Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24, 2009 His Side

I removed the clock!

His side of the bed looks like the beds in home magazines. Books just so, clock perfectly situated (if they show one), lamp placed to emphasis the right, dust free books. All his stuff is perfect, neat and aligned.

I sigh, I crack up. His side of the bed orderly?! He is in death what he wasn't in life.

Good night, sweetheart. Wherever you are.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October 22, 2009 The 95th Day

The 95th Day
By Kim Hamer 

The 95th day after my husband died, my daughter walks into our bathroom where I am leaning, hunched over the sink trying to remember what comes after I wash my face. Moisturizer or that stingy stuff? 

My daughter’s eyes are ringed in red, her lids barely able to contain the pools of water.

"What are you doing up?" I say with barely tempered frustration. I have spent my energy today opening up more condolence cards and walking from room to room trying to remember what I keep forgetting, my own private circle of birds, fluttering around my head like the ones in cartoons. I have nothing left to give her.

I turn to her, not in softness but in a “this had better be quick” stance.

"I just realized…..sob…. Daddy's not gon….sob….na be here for my sob 10th bir…..sob…..thday." Her tears drop from eyes, as if their lives depended on them reaching the linoleum. "It's an important birthday." She looks up at me as if I do not know. "I'm turning double digits."

I watch her. I don't gather her to me. I don't change the subject or ask her to think about "happier times with Daddy." I hold myself still, giving her the space to grieve, giving me just one more moment in the anger.

What I want to do is to knock her aside and take on the grief. I want to attack it, rip it, and shove it into my mouth, tearing at it with my teeth as pieces drip from my chin. I want to ingest it. 

I want to swear and yell, “"Don't you dare touch her! You have no right to touch her with your loss and desolation and pain. She's nine!, she’s only 9!” I want to flail and punch and scream. I want to make the grief hurt back.

Instead I stare at my daughter as I stand with her in the inky, sticky, black grief and I watch her. I acknowledge her loss—which means I have to acknowledge my own, damn it. And I witness how the grief makes her shrink, how it bends her 98-pound body, making it look like it might snap. 

Finally, she swipes at her eyes, staring at the bathtub and says. "The kids in my group say it will get easier with time."

It is then that I embrace her. And from me pours the deep wonder at this person that Art and I have created and her strength. I think, I’m the lucky one. Hopefully, (cause clearly nothing is guaranteed anymore) I will get to see what kind of remarkable woman she will become.  I let out a small laugh of gratitude.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 19, 2009 Death Begets Life

And the day after...

I rise.

I make pancakes.

I make it to two parties and

AGAIN...manage to put dinner on the table, this time with fresh fruit! (Happy jig here)

After feeling overwhelmed, I work on my resume for 45 minutes with my mom, I am high on the potential.

I am so pleased with myself, like a toddler learning to walk. Get up wobble, step, wobble step and then ta da!! I'm at the wall or table.

And Ezra says to me "Mom, I miss Daddy. If Daddy hadn't died, you wouldn't be thinking about moving and we wouldn't be having so many babysitter to go out, what seems like every night." And he weeps. I know I will see him later in my bed, too, seeking reassurance by lying next to me.

And I say "I know.. It's hard. This is all new to you and to me."

But Ezra, I think to myself, "Change is exciting and exhilarating!"

I am the butterfly in the cocoon. Soon it will be time to try out my new wings, and I promise you kiddo, I will fly and you will see.

Out of death comes life.

October 17 , 2009 Coward!!!

Right now, I want to quit.

Quit writing.

Quit hoping.

Quit eating.

Quit being here for the kids.

Ya know what?

I'm tired of this shit.

Tired of being alone.

Tired of waiting to feel better.

Tired of catching glimpses of my new sun, only to have those blasted thick clouds move in with the swiftness and destruction of a great white shark.

Tired of functioning.

Tired of talking.

Tired of defending.

Tired of fucking breathing.

I'm tired of missing him in all these new ways.

I'm tired of wondering how good my life will be at some point.

I'm tired of telling people that he died or "Yes, that was my husband" to the umpteenth new 7th grade parent I meet at the school where he worked.

I'm tired of making myself focus on putting my left big toe in front of my right big toe so I can get through a day.

I'm tired of having happy moments that every magician craves...they vanish before your eyes!

But alas

I am a tired coward.

A mother (not a widow) once told me she stays alive for her kids. I didn't understand that.

I still don't. I don't stay alive for them.

THEY keep ME ALIVE and that is why tomorrow

I'll still be here.

In the kitchen, making pancakes.

Taking Langston to get his hair cut.

Sunscreening their faces and arms and legs before we go to the beach.

I don't have the courage to deny them me.

Huh, who'd a thought

cowardice was such a good trait.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 14, 2009 A New Good Day

I don't have good days anymore. Not like the ones before he got sick. Heavy is how I live my life now. My stomach doesn't ache with laughter. I'm slower and impatient.

There is a new good day and it consists of just making the day work. This new good day is about forgiveness for missed appointments, play dates, dirty toilets and dusty bedrooms, indecisiveness and anger. The new good day response is "I'm OK." usually followed with a shrug and silence.

The new good day means I managed to get out of bed, stretch, wake up the kids, prepare breakfast and get the kids to school, on time, and only raise my voice three times.

The new good day means I can focus on a project for 45 minutes.

The new good day means I wonder the house for only 30 minutes.

The new good day means I sigh only 175 times, not 253.

During this new good day, I can get three things off of my to-do list. I can put dinner on the table without the guilt of over weight or high blood pressure causing foods they digest.

The new good day has nothing to do with courage or beauty or dealing. The new good day has everything to do with getting by, past another Monday, through another kid argument, over another night of no sleep.

The new good day is redefined every day. Every moment I wake up is another new good day.

The new good day is about small, infinitesimal steps.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 11, 2009 Dinner is Served!

I have successfully put dinner on the table for TWO WEEKS straight! Granted they came from bags and boxes, except for tonight when I made pesto. Granted they contained vegetables least twice. Granted Ezra could have cooked it himself had he been allowed to work the stove and if he could tackle words like "microwave" and "combine."

BUT I put dinner on the table! I didn't panic when 5:00 rolled around. I breathed, opened both freezers and found items that could be cooked in 30 minutes. One time, I even defrosted something the NIGHT BEFORE!

I danced in the kitchen on nights 10, 11, 12, and 13 to the music of "I Can Take Care of Us All By Myself (almost)" On night 14, I opened a bottle of wine and did the happy-ya-for-me-triumph jig without spilling a drop. He danced and laughed with me. He knew I could do all this. He's glad that I now know too.

October 9, 2009 Grieving Child

Ezra and I went to Windward for a dinner tonight. (Pallas was at a friends house and Langston flat out refused. It was not a battle worth fighting.) Ezra disappeared only moments after we arrived, knowing the campus better than many sophomores, and"hanging" with the junior and senior boys he know from several summers of sports camp at this school.

At dinner, I found him on sitting on the lap of one of the boys, child among bigger children. He looked content to be one of them but aware of the special status his smallness gave him.

We came home and Ezra began to cry. "I hate Windward! It reminds me of Daddy."

I sold Art's car this week. Pallas insisted I drive them to school and pick them up in his car the day before. She cried when I told her the man had come to get it. "The car being sold means Daddy is really gone."

Their grief surprises me. I am so deep in my own. They are so into their daily lives, seemingly well adjusted to the single parent household that I forget they are grieving too. "Children grieve differently" I was told.

I see all the things Art will miss in their lives. They don't know what's ahead of them so they have no clue what he will miss. It is only in a moment that they feel his loss. It is not all consuming like it is for me. Those moments are intense and full of despair, though.

I witness it and marvel at their ability to lose so deeply and then 237 seconds later ask "What are we having for dinner tonight?"

Sunday, October 04, 2009

October 4, 2009 Pictures Of Grief

I took Ezra to the Annenberg Space for Photography where they had the photographs of the winners of the Picture of the Year Award International.

Ezra was fascinated by the photo of the child soldier, gun pointed at camera, smile on his face and who happened to be the same age as him. "If he has a gun, why is he smiling?" he asked, exposing the holes in our gun education philosophy. I only read the captions of the photos he asked me to knowing that allowing him to lead will give me insight into who he is.

He skipped over the photos depicting grief. It was at those that I stopped. I looked at them and felt neither empathy nor sympathy for the characters in them. The wall between us was mighty and fierce and strong and whole.

It wasn't until I was driving home that I realized those photos are the only photos that depict grief; the horror of the man clutching the body of his bloodied and dead brother, the photo of the mother wailing over the discovered body of her son. We don't see the photos taken 37 days after or 183 days or 1 year and 2 months and 3 days after the loss. We don't have a complete picture of grief. We think it is all devastation and sadness that pushes down continuously on the grieving. Those photos only begin the story.

Our pictures of grief are incomplete.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October 1, 2009 Sick and....


It finally came.

The illness. It's not surprising. But what is, is how good it feels to just be sick.

I have not been sick since Art was re-diagnosed in January. Mind over body, man!

I have not wanted to be sick, I would not tolerate illness. There was too much to do, to take care of, to work through to get sick.

And now, 5 1/2 months after his death, 9 1/2 months after his diagnosis I am letting my body win.

It's time to purge the stuff. With a blow of my nose I shed an old habit. With a cough I release a anxiety, with the fever I sweat out the staleness, the stuff that keeps me in fear. I release some of the grief within the entire cold.

And I am grateful to stay in my pjs today. I am grateful to not put on make-up or clothes. I am glad to soothe the kids with my confidence, for they are scared. "What happens to us when you get sick?" Langston asked, Pallas and Ezra turning to listen to my response. I smiled. "We have a ton of frozen food and friends who will bring us things if we need it. Don't worry too much, sweetheart. We are supported."

And they turn and go back to their new normal life, seemingly satisfied and reassured with my response.

I raise my water to you, sickness. To the freedom you are granting me today. To giving me time to just sit and nap and watch movies or to do nothing at all!

I too can be just like Scarlet O'Hara!

I will think about that tomorrow... or the day after!