Friday, January 23, 2009

Silliness and exposure

As Valentine's Day is coming (which also happens to be Alexander's 11th birthday), I suppose this is the ideal time to expose one the most vulnerable parts of my personality as my mind turns to hearts and flowers. Of course, anyone who knows me well knows this isn't exactly something I keep hidden. I am a steadfast, faithful, unshakable, pathetic romantic. I am far and away too easy to please, too easily charmed, too easily and completely seduced. I have known this about myself since I was quite, quite young and it has caused me many moments of pain and joy in my lifetime. I am happy enough with this portion of myself to not allow it to change. I guard carefully against cynicism and try hard to not let shame and embarassment jade the happiness it can bring me. I like manly men. I love feminine women. I am traditional. I am a complete and utter sucker. Joe calls me his Hallmark Girl and I think he counts himself lucky that I am so easily made happy. Give me flowers and I purr like a kitten. Truly my favorite are very old novels and stories, but since this medium does not lend itself to sharing passages of books without it taking a great deal of time, allow me to share my favorite romantic movie scenes. Watch these and you will know something deep and abiding about me. Its not complicated nor intellectual. But its me. I highly recommend these movies, but in particular these scenes are favorites of mine. A little taste of my complex mind gone simple. I really am a simpleton when it comes to men and romance. I know it is silly, but I can't get enough of it.... The words, the mood, the sweetness and purity that comes with falling in love. The intense desire, the childlike faith...and of course the music and the words, which move me deeply...


Jane Eyre 2006

Ice Castles 1976 (The one that started it all I think)

Phantom of the Opera (The one that most reminds me of Joe)

Sense and Sensibility (Too many moments in this particular movie to record!)

Okay, enough schmoozing :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Touching my past

Things are going okay. After the shock settled down, Joe and I have come together peacefully and with optimism. He has a few leads in the market place and though we know it will take some time, we (he in particular really) have planned for this and lived our lives rather frugally. We enjoy a standard of living that puts us well below our means - we pay cash for cars, have no credit card debt and were careful not to become house poor when we purchased our home. That being said, eating into savings and future retirement is never fun. I have had bouts of anxiety, but they mainly focus around Joe and my worries on how he is going to cope with this as time extends. I do believe being out of work is a hard thing for anyone, but particularly for men who value providership the way that Joe does.

We have plans to go to a Middle Eastern restaurant on Saturday night with a group of friends. The food there is quite good, as are the belly dancers and after 9 PM they bring on a DJ and open the dance floor to everyone. I had the fun of going consignment shopping with my girlfriends this past Sunday and found a green and black sheer tunic that has a definite arabian flavor to it and looks gorgeous with the emeralds that Joe got me for Christmas.

We are going to continue working on the house as if we are getting it ready to sell. The improvements need to be made irregardless and if life smiles on us and he finds something right away we can pick up where we left off in terms of selling.

I have been finding a lot of old friends on Facebook these days. It is always interesting to see where people are now, what they have done with their lives. We are all still young enough to look like ourselves it would seem. It is interesting that I can remember back to that awkward time and still feel crush-like emotions for the guy I thought I was in love with back then, that people who hurt me then still make me cautious now, that watching what others have accomplished and achieved really makes me question myself and what I have done with my life. It bothers me that I have never been overseas, other than Hawaii. I am amazed that I feel a happy school loyalty and that talking to others who grew up when I did, despite all the above emotions, makes me feel giddy and somehow validated inside. Seeing their pictures of that time period makes me laugh. We never thought the world would change, or at least I didn't. But it did. I am better now than I was then. I know myself. I have confidence. I am not the angry mouse of a girl who I was before, defensive and insecure and I am glad for that. I get embarassed when I think of people remembering me that way. I was unhappy in school, having serious problems in a violent home, not at all an attentive student and not particularly pretty. I felt scrutinized and judged from every person and every angle. I know better now. If only somehow we could teach kids that most other kids are too busy worrying about what everyone else is thinking to actually be thinking anything about anyone else.

I am not sure the purpose behind my push to rediscover people who knew me in the past and I don't know if it is particularly healthy or not. Maybe it is, going back and mentally working through all those little emotions that linger, the insecurities, the self perception of being worthless and ugly and how I would interpret everyone's reactions to me from under that dark veil. I imagine some time in the future I may even be willing to go to a reunion of some kind. I am glad to see people thriving, sad to hear of some of us having died already. I have felt so separate from those years and my grown up ones. It is a good feeling to stitch the two together somewhat. Almost as if I go back and comfort that depressed and angry young girl with the calmer, more knowledgable woman I am now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In A New York Minute

An old fried whom I recently got back in touch with sagely noted that life is full of many New York minutes over the span of 20 years, and I have to say I agree. Things have been fairly calm for a while for us, but the ebb and flow of the universe has caught up with us I guess and this crumbling economy has come to visit our home. Joe was laid off yesterday.

We knew it was a possibility, but had remained optimistic and were going forward with seeking to upgrade our home to a newer one in a nicer neighborhood. That probably won't be happening now, unless something turns around quickly, which seems unlikely with the way the world is going. We know so many people getting laid off, its scary. And Texas is supposed to be one of the more stable areas of the country. In any case, Joe had been with the company the least amount of time of anyone in his department and as such did not survive the first round of lay offs. The phrase "Pray without ceasing" keeps coming to me and I find myself doing just that. It is amazing how life just changes on a dime. Nothing feels the same today.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dear Joseph

Dear Joseph,

Two years have gone by since your father and I made the most difficult decision a parent could ever have to make, when we turned those blasted machines off and surrendered to the reality that we lacked the ability to heal your sick and broken body. I grow a little more peaceful with that decision every day, though I admit saying it directly to you here in this letter still draws up a lot of guilt for letting myself find any semblance of peace. I am going to go visit your grave today, the dignified place where we had your body laid to rest. I will stand and then sit near your headstone, and I will cut the stems of the flowers that I bring you and decorate it, so that everyone who walks by will know that the person buried in that spot is remembered and very, very loved.

Remembering you is the most important thing now, though actively doing so inevitably brings an internal sorrow that is difficult to shake. Still, I find myself purposefully doing it, this week especially. It is as if I am practicing...practicing taking you along with me, not dividing my "Joseph time" from the rest of my life and seeing how I still function when I do that. Some days I do great. Others, not so much. I do think you would be pleased to know how much we miss you. It is human nature to want to be wanted. It occurs to me though that you are, perhaps, no longer human. I do not know what we become after we leave here. I don't think of spirits as being human still, but admit there are areas now where you almost certainly have more knowledge than I do.

Nick is 14 years old now. He visited Vines High School this week and is in the process of choosing what classes he is going to take for the next four years. He's taller than me now and doesn't like to cut his hair, so fat red ringlets surround his face. I like the way it looks when he keeps his hair clean, but that still takes some nagging. He has taken up your passion for Legos since you died and can put them together with as much studious attention to detail as you had. We let him get a TV with cable in his room and he really likes that, and we let him decorate his room in Harley Davidson, which seems to call to his soul. I'll need your help on that number at some point, I am sure. I don't want him on a motorcycle if I can help it. He's developed a passion for taking pictures, for Japanese pop culture and for reading. He gets into trouble at school for pulling out one of his books when he is bored with the lecture. School comes easily to him when he actually does the work. Unfortunately that is something he struggles to make himself do, so his grades are not what they could be, and I find it frustrating when he does his homework but won't turn it in. Like you, he has some trouble with being bullied at school, but his skin is not as thick as yours was. You had an eerie sense of self from a pretty young age. Nick is still figuring himself out, and the remarks of others cut deep. You would be proud of him for what he is doing in Scouts these days. He is getting very close to working on his Eagle rank. He is at Star now and two requirements away from the next rank, which I can't remember the name of. I know you would supply it if you were here.

Your brother Alex is growing too, albeit more slowly than Nick. He is past five years since his brain tumor surgery and it looks really optimistic that his tumor may never return. He's in his last year at Shepherd now and he will transition to Wilson Middle School next year. His grades are always good. He's always very organized and takes pleasure in the process of becoming so. He has a lot of good friends and gets to do a lot of things with them. He had his crossing over ceremony in Scouts and will be a Boy Scout next year. It makes me wonder where you would be if you were still here. He continues to play basketball, and he played baseball for the first time this past summer and loved that too. He insists he is going to play professional basketball when he grows up and I don't have the heart to tell him that he can't just go sign up for it. He says if that doesn't work out or when he gets too old to play anymore he will be an architect. He's down to getting an MRI of his head only once a year now, though still has to see the endocrinologist (his hormone doctor) twice a year to make sure all the pills he has to take are doing their jobs.
They miss you. I miss you. Your Dad misses you. Joe misses you. I am trying to make myself cry less when I think about you. Some days are easier than others. I have learned a lot since your illness and death, both about the world and about myself, and this knowledge is not always easy to live with. One of the things I have learned is how few people are in possession of inner wisdom, and having gained some through our experiences together, it is painful sometimes to watch people stumble through life not quite getting the point. Heck, I still don't always get the point. But sometimes I do, and when that happens, I am peaceful inside and happy. Wisdom seems to come on the wings of tragedy, on the heels of having lived through absolute helplessness. I have noticed that the soul root of anger in this world seems to come from believing something should be different than it is, but also believing there is a way to change it and that the change is just not happening for whatever reason. When I accept the times and things I am not able to change, and accept that others may not be able to change it either, the anger leaves me. Sometimes it leaves me sad or frightened. Others it just makes me peaceful and surrendered.

So that is where I am, this two year anniversary of your death. I am sad, peacful and surrendered all rolled into one, though probably more sad than anything. Two years ago today we let you go. It is hard to say it, but just now, two years later, I can admit out loud that I think we did the right thing. The hard thing. I have noticed the hard choice is almost always the right one now. I don't know how you feel about that but I like to believe we freed you from illness, waste and suffering. That we let you fly.

So fly on, my son, and know that as you soar, you are right here with me. I wasn't the best Mom in the world. I didn't mother you perfectly. But I loved you perfectly and I can still do that. And I will.

I love you Joseph. Tell Grandpa I said hello and that I miss him too.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

*panic attack* When Did I Get OLD?!?!

So I am looking for something for Joe and I to do on Saturday night. We enjoy live music, a place to have a few drinks and maybe some dancing.

I am reading about a bar that sounds promising, but every single review sounds something like this:

Great looking bar on the inside, but that's about it. This is definitely an older crowd's bar. We were there on a Tues night and some live band was playing 80s tunes and the old people were just twist'n and mov'n (as much as their replacement hips and botox would allow) which was the only entertaining part of the evening.

If you are 40+ and looking to hook up, then this might be your place.

If are you younger and looking for a good place to drink, then try...

NYLO Hotel
Fox Sports (good beers and great appetizers)
Bar at Jaspers
3rd Base (next to Stonebriar Mall for good ol fashioned beers)

Or this:

Overpriced drinks, Creepy old guys, Cougars, and Way Unimpressive staff~who~think~they~are~much~cooler~than~they~are

Or this:

guess this place has its uses, such as dancing to a barely passable band doing covers to songs that I'm not sure anyone was dying to hear again anyways, and watching women who should be old enough to realize how much makeup is too much and how little clothing is too little prowling for frat-boys that are trying so hard to look cool that they look like caricatures of Don Johnson. Maybe that's why the women here find them interesting; it reminds them of their glory days.

Or this:

The crowd is older, when I say older I say early 30's up to early 40's professionals. It was definitely weird seeing someone near my mom's age completely drunk and trying to talk to me as if she was sober. I don't think this is a diverse age group for young adults, but definitely for older more mature adults.

WTF?? :cry:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A whole lot of nothingness

I just feel so scattered and lost right now. I have long moments when I am not so much overwhelmed with pain as I am a sense of incredulity and a feeling of seeing the world through a Coke bottle. Things are fuzzy until right up close and then seem out of context because I wasn't paying attention. My motivation at work is down; things are slow, looks like lay-offs might be coming in the future. Combined with a sense of "why should this matter, my son is dead" and its difficult to lift myself up. I am finding myself to feel very antisocial right now. I love to see people and smile at them, but I don't want to talk. I especially don't want to make small talk. And right in the middle of a conversation I find I am suddenly ready to be done with it. Its a little bit of regression into the time period just after he died it feels like. A sense of "why does ANY of this matter?!". All the doom and gloom on the news about the economy doesn't help. I feel like life is just barely balanced on the edge of a cliff in all directions.

I find myself madly scanning the Internet for something to look forward to or at least preoccupy my mind, to keep the images and memories at bay. I have taken about 100 cruises today alone, at least if looking at pictures and living vicariously were to count. I want warmth and tropics and sun on my skin. I want to breathe in and breathe out and see the vast forever nature of the ocean and know that the universe wastes nothing, that nothing and yet everything is forever, and that all I am truly responsible for is today, not the yesterday I cannot change, not the tomorrow I cannot see.

School starts on the 20th. I signed up for the A&P II class that I dropped last semester. I don't have strong emotions about it one way or another. I am doing it because I said I would and hoping somewhere in the value of that I re-find my motivation. But my strong leaning now is driving me away from nursing, and I feel confused and off center from it and more than a little frightened. I just feel like I am swimming against the tide trying to do this. I found out an old professor of mine continues to teach at a different branch of the college I am attending, the one responsible for my finding my voice in words, the one whom I flirted with and visited and with whom I had this interesting, friendly, challenging relationship with. He saw things in me that I was too young to understand and in doing so, opened doors to my mind that probably would not have been otherwise. He is teaching English still and now philosophy as well. And one of his classes he is teaching is Comparative Religion. Its all reading and writing and sounds so vastly interesting and perfect. I find myself yearning deeply to take the course, but I don't really see it as fair to my family for three out of seven days of the week to be taken up with my schooling, another two or so days a week taken up with the boys' activities and maybe just one day a week available to Joe and I to be alone together. The course would not even apply to a nursing degree. It would purely be for my own enjoyment. Its been so long since I took a non-science related course, since I took a course that falls into the natural realm of my talents and the way my mind works. I don't remember what it feels like for a course to be more stimulating on a creative level rather than rote scientific memorization, and it makes me curious. I am famous though for doing the "grass is greener" thing, so I am staying my current course. If I get through my pre-requisites and still want to do other things, I know I can. I just need to finish what I have started here.

I just feel so....empty. So nothing. When I am with people I want to be away from them. When I am alone I am lonely and want some company. Its like being a toddler again. I want everything and nothing. Put me down. Pick me up. I am tired. I don't want to go to bed. I want peas. Why would you give me those stupid round green things?

I have the realtor coming on Saturday morning to see the new bathroom, discuss putting the house on the market and to go out and see a few properties. I am questioning the wisdom of scheduling it for that day, but what I remember most about last year is prowling the house with nothing to occupy my mind but bad memories, a feeling of waiting for something that I didn't know what. And it only got better when Joe took me to the mall to buy a new dress for the cruise we were going on. So I am going to try this. If it is bad, it won't last all day and I can fall apart afterward. Or prowl. Or go to a movie alone or to the cemetery or whatever I need to do. I guess.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Walking The Last Mile

I have to confess, it is getting very heavy. Weighing me down. Pressing into my chest and catching in my throat. This is the saddest walk, the hardest part. This sweet, sorrowful journey, this last week leading up to Joseph's death. I lost count of how many times I found myself in tears today. I was impatient with Nick and Alex, their playfulness and exuberance interrupting too many thoughts of their brother, thoughts I have fought hard to keep under control, with nice neat boundaries, with pretty and appropriate feelings of sorrow....not this trembling and helpless sensation of being sucked under, this graceless loss of control that I fear communicates a lack of gratitude for all that I have in my life now that is good. I have not talked about it to Joe. He seems to just know and diverted me by letting me "help" him put the finishing touches on the master bathroom. I was soothed to be in his presence. He put the drill into my hands and stood behind me, showing me where to drill to hang up the new towel racks, his arms wrapped around me and giving me warmth...the inner feeling of falling silenced for a few moments, my hands trembling too much to line the drill up with the mark we'd made on the wall. My "helping" was like that of a child, mostly that of watching and lingering nearby. In time he sent me off to the gym, and I, confused by this directive even though I had told him earlier in the day that I wanted to go there, went into auto-pilot and drove there, did my two miles on the elliptical and felt subsequent relief from the oppressiveness of my grief for a while afterward. I think if my body were fit enough, I would have gone on and on, churning my stumpy legs on that machine until I work it into the ground, until the fatigue or endorphins or both numbed me until the knowledge that I have not seen or spoken to my oldest child for two years no longered echoed in the hollow place of my heart.

So I am finding that leaving my grief in the background isn't going to really happen this week, or at least not today. So I put it out here and if this is too heavy, too sad, too depressing to read, if you feel impatient with me because, after all, its been two years now, then I do apologize and encourage you to come back here to read next week and skip this week. There was a boy and his name was Joseph. And he was mine. And I lost him. It is a darkness that is indescribable as I remember the last week of his life, a week of life that was not life at all, a week in which he lay inert and subdued by drugs and in which his body was trying to tell us it could no longer function and whose message we collectively, doctors included, could not bear to hear. All those emotions and memories wander within me, aimless roaming that seek to lay blame, that trigger enormous guilt, shame and sorrow. I never wanted to put him on that machine. I never wanted to let him go without saying goodbye. I wanted death to be something we could face together, that I could know I had prepared him for. But I was denied that beyond the two or three conversations in which we managed to talk about the possibility of his not making it. The first time we talked about it together, he trembled so hard, literally shaking head to toe, his voice trembling, so hard I knew he knew the reality of it and that he feared it. And he described to me a world, a heaven, that has become my dearest hope for him. How I hope the angels were listening that day, that they carried him there.

I am rambling. I don't know what to say, how to express this. I had a son named Joseph. He was real, I birthed him, nursed him, held him, spent months as a nearly single parent raising him while his father was in the military and gone so much of the time. I had a son named Joseph. And this week, two years ago, he died from complications of his bone marrow transplant, the last hope of curing the acute myeloid leukemia that was stealing his life from him. I had a son named Joseph. The last thing he ever ate on earth was popcorn. The last smile he ever had was directed at the beautiful blond nurse taking care of him in ICU named Traci. The last time he ever laughed he was playing a video game in which he was blowing up teletubbies. The last movie we watched together was The Polar Express. The last night he ever spent breathing on his own was December 10th, 2006 and I spent that night at his side. The last time he ever got irritated with me was when I asked him too many times if he was afraid, as I watched him struggling to breathe. The last time we talked about his illness was that night, when he told me he knew that I love him a whole lot.

I cannot remember the last meal we ate at the table as a family. I cannot remember the last time he cried. I cannot remember the last time we went to church together. I cannot remember his last night at home. I cannot remember the last time we hugged.

I had a son named Joseph. Those things I can and cannot remember both haunt me.

I wish I could be with my family and yet away enough to not seem as if I am neglecting anyone when I am slow or quiet. I feel a bit suspended, as if I am processing things just a second or two later than I normally would. I cannot believe two years have gone by.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Saved By Pork

My bitty guys are back with me again and I am happy. They got electric scooters for Christmas and are chomping at the bit to ride them. I have them charged but need to adjust the brakes and put air in the tires still. I continue to question my sanity in choosing these for them. I was motivated purely by the desire to give them a gift they didn't think they would really ever get.

I made us all dinner last night, which always feeds my soul. I like doing traditionally womanly things for those I love. It is almost more selfish than giving really. My soul is fed when I feed them. Joe had a craving for a favorite of his. He likes boneless pork loin sliced very thin, breaded and fried to a crunch, served with mashed potatoes and gravy, and I made a spinach salad to go with these things to satisfy my need to at least pretend I am feeding them something healthy. We don't cook that way every day and when we do I have a lot of accolades given to me for the yum factor. Joe's son Andrew had sent us a chocolate cake as part of our Christmas gift from him, so we brought that out and the boys enjoyed that little treat a lot. We don't need to talk about the grease fire I managed to start while cooking do we? Yes? No? I think I am going to go with No. We don't need to discuss that rather embarassing incident that brought Joe running from the living room and had every window open with every fan set up to draw the smoke out and fresh air in, right? After all, dinner wasn't ruined. I personally think the best part of the whole ordeal was my looking to Joe while still holding the pan with the drippings, him flinging salt onto the burner to put out the flames (which were admittedly rather large), and cheerfully asking him if he still wanted gravy with dinner. I believe I grew two heads in that moment, albeit briefly. The truly sad part about this is that it is something like the third grease fire I have managed to start in the last two months. What's up with that ....a question that is my own version of wailing "Why do these things keep happening to me?! Every now and then I really do seem to be overcome by a dingy-ness that is of blond Hollywood proportions, and I feel so embarassed afterward. Joe is a very. VERY. patient man. Of course, it always helps to feed him pork if looking to diffuse a crisis...I had that going for me.

After dinner Joe and I taught Alex to play Scrabble and Nick brought out a massive set of Mars Mission Legos that he got for Christmas and put those together beside us. Joe is probably the best Scrabble player I have ever seen. It frustrates me a great deal...his mind works so quickly. I take forever to decide on a given play and they kept humming the Jeopardy theme at me, getting up to use the restroom, etc. I think they may have dozed off at one point. At one time back when we were married Stewart tried to teach me to play chess. After two games, I never wanted to play chess again, it aggravated me so much to lose. I can come close to feeling that way about Scrabble. Playing with Alex kept it on a lighter level. Nobody got hurt.

I am considering taking the boys to Six Flags today. Poor Joe doesn't have the day off, but the rest of us do, and since he works from home it might be good if we are out of the house. I am torn...the guys really want to ride those scooters. But they have all weekend to do that and they burn out after a half hour supposedly and need another 12 hours of recharging (a ratio that is rather ridiculous), in which case we'd have to find some way to occupy the rest of the day without them being disruptive. It is supposed to be relatively nice out today, so I think we will do the Six Flags thing, our last visit for the year.