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.

 

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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.

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.

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. 

 

My Mommy

Someone recently said to me: “You are sad”. A few days later another said “Of course, she is your Mommy”. There was no feeling of “ouch”, or laughing it off. These statements were radically simple and radically true.

Yes, I’m sad. I’m grieving. And it made sense to hear someone else recognize it.

Simply put, my mom is suffering from a crappy disease and it makes me sad.

***

While reading “The Ten Biggest Myths About Grief”, I was floored by a simple line:

Grieving is a wilderness experience. It looks and feels like chaos.

Wow. Ain’t that the truth?! This process is slow, and happens when I can reflect on life and what is happening. It also heaves tons of emotions on: anger, frustration, denial, sadness. I can’t rush it, no one else grief will look like mind. But its normal. It’s natural.

She’s my Mommy.

***

This weekend, we will celebrate a milestone birthday (and uhhh yes, even though she would not know I said it, my Mom, the Mom of years past and of today, would NEVER want me to share her age : ) ). Family will be in town and we will celebrate. Celebrate Mom, our family, and the goodness that we can share.

While I may be sad and grieving, there are still moments of life to enjoy. To savor. To live.  And I am.

But some days, some moments, that wilderness appears, the ‘crazy’ flood of emotions ensue. And it stinks.

And it should, because she is my Mommy.

 

Cheers to you, Mom, on your special day.

 

Do you have any experience with grief? What has been your healthy way to deal with it?