A Christmas letter to the folks

I miss our house. I miss decorating our tree. I miss my childhood chore/love, vaccumming up pine needles and how the warmth of the machine would make the room smell even more intense.

 

I miss you. I miss your navy blue robe with white piping from years ago. I miss your sleepyhead look, yet joyful Christmas morning smiles. I miss you collecting all the gift wrapping to recycle.

 

I miss your pancakes. I miss your starting a fire by 9am in the morning, just this one time a year. I miss your only watching “A Christmas Story” on the 24 hour loop- never on VHS or DVD.

 

I miss Christmas. Our Christmas of the years past. With the flow of many friends and family into our home, our hearth, our safe place.

 

I need this Christmas to be merifcul. I need the ache to not be so intense. And yet, can I ask that of this day? Will  it listen?  With Advent, I anxiously await.

 

So then,  I need to be mericful. I need to allow the pain to be present, even if it is intense. I need to allow this Christmas to be this Christmas- even if all I want is one more with you both.

 

Merry Christmas- I miss you both.

 

the hit of loss

I miss you both so much. And I don’t know how to miss you.

What, you say? Keep reading.

This time last year, my life was radically different. Mom was still here, but slipping more away after we lost Dad.

 

Today, I see that I am still in my winter.

 

I can’t wrap my head around that our first Christmas with neither parents, immediately follows the one without Dad. I just want those old days back. Where family gathered in our living room- giftwrap, or comics as we all used, was flying! My older cousins would happily play with sis and I. Mom would pass out presents and greet each family member as she would make her way around the room, cleaning paper, and smiling the whole time. I remember warmth, love, some much happy noise.

Truly, I’d give so much to have those days back. Sure, maybe it would teach me that I have romatizced them a bit. But, one more holiday with you both?

 

I’d ask for that day to never end.

 

 

Is there a rhythm to grief? I do not know. It is too close, too sacred, too of the now to surmise that there is rationality to this pain. What I know- is it lingers. It creeps around my world and my life, begging for more space. And that is how I don’t know how to miss you.

One year later, another parental death later, and I still don’t know how to do this, grieve.

I know there is no right way. But there is also no familiar landscape, some comfort of how I did this before. These losses are so large, and yet different. Together, it’s often too much.

I miss you both so deeply, so intensely, and live my daily life. Somehow, they are not in contradiction to each other.

 

Related: Winter Sullen Wonder Days

 

Lessons from my Mom

Oct 14 2016

This is far from an exhaustive list, but these are moments that I smile and think of Mom. 

For you Sunshine-K. 

***

Always write thank you notes. A well written, well meaning note can go a long way. If someone took the time to get you a gift, bring food, you take the time to express thanks. Give gratitude.

This  too shall pass.
Cliche but utterly true. Even if it is at its worst right now, it won t always be this way.
When you are young, this can be hard to see, simply because you haven’t experienced this wisdom in its deep form. So I will tell you it’s true. Know that it will pass, and I will be here for you.

If I could take away pain for you I would do so. But I can’t. And I hate that. Yet, I also trust in God and you should too.

Dinner together as a family, time together, forges incredibly strong ties.

Tv is overrated. Grab a book.

Mary Higgins Clark books can only be read two in a row before you get frustrated at the obvious patterns. But I still love them.

Friend and family are incredibly important.

Make new traditions and hold on to the old ones that you can. Our family traditions were my parents could probably not appreciate- like Chinese takeout every Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Without fail! Strange, but they were our traditions.

There is always room for ice cream. And don’t ever remind me if I’ve had it twice in a day.

***

I love and miss you, Mom. Keep sending wisdom my way. 

 

I needed to feel alive.

It’s been 7 weeks since I jumped. And bounced. And threw myself willingly into a foam pit.

It’s also been 7 weeks since we brought my Mom to her final resting place.

Just 11 months and one day apart, we lost first Dad and then Mom. While Mom’s Alzheimer’s was a long journey, filled with constant big and little losses of her, the ultimate loss was quick. Too swift.

The whole ordeal felt unreal. Thus proving to me, no matter how much you expect the end, you cannot know how it will rattle you. Moments of those weeks after felt so disconnecting to this truth, the truth that Mom was gone. Maybe because it was so close to the loss of Dad. That we stood in the same room, both in the nursing home and in the funeral home, to welcome our family who has suffered three additional losses this year.

This is not what I could have ever imagined for my life. My world. My family. And here it was. In my face, but feeling so foreign.

I got through the two days of traditional goodbyes. They helped, the comfort of my faith and the rituals we perform. It gave me something to connect to when my world was rocked.

After the wake, after the mass, after the repass, I did not know what to do. I expected that I would want to curl up in a ball and hibernate.

But it was the opposite. I need to live. I needed to experience what it meant to be alive, in this moment, in the stark reality of death.

No, this was not a “let’s have a glass of wine” moment; it was “I need to feel myself breathe in life”.

And so we went trampolining. My boyfriend, our friend, and I. On the day we buried my Mom, I jumped for nearly an hour straight, to feel my heart pound, my breath race out of control, sweat drip from my face. I faced my fear of throwing my body against a wall and safely landing on my feet. I slam dunked at the hoops, and I kinda flipped into a foam pit. But best of all, I could feel a smile emerge from my face.

No, I could never envision this part of my life, or the action I took later that day in my moment of grief.

But it was truly me. Because I needed, deeply desired, to feel alive.

Sorry that I’m sorry

1/26/16

Know the phrase “sorry, not sorry”? That is so not my issue.

My problem is I say “sorry” way too often. I need a stand in adjective at this point!

I say it to my boyfriend all the time…I don’t even know why! I say it when not grabbing my stuff fast enough out a friend’s car- and then apologized for apologizing saying “gosh I say ‘sorry’ too often”. She heartily agreed!

But today I said it in rising anger. I was on the phone, for the umpteenth time with a new issue regarding my Dad’s passing. When the supervisor tried to placate me (but not provide any help) by saying “Ma’am, I’m sorry- I know how frustrated you must be”.

Roar. 

I went a little something like this: “No. No, you do NOT know how I feel right now. Myself and (third party) have called this organization multiple times and spent countless hours on various hiccups that you throw our way. Now, you are asking me to jump through yet another hoop? Why is this the first time we are hearing of this delay when we rightly request it? Why do none of my legal titles in this situation help, yet you had me file various documents, send fax upon fax, just to not resolve this? I am SORRY, but you do NOT know how I feel”.

So this time, it’s obvious that I’m not sorry. Having someone you love pass is hard enough without endless bureaucracy and circuitous policies. (True example: I am dealing with a government agency to get tax information for another government agency, but I must go to court to get said information. WHAT?) Plus, I KNOW I am not the first person who has had a loved one die and needs to filing taxes, forms, and other necessities. Insult to injury, my Dad was one of the most thorough and prepared people- and still this craziness occurs.

The best part was the validation of the calm third party on the phone who I called to speak with after (…ok, to say sorry I lost it a bit). He said “No, I didn’t want to stop you on the phone. You have every right to be frustrated with them. I have never heard needing to do what they are asking of you”.

Am I still angry? You betcha. Am I exhausted from months of fighting? Heck yes. Am I sorry? Hell to the No.

And maybe that is my lesson for today. #sorrynotsorry is my new stand-in.

Room

We are selling my childhood home. Nothing about this is easy, not purging 30+ years of stuff, not cleaning every nook and cranny, not praying that you can get enough for your Mom. It’s a long goodbye, filled with lots of things to do.

20160319_105212

 

These green chairs I am taking with me. But today, they sit oddly in my old bedroom. Oddly because they always stood firmly in our living room, not in my small space. But as I looked at this picture I took today, I realized it is special. My dad spent nearly every day after his diagnosis while at home in one of these chairs. It was here that he was able to think, chat, sometimes write, and share with friends. It is here, as a child, I remember him reading the newspaper, or as in my teenage years, listening to my fears, worries, hopes and desires.

So even though it is strange to see these chairs in my old room, the oddity is sweet. It’s a reminder of my dad and I, the bond that can’t be broken by disease or death. While I would give anything to just sit in those chairs with him again, I have this clear vision given by this picture to bring to my mind when I miss Dad and want to talk with him. I can be in the comfort of my childhood bedroom, with new paint and little furniture, and our chatting chairs.

My room, my space, now filled with new visuals for me. And that is a gift.

 

New territory, before and after

March 7, 2016

First blog post of the year, and it is March. How time flies while ever so standing still.

 

The lines are becoming more solidly before and after. No longer “before diagnosis and after” but before Dad’s passing and after. There was so much to do after your death, Dad. It frustrates me, a wordy (ok even though rarely pithy) being, that I can’t articulate every aspect, struggle, fight, and policy we had to overcome to put down the business side of death and move on to the mourning side.

 

And what infuriates me is that I can never seem to explain all the “what” is- but it’s headache filled bureaucracy most days.

Part of the issue is having to do all this while mourning such a loss as the death of a parent, all while we still want to focus on Mom and her Alzheimer’s. So many friends of my age said “I don’t know how you would have done this WITH a job too”. And I didn’t- it was my job.

 

Plus, this landscape was so utterly foreign. You were always my guide in the realm of financial and legal. Let alone big changes in life, you and Mom were often steady guides. And now there is none. And now I stand without you both. I stand with myself and my memories of you.

 

Maybe this is part of the rebirth after death. Not so much that I know a deeper loss in life, but rather it has fully, and rather expediently, christened me in adulthood. In one phone call, one night of you lying on a gurney, our roles swapped at a vibrant 65 and days into 29.

 

Today, just two years later, I am settling into my new routine, including a new job, a new commute,

All seems new.

Then something may send me back- remembering how acute this loss is- how permanent and still fresh. Tonight’s moment came with a beautiful, simple letter from a friend reminding me that they hold my loss in their heart.

 

And I’m back. Knowing full well this sorrow and sobbing place. My body could throttle into the continuance of ordinary life, but my soul still needs these remembrances. These releases.

 

I will always wish for more time, to know what you’re thinking about on this world event or that piece I read, to still have you here. And, I will forever be grateful for the time we did have, for the love you instilled and the memories we all made,

 

I miss you, Dad. I miss you, now and each tomorrow too.

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.