17 Days

I have to acknowledge this date of February 21st. Exactly a year ago was when my sister called me to tell me my Mom had stage IV pancreatic cancer. Mad Dog and I had returned from getting the boys haircuts and we were out on our lanai when I took the call. I dropped everything and was with my Mom and family by ten o’clock that night. When there was no one else around, my Mom and I stayed up late into the night and talked about life, love and death. She thanked me for being there and I said that I was honored to share this experience with her. It is something I will hold close to me for the rest of my life.

She was gone in 17 days.

I keep thinking of the memories that took place over those days. I comforted her, cared for her and loved her with everything I am. I helped her to be fearless and open to the possibility that what was happening could be beautiful. In very inexplicable ways, it was.

I still miss her every single day.

I love you, Mom.

The Color of Love

Today we are officially celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. All of my in-laws have safely arrived and we will have our big meal this afternoon. The boys are having the time of their lives with all their cousins (all boys, the wine will be flowing which goes without saying).

I’m not going to lie. I have been struggling with the holiday season as I’m sure you all might have guessed. It’s approaching nine months since my Mom passed and I have managed a good amount of healing but the major holidays bring my grief back into acute focus. This is because of her glaring absence and also the collected memories of holidays past shared with her.

I need to acknowledge Mad Dog’s patience with me during all of this. My intense (and often unpredictable) emotional state has been less than pleasant. I have to come to appreciate that glimmer of fear in his eyes anytime that he interacts with me. He knows even a simple question like, “What are you doing today?” could potentially set me off. Oh, grief, what a strange and complicated process! Thank you for putting up with me.

To honor my Mom today I am doing something out of character (no, I am not taking up pole dancing, sorry Mad Dog). I am painting my lips a bold red. My Mom was not a person to fuss with her outward appearance (regardless, she was extremely beautiful). She didn’t care to shop, dress-up or wear make-up. She was more concerned about college football scores or spending time outside. However, on the rare occasion we could get her to dress-up, she would apply her single tube of stately red lipstick. I hope that the lipsticked kiss I am sending towards the heavens reaches her today and that I find the one she’s sending me with at least some of the color and all of the love intact.

That’s My Boy

It is time for our annual termite inspection. The man responsible for this shows up unannounced at my doorstep. He tried to call but all he had on record was our previous, Wisconsin phone number. The boys are home and it will be an adventure for all of us.

The bug inspector is quite affable and is a Buckeye fan. He remembers that we are a home of Buckeyes and makes chit chat about the impending Ohio State vs. Michigan game (this is a big time rivalry). He also asks about my Mom. Seems the last time he was here inspecting, was the last time she was here, ever. I don’t want to get too personal but he keeps talking about her and eventually I have to disclose that she passed away in March. Full Speed is hanging on our every word.

“Grandma’s up in heaven,” he says. His eyes are wide and he comes up to me and grabs my hand. He tries to be such a little man sometimes.

The bug man says his apologies and comments on what a nice lady she was. He continues the job at hand. Once we get the all clear and payment is signed, I wish him a good day and hope that there isn’t a need for him to visit us until our next annual inspection.

As the day progresses into late afternoon, Full Speed drops a bit of a shocker on me.

“Mom, who is your Mommy going to be now that Grandma is up in heaven?”

I knew he had probably been thinking about that question since the bug man’s inquiry about my Mom. A lump forms in my throat because I miss my Mom and Full Speed’s obvious concern for me makes me feel proud and slightly in awe of him.

“Well, Full Speed, Grandma is still my Mom even though she is in heaven. She will always be my Mom and I am lucky to have her,” I say. I try to say it without breaking down. I mostly succeed.

He kind of accepts what I say but isn’t entirely convinced. I can see the wheels turning in his head. I imagine that when he’s a bit older, he may have a full-out campaign to find me a Mom. Get your resumes ready ladies; I imagine this kid is going to be a tough one to impress.

The Chainsaw Perspective

It’s Halloween and I’m not feeling it. I’m guessing all the holidays after losing someone you love don’t have the luster they normally have. I didn’t put out any Halloween decorations this year. On the plus side, clean up is already done.

It’s not like my Mom and I hung out together on Halloween or had lavish Halloween traditions. However, she always knew what our plans were and I always shared the experience with her through phone calls and pictures. I don’t like not being able to share those things with her. Therefore, I don’t like holidays that create these sharable moments particularly much this year.

Despite my personal agreement with myself on Halloween morning to be cranky and ambivalent, I started to have some fun. There’s something about putting a Transformers costume on a sweet-faced two year-old that seems so wrong it becomes right. The boys were so passionate about trick-or-treating and their costumes I started to get swept up in their enthusiasm.

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pa313466As our evening wound down and we came home, they got even more hyped up to hand out the remainder of our candy. Full Speed would go to the end of our driveway and announce, “Candy for sale, come right up and get your candy!” Then as the stream of costumed neighbors paraded up, he would race back to our green kiddie table and distribute the goods. I would sit back and watch as the two of them would give about fifty-seven pieces of candy to ONE princess (they really dug the princesses) and then I would have to step in and say ‘enough!’. It was pure joy to watch them have so much fun.

I don’t know why, but this cheered me even more. My neighbor dressed in flannel and a scary mask had a chainsaw (with no chain) that he would fire up out of the darkness as the trick-or-treaters approached. The kids were taken off guard and some were genuinely scared. Everyone involved had a good time especially when the kids realized there was no real danger.
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The moral of the story is that even if you plan on not having fun, life can surprise you. You will be shocked to find you are having a good time. Sometimes all you need is a man in a scary mask with a chainsaw to put things into perspective (well, you know what I mean).

The Force

Last night was date night. It was rather exceptional. Of course any time a stay-at-home Mom showers and puts on make-up makes an evening exceptional. This was exceptional for other reasons. Mad Dog took me to see Star Wars in Concert. I loved it.

The whole outing made me feel loved and special. Only someone who knows me well (like my husband) would know to take me to something like this. Even if the show was lame (which it was not) I felt the night was a success because he recognized my love of all things Star Wars. Thank you Mad Dog. Han Solo’s got nothing on you (except maybe the Millennium Falcon)!

I had a moment as the opening and highly recognizable crescendo of Star Wars theme music kicked off the show and my heart welled up and broke a little. I have these moments in my life that I off-handedly think, ‘can’t wait to tell my Mom about this’. The thought leaves my brain before my heart has a chance to remind it that she’s not here anymore. When it happens it knocks the wind out of my lungs and I miss her so much everything hurts.

A Mom knows you almost better than you know yourself (that is if you are lucky enough to have a kind and compassionate variety such as myself). She would have gotten a huge kick out of hearing about my Star Wars experience. She was there as I grew up and my sister and I watched Star Wars dozens of times. She respected the fact that Han Solo was my first love. She knew the force was strong in me and loved me anyway.

Star WarsI know on some level she sees my life and is part of it everyday. She knows I had a great time on my date and that the music of the trilogy I love so much moved me. Although she is no longer physically tangible to me, I can feel her with me in the deep pause between life’s moments. I haven’t totally accepted that she is gone. I have totally accepted that she knew me and loved me like only a mother could. And that is a force all unto its own.