Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Only Parent...

Parenting is hard...ask anyone who is a parent.  24/7/365.  I truly think that it is a team sport by design.  You have your spouse to laugh with, cry with and tag team. 

Somehow that gets skewed unfairly when you are widowed.  There isn't anyone there to tell you to take a break, to laugh with, giggle with or remember with.   You can't pass back and forth the "bad guy" jobs....eat your veggies, stop throwing your peas, use your inside voice, do your homework...etc, etc, etc. 

But parenting is fun.  It is my most favorite thing about my life.  I love being a mom.  I love reading with munchkin.   He reminds me to enjoy every day by showing me his awe and wonder in the world around him.   Focusing on his needs helps me to keep everything in perspective.  To not dwell on the losses that we have endured. 

For the most part, we do great.   We work together as a family and we rock!  We have our routines, we have our rules and it works. 

Then there are other times....like taking him to the doctor and him having to get blood drawn.  Toss in a phlebotomist who was not used to kids and needed me to hold him down while she took 20 minutes to stick him and draw the blood (thankfully she did it in one stick!!) but I am left as the ONLY parent having to hold down my terrified screaming little boy.  SO. NOT. FAIR.  I am the MOMMY.  I am his ONLY PARENT--I always have to be the "bad guy" and there is no one there to tell me that it will be ok. 

I put a smile on my face and wipe his tears, kiss his nose and snuggle-make sure he gets a Spiderman bandaid and swallow my own tears.   Knowing that tomorrow all will be forgiven and we will have a new day to explore and enjoy.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Circle of Life

Almost two and a half years ago, Munchkin started begging for a fish.  I held out, stalled, stammered and after much research I finally gave in.

After much debate and discussion, I settled on a Beta, he picked out a pretty blue one and named him FISHY. 

For the past 18 months, munchkin has greeted him good morning, kissed him good night, sang to him, fed him, read to him, redecorated his fish tank, helped change filter.   FISHY would recognize his voice and swim around frantically excited to hear him.   Munchkin thought that was the coolest thing, especially since he wouldn't respond to me.   Munchkin's explanation, "mommy, he hasn't learned that you have to listen to your mommy yet, we will work on it and I am sure FISHY will love you like he loves me!" 

He announced that since he can't have a baby sister that FISHY would be his brother.  Everyone who came to our apartment or as Munchkin calls it "repartment house" was introduced to his brother. 

About 2 weeks ago, FISHY started looking a little sick, kinda just laying on his plants, not really eating....I knew in my heart that FISHY had just about lived out his life.   I seriously debated a bait and switch.  However, I figured out that Munchkin, as observant as he is, would have discovered the deception so I decided to let it run its course and prepped myself for the "circle of life" conversation. 

The other day it happened, we went out for the day, had a fantastic day downtown.  Picked up a new story book that he proceeded to read to me on the train and we simply had fun.  When we got home, Munchkin wanted to read to FISHY.   When he went to his tank to read to him, he was lifeless on the bottom of the tank.  Munchkin started singing to him, FISHY didn't move.  Munchkin started screaming.   No not screaming, shrieking.   "MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!! FISHY is DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"   Keep in mind, that I didn't voice any of my suspicions to him. 

The tears started rolling.  The wailing began in earnest.  I scooped up my little man and just held him.   I investigated FISHY and confirmed the sad news. 


OH my!  It hurt me so deeply to see him so hurt.  It hurts me to know that at 5 years old, that he understands loss in such a deep and personal way that many adults have yet to come to terms with.   I was speechless.  How do you give your child answers that you don't have yourself?

In the end, I decided that hugs, kisses and listening were my best option.   I told him that we would send FISHY's body to the sea by flushing him.   BIG MISTAKE! "MOMMY! A SHARK WILL EAT HIM!!!!!!!!" oh my, oh my, thanks DISNEY!

He asked me to say good bye to FISHY, so I took the tank and set it on the floor in front of him.   He knelt on his knees over the tank with tears streaming down his cheeks and big messy sobs making his entire body quiver.  I could do nothing but sit next to him and silently pray. For what seemed like forever he sat and spoke to FISHY's body--
"I love you FISHY"
"you are an awesome friend FISHY"
"I miss you FISHY, GOD please send FISHY back!"
" FISHY can you please say hi to my Daddy in heaven and be his friend?"
"FISHY, will you play with my puppies in heaven and be nice to my Daddy"
"FISHY I hope you turn into a real human brother in heaven and give my Daddy a kiss, maybe play catch with him too"

When he was done sobbing and saying goodbye, we said a prayer.  He asked some more questions about Daddy and told me that he knew Daddy would take care of FISHY.  

While I was very proud of myself for not getting hysterical, I did have the tears on my cheeks and I was drained. 

We ended up cuddling up and watching Scooby Doo together.  

Sometimes, just sometimes, it is best to realize that there is nothing that we can do to change things and all we can do is cling to each other.  

In the past few days, we have only had a few questions and comments.   He made sure to tell Papa and Uncle Joe that FISHY is in heaven with Daddy.  It is still striking to me how he knew without prompting that FISHY was in heaven.  I am not sure if I should be glad that he understands or sad that he has had the opportunity to learn about loss so early.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Little Kisses....

Driving to work this morning, I was admiring the beautiful fall colors.  The Maples turn a beautiful crimson.  The elms are yellow, there is very little green left.  The sun was peeking through the clouds and making the leaves glisten.  GORGEOUS!  Fall is one of my favorite times of year.  I love that the seasons change.   The change of seasons is one of the things that I missed most living in Texas. 

As I was admiring everything, my mind drifted to Robert.  As that happened a song I had never heard came on to the radio and the lyrics struck me. 

Don’t let the night become the day
Don’t take the darkness to the grave
I know pain is just a place
The will has been broken
Don’t let the fear become the hate
Don’t take the sadness to the grave
I know the fight is on the way
When the sides have been chosen

Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown
Open up your eyes
Keep your eyes open
So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me to
Keep your eyes open, my love
So show me your fire, show me your heart
You know I’ll never let you fall apart if you
Keep your eyes open, my love
NEED TO BREATHE-Keep Your Eyes Open
Hearing this was like hearing someone speak to my soul.  Music is very much like that.  We used to always communicate with music.  We were great at talking but it was not unusual for us to find some obscure lyrics and play or sing songs to each other.  We could spend hours, literally hours doing this, singing, dancing, playing music and generally just plain old being in love.   Man do I miss that! But as I heard the lyrics plain and clear, it was like a little kiss to my soul.   A small reminder that he is still out there in the universe.   For the day it gave me a reminder and a sense of peace...I know it may sound just a little crazy, but really there have been some pretty crazy things that I have experienced in my life.  
So, I revel in the beauty of the world around me and I enjoy the little kisses that I get whatever they may be! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Show "Go On" Review

The premise of this is that it is a relatively young widow who lost his wife.   I saw the pilot episode after the Olympics, I wasn't really sure what to think about it. 

Honestly, it has grown on me.  The producers to a decent job of showing the ugly side of grief woven through life.   The end of one episode, he explodes throwing things at a car when someone is texting.  It then comes out in ugly form that his wife died in a car accident while replying to a text. 

This kind of outburst is extremely realistic.  I can remember doing it multiple times the first year or so.  It is exhausting. 

Another thing that sticks in my head was the whole tossing and turning in bed and finally getting up.  I can completely relate to this.   After being married for almost nine years, it took me over 4 years to remember how to sleep alone.   To be able to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up to reality.  What do I mean by that?  Well for years, and sometimes still--I was haunted by flashbacks of the accident.  I would wake up screaming and re-experience the accident.   Living through it once apparently was not good enough for my brain...oh heck no...chronic overachiever here...let's just go and do it daily for over two years!   Well when that was done, I would have pleasant dreams...I would dream of us, our family our life.  Then I would slowly wake--far better then awakening in terror, except this time, I would wake slowly, in that in between state where your dreams still exist, where it seemed like the last few years were the nightmare and that everything was ok.  Until I opened my eyes, Until I fully awoke and realized that the nightmare was real and the dream was just that, a wish for the life we planned. 

Yelling and throwing stuff at a cemetary...BEEN THERE DONE THAT! Not really all that productive, but hey, I'm not going to hurt the feelings of anyone dead right?  Personally at the time, I thought I was being far more productive at yelling at a headstone than an actual real person in front of me with feelings.  Didn't quite occur to me that I may have looked a little crazy....although I probably did! There is a very odd dark humor that many widows have used to survive...and I think the show captures that decently well.

Oh and the giving away of stuff...he gave her sewing machine to someone who needed one, the group cautioned him that he may not want to do that...but he did, and he regretted it.  MAN does that hit home.  Somethings you just can't explain. 

Overall, I think the show does a decent job of intertwining realistic reactions to real situations that widows face every day.   Most things may be so subtle that the average person may not take notice, but I do.  I think the fact that I notice, makes me hope that someone who watches may see something and then see something in real life, and maybe just maybe may think.   HMMM....maybe this person is having a REALLY bad day....maybe they are not crazy after all!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Houston we have a problem....

Still...nearly FIVE years later I can't fly through Houston without getting physically sick.
When I walk through the airport, the memories just play and play.  It doesn't matter that I am rushing through the terminal in a business suit on my way to a meeting.  I see a girl, broken, crying, trying to play with her son. I see people around her looking helpless. I taste the despair...the hopelessness. I taste the bile in my throat. It makes me sick.  I can feel the desperation in the air.

Even as I walk, I will forever be thankful for my family. They traversed the airport with me on many occasions.  While they still do things today to be immensely helpful, they did a lot that in Houston that also plays in my mind.  Mom used to have damp washcloths in a Baggie in her purse to put on my neck when I would inevitably feel faint. I had never fainted before the accident...afterward, it was a pretty regular occurrence.  She would tell me it would be ok, let me cry and get me to eat or drink something. Other times I was with dad who would take munchkin and walk with him and entertain him. He would sit me down with some water and a hug and he would try his best to coax a smile and his eyes would mist over as I could not control my sobs. One time when we were really delayed he leaned over while I was rocking a sleeping munchkin and he wiped my tears jut as he did when I was a little girl.

My aunt was there often as well. She gave up time with her kids to come to me. She saw a shirt and got it for me. "FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION". It is a NASA shirt and I wore it daily for a really long time. She has a quiet determination about her and I was able to lean on her. She would look at me and say "what are you going to do next?". Helping me to see that there were still things that needed to be done and that even though I felt completely lost, I still had deep recesses in my brain that knew the practicality of what needed to be done. She helped me bring that back to the top.

My sister is the travel guru...she could speed us through with practical knowledge of what to do and where to go. She would hug me and make sure that I felt loved. She is awesome. She organized who was coming to stay with me and when.  She dropped everything to help me.  She and her husband walked around the house and just took care of stuff that needed to be done...paid bills, answered phones, cleaned, fed munchkin when I actually did manage to fall asleep...whatever needed to be done, she did, without being asked and without any complaint.   She and my brothers stood at Robert's casket and made a pact to help me and care for me and they do. She has given numerous vacation days to come to my aide provided travel miles and is ALWAYS there. She is a rock. Have I mentioned that she is awesome!

My brother that is the older one...man every time he went to Houston to help me would have some sort of illness requiring an emergency room visit for his kiddos. Anaphylaxis for a 2 year old, another time was some other sort of something, however his wife was home with the 2 year old who needed to go to the ER and a newborn...in jumped brother in law (see sister paragraph above! to come to her rescue!) ...heck his wife was 8 months pregnant when they drove down after the accident....20 hours in a car with a two year old and being 8 months pregnant...just to come to my aide...SAINT!   God Bless him...he still came and his wife still let him. There is a kindness and softness of their souls that is just amazing and I am glad that munchkin has him to look up to.

This is what goes through my mind when I walk through the airport there. Does not matter how tight my connection is...all the flights home go through the same few gates and it hits me like a ton of bricks and a punch in the gut. I know how broken I was, and I know rhat I have come a very long way. I have worked hard to rebuild my life. To be happy again. I think that the despair I felt there was so utterly complete and consuming that my emotion has forever scarred the airport for me.

I cannot imagine how my family felt to see me like that. My child scapes his knee and is better in five minutes and it catches my heart. I can't imagine seeing him so fully crushed and desolate. The fact that they were all there for me and still are just makes me love them even more.


Football in Texas

Early this summer one of my aunts and I had a fantastic and inspiring conversation at 2 am. The cliff notes version revolved around reframing my perception. I was griping about traveling so much for work and having no time to myself when I do travel. She shared some of her tips for finding some time and some of the amazing things that she has done in her travels. Since then I have tried moderately successfully to include more me time while I am out of town. Luckily my nights out of town have decreased--because really I would rather be home with munchkin!!!

I digress...I am at a conference. On Friday one of my friends called and asked if I wanted to go to the Monday Night Cowboys game...well yes, I would love to go to the Bears game :).

So step one...I said yes...I then spent the next three days stressing. This is the first football I have been to since Robert died and it was an emotional ramp up. I toyed with bringing a jersey, however it would have been Robert's. In the end, I decided on a Bears t-shirt that was his, but I had commandeered long before the funeral.

When I walked up on the stadium it hit me...eyes misted over...it was a beautiful night. He loved Texas...I tolerated it. Until October when I started bitching that I missed seasons and snow...I'm a Chicago girl at heart. But he was made for Texas. He loved living here, he loved everything about Texas. It hit me that had he been alive we would have been at the game together.

As we were winding our way around the stadium admiring it...the Bears fans literally outnumbered the Cowboys fans. I was still misty eyed and texted my brother that I missed Robert knowing he would be missing him too. He said that "maybe we can get a win in his memory". Just then a whole bunch of Bears fans came by chanting the Bears song.

At that moment, I chose to have fun and enjoy the game. I really do like football and here I was with a tremendous opportunity to enjoy a game with some really great friends.

The game was fantastic. The Bears played really well...even the Cowboys seemed to play for the Bears :). We won and it was exhilarating.

I realize how blessed I am to have such great friends and a truly incredible family. I'm lucky to be able to work and still have family that steps up and help me care for munchkin. I'm lucky to have friends who know me well enough and care enough to include me.