Sunday, February 28, 2010

Snow Angels

Dear Bug,

I miss you today. It's weird; every day I miss you, but every day it's for a different reason.

There is a LOT of new snow on the ground here. Like, Bluebird can't get her belly out of the snow and Angus disappears entirely if he gets off the path.

But the snow is too even. It's nice and clean and undisturbed. There are no snow angels. You always loved making snow angels. I can still see you out there, in your bibs and jacket, methodically working your way across the yard. Stop. Set. Drop over backwards, disappearing into the powdery white. Then emerge, laughing, with snow in your jacket and a perfect, beautiful snow angel as evidence that you were there.

There are no footprints. No forts. No tunnels where you and Will have been playing Ben 10 or Pokemon.

Every time one of the branches outside gives up its payload, I think of you, standing under your little tree back by the river, shaking it to knock the snow off and laughing when it all fell on your head. I went back there and shook off your tree this morning. I knew you would be worried about it.

It snowed the morning you left me. It was the first snow of the season and you were so happy about it. I wish with all my heart you were still here to enjoy it today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

And in other news...

People who study grief for a living say that there's a peak in the overwhelming, can't-make-coffee-without-crying portion of the program between three and six months after your loss. I gotta figure that's where i am now. Because seriously; brushing my teeth makes me burst into tears.

I guess it's just something to gut through. It's interesting that this peak comes just about the time when the rest of the world starts to figure you should be getting back into the swing of things.

I'm just glad my office door closes, and doesn't have a window.

So instead of recapping the ongoing "Kleenex Count" here in the land of Bean, I thought we'd come up to date on things that are far happier: The ongoing progress with bringing Daisy Mae into our family.

I've neglected this in my writing, although it's been a major focus of our activity. I guess my point here in the last three months has been to try to find a place to pour out my pain. I'm still going to do that, although it's probably time to intermingle some more discussion of living, rather than dying.

We're starting to become a family again.

It hasn't been easy. We've had a lot of family therapy over the last three months, with a lot of homework and very difficult heart-to-heart talks along the way. I'll confess that, when the Bug died, I realized that I had been thinking of Daisy Mae more as "the Bug's sister" than "my daughter". It was a difficult and painful confession to make. But in making it, I freed myself to figure out how to build my relationship with Daisy from scratch, with our own rules and our own ways of doing things.

I have to say it's working out well. She's still a teen, and by that I mean she makes me stop and stare, dumbfounded, at her at least once a day. But she's increasingly becoming MY teen.

I had a wonderful time fussing over her for Valentine's Day, picking her up from a weekend away at a teen Purity Conference with flowers and balloons and candy. She acted like it wasn't a big deal at the time, but later, I overheard her tell three of her friends and her counselor about it.

This weekend, we got her ears pierced. This was a big deal, and she was scared. But she's happy with the results, and so am I. We also went shopping for her dresses for her spring semi-formal dance, which might have been a disaster, but ended up being a delightful time. We got dresses that she loved and that even Dad approved of.

She seems...happy. And that's a big deal. She hasn't had a lot of happy in her life. We're honestly, collectively looking forward to finalizing the adoption. We're looking forward to a trip to Ireland together with Aunt Kate. We're laughing more and fighting a LOT less. We're cooking together more. We're making plans.

It's not perfect. We still disagree over bedtimes, food choices, R-Rated movies, chores, boyfriends, the Internet, cell phones, and towels on the floor. We all take turns feeling and expressing hurt. We each take our turns crying, and each for our own reasons. But we're becoming a family and that's a good thing.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Today, I am tired of being brave. I want to scream and rage and cower. I want to wallow in self-pity.

Today, I do not want to go to work and make decisions and solve problems. I want to spend the day curled up in a ball, hugging Kiersten's stuffed gharial and crying.

Today, I resent every intact family I see, with their healthy, happy children who give them joy. I want to switch places with them.

Today, I do not want to answer the co-worker who has cornered me in the ladies room, with the tears in her eyes, with an optimistic story about how grateful I am that my beautiful little girl didn't suffer when she died. I want to collapse into her arms and sob and tell her how sad I am.

Today, I want to look people straight in the eye, and answer the question, "How are you?" with the honest answer, "The most precious person in my world is gone and it hurts so much that I'm struggling to breathe."

Today, I want to cry and not have to fix my eye make-up afterward, so I don't look a wreck in my 3:00 meeting.

Today, I do not want to make small talk, cogent presentations or even sense in English. I want to babble like the village idiot and talk about my baby and how much I miss her.

Today, I do not want to "prop up" another living being. I want to be selfish and keep all of my energy for me. I want to blame everything and everyone I see for my pain.

Today, I want my sweet baby back.

Today, I will not get any of these things. But it doesn't stop me from wanting them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And just who, exactly, is going to eat all these pickles???

As any parent who has had a child go off to college knows, our kids leave a lot behind when they exit our lives. The circumstances of that exit really don't matter, ultimately --their stuff is still there and has to be dealt with .

I haven't been able to tackle the Bug's room yet; in fact, I still haven't made her bed from the day she died. Can't do it. It's now covered with the hundreds and hundreds of cards and letters from people who cared enough about her -- or about us -- to send a note of condolence. It may be 2012 before I get it cleaned off and I'm OK with that. The door is closed and we'll open it again when that particular wound has scarred over.

But this really isn't about dealing with The Room. More to the point, this is about the stuff our kids leave behind in our dining rooms, family room...and pantries. The management of this "stuff" can be painful and utterly absurd, all at the same time.

You see, I have come to realize that children train us. They train us to buy things. Over and over. I have bought cucumbers and red peppers no fewer than five times since the Bug died. It's automatic. They were the Bug's snackfood of choice for when she got home from school or had the munchies before dinner. I have, for the last eight years, cut the top off of every pepper I use to prepare a meal and set it aside, so she could sneak in and pretend to "steal" them off the cutting board. I probably always will.

There are myriad other things of Kiersten's that so far have remained utterly untouched, as if we're all waiting for her to come home. Her pretty little silver purse is hanging off the back of one of the kitchen chairs. It has $34.82 in it (I swear, that kid had more money than God). We all look at it. We all acknowledge that it needs to be put away. And yet, none of us will touch it, let alone take the money out of it. I have gone so far as to pick it up, and verify that her money is still in there, then replace it on the back of the chair. I know that Mr. Bean and Daisy Mae have done the same. It may sit there forever.

So, too, we are faced with the dilemma of the Untouchable Pickle Jar. The Bug loved pickles. LOVED them. I used to have to restrict her from eating pickles before breakfast and from drinking the pickle juice. (In fact, in my Paranoid Mommy moments, back before the Worst Thing in the World came to pass, I used to indulge perverse waking nightmares of my kid dropping over dead of a heart attack from eating too much salt. Who'd have thought...) In any event, about a week before Thanksgiving, we indulged the Bug and bought her a gallon jar of Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears. She opened the jar the morning she died -- and I think ate several of them before breakfast. Because they were then open, she made room in the fridge for the pickle jar (because pickles, as we know, are always better cold). It might as well be labeled, "Kiersten's Pickles! Keep out!"

So there it sits. A gallon jar takes up a lot of room in the fridge. Daisy Mae has GERD, making pickles strictly verboten. I like pickles well enough, but probably only eat 2-3 per month. But we can neither get rid of the pickle jar, nor can we even open the jar and eat the pickles. They were -- they are -- the Bug's pickles.

I hope that I can report back later that I have managed to return from the grocery store and not opened the bag, found red peppers and cucumbers, and said "WTF?". I also hope that I will have retained a small handful of pickles from the jar, to keep for making tuna salad and the like, and that I have removed the jar from the fridge.

But I can't make any promises.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Having trouble finding my voice

I have had a lot of things going through my head of late, but I'm having trouble articulating them in any fashion that makes sense to anyone else. But because I've been writing fairly regularly lately, I figured I should put something down so you all know I didn't get hit by a truck or anything. I might have to resort to a bulleted list however.

So, in no particular order, here are about ten days of random thoughts and occurrences:

I got be spend the night of the State of the Union address in Washington DC. Although I have been there several times, I've actually never gotten to go look at any of the tourist-y parts of it before. I was lucky this time, however, in that my friend Maria and I found ourselves with a free afternoon when it was sunny and in the 40s. We decided to go walking and check out the city a bit. We were rewarded, not only with a chance to go take totally stupid pictures of ourselves and each other in front of the White House, but also with finding a fabulous bistro, serving Pays d'Oc fare, across the street from the Ford's Theater. So Fabulous Lunch + 5-mile walk on a sunny afternoon + touristy goodness + true friendship = the nicest afternoon I've spent in quite awhile - certainly the nicest since Kiersten died. Yay. Oh, and we got to watch the SOTU in the lobby bar of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, nibbling oesetra caviar on toast points and drinking cognac. It didn't suck.

I find that I am more functional, mentally, than I have been thus far. However, when the whole grief thing does come on, it strikes with a viciousness I never could have imagined. This scared the devil out of me for awhile, but then I saw an article in the New Yorker that basically said, "yep; you'll have that." It also suggests that grief builds for about six months for most people and then starts to get better. So I guess we have awhile longer to tough this out before it's actually going to improve.

I went house-hunting with my friend Joyce today. She's looking to move back from Texas with her husband Mike. I've written about them before. We found a beautiful -- and by beautiful, I mean head-for-the-mountains stunning -- home on an equally stunning piece of property. With all the goodies they need to take care of their horses. And it's only about a half-hour from our house. This could be a very good thing. We spent an enormous amount of time with them before Kes was born; they moved away when she was still very young. I'm looking forward to having them home; I think they may be part of our healing.

Daisy Mae has started saying "I love you". She also called me "mom" the other day. These may seem like little things, but around here, they're a pretty damn big deal. Especially since the first I love you came about a half hour after I busted her for sexting (a bra and panties shot sent to one of the boys at school via MySpace) and we had a long talk about what building an ugly reputation in school can do to the rest of your life. It's true what they say -- kids desperately want to know that you care enough to stop them from hurting themselves.

We've decided to stop going to Karate. Even though I dearly love the people who run the local dojo, it's just too, too painful for us to go back there. Kiersten loved it there very much and we can't walk in without seeing her. So we're looking at the health club down the street for an exercise option. I need it desperately.

Well, I guess we've progressed from "I got nothin" to a full-fledged update. I'll find my voice to write about something other than a newsreel in a bit. For one, I have a flyer advertising for a local writer's contest for which entries are due April 1. I took first prize in this competition a couple of years ago, and because of that, I haven't entered since. But I'm not proud -- I need a little pick-me-up right now and I need to focus on writing a piece of fiction before my brain forgets how to do it.

So gentle readers, I will leave you with one final thought: Just like the world feels new after a big thunderstorm, or looks beautiful and clean after a blizzard, our emotional selves can feel purified by a storm of tears. I've learned a lot about the usefulness of crying in the last few weeks. If you're feeling out of sorts lately, I recommend indulging in a good 20-minute pity party. It'll help. I promise.