Friday, March 9, 2012

Two Years Without Daddy: Intense Emotions

My Facebook post for today:

‎2 years…what to say today. I had few words back then. I still remember every intense emotion during the illness, everything the day you left and every intense emotion since. I know our life made me a survivor. Thank God. Today I feel tired, but like I’ll push forward. I’m sad, but grateful. I’m humbled, but accomplished. Last night I thought it can’t really have been 2 years. Then I heard, “Mom, I need help” and realized it was not Ariana, but Elijah calling. The baby you left with me is a child. And I’m a lot different than the woman I was that day. Still, Ariana feels you’d be proud and I agree with her. RIP

And I do remember every intense emotion. That is how I would describe me today. Everything I feel that I eluded to in my Facebook post, I intensely feel it. With foresight I had originally planned to leave town later today and spend the weekend away with the children. It wasn’t to do anything unique, just to get out of town. But then I had a week long training I had to attend for my job that required me to be at work at different hours than are normal for me. For one entire work week I had to be here by 9am and stay until 5pm. I generally arrive at work at 7:30 and leave at 3:30 so that I don’t have to pay for after school care and to give us the time we need to finish Ariana’s homework. This training though meant Ariana had to go to after school care and because the dates of the training (February 27th through March 2nd), covered 2 calendar months, it meant (due to the rules) I had to pay for 2 months of it to the tune of $160. There went the get-a-way money.

In the end it didn’t matter as Ariana has homework this weekend and so do I. We have our ups and downs with her challenges. Last week she took a make-up history quiz and got a perfect score on it. Still has a bit of test anxiety though.

Ariana’s Black History project was major. One page report, a visual display with pictures, and an oral presentation on the assigned person. I actually got physically ill (I think from something I ate) the night we were finishing it, but that allowed me to take a sick day the next day to attend her presentation. All of the children did well considering 1/3 of the elementary school was there to watch them. Could be a lot for an 8 year-old. With the sensory issue in her fingers the one page report was a challenge, but she met it. We did the research and I took notes, then from that she wrote the paper in her own hand. We used a cardboard tri-fold to display pictures and details of the person. You could get extra credit points if you added something to your project. She had famous singer Marian Anderson so I ordered her a formal dress off ebay to wear. Got her paper back and the A+ was a welcome sight, as was the note: I also liked your outfit…10 extra credit points.

I am so tired. Work pressure is unreal being a “new-old” employee. Between training new employees get and the obligations I already had, there aren’t enough hours in the day. February wore me out and it was my own fault, but I just could not deal with his clothes being in the house any longer. I was ready to toss them out the window some days. Now I do love Elijah’s room. I added a carpet that looks like the painting of the city on his wall. It’s 4’ x 5’ and he loves rolling his cars on the streets on it. He has been much better than he was this time last year. I remembered today that last year on this date he was pretty ill. He’s grown up so much. A friend often jokes he’ll be asking for the car keys soon and there are days he seems to be changing so fast, almost too fast. He now asks for what he wants to eat by name and requests his favorite TV channel by its name too.

I’ve no choice but to push forward and even though I’m exhausted, I actually feel like pushing. The ups and downs of the last 2 years combined with Thomas’ illness have done a lot to me, but also almost made me crazy defiant against whatever might try to stop me from getting what I want. And all I want is a good life really.

This morning I sent a text to each of their Godparents thanking them for being there for us and I cried all the way to work. In hindsight I probably should have taken the day off, but it is going to take every hour of time off I can earn for us to take our summer vacation. I didn’t sleep well last night and when I woke up it was raining, but I made myself come in.

I’m intensely humbled by the experience, but have a chest pounding sense of gratitude and accomplishment looking back on it all. My faith went through the wringer but whereas I had to just know God was with me before, I can actually feel Him now and I realize it’s because I’ve allowed myself to feel Him. I’d vent then give Him my worries about money. I’d rant then give Him my worries about the children. I’ve only recently in the last few months though handed Him the pieces of my broken heart and after having it what I call stomped on for years, it’s been a process. I have realized the damage all the years of internal screaming have done. The hardest part now is patience with the rebuilding process. It means really dealing with all of those intense emotions: the anger, the fear, the sadness, the regret, the emotions of everyone around me due to the deep footprint he left here. I remember having to pull the rug out from under everybody that day while the ground seemed to shake beneath my own feet. The out-cry of everyone’s shock and sadness still rings in my ears and my daughter’s quiet tears that went through my shirt to my heart still rest there.

And every day I look into the eyes of my children. The people for whom I would lay down my own life are here every day adding life to this thing, pushing me, tiring me. They are partially the reason there are days this thing brings me to my knees but they are also the ones loving me back to my feet. My son who still has the reality of this thing ahead of him is all about fun. The eyes he inherited from me are as bright as the smile he inherited from his father. My daughter faces this with grace though she is in her words outraged about it. She’s just glad I didn’t die, but she lists all the things her father won’t be here to do and wants to know when I’m going to do something about it. That is a subject for an entirely different piece of writing. I’ll always miss Thomas. I know that. But I realize that of grief, sadness, anger, regret, fear, and the rest, the greatest of these emotions is love. From love, I’ve paid a price I would not have thought I could afford, but the bank is not broken. Bent yes, but not broken.

Rest in Peace Thomas. We won't forget you.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

February, the Longest Short Month on the Calendar

I am grateful to have survived it.

Now, I didn’t plan it this way, it just happened. But I realized this was a hard month last year. Actually it pretty much kicked my behind. As soon as the month came in this year, I felt the grief monster approaching. Everybody knows Valentine’s Day is in February. Thomas and I were married six days later on February 20th, so a "would be" wedding anniversary was in the mix. So what did I do? I added to it. Brilliant I know. I moved Elijah into his room because I’d progressed through the mountain of clothing Thomas left enough to order his bed. It came on February 1st and I put it up that night.

Ariana and I divided up Thomas’ hats and neckties and gave them out to fathers I know. There were thirty hats even though I’d already given twenty away. There were seventy neckties even though my stepson had taken some home with him after the funeral. I gave a co-worker nineteen of his suits for her husband, who may be the only man in the world I could find who could wear Thomas' size in both a jacket and pants. It turned out this man was down to one suit and two neck ties because he had given his suits to men who had none.

These were his nicest suits and as I went through them I found a lot of them I brought home.Getting those made him feel good and I was so inept at doing that the last few years, I fell back on that a lot…getting him suits and other clothing. They all went. I kept a couple of dress shirts and sweatshirts, and an overcoat I bought. I’m keeping one suit, the one he was wearing in our last family picture. The one he was buried in is the one he said was his favorite.

So, I completed removal of all of the clothing last month. I found I was almost in desperation mode. Some people find the person’s clothes a source of comfort, and they were at first, but now not so much. I’m keeping some items, but the rest perhaps because of the sheer volume of it, started to feel as if they are closing in on me. He told me he wanted them donated, so I had no doubts about what I was doing. I’ve heard year one is “he’s dead” and year two is “he’s still dead”, and that is how it has been here. There are days I can’t believe it still. There are days I’m really relieved the suffering is over and others where I really want to smack the little stinker for dying on me.

It got real. Oh it’s definitely real. I put Elijah’s name on the door of the room formally known as the man cave and even though some of the clothes were still there, he slept in there for the better part of the first two nights after the bed was up. I put those boxes in a corner as far as I could, then went down to a closet, opened it and found eight more suits. Holy Cow! How did that happen? Yeah, gonna need another box. That will make 8 of U-Haul’s largest boxes. Final removal of the four boxes I had at the end was on February 9th, courtesy of the children's Godfather coming to the house to retrieve them while I was at work.

The month was again threatening to kick my behind, but I figured I’d kick back. Got on facebook and posted about what I was doing and how I remembered getting those suits was how I showed Thomas I was into him. I asked every couple to think back on what they do to show their spouse they’re into them and try to do it up starting this month. Because I know for a long time, I missed and still do miss having someone “into me” and Thomas wanted his struggle to help people. And when asked if I minded what we went through being used for ministry, I was fine with it. A lot of times we didn’t have the tools to make our relationship grow or if we did we couldn’t use them, but for people who do have them, I do truly hope they use them.

It's made more difficult being it is very close to the anniversary of his death. He died seventeen days after our tenth wedding anniversary, seventeen days after he gave me a last speech of hope that I tried unsuccessfully to take in at the moment. All we had left at the end was our friendship, but I still miss that. Reality has set in that he’s not coming back, but it is also setting in that I’m every bit the survivor he was pushing me (sometimes against my will) to be. February still kicked my behind, but not without a fight.

And that other anniversary? Yeah, it's tomorrow.