Good Grief (not Charlie Brown)

Grief. It’s something we try to avoid, whether in personal experience or conversation. (Okay, it’s true the exception exists of someone flaunting grief for attention but let’s leave those exploiting loss for their own personal gain to the DSM http://psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm) .  But when asked generally the response is “Fine”. Even if it is so not fine.

Which puts and keeps the grieving at bay, although grief itself, the noun the overpowering shadow that makes only black clothes an almost acceptable, although still somehow too cheerful choice, the go to in the morning. (No pun intended.) Can’t help wonder if it is because when so truly sad black provided a remedy- almost an attempt at color again. “Maybe, if I wear a color that absorbs all the colors in the rainbow I will no longer despise rainbows for existing” sort of train of thought. Until a friend, or someone else comments on the lack of color in your wardrobe choices. So you attempt a change that does not correspond with your feelings and is more accepting less Disney villain. (prior to remake ).  And you curtail the urge to bring up the person, pet or relationship at any opportunity. You try to believe that ‘smiling will make you WANT to smile” . And you force a smile, even though you wrote a thesis paper about how Men telling Women to Smile was a  form of manipulation to coerce women.

And yet we are all warned that if we do not properly grieve we can never move on. So when no one is around, or at least in close proximity you wonder. About real things. Not just how many Twix wrappers are in the trash ( side note: don’t buy Halloween candy early unless you plan on purchasing it again before Halloween. )  About things you know would cause your Mother AND Father grief.  You wonder how much silent and then quiet crying can happen before someone notices. Or worse. And ready excuses like ” I was cooking with onions, the Lemon tree slashed  my arm.”  Because after all, you are an adult. You don’t have a dog Snoopy (probably) and even if you did chances are he is not the red baron.

Instead you wonder why the sky taunts you with it’s ridiculously beautiful cloud formations?  The sun has the audacity to shine? Even the wind sounds like a teasing little sister laughing while you want to cry. The elements are not your only enemy though. How is it possible that Google isn’t changing their landing page to reflect your sadness.  Or Twitter has shut down from the tweets about your loss?

And then you try your very best to make your way through the day even though that day is forever changed because there are holes, gaping holes from where someone used to exist.  And I want to believe in time they don’t go away, but they do get less full of stings. Scars never truly fade.  Somehow though they change. They become conversation points that don’t start (although they might still end) in a flood of tears.  Although it’s been years the wound still feels fresh. I cannot say that I do not welcome the dimming of the sun into night with the prospect of going to sleep and hoping to dream a new dream with a different NOW.

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trouble comes in threes

“Trouble always comes in threes.” at least that is what Bella used to say.

Sort of funny expression from a woman with three children. When two bad things happened you knew you had to buckle down and wait for the next one. I was so distant though. In birth order that is. Well in other orders too, I suppose. Again, Bella had the perfect explanation for that one.

“ You each are like only children.” She went on to elaborate: this was because my older brother was not only the first born but the first born and ONLY son. And then my sister came along at nearly an Irish twin pace (Bella warned me- “don’t believe you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding that is a myth!” Didn’t want to let her know that nurses at UCSF also said as much after they also reminded my husband and I that teenagers should think about contraception. We met when we were teens (okay me) but didn’t get around to procreating until mid-twenties but hey who doesn’t enjoy being carded for cigarettes or wine when it is way past that birthdate. Sorry for the digression. Happens a lot round her and here so…)  And my sister was Deaf. So she won that ribbon.

And then in the frozen Alaska tundra. A place where Bella created an ice skating rink with a garden hose and a moose stared her down while washing dishes at the kitchen sink. The doctors informed Bella she was about as fertile as the soil (not so much). So about five months later I came knocking on her door, so to speak. Which meant she had to say no to cocktail parties (seriously she told me time and again about the parties she missed because she was sutured up and the horror story of her friend who was put on bed rest but could not say no to cocktail parties – it was the twiggy ear after all mini dresses and kohl eyeliner were all the rage. Oh wait, no I wasn’t born in the 60’s.)  and grew into a balloon.  All for me. The woman who proudly informed me and everyone else with a gin and tonic by her side and cigarette in her hand that she weighed 99 pounds when my Dad returned from Vietnam, she gained more than half that because of me. (Maybe I had big dreams?)

Can’t help but think my Dad had some resentment for me, or at least the doctors whose solution to a baby trying to escape the womb at 5 months is to sew up the Mom. However I have to believe Bella that when she said it was worth it , she completely meant it.  And truly she hated the cold so maybe it was not such a bad deal to be confined to a fluffy comforter during the oh so short sunny hours of winter in Alaska.  Besides my brother and sister were more than capable to find their way home with flashlights from school. Google it. It’s true.

Mommy of the Year goes to…

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Watching “Mommy Dearest” wasn’t my idea, but when my daughter suggested it I thought “this could be great.” Truthfully, I had never seen the movie. And apparently my nine year old knew more about it then I did (what do they do in school these days?) The metal hanger scene in my teenage understanding stood as a warning or at least had some kind of link to Roe vs Wade.  The real scene followed by plumes of cleaning powder saturating Faye Dunaway somehow seemed equally terrifying.  Maybe it was the overacting of the entire film, but I found myself turning away more often then during “World War Z”.  Next I think we will show the kids the “Great Santini” not because my brother is convinced it is about my father, but just for gender equality.

When asked “what would you like for Mother’s Day?’ (most likely on the Saturday evening when all the stores were closed pre-internet) my Mom routinely responded “Oh, every day is Mother’s Day.” And it wasn’t because she was against the whole commercialization of Mother’s Day or trying to make some political statement.  I think what she meant was it was just like every other day. The suggestion  “hey let’s take Mom to brunch!” was really more about us and less about her. And in reality it was pretty much the only thing you can do without planning, unless you sneak out to 7-11 and buy flowers after church.  Can’t imagine Father’s Day was something my Dad marked on his calendar, but my Mom did. And she planned and ensured that he received something from each oh the kids, Grandpa too.  Dad was not to be disturbed for any reason on that day.  Even the dog seemed to recognize this and he resisted his urge to bolt out the door per his Sunday solo jaunt around the neighborhood. Of course that could have had more to do with my brother not deliberately leaving the door open so the dog would run and we would miss church.

As I grew older I realized how obviously little effort we put into not so much celebrating Mother’s Day but acknowledging it. Or really Mom. Other holidays found Mom staying up late, or waking up early which she loathed, preparing to make sure we had a great whatever holiday it happened to be. And by great I truly mean exceptional.  Maybe it was because she was a teacher so she was used to decorating seasonally but she really went all out. And the planning often  started months in advance. Definitely that was the case for Christmas- for which she requested wish lists in August. Sometimes I think it might have been a distraction for her, especially when things were more challenging than not, to focus on an upcoming holiday or birthday.  Not trying say that putting candy in a bowl and changing color themes makes a great Mom.  The intention though, of trying to find a reason to celebrate or make that celebration big, was a goal for her. Because she really wanted everyone, all of us, to be happy.  I think when she said “every day is Mother’s Day” she meant it. Because good or bad everyday she was a Mom.

peter pandora

seri on chairbest

How is it possible that even now, in November, not metaphorically ( I think? I hope not?) November but actual November,  practically mid November at that, the same question surfaces…

What do I want to be when I grow up?  I am not the only one who asks this.  My son once asked me to ‘write down all of your skills’ in hopes of finding a job better suited for me, or at least one that did not make me, and consequently in the process everyone around me, miserable.  My daughter, when she was very, very wee, although still small for her age, not recently,  stated ‘Dad is an architect, when Mom grows up she is going to be a famous artist.’ She explained to her friends that right now my paintings ‘sometimes hang on the walls, but mostly they hang out in the back room’ As if they were congregating.  Maybe they were, all those creatures and upside down people wondering how they got here and how they could make their escape.  At first I thought this timeline wasn’t so bad.  But that was back when PBS Kids ruled, now Gilmore Girls has taken over.

Accordingly the real panic, or what should be panic if only it was not suffocated by the art of not getting into a vehicular collision with three to four kids and a dog present an average of three hours a day,  approaches. When a moment arises where the hustle of work and life pause : typically after a party (not ideal) or while opening a medical bill (less than ideal as well), it occurs to me that I better figure it out.  RIght about then my puppy starts to whine, or really nearly talk, if only I was intelligent enough to understand. And then I can’t help but tell him how much I love him. Usually this happens in a baby voice I never once employed with my kids. It’s like a cinnabon waft of a voice,  if I walked in on myself I would probably need something to avert the nausea.  If I am lucky one or both of the kids will join in on this cutie pie fest. I relinquish any spidery strand of former punk rock association.  Sometimes Courtney Love singing “I used to be punk, now I’m just stupid.” chimes in at times, but typically my babbling is so intense it drones it out.

Without deciding what to be, I think I already am.