about his passing. I have it from time to time, but not when I think about the holidays without him. I wonder constantly how tall he would be and how he'd be doing in school. I miss the soft touch of his bald head and the purity of his laughter. I wonder what he would be wanting this year. I just miss him. I will enjoy the festivities...I owe that to Joe, to my other boys and even to myself. But Christmas will always now be a bittersweet thing. Perhaps that is how it should have been all along. We celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World, even knowing now what his ultimate fate was to be. I wish I were better at prayer. I used to be, almost like a meditation. I just feel so hollow now when I talk to God. I feel as if I lost my spiritual voice. I picture his presence, reach for it and feel a void born of needing too much, of having SO MUCH I need to say that there is no way to possibly say any of it at all. I send my prayers to Him in an emotional cloud without conscious speech, peppered in short bursts of helplessness and tinged with misunderstanding and yearning rage. I float the Why to Him, the Ow Ow Ow to Him, the Oh My God I Am Lost to him....tidalwaves without words, rhythm or rhyme. I envision them approaching His awareness and I cannot watch it reach Him. They say He can take it...but I personally cannot imagine what He would say as it washes over Him nor can I fathom that whatever His message would be....that it would be enough.

So I lay awake and fret. And fret. And fret. It is 4...I have to be up in an hour. I hate this so much.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Grandma's Eulogy

Just this morning as I checked the news on-line, I read the title of an article reporting a recent study extolling the important influence a grandparent has on their grandchildren. I could not help but smile, as I did not need a scientific study to underline this fact. I have experienced it first hand.

This is one of those moments where it is difficult to know exactly what to say. I want so badly for it not to be true. We come to think of certain people as pillars in our life, a constant, immune to the buffeting winds of space and time. When those pillars are taken away we can become lost in anxiety and self-indulgent sadness. But experience has taught me that with time it becomes apparent that the upholding of ideals and the security another person gives us is not reliant on the changing nature of their physical bodies, but rather live on through the things we came to know of them and, in turn, what those things taught us about ourselves.

And Grandma taught me so many things. She was not a complicated woman. The simplicity of her tastes and passions were ripe soil for a growing girl. My heart is full of memories of her femininity and the strong message she sent for the importance of home, faith and family. Nothing made her happier than a warm, inviting home full of good smells, good friends and laughing children. Any time family came to visit, it was cause for celebration, evidenced by loving presentation of all-day efforts - fragrant roasts, flaky pastries and gooey pies. Memories of Grandma are encapsulated in the rich scent of after dinner coffee and the satisfied look of Grandpa's crossed arms at the table's head as she bustled about with domestic energy, somehow managing to clean up the kitchen and keep up with the adult conversation while letting my fumbling, childish hands help. Christmases were a presentation of warmth, magic and light and prayer was a part of every meal.

Grandma was good at growing things. A nurturer by nature, she nourished African violets, roses, vegetable gardens and children. She cared for her mother with great love and tenacity, visiting her every Sunday until the time of her death at the age of 96. Friends and family made the world go round and she spent her time in card clubs and quilting with the ladies at church. She taught us solitaire and rummy practically before we were able to hold the cards, and I cannot remember her ever saying "no" to a request to play. She kept a tin of buttons in the kitchen at the farm that seemed a field of treasure to me and she'd look through them with me, exchanging the tedium of the mundane for the enthusiastic eyes of a child, picking out the "best" ones to share with me. She found amusement in irony and oddities and met the changes and frustrations of life with expressions of perplexion more than worry.

The picture I paint of Grandma in my mind borders on the idyllic. We know that every person on this earth is flawed, but honestly in my examination of my memories, it is the goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her disposition that rises to the surface again and again. I have no recollection of her ever raising her voice or losing her temper, though surely some of us had to have tried her patience. She was a patient and loyal wife and a soft and feminine woman. In today's world, where there is both opportunity and pressure for a woman to think of herself as more than "just a wife and mother", Grandma was an example of the joys to be had in giving to others and embracing the quieter fulfillment of domesticity, a balance of spirit that increasingly influences my own choices as the years pass by. She left a legacy of love to all of us that we share with one another each time we play a game she taught us, use a phrase that was hers or make a recipe she passed on. I feel so fortunate to have been the recipient of so much affection and in awe that for as large as our family is, that love was ever expansive, swelling to include each new member with the same enthusiasm. Though her body became frail and her memories weak, her love truly broke the bonds of physical flesh and I still feel it now. It was Christ-like in generosity and I know we all will carry a piece of it until we see her again. We all will miss her, but I am sure she has simply discarded the aged body that contained her and is lavishing that love still upon us in a new, more ethereal way. She and Grandpa started this family and they are together now, without age, pain or fear. It is true that Heaven becomes a more tangible place as it becomes populated with those we love.

Grandma, thank you for the gifts of each other and the memories we carry with us. We love you, we will miss you and we look forward to the day we all are together again.