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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Not Guilty

For reference as you read this post:

"Thanks for turning her into a retard, then letting her play in traffic...You protected her?  You **cking killed her, how do you live with yourself...rot in hell!!!"

It's interesting how things that hurt you can spur so much growth.  Yesterday, someone I used to know named me as my child's murderer, and not for the first time...but for the first time, instead of taking the ugly accusation on and grafting it closely onto my own absurd guilt, I just shook my head.  "Ridiculous."

And it was.  It was absolutely ridiculous.  I may always wish I'd made a different decision about Cory walking to the grocery store that day, but in no way did I intentionally place her in harm's way.  There was no foresight to what took place. I thought to myself of what an extremely cautious parent I'd been to Cory, and even more so after her illness struck- something my accuser would know had he been around to witness my parenting style.

Yeah, it was upsetting, but for once, it didn't break me down.  It seems I no longer succumb to that portion of the guilt, and good for me!

I had to wonder why my accuser would say such a terrible thing to me.  He must be hurting horribly, and he might be housing some blame or regrets of his own about Cory.  So to him, I say this:  Go ahead, blame me.  You can't break my heart.  It's full of my daughter, and she can't be hurt anymore by anything or anyone.

When I look back on Cory's life, I see myself in so many tiny moments, sharing her life and making it better.  I have many beautiful pictures of her, and while I treasure them, they aren't the only way I can conjure her.  I have so much more than a handful of staged snapshots to fall back on.  It makes me feel bad, and kind of sorry for this person who was so quick to lash out at me.

I was angry at first, wanting only to scream from the rooftop that I am no longer your whipping post and I won't carry your regrets for you!  I am not responsible for your choices!  I wanted to shame him- what would Cory think of what you said?  How would she look at you?

Then after mulling it over for a day or so, I realized that although it was not his intention, he has helped me with his nasty words...amazing how many lessons I've learned at this man's hands.    One, I have attempted to understand why he may have been so hurtful instead of simply retaliating, which means I might finally be growing up.

 And two, he has helped me externalize my own misguided guilt and begin to defend myself.  Do you understand what I mean?  I was dogging myself day in and day out for what happened, even though I had no control over it.  I was content to label myself Cory's killer, and hang my head for all of time.  But when someone else was the one accusing me, I had enough distance to look at it for what it was:  complete and total crap.

I also made this realization.  My one regret is letting Cory go to the store that day.  I have no others.  None.  Do you know how amazing that is? There were hard, hard choices to raising that amazing young woman, and I am proud of the ones I made.   I loved her fully; I knew her; she was treasured beyond belief.  I was an incredible mother and friend to her.

 I can be proud of that.  Scratch that, I AM proud of that.  There are, I'm sure, other parents out there who lose a child, and may have to deal with the what if's of allowing a simple walk to the store AND living the rest of their life regretting time not spent with their child or not being a consistent, positive presence in their life.

Call me whatever you want, my friend.  I know that's not me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Side Effects, Part Deux

The last time Tim and I put up a shelf together, he went to touch my shoulder and I noticed his hand was shaking...a lot.  I looked up and saw he was watching me notice his tremors.  Trying to keep things lighthearted, I quipped, "Dang, honey, am I that hot or is that your meds talking?"

He grinned, "Both."
No more was said that day.

But the next day, we went on a plannering coffee date... two broken hearted parents trying to keep their crap together with good quality fountain pens and lots of empty boxes on paper to fill.  As we sipped our coffee and traded stories of the week, he complained of how much he hates his handwriting now.  He pulled out his wallet and sifted through it.  He came up with a piece of paper and pushed it across the table.  "That's what my handwriting used to look like."  he said.

"Okay.  That looks like guys' handwriting."  I said.

He asked me for a post-it, which I peeled off the mountainous stack beside me (it was a plannering coffee date after all, a girl's gotta be prepared), and handed to him.

He scribbled for a minute or so and passed it back to me.  "That's since I've been taking the Lithium."

I studied them side by side.  Indeed, his handwriting had become an unsteady scrawl that was practically illegible.  It was much as Cory's had become.  I felt a pang in my heart for Tim, just as I had for my girl, and wondered how many people realized the price they paid to be well.  I looked up at his face, so like Jake's in that moment, waiting to be told it wasn't that bad.

"Well, you know, doctors are notorious for having messy handwriting..."

He stopped me.  "It's okay.  I'm getting used to it, but it kinda sucks.  It's like losing a part of yourself.  And if I get really busy at work, or stressed, my hands start shaking like crazy.  Sometimes I'm afraid people think I'm a junkie or something."

I remembered how self-conscious Cory had been when her hands shook, and posed a question to my husband.
"Is it worth it?  The meds, I mean?"

He raised an eyebrow.  "You mean all the side effects?"

I nodded.

"Umm...duh!"  he answered.  "If I wasn't on meds, I'd just be running around crazy."

The thought of Tim, who suffers from type II of Bipolar Disorder, running a muck about town gave me pause.  He suffers mostly from horrible bouts of depression, and can become hypo-manic, but full blown mania was something I'd never seen in him.
  He went on, "I know I wouldn't be working.  My temper would've gotten me fired a bunch by now.  I might be in trouble with the law for making stupid, impulse decisions.  And I wouldn't have a family, that's for sure.  Who'd wanna live with me not on meds?"

I giggled, knowing he was completely right.  Irritable is not the word for what he used to be, unmedicated.

"So overall, you think it's worth it?"  I asked.

"It's absolutely worth it.  Of course.  I have you guys.  And you're worth whatever it takes."

That's one man's take on it.  And for him, I am grateful.

Those Pearls, Though...

It still amazes me that Cory's treasured strand of pearls remained intact.  All the other jewelry she was wearing on the day she died fell apart, and scattered from the impact.  Her shoes, still tied when returned to me, mind you, were forced off her feet- one landed at one end of the scene and one at the other.  But those pearls...

I wore them when I spoke at Western Michigan University last week, and I could feel her so close to me I could almost touch her.  I think now of all she went through in her short life, and I realize those pearls are symbolic of something inside her that was too strong to be broken, no matter what came her way.  They stood, intact, beautiful and blameless.  So did she.

If this young woman, this girl, this child who turned into an adult right before my very eyes came from me, and if I helped shape her into who and what she was when she died, then it bears thinking that some of that strength might be in me, as well.

I will wear her pearls while I try to find it.

I love you, Cory, and there's not a moment that goes by that I don't ache for you.  But I'll try to smile while I do it.  It's what you would've done in my place.  Sweet girl.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Carpentry While Grieving

Just my take...

when a couple loses a child, the man wants to put up shelves right away.  It's familiar, it's comforting, it's life affirming, and they need to feel something.
Women have absolutely no interest, whatsoever, in putting up shelves, soon after the loss of a child, and are absolutely disgusted that their spouse could even think of redecorating at such a time.
In fact, I would imagine that most women think they will never want to put up shelves ever again.  Evenutally, however, the urge does return, if for no other reason than you are so miserable you will try literally ANYTHING to get some relief from your pain.
About the time, I decided I was ready to hang a shelf with my husband again, I discovered he was in the depths of a severe depressive episode.  I couldn't get that man to hang a shelf if my life depended on it.  It didn't matter if I flattered, cajoled, flirted, or demanded, he was not in the mood for carpentry.
This was particularly unfortunate because our marriage was already failing miserably.  We had started out side by side, standing over Cory's casket, and we had ended up seemingly continents away.  Not only we were not grieving in tandem- a virtual impossibility- but his Bipolar Disorder had descended upon our household and snatched up my caring and gentle husband without a backward glance.  I couldn't get him to talk to me, let alone touch me.  He was lost to his favorite comfort in the world:  sleep.

This episode of his lasted for the better part of a year.  By the time he even raised his head, I was so exhausted, and starved for friendship, love, and affection, I was only concentrating on how I could afford to divorce him.

I remember a close friend asking me if he ever came out of it, and actually wanted to put up a set of shelves with me, would I even want to, or was I so angry from all the months of rejection, that I would tell him to take a flying leap?

I could only chuckle.  A lonely vagina holds no grudges.


****Spoiler Alert****  If you have any interest in watching The Purge:  Anarchy, you may not want to read this post.

So you remember how I told you I've become a much more permissive and inconsistent parent since Cory's death?  Yeah, I totally let Jacob go to rated R movie with me last week.  We'd seen The Purge together last year, and the sequel was out.  Wrong or right, that boy has me completely under his spell, and a bid from him for us to spend time together cannot be denied.

So the movie itself was pretty good for a sequel.  There was a moral question of class that ran behind all the violence, woven into the basis of a social experiment:  what would happen if you held everything in, but one day a year, could act out however you wished, with no consequences?  Would this reduce crimes of passion?  Who would purge?  Who would hole up in their home, behind boards and bars, just waiting it out?

The first movie showed the annual event taking place from the perspective of a family waiting in their home for it to pass.  The sequel asked what might happen if you were caught out on the streets after the siren had gone off?  An unlikely hero appeared in the sequel, who tried to help those unfortunate souls who found themselves moving targets.  He seemed to be one of those more realistic blends of hero:  some good and some evil- after all, what exactly what his business on the streets this particular night?  The viewer gradually gathered that he meant to purge and purge mightily at someone who had wronged him.  He was far from unstable, as he showed compassion and selflessness over and over again, picking up a band of frightened people along his way.  He protected them, even when they slowed his errand, even when they put him in danger.  I found this angle very thought provoking, as it has been my experience that people seldom come in moral colors of black or white, but every variance of gray that you can imagine.

Jake and I had heartily enjoyed the movie, jumping at the scary bits and giggling nervously, right up until the last ten minutes or so.

Here's what happened:

There was five minutes left of the purge.  A woman and her daughter crouched in the back of the hero's car as he rolled up to a beautiful suburban home, and gathered his weapons.  His passengers begged him not to do it, murder is wrong no matter what the situation.  Finally one them cried, "Why do you have to purge?"

He covered his face, and spoke from behind his hands.  He told them that one year ago to the day, his son, who'd been walking home from school, had been struck and killed by a car.  The driver did no time, simply went back to his life while he, the father, descended into a hell he had never even imagined.

My intake of breath was matched by Jake's.

We watched, dumbstruck, as the hero of the movie forced his way into that house, pulled the driver, still sleeping from his bed, and held a knife to his throat, tears streaming down his dirty face as he screamed full into the startled man's face, "You stole my son!  You took him from me!  And you're gonna pay!"

Goosebumps broke out all over my body.  Tears streamed down my own face as I launched myself into this situation.  Hazily, I could feel Jake's small hand grasping for mine, as the hero brandished the weapon above the driver, completely overtaken by his grief.  God help me, but I wanted to do this soooo badly.

Another five minutes later, the movie ended.  I won't completely spoil it for you by telling you what happened to the hero and the driver.  Instead, I'll tell you what happened to Jake and I.

We stumbled out of that movie theater, blinking owlishly in the bright lights, completely unnerved by the unexpected personal turn of the plot.  In the car, we kept exclaiming how we couldn't believe the coincidence.  On the way home, I picked Jake's brain.

"Jacob, what do you think about the hero guy wanting revenge?  Is that wrong or right?  What do you think?"  I asked.

Jacob answered immediately.  "Fifty-fifty."

"Tell me more."  I said.

"Well, first of all, it's just wrong because it's against the law, but if you take the law out of it, like on that movie..."  he paused, thinking.

I waited, so curious to what he would say.

"Half of you would want revenge, and that's understandable.  That guy in the movie got off with no consequences."  He turned to me, "So did the driver who killed Cory."

I nodded.

"And it's just not fair.  She should've had some consequence.  What if it happened again to someone else?"  he asked reasonably.

"But..." he trailed off.

"But?"  I prodded.

"But I don't think killing someone who wronged you would ever give you what you really wanted.  Like for us, all we want is Cory back."

How old is this child?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Miss...Jacob?

An incredible thing happened the last time Jacob spent the night at a friend's.

I missed him.

I missed him, not because the house was quiet without him now that Cory is gone, but in his own right for no other reason than he is fabulous company.  Full stop.

I am ashamed to say I haven't been able to miss him all on his own without my grief for his sister bleeding over into it since she died.  Being able to recognize this feeling and name it was so much like coming up from anesthesia after a surgery.  It was murky and fleeting at first, but the consciousness grew stronger and the focus sharper over degrees as time went on.  And isn't that what grief does...completely immobilize you for a time?

I am grateful to have woken up at last, and I can only hope not too much damage has been done to my boy in the meantime.

You see, he is the most amazing little man.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Perspective Taking

The other day, I had the worst migraine.  To add insult to injury, it snuck up on me while I was having one of the best days I've had since I lost my Cory Girl.  The pain was debilitating.  I called my mother which is what I generally do when I feel the end is near.  She suggested, quite calmly, that I eat something and take some pain reliever.

Picture me in a sleep tee and boxers, feeling my way through my house with one hand up to shield my right eye, which had become to feel as if it would soon morph into a jelly-like fluid, and simply leak out of my eye socket.  I made it to the kitchen in this fashion, blindly felt for a yogurt in my fridge, and began the search for a spoon.  I could not see six inches in front of me, as paralyzing bolts of pain were shooting through my brain and eye by turns.  This migraine had gotten so bad, it had made its way into my teeth and jaw, as well.  I could not, by feel, locate a spoon in my silverware drawer, and instead of checking my dish drainer- normally a two second task- I just gave up and fumbled a fork out instead.

I sat eating yogurt with a fork, thinking, which probably did my migraine no good at all.

But here's what I thought about:

This was some of the worst physical pain I had experienced, perhaps rivaled only by childbirth and the time I had to visit the e.r. because I couldn't poop.  And even though, I was hurting so badly, I felt better in my mind that I had for quite some time.  See, my depression had lifted in the last couple of days, and I was, for the first time I could remember in awhile, glad to be alive.

There are all sorts of pain in this world.  I, myself, would rather endure physical pain than emotional pain any day of the week.  As I came to this conclusion, I thought of the three people I have watched suffer intensely with mental health concerns- depression, anxiety, even psychosis.   How in the world did they even function?

Can't we remember this the next time we cross paths with someone who is struggling in this way?  Put ourselves in their shoes for just a moment?  Every task for them can be unbelievably difficult.  Cut them some slack, huh?

  No wonder once and awhile, they eat their yogurt with a fork.