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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nothing Compares

The only place I really wanted to go today was to my parents.  I think their place may be the safest one in my world right now.  When I'm feeling under attack by the intrusive thoughts that are so hard to push away, it is automatic to go to my mom and dad's, much like running into the house with a fresh scrape after falling off my bike when I was little.  It's...instinctive.

The comfort begins the moment my dad opens his door.  His face fills the frame like a blessing.  He beckons me in, patting my hair and commenting on the sudden downpour outside.  "Are you cold?  Did you wear a jacket?  You're gonna have to start wearing something on your head, child.  It's getting cold out there."

Just like that, I am said child again.  All will be well because my parents say it will be.  They always make it so.  They are powerful that way.  It is a beautiful way to feel.

"Edna, your baby is here."  he calls down the hall.

I can hear Mom question him.  "What baby?"

"How many babies you have?  You have some other baby out there I don't know about?"  he teases, smiling broadly.

If I've never said this before, let me share it now.  It is awfully good to be the baby.

Mom comes out into the living room where we settle into our accustomed spots:  Dad in armchair, Mom and I on the couch- the space between us empty where Cory used to sit.  Mom looks me over, I'm sure running all sorts of crisis analysis in that sharp mind of hers:  weight, eye circles, cleanliness, level of dishevelment.  That woman misses nothing.  Like as not, a question about what I've eaten last and if I'm hungry or thirsty is thrown in for good measure.

Dad having just settled comfortably into his chair, hops up, as if on a spring, to stoke a fire, and urges me to come sit close and get warm.

Don't you want to go to my parent's house?

Obediently, I perch on the edge and let my back bake a little.  It feels so good.  After a couple minutes of Jacob reports, I leave my spot, and go to crouch beside my father's armchair, and lean into his shoulder.  He chuckles at me, "Well, now..."  I just lean for awhile.  This is exactly what I came for.

After a bit, I leave his side, and cross the room.  Quite frankly, I want my mommy.  Not feeling strange in the slightest, I drape my forty-one year old body across her, ending with my head in her lap.  I close my eyes, and the patting begins.  She pats my arm and my shoulder.  She strokes my hair.

Comfort unparalleled.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If Onlys

I've been thinking a lot lately about the if onlys.  The if onlys show up right about the time I'm losing my shit.  They creep in, hidden in the shadows of my bedroom floor.  They crawl right into my bed, uninvited, and nestle in close.  One whispers, "If only you'd went to the store yourself."  Another strokes my hair and murmurs, "If only you'd went with her."  A third practically sings, "If only you'd known she wasn't ready..."  They tsk me.  Their insistent cries keep me up, and when I finally succumb to sleep, it is troubled, and filled with bad dreams.

Last night, I dreamed that another loved one had been run down in the road.  That damn road.  Decapitated.  Legs sheared off.  For some mad reason, my mother and I were standing side by side at my kitchen sink, trying to wash his heart, his liver, his kidney, and then pack them back, puzzle-like into his torso that we'd laid out, triage-style, on the dining room table.  There's a dream.

So this grief thing, with its stages that enter and exit the stage at random.  You have to ask, what the hell?  The bargaining stage is surely the definition of insanity.  Am I crazy to keep going over this in my head, knowing (intellectually, at least), that there can be no other outcome than the one that rests at Bedford Cemetery?  What is the blasted purpose of this torture?

Biding time.  Wandering can be a pleasant distraction, wandering - through the countryside of Bargaining- right back over the border to Denial- that safer, saner place where the world once made sense.  Things were linear.  You could check them off, and be done with them.  Reasons hung in plain sight like apples on a tree limb, and when you needed one, you just looked above you, and picked the best looking one.  You could walk away, and not have to look over your shoulder.  You could hear danger approaching because it screamed and threw things, and occasionally banged its head against the nearest wall.  These if onlys from the land of Bargaining are sly in their approach, and wait until you are already at your wit's end to even show their sorted faces.

Sometimes, I think I entertain those dreadful If Onlys purely to get some relief from reality...an alternate reality, if you will.  If my brain sends me signals that say something is possible (I could possibly have a do-over if I ask long enough, hard enough, and suffer enough), is it not a real possibility to me, if ever so briefly?
Perhaps, it is.  My reality is what my brain provides to me, after all.  That lesson I learned at Cory's side.

It is shabby comfort, at best, and at worst extremely harmful.  What is so harmful about your thoughts being based outside of reality?  That I can answer easily and with so much heartache- it's all the experiences and growth you miss out on.

But, oh the glamour.  That single sparkle of the glorious outcome that another decision on my end might have provided.
 It is all too hard to resist.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Newsletter of the Bereaved & Weary

Is it wrong to tell the truth?  Even if people don't want to hear it or you make yourself look less than admirable?

My truth, today, at least, is that I hate my Cory-less world.  If anyone wants to really know what's like after the loss of a child, with no sugar-coating,  then buddy, here it is:   I hate everything.  And I'm pretty sure everyone in my immediate circle is sick and tired of me hating everything.  Well, isn't that just too damn bad.  Walk away and go talk to your kids or something.

You see that?  That rude, horrible burning jealousy just boils out of me day and night.  It's not my friends and family's fault that my child was taken, but apparently my fury is no respecter of persons.  I can hardly stand to be around kids the age Cory would be.  It breaks my heart.  And throw in a mother/daughter duo that bares some minute resemblance to each other, and I'm a goner.  I'm talking, physically sick to my stomach and on the verge of a wail-a-thon.  See why I stay home so much?

You remember that saying, you always want what you can't have?  Curly hair wants straight.  Straight wants curly.  How to calm this primal need to be in the company of my child?  Or at least to know she walks and talks, in one instead of many pieces, and that I will see her at Christmas?  I don't know how to dampen this pining.  (Heads up, online shopping helps but doesn't last long enough, and it's very dangerous).

This weekend, I, very responsibly I might add, woke up, made arrangements for Jake's day, and at home, in my bed, swallowed some lovely Ativan.  Ativan...such a tiny pill, but what wondrous powers.  I woke up Sunday afternoon, thinking it was still Saturday, and for the first time in a week, I hadn't dreamt of running up to find Cory twisted with bones sticking out and blood everywhere.  There lies the rub- I can't just stay at home everyday bombed out of my mind on Ativan...if only I could.

Jacob.  I love love love my son.  Do you understand?  There is no shortage of wonder or affection for that precious little man.  He delights me daily.  This, however, does not make him my daughter.  Our relationship is every bit as different from mine and Cory's as it could be.  So when well-meaning people say to me, "Oh, well, at least you have other children.", I quite honestly want to hit them in the back of the head.  Or so that they may better understand my perspective, sneak into their house in the black of night, and steal just one (eenie, meanie, miney, mo...) of their children from their care, never to be seen again.  Hmm...wonder how fast they'd stop singing the "at least you have other children" tune then?

And finally, in this newsletter of the bereaved and weary, let me share my discovery for the day.  It is that someone saying "maybe you should meet some people who have lost a child"  may very well translate to "I've hit my max with your whining, so for the love of God, go talk to someone else."  Not that I can blame them.  I remember what it was like to be around someone who refused to lift their eyes from their feet- it can be infuriating.

So I find myself in that position where I am probably very hard to like, and having a hard time liking myself.  As a nod to the ones out there who declare it'll get better in time, I offer this,
"Maybe tomorrow will be a better day."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Heart Sick

No big surprises here. I had a wretched weekend.  I missed my girl so much, I literally couldn't get out of bed.  I just lay there, trapped under a heavy blanket of pain, feeling weak and wanting nothing- not food, not coffee, not human interaction, not reading, writing, or painting.  Not even shopping could get me vertical.  It was pretty bad.

Which came first- the broken sleep or the flashbacks?  It's hard to say, but before you could say PTSD, my anxiety had worked my stomach into an unpredictable mess, ready to turn traitor at any moment, which it soon did.

It's funny how quickly my thoughts change, starting out fairly benign (I miss Cory), turning into a vivid recollection of finding her splayed out on the road, blood thick and black, legs dirty, hair covering part of her face,  and then steadily twisting into guilt and shame.  Even the guilt and shame have levels, I have discovered.  Hours and hours spent floating between sleeping and laying awake hollow eyed and miserable provided me with a birds eye view of every variation.  I remember thinking I'd give anything for one more Mommy/Cory day, and hating myself for putting my stupid schoolwork ahead of time with her.  I could've had that day...maybe even a handful of them.

"Cory, I will watch a show with you, but then I have to go work on my paper."  No matter how she begged when the show was over, I'd flee to my nest of books and papers in my bedroom.  I was so eager to get that "A", so determined to show her it didn't matter how long it takes to finish something, as long as you keep working towards it.  And what did I really prove to her?  That she wasn't as important as a college class?

From this line of thinking, I forged head long into this:  if I hadn't been taking a class in the first place, I'd have been home that night- home with my kids, home with her.  And just around the bend in my troubled mind and heart, was this whisper, "Maybe he's right.  Maybe you did kill her."

Such a heavy sigh.  What have I done?  How could I be so stupid?  So irresponsible?

Hot tears then- because out of all the hard decisions I've ever made, choosing to have Cory at nineteen was the best thing I've ever done, and my one true purpose has always been to do right by her.  Keeping her safe and happy has been the biggest part of my life.  And underneath all my "growth"  and my "progress" in this stupid Godforsaken grief journey, I still feel like a complete and utter failure.  I let her walk to the store.  What a dumb ass.  All those years of care, of love, of laughter and tears- all the difficult decisions, the doctor visits, the hospitalizations, the meds...it all came down to a two second decision...and just like that, I screwed it all up in the end.  I chose wrong, and I lost her.  She suffered...I try to keep the "she died instantly" verdict at the forefront of my mind, but it doesn't match the pictures in my head.  Those pictures say she suffered plenty.  You can't end up looking like that without it hurting.  A lot.  I broke her.  Do you understand?  I broke my baby!

Back and forth to the toilet I ran- Saturday, Sunday, and a good part of Monday.  Each time I laid down on my bed again, feeling clammy, sweaty, and sick, I recognized the emotion overriding it all:  terror.  You'd think that scared feeling I remember so well from the first few days after the accident would be old news by now, but it's back.

  The idea of living without her terrifies me.  I know I've been doing it for awhile now, but I hate it.   To realize this is all I have to look forward to brings me right back to day one, but with some hard-earned perspective.  And I can't lie.  It's every bit as awful as I knew it would be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hoarding

Tonight I won't be cooking.  I gave my husband a heads up and asked what he wanted from Schlotzky's,  When he responded, "Oh, just get me an Albuquerque Turkey like Cory used to get.", my face broke into an unexpected smile.  He said her name in casual conversation.  He referred to her like a member of the household.  How long have I waited for this?

It made me think of a moment last week when I mentioned Cory when a meeting at work ended, and people were starting to disperse.  Casual chatter breaks out often as notes are gathered, and purses are put on arms.  Without a thought, I pulled up a pic of Cory's monument on my phone and passed it around the semi-circle.

Was this appropriate?  Oh dear, I hope so.  Were my colleagues taken aback to gaze down at a headstone versus a fluffy cat or slobbering baby?  I don't know.

I just know that I still need Cory to be part of my everyday life.  The casual way I pushed her pic on people says that somehow in the midst of all this muddled grief, I have formed a new relationship with my dead child.  And guess what?  I'm just as proud of her as ever.  Isn't that why parents brag and pass photos around in the first place?  They are proud.  And I am so incredibly proud of the life Cory lived.

 Her monument is a poor substitute for a daughter, of course- a beautiful girl who talks and laughs and runs into my arms- but it is a fabulous representation of her life and the way she lived it.  It is strong and graceful.  And before the peanut gallery in the back guffaws, claiming Cory's dancing was certainly interesting, but perhaps not the exact definition of graceful, let me say this:  Cory carried herself with grace.  She fought a horrible illness with grace, dignity, and determination.  And for that, I will always admire her.

So then, there is this new relationship with her.  It's not everything I want and need, but it's what I have.  I will embrace it; but what I'm still having a hard time doing is letting go of the pain.  I am so afraid if I don't keep her death at the absolute center of my world every moment, I will lose her.  I'm afraid the razor sharp techno-color movies in my head will fade and become fuzzy.  I am barely retaining my sanity as it is, my friends.  If I had to face the rest of my days without her memory clear and strong...I would not be able to function.  So as my friend, Angie, pointed out in a recent conversation, I hoard them.  I hoard my memories of her and play them every free moment.  My anxiety has placed me in charge of preserving her memory, of keeping her alive.  Do you understand?  Jake was only ten.  What if he forgets her voice?  What if he forgets the stories?

Am I really a hoarder?  Step in my bedroom, my friend.  It is hard for me to let go of objects.  That shirt might come back in style in 5-7 years.  And yes, actually, I DO need every color offered of anything I truly love.  A Nook?  Are you kidding me?  You will pry my old, dusty, paper books from my cold, dead hands.  And yes, come to think of it, I did put a copy of one of Cory's favorite books in her casket with her.  Why?  Because you are never alone if you have a book.

So, then imagine trying to give up my daughter?  I realize there was never a choice in the matter, as far as her body and life went.  But her memory?  All the things she said?  I am the keeper, and even if it kills me, I am determined to keep them close and fresh.  I don't want that candle to blow out.  It can't.  I fear with every ounce of my being, that if I turn my attention fully to the living, to the present, to apple orchards and Christmases with a family of three, I will lose my memories of her.  They will diminish.  And if they get any smaller, I won't want to be here, anymore.  Just wind me in my shroud (the memorial blanket with her face on it, as a matter of fact), and let this horrid nightmare be at an end.

I know, I know.  I have another child.  Why aren't I making sure to take him to the pumpkin patch?  What about his childhood memories?  There is an unspoken but definitive push from others to make sure I don't forget to "make new memories" with my son.

To that, I say this:  what makes you think we aren't making new memories already?  And who says they have to take place at a pumpkin patch or at a holiday dinner?  So much that is meaningful about our lives takes place in the routine of an ordinary day.  Jake will look back on his childhood, and there will be a clean cut division:  before Cory died, and after.  I can't change that for him.  All the family gatherings or dinners out in the world won't make that any less pronounced or any less painful.  It is what it is.  Our family has had to do some very difficult adjustments since Cory died.  Some of the rituals we've kept, and others have fallen by the wayside.  That doesn't mean Jake has lost his childhood or is loved any less.  I think it means things are different now.  And that's okay.

When Jake looks back, he may remember how silly he and I are together, running around the house and cracking jokes.  He may remember that I let him take an ice cold cup of apple cider to drink into the hot shower with him the other night or how we snuck hot dogs into the movie theater.   He may remember the way we trudged through our weekends without Cory, eating meals together, just the two of us, stolidly putting one foot in front of the other.

  He will remember the good and the bad, just like any one else.  Most of all, I hope he remembers that we treated each other with love and kindness.  Really, what more can you ask for?


Monday, October 13, 2014

Better in Time?

I tolerated my birthday better this year.  Before the legion of people who have, in fact, not lost a child yet say it gets better with time leans back, nodding with satisfaction, let me say it again:  I tolerated my birthday better this year.  It was...okay.

It wasn't particularly joyous, and although it was nice to eat some yummy seafood I didn't have to cook across from my two handsome boys, I was still overwhelmingly sad and lonely.  I watched Jake laugh up into Tim's face, and Tim laugh down into his.  Those two are mirror images.  I love watching them, and it kills me at the same time.

 Tim works nights, and time with him is precious to Jake.  I get that.  I watched them so in tune with each other, as they joked and bantered.  At one point, Jake reached up casually and swiped his hand across Tim's whiskers, just to feel them.   Tim looked surprised and bewildered, but Jake kept up the chatter, never missing a beat.  I reached out and rested my palm on the empty space in the booth next to me.   It's hard not to seethe with jealousy, even towards my own husband and son.  This pain can turn a person into someone he or she doesn't want to be, someone that's hard to like.

We all got a slice of cheesecake to go- even Tim can tell when the party of three has become too much for me to handle.  Once home, I retreated to my bed with my new journal and pen in hand.  After some bitter journaling (not bullet journaling, mind you,  bitter journaling), I pulled out my planner to wrap up my day, and smiled the tiniest bit to see the note I'd placed there.  I'd run across it a dozen times in the course of my day.  It said, "Happy Birthday, Mommy!"  Heart, Cory.

Such a small thing, really.  But somehow she'd been included in the day.  I had given her a voice, imagined what she'd tell me if I was ready to hear it, and put it somewhere I'd see it often.  It helped more than I'd ever thought.  I must have smiled five or six times that day.
 Last year, I smiled none.
Progress.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Letting Go?

"Sometimes you find yourself letting go of things simply because they are too heavy."

That line was in my story about Cory and I trying to carry a gigantic out-dated TV down the steps to the basement alone. Cory made it about halfway before letting go and walking away, leaving me holding something much too heavy for the two of us to be hefting in the first place.  Do you remember that story?

I reread it off the blog a couple of days ago, and I thought about this:

There are things I wanted from Cory's biological father for her, and for me, that he could not or would not provide.  End of story.  I can let that all go now.  I have met that primal need to not just scribble something down in my private journal in the middle of the night or to draft a letter meant to be burnt into ash at sunrise as my pets watch on dubiously, but to publicly name the one who hurt and disappointed me and the child we made together.  My heart has been so sick with it, and now that all chances are gone for him to make things right with her, it is time to lay those hurts and disappointments to rest, as well.  They are too heavy to carry.  And they really never belonged to me in the first place, did they?  Why in the world did I ever reach down and pick them up?

 I don't have to talk to him to know he regrets much.  He does.  And I'm sure he always will.  I need room in my heart and my mind for the image of that cockamamie tv moving endeavor gone wrong.  I need to see her cackling on the living room floor beside me, "Sorry, Mom, it was every man for themselves!"

And last night, I read an old blog post with this line:  " I would share my pain with no one; it was all I had left of her."

That is just how it has felt for a very, very long time.  The thing is that I don't think it's accurate.  I think that perspective was skewed deeply by the trauma of the accident scene- the way I saw her was so horrifying, it filled the world.  It filled my world.  And what happens when you see something so significant, so emotionally charged?  Your brain replays it over and over again, and a certain weight is assigned to that singular experience. 

 It was, hands down,  the most terrifying thing I've ever seen.  I was with no one I knew.  There is no one who can truly understand just how awful it was to see her that way.  There is no one to talk it over with that doesn't wince and try to change the subject.

That was the last way I saw her, outside of the funeral home.  But it was not the most frequent way I saw her.  It was not the ONLY way I saw her.  It may have been the LAST interaction we had, outside of the funeral home, but it was an unfortunate end to a LIFETIME of wonderful, laughter-filled, loving experiences.  

My pain is NOT all I have left of her.  I have love and kindness, patience and humor.  And those are meant to be shared with as many people as I possibly can before I join her in the plot next to hers someday.