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Monday, September 26, 2016

More Growing Pains

So Jake is now five foot five, which is one inch taller than Cory was.  It boggles the mind.  I guess it would have been a little funny anyways if she were still here to see him standing taller than her, the same way I feel to be eye to eye with him.  How in the world did that happen? 

 But with her gone, it feels less funny and more sad.  It feels like a time warp, in which your oldest child who'd grown to her fullest height stopped existing before she could see her brother catch up to her or possibly even pass her up.  In a moment, your youngest child becomes your oldest living child, which never feels right, and feels more and more wrong the older he gets and the closer he gets to the age she was when she died.  How can this be?  What strange, horrible new world is this?

And you don't get to be amazed together to see the little baby Jacob who'd really belonged to you both since day one change into a young man right before your eyes. It's not the same when you can't share it with that little mother hen who loved him so dearly...when you can't say, oh my God, Cory, do you remember when he... and.... and...?

And while she was as tall as she'd ever be, you don't get to see her face subtly aging, her stance become a bit more confident, her mannerisms remaining  wholeheartedly Cory-Girl yet beginning to resemble those of a twenty-something young woman instead of a teen.

It will never feel right to live in a world without her.  Nothing that brings joy, even watching my second child grow, remains untainted by the gnawing pain of her absence.  

I still hate my Cory-less world.


Monday, September 12, 2016

A Little Rant, A Little Rave

And the thoughts come fast, fast, fast...same as ever, they never change- "How did this happen?  What did I do wrong?"

While Jake is taking a post-dinner nap, having told me all about his fifth day of high school, I am free to root through pics of Cory and cry silently without making him worry for me.  I stopped to see her twice today- once on the way to work and once on the way home, and I still...STILL...can't reconcile my beautiful girl with that place in the ground.  That second time, on the way home, I had to kneel in front of her and just beg her forgiveness.  I'm so sorry, Cory!  I'm so sorry!!  I should've gone to the store.  I depended on you too much.  It was my responsibility.

See?  Lots of other people still have their girls.  I screwed it all up.

It isn't fair!  And while I can forgive the people who did her wrong while she was alive, I find I'm still not a big enough person to forgive the one who took her life...although that apology has never been offered and probably never will be.  Sometimes you don't get that apology that you think you rightfully deserve.  And you have to move on, anyway.

What is "I'm sorry" after all?  It means nothing.  It changes nothing, really.  Sometimes people say it to get their way.  Sometimes people say it to appease other people.  Sometimes it's a blatant lie.  What I know from my experience in an abusive relationship is that "I'm sorry" is useless and meaningless.  The only time someone is ever really sorry for their actions is when they make the effort not to repeat them...over and over again...and this, of course, would come after owning the shit they did in the first place.

Forgiving someone who hasn't apologized is supposed to bring you peace and lighten your burden.  In many cases, I agree.  I have forgiven Bob for so much for both me and my girl.  But to forgive the driver?  That's somewhere I'm not yet.  To forgive myself?  Somedays I can get there.

Just not today.  Today I feel like a piece of crap who can't even get in front of the person I need to see to tell her if I had it all to do over again, I'd never make the same mistake twice.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

You mad?

Yeah, I'm still mad.  But it takes over less often.

I used to be so angry all the time that I felt sick.  Now I do okay most of the time, except when triggered.

I took Jake to freshman orientation at the high school a few days ago, and that was really difficult.  I expected to feel sad and see her around corners- what I didn't expect was to get so angry I could barely see to drive home.  I started thinking about how she started there in ninth grade, just an average girl, braces and skinny, tiny and beautiful, and how the mental illness descended on her, wreaking so much havoc.  I looked around at all those bright, shiny faces just starting out on their high school careers and felt enraged that Cory didn't get to have her time.  She wanted to be at school with her friends.  She wanted to be learning.  She deserved the best years of her life.  She didn't ask for voices or hallucinations, crippling depression, anxiety, or delusions.  Why did such a sweet girl get such a raw deal?  Why my girl?

And the kicker, of course, being that she finally stabilized and was doing remarkably well, only to be hit by a lady who wasn't watching where she was going on her drive home from work.

I went home that night from Central, tears burning, and sort of folded in on myself, having went to a viewing that day that was not only at the same funeral home but also in the same room Cory's casket had once stood.  I loved being strong enough to be there for my friend the way she was there for me, but it was not easy to do.  That being said, I'm so glad I did it.  We help each other as best we can.  That's what we are here for.

The anger that night at Cory's missed youth, stolen by mental illness, burned hot and quick.  The next day, it had dissipated, and I was as okay as I ever am these days.

I can smile at babies now.  I don't hate parents who have live children, although I do sometimes envy them to a covetous degree.  I watch mothers and daughters together now with a desperate ache, but no real hatred.

Then the other day, I had to do CPR and First Aide training at my work place.  You wanna talk triggers?  Oh buddy.  The lingo alone, "non-responsive, no heart beat, not breathing, bleeding that will not stop" completely undid me.   Then there were the videos that outline all the steps to helping save someone's life.  They are so clean cut and so logical...nothing like what I saw on the side of the road.  Not even close.

The whole time all I could think about was being on the scene...what she looked like, my confusion at why nothing was done to help her.  Images of her body popped up as certain words were said "depressed skull"..."bluish tinge"...others.   I kept seeing them cutting her shirt open over and over and over again.  I could feel that same mad fluttering of hope and rush of relief as I realized that meant they were getting the paddles.  She would be ok.  But of course, they didn't get the paddles and she would never be ok again.  It was obvious to everyone but me that she was dead.

So I cried silently.  I stayed through the training.  And afterwards, I found a  friend that I could vent to for a few minutes.  All I really needed was get the poison out to another mother who would understand what crap it was that my girl never even got a shot.  Just what kinda crap was that?  Logically, I can understand now.  I get it.  Nothing could be done.  But in my heart, where my girl lives and breathes forever, there will never be understanding. Never.

 I will always question why nothing was done.  I will always question why she couldn't be spared while others are... if you buy into the whole higher power thing.   Some days I will seethe with the injustice of it all, but at least not every day.  Not anymore.

Progess, not perfection.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Yes Woman

One of the hardest parts of raising a remaining child after the death of a child is being able to tell them no.  About anything.  I'm not kidding.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but I promise you it's true.

In the beginning, it's the shock.  You don't even notice if your child just had 3 pops in a row, nothing for dinner, and candy before bed.  If you do notice, you're not sure where the pop and candy even came from, aren't sure what the steps are to making a meal, and frankly, who the hell cares?

It goes on this way for some time.  Many, many meals come from a drive-thru window.  Bedtimes are a ridiculous thought since no one is sleeping normally and the entire household has been thrown into unimaginable, dark chaos.

Your child seeks you as his shelter and you provide it, as best you can, most of the time only dully aware that he is even next to you at all.  You are still seeing your girl on the road.  You are still on the road running to her.  You will be there for at least eighteen months.

After the shock, it's a long dark tunnel that spans years.  All any of us could do was survive.  One foot in front of the other, or better, one knee in front of the other as we crawled.  Who cared if your child cleaned his room, ate his veggies, and washed behind his ears?  Once one of your children has waltzed out the door with a smile and never returned, all the small stuff just ceases to matter.

All that good parenting you did before you came upon your child splayed on the road?  It fades away.  Instead you ruminate over the time you disappointed her by saying "No, you can't buy two purses today.  You have to pick one.", You wince thinking of the times you were grouchy with her because you were tired or she was difficult.  You find yourself second-guessing the times you wouldn't let her date the wrong boy whose red flags were a mile long.  Shouldn't I have let her have any small happiness her heart desired, even if she may have gotten terribly hurt in the process?

See, cause if all those "good decisions" came to a bloody, broken end, what's the point, anyways?  That's what you will think for a long time because you are hurt and angry and broken yourself.  You will also be stingy with your love for a little while just because you can't bear to think of loving this next child just as much as you loved the first only to have him snatched away from you at a second's notice, and put into a box, too.

Finally, after way too long, you give your love freely because your other child is worth it and being a coward is no way to live.

But you still don't want him to be denied any small pleasure that you can by any stretch of the imagination afford, because what if you were to say no and he died at school the next day?  What if he got hit by a car walking home from the bus stop? You'd have to carry that with you for the rest of your days, and with the don't-breathe-on-me-at-the-movies and keep-your-hair-out-of-your-soup thoughts already in there, there's just not much room left.  You also tend to do almost everything for him because it feels good to take care of him when you can no longer do anything for his sister.

But then, suddenly one day, it occurs to you.  What if he doesn't  die?  What if he lives and has been given anything he wanted and was never told no only as an insurance policy against your parental regret?  What if he grows used to having everything done for him and not contributing to the household or world around him?  What kind of man would he be?

This is why I am beginning to say no sometimes and let my teenage son be disappointed.  This is why I am beginning to make him wait for things that he really wants.

I catch myself sometimes wavering and wanting to sayyes to whatever he asks for because it is true, he could die tomorrow- look what happened to Cory.

But then I remember that being a good mom isn't about preparing them to get everything they want right away in case they die.  It's about raising a child into a young adult who can handle being told no, who can wait for things they really want, who starts to look at the decisions they are making, and the consequences of their actions.   Those are life skills, not death skills.  I can only go forward thinking Jake will live.  He may not, but in the meantime, I'm filling his toolbox with the things he needs to know if he does.




Friday, August 12, 2016

Retail Therapy

Fall fashion used to be my favorite thing in the world.  I could easily go without buying a single spring or summer item if it meant I completely indulge when the cozy sweaters, bright tights, and boots hit the stores.  Dresses, tights, and boots have long been my favorite outfit in the world to wear.  With a Dooney tossed over my forearm to balance myself while walking in those heels,  I was a force to be reckoned with from late August till the snow flew.  Man, those were the days.

After Cory died, I spent about a year keeping up the facade.  Once I returned to work, I returned to fashion as a distraction.  Maybe I thought if I continued to look put together, I would act put together...kinda the way Cory used to hold herself so tightly together until she was home in her safest place.  Or maybe I thought if I preserved the way I presented myself to others, nothing would change. Preserving things is the most important task when your child dies.

I also shopped with wild abandon.  The first foray to a store after she was buried was with my oldest and dearest friend, Nicole, who took me to Kohl's.  I remember walking around in a daze, touching things Cory would like and feeling my chest cave in.  I did not like being there in a place we'd been so many times without her, and yet I couldn't leave.  So instead, I just piled everything I thought she might like into one of their little black carts and hauled all that shit up to the register.  Swipe.

Since going out places was so difficult, I started shopping online instead.  Within months, I had so many clothes, I was running out of room to store them.  But it kept me busy.  If there's one thing I can do, it's build an outfit.

All that fell flat eventually.  No matter how cute of an outfit I managed to come up with, I couldn't show it to  Cory and I couldn't let her borrow it.  In the end, the clothes stayed in my drawers, and I started to show up to work mismatched, wrinkled, and frankly, a little smelly.  I stopped wearing makeup and the only thing I did to my hair most of the time was stuff a hat over it.

Since Cory died, I've gotten my hair cut just often enough to avoid being called out on it at work, but nothing special.  No highlights.  No lowlights.  No faceframing layers.  My hair couldn't even remember its last acquaintance with deep conditioner.

So, I got my hair done a couple of days ago.  I've decided when I get Jake's school clothes, I'll get a couple things for my work wardrobe, too.  I've put myself on a strict behavior plan to wear heels to work at least twice a week.  We'll see how this goes.

The last time I was at Macy's, I wandered through the handbags out of sheer habit, and after I'd fondled a few, I saw one Cory would've went bananas over.  It was leather, caramel colored, and sort of a slouchy bohemian saddlebag kinda thing but with some hardware and studs to glam it up.  I opened it up and looked inside, imagining all her things resting inside and being carried around by a beautiful, funny, silly young woman who could walk and talk, laugh and cry because she was alive and existed in the same world as me, above ground.  I desperately wanted to take it home with me, but I reluctantly set it back on the shelf, ever so gently, not only because it cost two hundred dollars, but because  the one thing I learned with all that shopping is that buying things only made me feel better for moments at a time, and no object, no matter how desirable, could fill the gaping hole in my heart.  She is not coming back and  I've had to learn how to cope with that in a way that doesn't keep me in debt up to my eyeballs.




Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Chow Wagon and Other Things That Make Me Sob

My husband, Tim texted me the other day to tell me he was thinking of Cory, and remembering how when she was a little girl, she'd decided to start her own small business.  She bought dog treats, repackaged them with fancy names and stickers and resold them to family and friends out of her plastic Little Tikes knock off, aptly named The Chow Wagon.  "Remember how mad she was when we went to the mall in Kalamazoo and saw The Barkery?  Someone had totally ripped off her business plan!"  Yes, indeed, she was furious.

I see that little girl, so full of life and ideas, and wonder what it would have been like to know back then that she had only ten or eleven years left...to see it all, do it all, say it all?   Would I have raised her any differently?  Treated her differently? What would it have been like to have known the clock was ticking to an early death?

 I can see her on the first day of school, each year, standing for her required photo in the dining room, new back pack hiked up on her narrow shoulders and it's almost too much to bear. Back to school time holds so many triggers.  No more new beginnings for my girl. Eff you and your tears of the time passing and your child being in such and such grade.  Be happy your child is standing before you passing the time at all.  You are lucky, so, so lucky.  I hope you never know how lucky.

Tim somehow only talks about the good times, and smiles when he says her name. I have no idea how he does it unless it's because he never knew the new baby smell of the top of her head or watched her take her first steps.   I try to remember her with joy and purpose, but I usually end up tearing up, sobbing in mid-story, and at times of high stress, become completely consumed by my memories of the road.  They invade my workday, my drive home, and my sleep.  I don't want to remember her that way, but I cannot seem to escape it.

And when I remember the good times?  It's not the gentle comfort thing Dr. Z always promises.  Instead, it pushes that panic button in the center of my chest that screams, "You will never see her again!!!!  You will never see her again!!!  CORY!!!  I'm talking about CORY!!!"  Terror.  Sheer terror envelops me, a thick, black fog, and first I think I will die from the pain, and then slowly it dawns on me that I won't.  Somehow that's the worst thing of all.




Saturday, July 23, 2016

Paperwork

I'm finally getting around to some much needed de-cluttering.  I spend an evening last week sorting through the horrid landing ground of a small shelving unit in my dining room.   Everything on it should've been filed away or thrown away sometime in the last four years, but the shock and trauma of Cory's death, followed by debilitating depression prevailed. Go through papers?  I struggled to pay bills and cook meals.  But since those things have been going better lately, I finally faced the stacks.

I had to stop two or three times during the process, and slip away to watch something funny on youtube or joke with Jake.  In those stacks were the following items, each a horror to stumble across:  the police report of the accident, the receipt for Cory's plot at the cemetery, the detailed funeral bill, the quote for her monument, including the many e-mails back and forth with the designer about frost lines and installation, and something I'd never laid eyes on before...her death certificate.  Looking at that single piece of paper challenged every bit of progress I've made in the seven months.  I wanted to run away, straight out my back door and into the street, but I didn't.  I wanted to go gulp down a handful of Ativan, but surprising, even to me, I didn't.  I went to the safe haven of my room, took some deep breaths, distracted myself, and came back.

Not gonna lie to you- I harbored some of the same crazy thoughts as I did so...coming back and back and back again to the police report to the driver's name and address.  Whenever anyone kindly tells me I'm strong to have survived losing my child, I think maybe the strong part comes in when I resist the urge to go hunt that woman down.

And finally at the very bottom of the last shelf were a couple of non-official papers that wrung my heart until it dripped.  One was an I.O.U.  typewritten declaring that Cory Mansfield owed Jacob Mansfield owed three dollars, due at the end of March, with a dollar per week interest charges to be incurred with late payment.  They had both signed it.  I just bawled.

What could be worse?
 I found a spiral bound single subject notebook covered with Cory's careful print that listed all the plans for her nineteenth birthday party, had just months before the accident.  I smiled as I sobbed to see she started out with a list of over fifty guests:  childhood friends, current friends, church members, past and current teachers, and family.  I'm sure I quite crushed her bubble when I said the budget would require cutting it down to her closest handful of friends.  When told that, she decided on an American Girl doll tea party.  A few pages farther, I found a few different outfits down to tights and shoes that her doll might wear and various hairstyles.  In the end, she'd realized not everyone she had invited owned an American Girl doll, and subsequently switched the theme to a Twilight party.

She asked for little.  She wanted to include everyone.  As I scanned over the list again, I was pretty sure everyone she'd originally set out to invite to the celebration had ended up coming to her funeral,..absolutely no consolation.  Did I screw up again?  Should I have found a way to throw a huge blowout for her nineteenth birthday?  I sure wish I had, considering it was the last birthday party she would ever had and the last chance to be surrounded by all those people she cared about.  Amazing on how time produces all sorts of new things to feel guilty about and the pot of regret just grows and stews.

That was all I could handle in one setting and the shelves were empty.  The next day I looked at the wooden bench under the dining room windows that had become Cory's locker.  I lifted it, glimpsed a peek at all her school supplies, folders, and notebooks, and shut it back with a bang.  Nope.  Not going there.  Not ready.

Instead I cleared away some of miscellaneous items that keep collecting on the top.  Once those were gone, I stood and looked at her pink purse, not moved since the day she walked out my back door.  I looked at it for a really long time, walking over and peeking down inside, jerking my eyes away as if my retinas were burn right out if I lingered too long.  I tried to go through it once or twice since the accident, and fled in horror each time.  This day was no different.  Eventually I called Jake in and asked him what he thought...should it stay right where it was?  Should we move it?  If so, where?  I explained I didn't want, couldn't bear, actually, the thought of "putting her away".  He nodded silently.  We discussed at length how we felt ready to try to make our environment more orderly but we don't want her to be, in any way, not present in our everyday lives.  The "carry in your heart" stuff is lovely and all, but I'm a concrete sorta person- I need an object I can touch.  I need to lay my hands on the fact that she was here, that she was mine.  So in the end, we agreed on this:  we'd take her dozen scarves or so off the nearby coat tree, move them to her room, and hang her pink purse on the coat tree instead.

Feeling most disloyal, I picked it up and moved it approximately one foot from its original resting place.  I waited to see what I felt after it was done and watched Jake's face carefully.  "She's ok with that, Mom."  he said.  Jake, who never cries...who I don't remember seeing cry much since the funeral at all, teared up and hugged me hard.  How appropriate that this small but significant decision belong to us two and that we have equal say.  She had lived with us and shared our lives more closely than she shared any one else's.  We'd had a front seat to the best times and the worst times, some more scary than anything that should ever happen to a child, a teenager, or an adult.  She was ours. Our Cory Girl.

I looked over at her purse hung on the coat tree and decided it was ok.  Of course, I realize I just did that hoarder's trick of moving stuff from one space to another without really getting rid of anything, but maybe that's ok, too. Maybe in this case, any movement is more important than the distance travelled.