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Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Smile Than Face Returns

Today, I heard from a loved one who for a minute was able to remind me that before I had Cory, I was a whole person...a whole person who smiled, and laughed, and regularly shaved her legs.  I used to be a whole person who made people laugh, was a terrible flirt, had outstanding taste in music, and considered herself at least moderately attractive.
 This person who comforts me, without even really trying,  gently but firmly blocked every one of my protests that I cannot get past my guilt that Cory's death was my fault.
Somehow this exchange ended with me wondering if one day I might be a whole person again.  In someone's eyes, if not my own.
And I was smiling a real just-for-me smile, not the sort that are manufactured to please other people.

We call it "more smile than face".

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

At Last He Speaks Part II

This morning, I remembered I have a son, and ran to dig a hat out of the bench in the dining room so he wouldn't freeze to death on his walk home.  Hurrying while only half-dressed, I held up the bench top with one hand while studiously looking away, so as not to have to see Cory's bright pink purse that keeps watch on its cushion.  With my other hand, I blindly hunted for a knit hat, and pulled one out just as Tim came in the back door from starting my car.

I looked down to see one of Cory's hats in my hand.  Tim saw it, and said, "Her sc-at?"

Yes, it was a pretty brown, cream, and fuchsia scarf and hat sewn into one cozy piece. Her...scat. Cory wearing it?  Almost too cute for words, all big green eyes and creamy white skin.

To Tim, I nodded.  "Yeah."  I squeaked out, sniffed it once, and shoved it rudely away from my body, trading it out for one of Jake's striped hats.

This is just one example of the little deaths we die as we move about our day.

I know, I know.  The cynic out there says, "Why don't you get rid of her things?"

I can't.

So I finished dressing, slapped on some I-am-okay-don't-worry-about-me makeup (which usually consists of strong eyeliner and a bright lipstick...which sounds suspiciously like a hooker, if I really stop to think about it), and dragged myself to work where I had a baseline miserable day.

I busied myself with some repetitive tasks and tried not to see her face.

As I worked today, I remembered Tim coming in after working late last night, and waking me up.  He was crying.  A lot.

Tim cried after the accident.  I don't remember it much, just him stumbling around the house with toilet paper hanging out of both his nostrils.  I don't remember talking to him.  I don't remember him talking to me.

 I picked flowers.  He buried her cat.  I threw up in the funeral home's bathroom.  He chose her casket.  I walked around in shock, not knowing where I was or what was happening.  He cut the check for her plot.  He ordered the food for the ghastly luncheon.  I chose the music for her service.  Tim fed Jacob, fed the dog, fed the cats, and took the garbage out.  I fell down.  A lot.  For a really, really long time.

Well, last night, Tim sobbed so hard it shook the bed.  And, finally, finally...he spoke.  What did he say about my girl?  What did he say about her?

"I miss her so much!she was such a good girl, such a good, good girl...she was so thoughtful...she made everything fun...nothing's fun are we supposed to do this?  how do people even do this?'s not the same!  it's never gonna be the same!  we can't be happy!  we'll never be happy!  I don't want her to be dead!!"

I bawled right along beside him, answering, "I don't know!"  and "I know we won't!"  to his questions.  That's truth right there.

Eff this life.  And the holidays, too.  Eff the holidays.  And grocery shopping.  Screw the store.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Conversations With Jacob

Where am I right now?  That's an easy one.  I'm in a very crowded Starbucks coffee shop, crammed into a side table, kitty corner from a delightful old man, sitting with his wife, who just said this to me with a grin, "Someone must really love you!"  before holding out his gnarled left hand, and pointed to the ring finger with his right.

I smiled back at him.  "Do-overs cost extra!"

He and his wife giggled politely.

Where am I really?
That's a harder question to answer.  I'm out of the well, that much I know.  I wore makeup three out of five workdays this week.  I showered daily.  I'm not to the point of cooking dinner every night or anything; let's not be ridiculous.

There is snow flying, and as much as I want to pull out the pics of Jake and Cory on sleds, I haven't.  I have been told by nearly everyone to stop living in the past.  This sounds like such a healthy and reasonable piece of advice.   Unless, of course, the person receiving it happens to be a mother who has lost her child.  How am I supposed to try, on purpose, to live in a world in which she doesn't exist?  Forget disloyalty, and all just doesn't even sound like a place I'd want to be.

Cory being forgotten is my biggest fear.  I don't mean to, but I drill family members for memories of her regularly.  I go up to complete strangers and show them her picture.  I can't help myself.

And Jacob, being ten when Cory much will he really remember about her and their life together?

Jacob and I rode to the post office the other day and back.  On the way, we got into a conversation about how Veterans are treated, and from there about the accusations being made to certain psychiatric hospitals in the news of late.  We talked about how horrible it is for people in authority to take advantage of people whose illnesses have put them in a very vulnerable place.

This, of course, led to conversations about when Cory was hospitalized, and how she was treated where she stayed.  And from there, the couple of times that Tim was hospitalized, which was something Jacob wasn't even aware of.

I asked Jacob if he remembered when Cory was sick.  He said yes, and ticked off a list of memories:  when she thought the cats were spies, when she thought there were cameras hidden all over the house, the clown in the basement.

I shook my head to all.  He was right.  There was all of that, and more.

Curious, I asked him how he remembered Cory being when she was sick- scared, sad, mean?

He answered back in the same order, "I remember her scared and sad, sometimes mean.  Remember that one time at grandma and grandpa's when she pushed me down the stairs?"

"Yes.  You remember that?  I wasn't sure if you did; you were so little."

"I remember."  he repeats, and then says nothing, eyes to his lap.

"You know Cory didn't mean to hurt you or ever hurt your feelings."

"I know."

I asked them if it was scary to him when Cory was sick.

He said this, "yeah, like when she saw people at the top of the stairs that weren't there or talked about the clown, I knew it wasn't real, but it was still creepy to hear her talk about it, because she was really really scared.  It made me scared."

Yes, that I had known.  Heck, it made me scared, and I'd been an adult.

We didn't say anything for a minute or two, just rode along, both us lost in our memories of that particular nightmare.

Before I could ask him if he remembered when Cory thought she could fly, he broke in with this,
"I was sad for her, Mom.  But now that I'm older, and I understand it better, I'm even more sad for her."

I grabbed his hand and held it till the next stoplight.

After we'd returned home and wrapped our evening, I asked him one last question.  It was this:
"Jake, do you remember Cory before she got sick?"

He responded reluctantly, "Not really.  I remember stuff like going to Florida a little bit.  But mainly I remember when she started getting sick and after.  You know, it was kind of a big deal."

I went to bed with this on my heart, hating that mental illness could overshadow a little boy's memories of his big sister.  But at some point, in the dark, my chin came up because Cory was never her illness, and bits of her fought to get through those voices and delusions every moment of every day.  She was strong that way.

Just like the accident for me, certain memories have been assigned a certain weight and significance in Jake's mind.  Sooner or later, all the moments that weren't filled with trauma will float to the top.  It might just take a little while.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


By the time you realize you are estranged from someone, you've been that way for quite some time.


And just because it's interesting, sometimes, to hear about other people's dreams.  And, I'm keeping a dream journal, now, so I remember more of my own, here's last night:

A Three Part Act Called Panic, Terror, and Horror

Jacob, after being reprimanded for trying to ride his bicycle on the roof of the house (don't ask), got upset, and climbed a tree.  He got scared and couldn't get down.  As my mom showed up out of nowhere (as she so often does in my dreams), looked on, I reached up my arms to catch him as he let go.  He hit his head on the ground, and upon hearing the snap, I immediately knew he'd broken his neck.  C-4?!!  C-5?!! 
I looked down at his eyes closed.  He was unresponsive.

Tim and i were driving somewhere- out of town, I would assume, since I was napping in the passenger seat.  I sat up, a little sweaty and disoriented to see Tim sleeping and snoring, with both hands tucked behind his head, the wheel free.  We began to veer off the road.

And last but not least, this little gem:
Cory's body was exhumed and transferred to another cemetery without my permission.  I showed up there demanding to see her plot.  The guy in charge finally caught on to what I was saying through my screaming and tears, and responded easily, "Oh!  The folks from Bedford?  Yeah, we got 'em.  They were doing some major changes to their layout there and had to displace a lot of plots.  People are not happy."

I just looked at him.  "WHERE IS SHE?"

"Now, calm down, ma'am...she's not been reinterred yet.  We can't plant till Spring.  She'll be just fine in the deep freeze."

I lunged forward and began beating this man on the chest with my fists.

What's Working?

Okay, and I have to add this.  I have a very smart and talented colleague who always begins planning interventions for children with this question, "What's working?  Is anything you've tried so far working at all?"

This is my nod to him.

I may be miserable.  I may be less than impeccably groomed.  But I am alive.  And I think I'm on my way out of the pit once again.  So what, if anything,  has helped?

I have been writing consistently, if not on this blog publicly, than privately in one of my many journals nearly every day of this nightmare.

And therefore, on the advice I imagine he would give, if he did grief counseling on the side (and trust me, I'd be the first to sign up and keep his book full) I'm gonna "stick with it."

Good Housekeeping

And the dull, average first step I've taken to get out of this pit of despair is to wash a load of my laundry.  Are you unimpressed?  I haven't done any of my laundry in about four-five weeks...and yes, I have that many clothes, that many pairs of underwear, but I am down to my last pair of clean socks.

Cory used to do this exact thing.  Only instead of finally caving to wash her clothes, she'd try her best to get me to buy her a few new things to stretch her options just a couple more days.  I used to get so aggravated with that child.  "How can you just let it pile up like that?  It's going to smell!"

At that time, I knew next to nothing about the places depression could take you, and the self-loathing that occurred when you finally lifted your head enough to see where you had ended up.

Now I do.  And I'd like to say this,  I'm so sorry, Cory.  I had no idea what you were dealing with.

 I think about how bad things got for her, how afraid she was every day, and I truly marvel that she ever got out of her pajamas, or even out of bed.

 Laundry?  Are you freaking kidding me?

I am grateful now to understand so much more about Cory's illness and symptoms, but I so wish I'd known a little more first hand about them back then, so I could have been a little more understanding.

Some things I'll never really be able to fully grasp.  The first time she was afraid to stay home alone while I dropped Jake off at school around the corner, I was puzzled.  A few minutes later, crouched down in the car like she was hiding from someone, she whispered, "I think he listens through the vents."

Gooseflesh.  Everywhere.  He?  He, who?  What is happening to my child?

"The squatter that lives in the basement."

Can you even imagine?  It breaks my heart all over again just remembering it.

By that point, Cory had stopped staying in her bedroom anyways, but I remember being so shocked when I went through it the first time she was hospitalized.  It made no sense to me- what she'd saved, and what she thought was garbage.  There was no organization whatsoever, not even the meager sort that a teenager puts forth to keep their privileges.

I thought about her room this morning, when I finally crawled out of my bed for the second time this weekend and took a really good look around my house.  Disaster would be a fair descriptor.  Dishes are clean, thanks to my husband, but the dust bunnies and general clutter have gradually claimed every surface.  Combine two depressed adults and a withdrawn, slightly depressed twelve year old, and you will create an immediate environment full of dark corners and disorganization.  I've had a set of broken blinds at one set of windows for probably three months.  Where's the logic?

The day after the accident, Cory's nurse from the Clozaril clinic said this, "She never stopped trying to have a good day."

I wish I could say the same about myself, but sometimes, I find, it's easier to just float.

Cory, I'm coming up for air, baby girl.  I don't have any socks left.