Celebrate me home

Still so true.

Tonight, we shared Christmas Eve with our good friend and her family. It was kind and casual, warm and inviting. The food was delicious and the company even better.

Yes, this Christmas may very well be one of the toughest as we still very acutely miss and mourn Dad.

So, we say thanks for the blessings, ask for help with the sorrow, and share love wherever we can, especially those in most need.

Amen.

Say Yes! Change Things.

November  30th, 2012

Today, I did something I never thought I’d do. I heard the first Christmas song of the season… and I cried.

Not a Hallmark-card-just-a-glisten-of-a-tear in your eye. No. This was a  shoulder rocking,a streaming down the cheeks, full out sob.

Even worse, the culprit was a Kenny Loggins song. I know, I KNOW, even I’m saying, “What?! KATE!”

Honestly, it was the end of a long day, a tough commute, and too much introspection. Plus, the lyrics made me think about Mom and future Christmases. Those moments that I know will come.

So. I cry. Even if I can’t be footloose and fancy free (please I had to throw in that one), I can let the moment be.

Plus, laugh that a woman looses it over lines like “let’s turn on the love light in the place” … has become me.

December 24th, 2012

I…

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It’s not a love story

3/14/15

It’s not the two of them.
It’s not the beauty or the partnership that two people have.
It’s not what we all want.

It’s a robbery. It’s not a gift.
It’s ugly destruction of the mind, but never the spirit.

But it’s not love. It’s love in spite of it.

Love in the depths of an ongoing battle. Love whilst losing, forgetting, and regaining. Love through pestilence.

It’s not a love story. It’s a story, woven with commitment, loyalty and love.

But death is not their love story.

Their life together is.

winter sullen wonder days

I ran into my high school history teacher today. Moseying around a Barnes and Noble, I looked up and excitedly said her name.

We chatted for a moment when she asked how my family was holding up. Friends now on Facebook, she knew of my Dad’s passing. I immediately said what was on my mind: “Oh, how I wish I could call him up and say “I ran into Myrna’ “!

My teacher, one I had the pleasure of having for three out of four years, shared beautiful wisdom with me. “Oh Kate, he is there. Talk to him. I lost my father 10 years ago and I still speak to him”. And I agreed. I said, “I know he  laughs at me still!”

***

Later this evening, I replayed a song I heard live on Monday night: “Winter Song”. I doubt anything could more aptly describe this holiday season for me. It is a mixture of deep sadness but small joy for the season and the future to come.

I will honor your memory, Dad. I will find my way. Love will find a way…I am just not sure how.

Reflecting on emotions

Emotions. Good and/or Bad.

I wish I had cried more with my Dad. In front of him. I vividly remember the news announcing that this ordinary time transformed into worst day of my life. But the actual moments in the hospital, with Dad, are hazy.

Given who were both are (I can’t write were), we jumped into the problem-solving. “Here are the bills that you need to pay each month, and these are the ones that are on auto-pay. The plumber is coming on Tuesday. Cancel my tennis match and or see if someone can get me a sub. Let the church know that I can’t deliver communion this weekend. This is where I keep ‘xyz’ information. Keep Mom at home as long as possible….just in case”. We were leaping into action, him on a gurney and me filling three pages of loose-leaf paper from my finance class earlier in the day. We plugged the holes in this massive life change, just to slow the tide, to make this incredible shift a bit more bearable. More manageable. Because Dad and I like to manage. Fix. Solve.

But did I cry? I don’t recall. I am sure that I teared up, after talking about all that he needed me to do, and when we got to the “just in case….you know how much I love you”s.

Of course we were in shock and didn’t know what would occur in the next day with surgery or in the year to come. But I wish I found ways to emote more with my Dad. Just so that he could be my Dad, not the patient, not the suddenly sick man, not someone who needed us to take over so much of his life. But just my Dad and his youngest daughter.

This is not a regret….because HECK NO, Dad was big on “have no regrets in life”. He meant this from a “don’t dwell on something that happened. Rather learn from it and move on” mentality. And I strongly value this ideal- experience, reflect, and if need be change as you go forward; but don’t regret.  I know that in those moments, I was fully being me. As I look back and miss my Dad, of course I don’t miss the “here’s the paperwork on that bill” conversations. I miss connecting with my Dad, sharing my heart, my feelings, my love, and my emotions with him. And because I can’t have that in the same physical way anymore, I wish I found more ways to do it previously.

The  irony is, this is exactly the opposite of what I am doing with Mom. I want to protect her from my tears, from my sadness. And while she is still my Mom, I can’t share this pain with her due to Alzheimer’s. Mostly, I am grateful for the glimmer of grace I see in this situation- that maybe Mom is spared this huge sorrow of loosing Dad. But I miss her too. And I want to see no pain, such as this knowledge, fallen on her.

Sitting with her today, the aging musician wowing us with his piano skills, I felt so deeply. It was a raining, dreary day. One both Mom and I hate. I wanted to be able to miss Dad with her, to show emotion, to be able to comfort each other. And while I am firm in our family decision to not bring this sadness on to Mom, isn’t does’t make me wish any less that she could be here, right now in that way.

Welcome the other

“…even as we extend, welcome, we often deeply fear of the other. This idea of how do assimilate, and assimilate difference, I think this is still the essential question of American culture and we struggle with this today”. – Prof. Nancy Schultz, Salem State University
While listening to a podcast I love, Backstory, I heard this very poignant statement. Later, I went to hear Nicolas Kristof speak and he mentioned the concept of the ’empathy gap’. This idea that we struggle putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and may instead judge them harshly.
I don’t have all the answers, but I sit with these thoughts today. I’d rather welcome then shut-out. I’d rather love then hate. I’d rather find any area of space then say the inn is full.
To listen to the episode called, Catholics in America visit http://backstoryradio.org/shows/catholics-in-america/ .

Of loss on 9/11

Fourteen years ago, I recall hearing the news about the World Trade Center and other attacks. I remember walking into religion class thinking about all those who had lost their loved ones.

Moments later I recalled that Dad took the PATH train that morning. And that he said goodbye to me, meaning he was later to work than usual. I had a few hours of fear and then learned he was ok, but it was nearly a week before I was able to lay eyes on him, or before he came home.

Dad would rarely talk about 9/11 and the effect it had on him. I know he took his employees to safety, kept distributing water, and that he slept under his desk that night three blocks away, again so he could work at a moment’s notice.

I also think of his recollection of walking out on the streets of lower Manhattan on September 12th and the sad, eerie vacancy that stretched before him.

Fourteen years later, we brought my Dad to his final resting place. I am grateful for every moment of time that I had with him, both before and after.

I wish I had better words on a momentous day, but I don’t. They will come, but for right now I will honor the memory of my Dad and all who have gone before him.

Let peace reign. For this, we need.

In and of the world

How do we be of the world, moved by what is occurring around us, but not paralyzed? I have no easy answers, but my last few months have been so impacted by my own family’s suffering I found myself shutting out the world.I could not take more sadness, grief or suffering. So I muted the noise of the world.

Mostly, I do not want to live in this disconnected way. However, I realize that in order to process my own pain, I needed to limit the amount of ‘extra’ burden I place on myself.

But today, as I sit at my beloved Dad’s beside, waiting for the few moments of wakefulness to provide him conversation or food, I read. I spend more time researching the current crisises that are leading so many to flee their homes. How do we help, in the immediate, but also in the longer term to prevent such atrocities as three year-old Aylan lying lifeless on a foreign shoreline?

**

In my own pain, one of the most striking emotions I have felt is gratitude.  Not only for having my Dad these last decades years but also for all the blessings I have had because of him and my Mom throughout my life. I am deeply sad but also very grateful. And because of this gratitude, I care. I care because I see the luck I was born into- the freedoms I have, the material goods and supportive people in my life. I do not take this for granted.

In the midst of pain, I care. I care about what happens to others in this great big world of ours. This Earth is a shared space and I care.

And that caring should lead us to action. To welcome those into a new home, to implore our governments to call for a no-fly zone in Syria to also allow people back into their homeland, and provide any other means of support.

**

I miss my Dad. We would have talked about this criss, what history led to this moment, why we aren’t seeing change, and what we can do to help. We would have talked about our sadness and disappointment, our faith and how this makes us struggle.

All of us expect our parents to pass before us. I am not ready, but know I probably never would be. No parent should ever have outlive their child, nor have to risk such horrible circumstances to find a safer home for their families.

Let us be connected. Let us find empathy in our hearts during tragedy and find ways to act.

How to do death

“I don’t know how to do this” has been my refrain for the past two weeks. I don’t know how to grieve the impending death of a parent, while we still loose the other.

Even writing about Dad’s new prognosis feels like a betrayal. I don’t know why. Sis and I have remained a strong force in recognizing how brutal this tumor is and how certain it was that it would return with vengeance (as per all medical advice). It is not as if me stating this is slaughtering the last vestiges of hope. But still, I feel something amiss.

And while this news is barely two weeks old, it feels as if that was a lifetime ago. Not because Dad has rapidly declined- he is only more tired thus far- but that the exhaustion of grief is incredible.

Each day is a difficult one. A struggle to face the day, to do the simple tasks: get out of bed, make meals, be happy for the sunshine, find time for self, breathe. They are filled with unknown territory to this young adult: find hospice care. keep up correspondence with all family members and parent’s friends, write an obituary.

I don’t know how to do this. Still. 

I while I recognize that no one, ever, probably “knows” how to lose a parent, I am still adrift. I still grieve not one, but two loving parents while they are still in front of me. One whose time is closer than I ever imagined, and the other to whom we have been losing in pieces over the last five years. I don’t know how to do this. To loose one parent, while the other is still here yet evermore borrowed by Alzheimer’s.

One beautiful piece I stumbled on today was an article in the New York Times written by a grief counselor. I loved this sentiment:

I see a healing shift occur in people who feel that they have found a
way to remain close to someone they’ve lost. This seems to allow
people to accept their loss better, and find consolation in the idea
that they are still connected.

I don’t know how to do this. But I want to try. 

 

May 20, 2015

8:39 PM Wearing clothing too light for this cool night, slipping on flip flops, I walk out the door.

One neighbor is mowing his lawn, another enjoying a backyard fire. A third, me, nearly walks into a sprinkler, lost in her own thoughts.

I am walking to escape. To let the steam of emotion out.

I have done it. I have made it to the hurdle

When Dad was diagnosed on that stifling day 15 months ago, I just hoped he could make it to this day. Sure, of me, for my Sis, for my Mom, and for him,

And in some strange way, maybe I thought 15 months would prepare me. We weren’t given a solid understanding of time, but we’re told it would be somewhat quick. Consciously I know I will never be ready to say goodbye to my parents, but graduation was one ending in sight. In hope, I just crossed my fingers that this other wouldn’t happen before commencement.

I realize I’m not even thinking, I’m just being. Walking, silently hoping to process out the last few days. But I can’t certain things can’t be rushed.

15, 30, Forever Love

I hadn’t been back. I hadn’t been to the concrete court since probably 4-5 months before your hand oddly stopped working as it should. You’d be holding a glass, let alone a racket, and it would just drop.

But now it is 16 months “after. Post- treatment, post-surgeries, post living at home, post-walking. And I return.

Today I am back at our court. The place I first learned where to play. Where I took lessons, then walked over to the town pool. Where I could see my grammar school and church where I had all my sacraments. The place where in the last few years, we’d go to escape and hit balls for an hour or so.

One of my best memories of the adult Dad-Daughter relationship was our match after Christmas. You WHOOPED my ass! Since you were healthy and playing two times a week (God, that kills me to think how healthy you were pre-tumor), you could run circles around me. I loved that you beat me without a doubt, and bragged to my friends how my 60-something year old Dad just creamed me in tennis…because he is that good.

You must have been good, because it is how you met Mom. A story you were getting ready to share the other day when I was leaving the nursing home. The afternoon activity was sharing the “how you met and fell in love” tales of everyone’s lives.

Tennis.

So I find myself at the wall. The daunting, towering slab with the sun playing hide and go seek, adding visual tension. Every bounce of the ball, emotion rises up in me. Every swing of my racket lands your voice in my head “Great shot, Kate!” or “Again- but remember to follow through”.

I miss you so much and yet I am lucky to have you present. I know that. But in this moment, I just want you here. Coaching me, while also being my equal. I miss learning from you and finding moments to carve out slices of life that we can both enjoy; separate from illness, responsibility, or caretaking.

My serves were amazing. Honestly, I don’t think my starts have ever been as consistent. Each round, I try to focus on this hit. This return. Not the emotion, not the anguish of not having my favorite tennis partner here today.

Your words follow my moves and I realize this is truly what I miss. Another avenue to you that just isn’t as accessible right now.

 

I barely make it to my car before the grief takes over. But I’m proud. Sweaty and proud- because I found more depths of strength and lost pieces of you.