Monday, May 25, 2009

Sweet 16

I have been feeling pretty locked up the last few days. Joseph's 16th birthday is tomorrow, and for about a week now it has been slowly migrating into my chest and settling in there. The physical nature of grief doesn't frequently hit me anymore, so that when it does, it takes me by surprise and just exhausts me inside and out. I have had my share of tears, of wondering, of anger. I have also had my share of moments with him, with his presence as I now percieve it.

I have taken a huge step and am allowing Joe to go to the cemetery with me today to decorate Joseph's grave. His birthday is always on or just after Memorial Day weekend and so far I have always gone alone. I hate that it already feels familiar, just two years after his death. That I already feel like I have a "routine" for the difficult days, the anniversaries and punctuation points. I've always held my grieve close to my chest, but I have done a better job of sharing it with Joe this time around. I am finding it helps to tell him in a soft, matter of fact way that I am struggling. He is one of the most perceptive men I know and can always tell when something is "off" in me but does not always know why. That can leave a lot of room for interpretation and misunderstanding. Telling him I am grieving more actively, that I am in internal emotional pain, has helped him to know what's going on with my complicated self. Given that he actively desires to show me he cares about this pain in my heart, letting him know bluntly what is going on helps us both. Its taken me a while to be able to say it out loud to him and to admit it to myself when these waves of sorrow come upon me. Surrendering to the impenetrable nature of my grief has been difficult. It requires a degree of vulnerability and it requires an acceptance of the loss. Letting go of all vestiges of denial has been difficult, but has definitely happened at this point. Joseph is in heaven.

Life in all has been good. We close on both homes on June 5th, which is not far away. We will lease our current home on Gardenia back from the new owner for two weeks while we do some basic necessary cosmetic work in the new house. It is in need of floors and some paint, both of which are easier to do without any furniture in the home. Mom had a great idea when she came to see the new house yesterday, suggesting the boys, who have been angling for ways to earn some money this summer, be allowed to make painting the garage their own project. Joe and I are mulling that over and leaning toward a favorable decision. They can't do much damage out there and it will be a big enough job to keep them busy and make them stretch their work ethic, but not so huge as to overwhelm. They are both excited about their new rooms and think that having an "upstairs" to the home is the coolest thing ever. They are intrigued by the jetted tub in the master bathroom and grumbled a bit that there isn't one in the kids bathroom, which made me laugh. The house really is a big, wonderful project, needing cosmetic updating inside all over the place. Joe and I are both excited and looking forward to the transformation. I'll post pictures here as they come available. Here are a couple of the front of the home as it sits now, being eaten alive by overgrowth of shrubbery. One of the first orders of business after we move in will be cutting back the overgrowth so that you can actually see the house!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

I take a deep breath this morning. I am up early, a half hour earlier than usual. There is so much on my mind that rest seems almost impossible. This house is officially under contract and only something major and untoward will derail its sale now. And yesterday we entered the option period on a new home of our own, probably about one mile from where we live now, in a newer neighborhood, a newer house, larger, more impressive from the street with bay windows that look out upon a pair of large trees, their knotted branches crawling in a kind of orchestrated pathway toward the sky that is both rustic and charming. There will be a yellow kitchen with white wainscoting when I get done with it, a study den with cherry hardwood flooring and a master bathroom so splashed with sunlight it will ease my soul just to enter into it. I'll take some pictures and post them soon along with the changes we make. Its in great condition but needs paint and some other updating.

It is Mother's Day today and I am glad I got up early, to take my soft moments with Joseph in my mind and heart. I ache with missing him this morning in a way that closes my throat with the depth of my yearning. I can see the last Mother's Day card he gave me, could go pull it out of my memory box if I wanted to. And I might at some point today. Its funny to have a whole day dedicated to thanking mothers for doing what we do. And I love having it when it comes to honoring my own mother, who is in Greece this year on a much deserved, very long vacation. But when it comes to me, I have to smile inside. Being Joseph, Nick and Alexander's mother is such a privilege. It was so eye opening as I came to feel and know that through Alexander's brain tumor and Joseph's leukemia. I know I had no idea until after those ordeals just how blessed I have been. It seems an easy, flippant way to communicate and those words seem inadequate to me for what I feel in my heart as I think of and enjoy my boys. As Joseph slipped away from us and I visited his Caringbridge page to let the world know he had gone on to heaven, the knowledge that it has been the privilege of my life to be his mother was so humble and raw inside me, and I recorded that there, on his page. And it is true. These precious, sacred souls who will grow to struggle through life as adults themselves, just the way I and you and everyone has, were mine for this brief flash of time. I love that they are planning to honor me today. They get so excited to have the opportunity to show me how they feel about me, and Stewart is taking me out to brunch with Nick and Alex early this morning. I feel Joseph's absence and I reach forward in my soul for feelings of his presence. I am still and will always be his mother, and I am thankful that even death cannot change that. A love deeper than death, for all of my children. And from my own mother...for me.

I plugged my Zune in this morning to charge it so that I can take a long, cathartic walk later today. I sat here before Joseph's picture in the early morning darkness, gently tearful, listening to the rain stop falling, lingering wetness dripping in thick, rich sounds of fertility with birds waking to call sweet Good Morning. A very old song came on my Zune, one I had forgotten I ever downloaded... a cheesy song from the 70s that I loved as a little girl. And I heard and felt Joseph's spirit and wept with that strange bittersweet combination of sorrow and gratitude.

You might wake up some morning
To the sound of something moving past your window in the wind
And if you're quick enough to rise
You'll catch a fleeting glimpse of someone's fading shadow

Out on the new horizon
You may see the floating motion of a distant pair of wings
And if the sleep has left your ears
You might hear footsteps running through an open meadow

Don't be concerned, it will not harm you
It's only me pursuing something I'm not sure of
Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love

You might have heard my footsteps
Echo softly in the distance through the canyons of your mind
I might have even called your name
As I ran searching after something to believe in

You might have seen me running
Through the long-abandoned ruins of the dreams you left behind
If you remember something there
That glided past you followed close by heavy breathing

Don't be concerned, it will not harm you
It's only me pursuing something I'm not sure of
Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love

Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Learning to be okay

We sold the house this weekend. It was on the market technically two days and we had two offers in. The realtor for our buyer came by last night to drop off earnest money and stayed and chatted for a while. My ego was loving all the accolades being given about how nice the house is - the beauty of the wood floors, the lushness of the backyard, the gorgeous upgrades we did in the bathrooms. Selling a house is a rough way to get compliments on it though. When the contract came through, I wept. Joe had countered the original offer, which was very good in and of itself, with an amount we didn't really think would come through. Truth be told, we aren't quite ready for this to happen this fast. We have nowhere to go, nothing picked out yet. So we still have nowhere to go, nothing picked out, but will essentially be a cash buyer. I am hoping to find an older home from the 70s in Plano that needs fixing up, to buy it relatively cheap and to go in and make it too into an uncommonly lovely home. I love doing this. For me, it will be my first home purchase. Joe bought this one for us. This next one we are buying together. The economy and circumstances keep me pretty quiet about my excitement over that, but it hums inside me when I am alone with my private self. It is a very proud thing for me, to have enough money to buy a house.

School is almost over. I have given myself a lot to think about this semester. Basically I kept school in a quiet background. I did my homework, did my studying, but worked consciously hard on not letting it be a focal area of my life. More like a hobby. The result was that I learned more, have higher grades and enjoyed the class. Note to self: All that mental anguish gets in the way of the goal it is trying to reach.

How many things in life can this be said about? Most things I suspect. I know I have addressed it time and again, but learning to be okay with being okay after the loss of a child is a huge hurdle, one I suspect most people don't get past. It feels like a sin against your child, his memory, your love for him if you are able to go out and not only appear happy but actually be happy. Learning that sadness and joy are not opposites, but in fact live side by side, hand in hand, that this is the paradox that life is, in all its complicated glory, can just about take you over the edge. We don't think that we are supposed to be happy within sadness, or sad within joy. But there are threads of one within the other and it bears noting that contrasts are specifically given by the Artist I think to make things more noticable. Punctuation points if you will. I am growing more accepting these days about so many things. My capacity for grief. My capacity to love. That I am the kind of friend who doesn't need constant interaction to continue affection, that I am a bit reclusive but also a bit of a partier. That my desires don't necessarily conform to what would be considered normal or respectable for someone of my age in my situation. That I have never been and never will be the kind of woman who makes men yearn and other women wish they were me. That I am my own unique self and within that self is power, compassion, the will to go forward, the ability to weild knowledge, wisdom, change. It feels good to be getting good with me.

Joseph's 16th birthday is fast approaching, on May 26th. It occurred to me yesterday and has lingered like a little shadow in a corner of my mind since. Experience tells me that shadow will grow as the day approaches. Wisdom tells me it will overtake me from time to time, but release me from its grip in a wisp of shaken smoke and life will continue forward and Joseph's spirit will continue on with me. I can both be glad Joseph has a birthday and yet dread its approach.