My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Next Chapter

What can I tell you about the fifty-one days since my mom died? We have grieved. We did all the things you do... we had a viewing and a funeral. We gathered with family and friends and celebrated her life. People were kind. We received cards and flowers and phone calls and messages and were just completely showered with love and compassion. By the way, do you know that if your loved one is cremated, the flowers from the funeral are brought to your house? We literally had flowers on every surface, standing in corners... we pulled them out of arrangements and put them in vases. We enjoyed the heck out of them but it was definitely a moment of ... "what are we supposed to do with all of these flowers?" The fridge overflowed with food beyond what we could possibly ever eat... and yet none of us really felt like eating. We went to sleep and woke up and she was still gone.

There is more work to do since she is not here. As a child - and even as a teenager - I would come home from school and my room would be spotless and my laundry would be done and folded and put away. It was like living in a hotel. My mom watched other people's kids and even though she had really busy days, our house was always clean and dinner was always cooked. In these years since we have been grown and moved out (and in my case, moved back in again) she cooked less but she still could see dust bunnies that no one else saw. She was constantly in motion... the minute Pop left the house the vacuum would come out. She would come in search of dirty laundry and dishes and could not rest until everything was tidy- both inside and outside of the house. Since she's been gone the house is less tidy. The litter box is cleaned less often and I only do my laundry once a week. Every little thing out of place is a reminder that she is gone... the weeds around the flower beds, the cat fur in various places, even a counter that needs wiping down... the things she quietly took care of all of our lives... they no longer are automatically done.

Some days the pain is suffocating. Some days I can't choke back the sobs and the tears fall in an instant. People will ask, "how are you?" and it reminds me that she's gone and although I'm ok, I will never be the same. I appreciate that people care but it takes me back to reality every time. Pop plays more golf and stays busy because it's so quiet for him when he's here. I take care of the spoiled little dog just like mama would, not because I like dogs... but because I loved my mama and I want her to rest easy, knowing that I'm doing my best.

Physically I hurt a lot more. I did some additional damage to my lower back in those last tough weeks of her life. I was scheduled for an MRI last Friday but I wasn't ready to deal with it yet. There's a disc that was bad and based on the symptoms I'm having, it may have gone from a hindrance to a surgical situation and I just don't have any idea how to go through that kind of health crisis without her. She was the only one who ever truly understood my pain and although I try to gently remind these guys I live with that I do have limits... they have never lived it so they don't quite get it. There have been a few times where I have tried to stand up and my left leg didn't work. Twice I've fallen because of it and THAT is scary and humiliating and frustrating. It reminds me that I HAVE to do things for myself now because mama isn't going to come down the stairs with dinner on the nights I don't feel like searching it out for myself. I've lost weight... about twenty pounds this year. It's not a healthy weight loss, it's from not eating some days and then on other days eating an entire container of ice cream and ridiculous amount of trick or treat candy. Wendy, my Aussie friend, you'll be happy to know that I converted the vase from the flowers you sent into a candy jar. We're all enjoying it. And by we, I mostly mean me and Cosy.

There was some baby mama drama in Austin's life that has... crossing fingers... resolved itself. On my mom's birthday the police were called both when we picked Cosy up from her mom's and when we took her back. That's a personal record for us. I just wanted to be with my sweet girl and there was a bunch of craziness going on. My heart was gripped with fear for my sweet girl and broken with grief and it was all just too much for me. That's probably been the worst of it for me. My mom always fought for me, prayed for me, shared my burdens and she's just not here for that any more. Pop gets it... and trust me, he loves that baby girl to pieces... and she has becomes Pop's girl. She cuddles with him and shares his meals and if Nana doesn't do what she wants, she goes and tells Pop on me. But my mom was the one person on earth that I KNEW loved my babies as much as I did. I could always count on her to be in my corner and it's hard being in that corner alone.

You know how people will fixate on some certain sign or symbol that their loved one is near? Like... a butterfly or a ladybug or .... whatever. We got these wind chimes from the church in remembrance of mom. They're not like the normal, metallic sounding chimes (those get on my nerves) instead it's a full, rich, deep tone like a bell gently ringing. When the wind blows I tell Cosy that Mawmaw is singing to her. She's learned to listen for it and it's so precious when she notices it first. Cody got a new tattoo with angel wings (because my mama LOVED angels - we have them all around the house!) and whenever anyone says "Mawmaw" Oliver will grab his dad's arm and point at the tattoo. Oh, how it breaks my heart that these babies will never remember her, that she will be in photos we show them and in the stories that we tell but they will never know how special they were to her. I want to write a children's book for the babies - Oliver, Cosette and my nephew Finn - with lots of wonderful stories about Mawmaw. I just haven't been strong enough to do that yet.

Grief is something you can't avoid. You must go through it. You can dry your tears and clean your face and go about your normal life but in those quiet moments, it is there waiting for you. You can't go around it. I have been gentle with myself, allowing tears when they come. I have been doing a bullet journal. It's sort of a cross between a planner and a diary. I do a lot of doodles... write quotes that I find particularly moving... write down a memory of each day... record pain and what triggers it. It's a cathartic outlet for creativity that helps me see where I've been in this journey. I try to keep a normal schedule and connect with the world outside our little lake house from time to time. I allow myself little indulges here and there...

There's one more thing that has helped me through this time that I want to share with all of  you who come here and read my blog and love me and support me and always wish the best for me. Two days before my mom died, a friend of mine lost his little boy in a tragic accident. He sent me a text on the day before mama died letting me know about his son and we started texting... both of us sort of lost in the kind of surreal, raw emotion that only such deep grief can bring. From the time I hurt my back until now I have had zero interest in being in a relationship with anyone. I've had ... interested parties, I guess you could say... but I've just never wanted to be a burden to anyone else. I've had to focus inward and gain an understanding of what my life was going to be. The last guy I kissed all those years ago (six years and nine months, roughly) was this guy. He was always sort of unfinished business in my mind but the time was never right for us. Until now. And now... obviously, I can't say what the future holds but right now is good. He came to mama's funeral even though it was the day before his son's. He's good company, he's kind and caring, he's patient and he gets me... the me that is living this next chapter of life, post-mom. I have no idea what it feels like to lose a child but I do know what it feels like to lose someone who is a vital, precious part of your life. So I laugh at his jokes and wait quietly when he doesn't feel like joking. We talk on the phone a lot and hang out when we can and it's just a nice, warm fuzzy, happy corner of my life right now for which I'm extremely grateful. It makes the well of grief not feel as dark and deep since there's someone standing in the cold water with me.

What happens next? So many of you have written me sweet, kind messages of encouragement. I feel like I joined a sisterhood of motherless daughters and I've learned a lot about what to expect from your experience. I'm so grateful for each and every one of you. We got through (barely) mom's birthday. Pop is going to Connecticut for Thanksgiving to be with my brother and his wife (who very sweetly invited me along but I need to be here with my babies and grandbabies and maybe my friend, depending on what he's feeling up to on that day). My nephew, who recently came out of the Jehovah's Witness faith is thinking about coming down for Thanksgiving to learn about our family's traditions. I hope he can come... that will give me the encouragement I need to do a normal Thanksgiving. Otherwise we might go for rotisserie chicken and stove top stuffing. I'm just setting the bar really low for the holidays, not trying to do everything like we did with my mom. Life is different. We have babies around so there will be joy, and I will celebrate in the way that feels right in that moment. My mom and I talked about an idea for stockings for this year and I'm excited to carry out the plans we had made. I have already bought some gifts that will remind people of my mom in a fun way (I hope it's fun, anyways). Life is different but life is good right now and I wanted to share that with y'all. Love and hugs!