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Friday, February 28, 2014

Hope Eternal

It’s been one month today since Mom passed away. Oddly, I haven’t yet slowed down to grieve her passing. My main priority has been the emotional well being of my Dad; if that makes me a “Hover Daughter” than so be it. I don’t have the heart to carry on with my life as it nothing has changed in his. I don’t…. and I won’t… End of discussion! I bopped through the office the other morning in pretty good spirits, thinking all was right with the world, when suddenly it wasn’t. I felt my throat begin to constrict, my breathing became labored and tears filled my eyes. I was teetering on the edge of one of the things I hate the most…. A panic attack. The waves of panic continued through the morning until after lunch but thankfully without a complete meltdown. I know my grief is catching up with me and its only a matter of time before the nature of things insist I grieve whether I feel like I have the time and space to grieve or not; it’s a grief thing, which is a life thing, which is to be expected.  When my kids were wee ones and their emotions ran wild, I used to tell them every emotion (anger, frustration, as well as joy and sorrow) is a gift from God. Emotion gives ours our lives texture, contrast and dimension. Without emotions life would be a canvass void of color. During my walks this fall I enjoyed watching the changing of the season up close and personal. As the leaves began to slowly fade and drop to the floor of the woods, the graying bark stood out in extreme contrast to the evergreen background. As I walked through the woods I became excited about what I saw. Although the gray indicated a decline or even death, in the dormant state there was still hope. I knew that physically and spiritually, spring would arrive and green buds would burst from the graying bark bringing forth new life. Death is filled with hope! It’s true in nature and  more so in the spiritual sense…. Death – is – filled – with – hope!!!!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

She Made the Dress

This weekend I had the pleasure of playing Aunt JacJac to my best friend’s daughter. The three of us went to Dallas “Prom Dress Shopping”.  I was so excited to have the chance to spend the day with them; getting to shop was just the cherry on the top.  She had one destination in mind, her mother and I had several because shopping and shopping should always be balanced with eating and eating really good stuff. We started at 9 a.m. and were determined to make the day all about her. The drive to Dallas was quick and easy as unbridled excitement hung in the air. I was excited, but since I remember shopping with my teenage girl, my excitement was tempered
by experience.  In this case the stress wasn’t on my shoulders. My job was to stay calm and referee if needed…. When shopping with a teenager and her mom a referee is ALWAYS a good idea. When I was in high school, prom wasn’t a big deal to me. I saw a dress in a store window at the mall where I worked. I put the dress in lay-away and later when I found my friend had unintentionally bought the same dress, we were both tickled pink in a Scarlett O’Hara kind of way. Things certainly have changed.The store was “Whatchamacallit”. It looked benign enough on the outside, but inside a new story began to unfold. When I say I was shocked when I walked in, I’m not exaggerating one tiny bit. It was like a 1000 cotton candy blowers exploded at the same time. The acres of dress racks were so tightly packed, you literally had to maneuver between them by doing the breast stroke as if swimming in a pool. I did not see one small child and I know why; if a child got lost beneath the sea of tulle, sequins and beads, they would never be found. My heart broke a million times Saturday as I saw my little princess become overwhelmed with the magnitude of the decision, the frustration of the process and the intense heat inside the dressing room. When I finally detected a meltdown was close, I suggested we all take a break, go eat something magnificent and give her have a chance to process her choices. We ate lunch at PF Chang’s and then back into the battle we went. At the end of the day we sat on the couch outside the dressing rooms. Actually, I think I had more or less melted into the couch itself; if we looked anything like we felt,then we looked like we had been dragged behind wild horses for several miles in the dry dusty dessert. A woman with her daughter in tow, walked up to the couch and asked… “May I ask you what the best way to attack this store is? What’s the secret?” In all seriousness I told her straight up…. “ With Xanax and a bottle of wine!” Yes, I was exhausted! I have no idea what time we finally walked out of the store, but the fact we were on a first name basis with most of the personnel should give you a good idea as to the number of hours we were there. I do know the three of us were physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Oh how I wish she could see herself through my eyes. True beauty begins inside and bubbles its way outward, it believes in you regardless of the direction society trends and it walks to the beat of an inner drum with no regrets and no hesitation… She looked amazing in every single dress she tried on. She is simply a stunningly beautiful girl. Although the final selection was beautiful, and I loved seeing the smile on her face, the simple truth is… She made the dress, the dress didn’t make her. XOXOXO my Sweet One. Thank you for the amazing memory and the oh so many laughs. Your Aunt JacJac couldn’t be more proud.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Silence of Grief

Last weekend we went home for my birthday. Saturday morning I woke up in my bed; it was a good feeling. I had 6 weeks of dust covering my furniture and mile of paw prints (the size of a small horse) covering my hardwood floors. In addition to my disorder, I had mounds of clothes that had been hurriedly packed and moved, along with odds and ends from Mom’s front bedroom when the hospital bed was brought.  The last six weeks had been a whirlwind of activity and endless tasks that had to be taken care of. Dad isn’t one to ask for help, so when he does you know he’s in desperate need. I had thank you cards to write, contributions that needed to be acknowledged, plants to tend (we all know how handy I am with plants), and dishes to return.  These are things Dad didn’t feel like he could cope with and I was more than willing to handle. My house with its dust and prints had been put on indefinite hold; such is the nature of love. Saturday was the first chance I had without obligations or the need to keep up appearances. My brother and his wife were coming down to go shooting with my Dad and my husband…. I was alone! As much as I fussed and cried about having an empty nest, I really had gotten used to being my own boss and keeping my own hours and I was looking forward to several hours of doing my own thing. As it turned out, doing my own thing consisted of cleaning and sorting and very little of just sitting and reflecting. Sitting and reflecting wasn’t something I was ready for, so I dove in head first into cleaning my house. I can’t say I got it all done, but I made some progress and it felt great to focus on something else for a while. The time passed too quickly leaving me with things I didn’t get a chance to check off like a walk and cleaning the car, but I’ll have other “doing my own thing” days…. Eventually.  

When we left Dad’s Friday, I didn’t pack anything except what I needed for that night. Every night I go straight to his house when I get off work and Mike comes when he gets off. Dad has dinner waiting for us. With the empty nest, we’d gotten used to eating… Whenever, but we’ll both admit, it’s nice to have dinner on the table when we get home. We eat as a family, clean the kitchen together then retire to the family room for TV, reading the paper and playing fetch with Dad’s funny as heck Corgi (that little stinker will keep you on your toes). When Dad gets ready for bed, I’ll go into my bedroom, throw a few more things of mine in a bag and bid him good night. It’s been easier for him to see my things slowly disappear, then to have everything packed up and move out in one sudden change. Coffee with Mom was one of his favorite time of day, so I get up a little earlier in the mornings and stop by his house for coffee before heading to work. I know it’s not the same, but it makes me feel better and I hope it makes him feel better too. When I get there, he has my coffee mug out and has it filled with hot water so my coffee doesn’t turn cold. That’s the kind of guy he is.  Although he’s usually chatty, he’s become very quiet. Sometimes we’ll sit and allow the silence to cover us like a blanket; silence can be good. “The days sure are long with no one to take care of.” Daddy said during morning coffee. All I could say was… “I know Daddy, I know.” And the silence of grief covered us again.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love With No Regrets

This time last year I was celebrating my birthday in style... Deep blue sea style.  I snorkeled, played in the sand and soaked in the sweet salt air far away from black balloons and older than dirt jokes. IT-WAS-WONDERFUL.  Today I’m wishin I could rewind the hands of time for an instant replay and to be granted a couple of do-overs that life doesn’t usually afford. I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. I remember going to the stores in February as a wee one and being mesmerized by the stuffed bears, cards, candy and decorations. My Momma would tell me that the stores brought Valentine stuff in so everyone could celebrate my birthday. There you go! That’s where the “It’s all about me” mentality originated.   People who have birthdays around Christmas and New Year’s feel cheated, but I love having my birthday on Valentine’s Day. Even if I do say so myself, my birthday fits me perfectly. All the romantic sentiments and decorations couldn’t be more Jackie-ish.  The fact that it’s a day of celebrating love, friendship and all things sweet, is just an added bonus. I’d like to scoop all of my friends and family up in a great big stuffed bear hug and wish each and everyone of you a Happy Valentine’s Day. Go out and LOVE with no regrets.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Daddy's Girl

My husband and I walked into the house a little after 5. I was exhausted for no apparent reason. Work had been the same as usual I kept busy, but not particularly entertained; spreadsheets are funny like that. Daddy looked like he felt the same… Shoulders slumped, his happy cheeks unusually somber. I asked how his day had been and in an uncharacteristically honest way, he said he had been pretty blah. My heart ached for him. We ate dinner and watched the Olympics before I excused myself to a bubble bath. I lay in Momma’s deep tub and pondered the best solution for everyone. Prior to Mom’s death, Daddy asked us to move in to help care for her. When the time came, it wasn’t a hard decision to make. The week of the funeral, being home with him made more sense than moving back home, especially when he asked me not to. The three of us have settled into a comfortable routine, coffee with Daddy before I get ready for work, dinner and T.V. in the evening and quiet time with my husband when Daddy goes to bed @ 8. He asked me to give him two weeks before I moved out and in a couple of days those two weeks will be up. The first week after her death, he ran from his grief at a break neck pace. He kept busy and wore himself out. This week his energy seems to have drained from him and I know he’s fighting the battle of facing a reality that bites. I have kept my shadows at bay by keeping busy at work and anchoring in the safe harbor of home where I know he’ll be okay as long as he knows he isn’t alone. A tight knot forms in my stomach each time I realize the move must be made and when it is, we won’t be able to live in denial any longer. I can hear my two men talking about the Olympic skiing as I lay on the other side of the door as I blog my thoughts and fears. I’ve enjoyed the last couple of weeks, in spite of the circumstances. I’ve enjoyed thinking I could “fix” what’s broken and I’ve enjoyed being the Daddy’s girl I haven’t been in years. They say time heals all wounds, but losing the love of your life after 57 years isn’t a wound, it’s a gaping hole that’s deeper and wider than the band aide of time can cover. That’s a problem even a Daddy’s girl can’t fix.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Life Written in Shorthand

I’ve felt kind of manic today…. Sleep deprivation and too much Plexus Slim will do that to you. Oddly enough, I haven’t written in my journal since January 21st. I’ve picked it up several times, only to solemnly put it down. I can’t seem to bring myself to journal the last few weeks, but I haven’t had a problem blogging; I find that odd. It’s probably a Mother issue (isn’t everything?). I’ve kept a journal since I was really young. When I was in high school, I had a sense that Mom would read my journal, so I would boobie trap it. I'd lay it on my night stand and place the pen in a certain direction so I’d know if she’d been snooping. I wasn’t prone to rebellion, but if I had a certain something that I didn’t want Mom to know, I’d journal that portion in shorthand, mainly just to drive her nuts. After all, isn’t that what being a daughter is all about.  Life written in shorthand has got to be more interesting the life written in longhand, or so I thought 35 years ago.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Eye of the Needle

It was 5 a.m. when my husband whispered.... "What's plan B?" To which I answered.... "To sleep in and not worry about it."  We were supposed to hit the road to OKC to help my daughter continue the hazmat-like cleaning. I was surprised to wake up to inches (INCHES) of snow.  Oh my! After breakfast I put on my ski gear and headed for my favorite place.... The woods. The streets were abandoned as most churches had cancelled services. When I got to the trail, everything was shrouded in fluffy snow. The cedar trees looked as if the snow had been painted onthem, they were picture perfect. As I walked the trail, my mind wondered over the events of the week. Friday, after several weeks of agony, my Mom went home to her Lord. I was keenly aware that my husband and friends had kept a close eye on me, not knowing fully how I would react to the stress of caring for her, along with the loss and exhaustion. Since the TBI 4 years ago, I can be unpredictable when under stress. Although, I feel whole now, I think they thought the TBI would poke it’s ugly little head out.  I feel like I handled it as well as I would have pre-TBI. I was thinking about the kindness of others who brought meals, offered words of 
encouragement, or just let me have mini meltdowns in their presence.
One of the most difficult things to do, is to look in the eyes of a friend who wants desperately to rescue you from your pain, but knowing there is nothing that can “fix” one of those life events we all, at some time, have to go through. As I walked the snowy trail, I mentioned to God that I felt like I had been pulled through the eye of a needle.  Sometimes I get the sense, God gets a kick out of our humanness…. And sometimes I think he’d like to pinch our little heads off. I felt his presence on the snowy trail and I’m almost sure he smiled at my analogy.  He assured me that I had been pulled through the eye of the needle, because that’s what he does when the thread he is using is weak….. He pulls the thread through the eye of the needle which causes it to double on the other side. 
With the thread doubled, he can mend a seam or a tear and know it will hold because the thread is twice as strong as it was before it went through the eye. Does that make sense to anyone but me? I’m not as weak and as fragile as I have been the last few years; I’ve healed and I’ve grown, because I’ve been pulled through to the other side and I’m grateful for the gift of having made the journey and the memories. As I drove home I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that just after Mom went to heaven, we got several inches of snow. I knew it wouldn’t take her long to start taking charge of something. I’m pretty sure she’s the new Snow Director in heaven and she knew just the thing to make me smile.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Some Elbow Grease Required

We snuggled under last night after a day of cleaning and painting. We took Daddy along to help my daughter move from her apartment into a house owned by my Son. The last few years the house had been rented by college boys. My daughter is military OCD and without going into great detail, the condition of the house was not vacated with her standard of clean. When I called to see how the walk through had gone, my son said.... "Well, not too bad, she just has a blank look on her face. I hung up the phone and told my Dad... "the blank look comes just prior to a total meltdown. Seconds later my cell phone rang and I
answered it to sobs of hysteria on the other end. Without her saying a word, I assured her there wasn't anything so dirty that it couldn't be cleaned and told her the rescue team was just minutes away.  When we got to the house, the curb was piled with loads of stuff that had been left behind. We took a deep breath, donned our rubber gloves and dived in. She was out getting supplies. When she pulled up I went out to greet her. She opened the door and started to apologize.... "I feel so bad that after the week you've had, you're here helping me. I assured her we were fine. Papa never sits still anyway,  if he wasn't cleaning at her house, he would be cleaning at his house so basically we're doing the same thing just in a different location. "Remember" I assured her..."don't look at how things are, look at how they can be." Everything will eventually be in tip top ship shape, it will just take a lot of elbow grease and a positive attitude.