Tag Archives: death

14 Years of Grief

22 Jul

Fourteen years ago, I was pretty sure that my life had ended with his.  Nothing is like facing the death of your child, and I suspect it’s no different when you know that their death is inevitable due to a disease rather than the sudden swipe of some unexpected fate.

My son was my best buddy.  No, I didn’t love him more than I loved my daughter, but the whole relationship was different.  They were very different people, right from the time they were born.  There was also nearly 8 years between their births, which made me practically a different mom to each one too.

No child arrives with an owner’s manual or a warranty, but I doubt that we’d read the chapter on dealing with their deaths if it did.  It’s unthinkable, and I recently had a young father say that he couldn’t imagine losing his son, who is now 3 and my granddaughter’s playmate.

I told him not to ever imagine it.

Nobody deserves the kind of pain that goes with that happening, and imagining it is to endure a piece of the pain for no real reason.  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

I won’t lie either.  Not to myself, not to my daughter, not to a stranger.

The pain doesn’t go away.  That vast hole in the center of your chest never gets any smaller, and the tear drops don’t stop coming.  I dread the month of July, and it gets worse as we approach the end of the month, along with the anniversary of his death.  This year has been particularly agonizing for me, as the photographs of the children murdered during the whole thing in Gaza are plastered all over the internet.

Each one rips me open again as if it was his body laying there.

My son didn’t die a violent death.  He died in his sleep.  He was my borrowed child, and I loved him with a fierceness that was only matched with the fierceness of my love for my first born, his big sister.

I can’t pretend to imagine what the parents of those dead children in Gaza are feeling.  I didn’t have anyone to be angry with.  I didn’t have anyone or anything to blame for his death.  They do.  I know there is nothing I wouldn’t do to bring him back or to even keep his sister as healthy as possible.

Nothing.

I don’t see it having a positive effect on relations between the two groups, not with dead children as a tool towards antagonism.

But it confuses me too.  How can no one care about all of those dead kids?  How can people kill their own children here in the United States?  How can they abuse and abandon them?  It’s incomprehensible to me.  I loved being mom as much as I love being grandma.

There is that.  I have a granddaughter.  My son would have been over the moon over her–she’s the picture of beauty in his mind, with long hair and a bright smile.  She’s as free with affection as her uncle was.  She even chews her nails like her uncle did at her age.  She doesn’t really look a thing like him though, she is the spitting image of her mom.

This past year, she was also the inspiration for another first post-grief step for me.  I put up and decorated a Christmas tree in my house for the first time since his death.  It was in her honor, as her mom was going to be in the hospital on Christmas day.  (We actually celebrated a day or two after The Day to let her join in the fun after she was released.)  That little girl has made the holiday fun for me again, as I look forward instead of remembering the empty spot in the room.  It doesn’t mean I don’t miss him then too, because I do.  She didn’t fill the hole, she simply brought in bright light to make it less painful, I suppose.

I get depressed as we near the month of his birth, and that is always another mountain for me to travel up and over.  April Fools Day is always accompanied by a sense of relief.  I have survived it, and while I remember his birthday always, sometimes even baking a cake, it still hurts that I have no one to hug that day.

It’s the little things that bring out the tears too.  Power rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a brown eyed boy with a Dutch boy haircut, a boisterous boy pretending to do martial arts as he dances around his mother, a shy smile, or someone playing the first episode from Star Wars with the boy Annakin.  Memories.  That’s all I have now, is those precious memories.

Things like the funky doggy smell he got when he played in the hot sun and got his hair all dirty and sweaty, or how he destroyed socks and jeans.  Of building a Hand of Thyme herb bed shaped like a hand.  Making pickles.  Of the birthday I told him he could have all the “juicy eggs” (eggs over medium) he wanted for breakfast until I cut him off at six (I think he was about seven years old).  Of the horrible messes he could make with flour from the time he was first walking right on until his death, and how he could not resist touching flour if opportunity presented it as a possibility.  I don’t know what it was about flour that called to him, but it called to him.

I share the memories, we talk about him when we’re together, his sister and I.  My mother.  My other extended family.  His face is over my desk in the last family portrait we had taken, and my granddaughter knows all three faces in the photo.

I’d have adopted more kids, if we could afford it.  We can’t…we’re just not financially stable enough to qualify, even for older children.  That’s sad, but it is the truth.  Instead, we have three dogs and one granddaughter to spoil.  We spoil friends’ kids when we get the chance too.  Sure, it’s not the same, but that’s all we have now.

I know his generous nature.  He would have been horrified if I had become bitter and unpleasant, or shunned other children.  I try to be the person he thought I was when he was ten, and I still knew everything and could do anything.  Some days, the “do” anything can be a challenge, but I always try to keep learning new stuff.  He wanted to have 150 kids (he really did say that…often).  All I can do is try to give forward the love that he gave every day he was alive.

But damn, I miss him.

Sure, I have heard all the platitudes about how he is in a better place and all that.  Don’t ever say that drivel to a grieving mother.  If you are lucky, she ignores you.  If you aren’t, she may try to send you to that better place too.  To a mom, there is no better place for her child than alive and with her.  No exceptions.

I still want him back.  Badly.

Yes, I know its impossible, but if I am going to dream, I’m going to dream big.  Sometimes I still relive the day he died in my nightmares and I wake up with the grief as raw as it was that first day I put it on.  Some days, I never cry a tear that shows.  I can laugh.  I love.  I smile.

And sometimes I still rage when I see a parent treating a child unjustly, and I think, if they knew how much that child really means to them, would they still do that to the kid?

Do me a favor.  Hug your kids like it is the last time you can ever do so.  Do it three times a day. Never imagine losing them, but do it and remember to never take tomorrow for granted, because sometimes…it never comes. Ever.

Then all you have left is that last time you hugged them.

 

Advertisements

Senior citizens, humor, and surviving the hard times

5 Dec

Humor has always gotten me through the rough spots in life, those times when you honestly don’t know if you can force yourself to put one foot in front of the other one more time.  I’m not talking just physically speaking, but rather the times that you aren’t even sure if you want to draw your next breath.

One of those times was when my son died.  It honestly felt as though it was wrong for the sun to shine, for me to move, for me to continue to BREATH.  It was literally like my whole world had come to an end.  I don’t even remember most of those first weeks after his death, but one thing I do remember is that my son’s sense of humor and fun bled through even through his eulogy.

I laughed.

I laughed during my own son’s funeral as a family friend who had been his sensei at the kung fu dojo where he had trained for several years gave the eulogy.  He mentioned a time when they had been discussing martial arts in general and sumo wrestlers had come up and he related how my son had wistfully said he wanted to be one when he grew up, “because they can eat all they want.”

I laughed, I could see him saying that just as clear as if he was standing in front of me.  It was so very much a part of my son’s character that he would think and talk like that, and humor was a big thing with him, learning how jokes worked and what was really funny…and what wasn’t.

Humor has always been important in my life.  Without it, I couldn’t survive the things I have survived.  I’ll admit, I’ve had some tough times, and things rarely have gone my way sometimes.  But that’s okay, because even in those tough times, I still had my natural optimism and humor.

I can remember one time, I was talking with my best friend and mentioned that I always got up a couple of hours early in the morning before work.  She asked me why, and I answered her with total sincerity and seriousness.

“I get up early to have some quiet time,” I told her.

She looked at me for a moment without saying a word, then she spoke, “Gia, you live alone…”

It was only then that I realized that despite the fact that my son had died, my daughter was grown and had moved out, and I had been divorced for months…I still kept up with a habit that I’d had since my daughter was a baby.  I got up early so I had “me” time.  I hadn’t realized that I still ACTED like a mom, even though I no longer had a child at home.  I still got antsy at 3 pm, as though I had to go get my son at the bus stop.

We laughed.

At first, I sounded a bit rusty, but as it boiled up from inside of me and the tears began to flow as it just rolled out for the longest time.  I hadn’t been laughing much, and I hadn’t been laughing for a long time.  It was over due, and this time, the butt of the joke was my unconscious behavior.  I laughed until I cried, and then I laughed some more.  With that laughter, I got the strength to heal, to figure out who I was now, and who I was going to be.

Laughter and humor, and finding humor in our daily routines–it’s essential and it helps define who we are.

Years ago, when I was fresh and young and still believed in the world around me, I worked as a waitress in a dinky little restaurant where the tips were awful.  The town was just as dinky back then, and it was the only restaurant located right on the highway through town.  Several regulars were senior citizens that came in nearly every day for their evening meal.

There were two old women, both in their 80s, white haired and widowed and living alone.  One was named Woody, and she wore bright red lipstick to really show off the smile on her face.  She smiled a lot, always told me a joke or two, and they were always cute and clean as a whistle.  I loved waiting on her, and everyone in town loved her.  She still drove herself, and we’d all keep an eye out for her just in case she would toodle along excessively slow or stop unexpectedly.

The second was a woman that I don’t recall her name.  She was mean and sour and nasty.  Nobody liked her, and neighborhood kids tormented her unmercifully with practical jokes and petty vandalism.  She had even shot the chief of police’s kids with a pellet gun loaded with rock salt.  Kids knew, if their ball landed in her yard, it was a lost cause, as few were willing to risk the sting of her pellet gun to retrieve it.  Instead, they’d resort to petty annoyance and aggravation in retaliation for her keeping their balls locked up.  She’d often cuss and swear at people, and continually voiced complaints that her kids never visited her, nor her grandkids, and how the town kids always were doing things to her.  She couldn’t pay anyone enough to get them to run errands for her either, as no one was willing to have to put up with her for a few dollars.

I was 18 way back then.  I could choose which woman I wanted to be in my twilight years, and which woman do you think I chose?

I remember Woody, and her cheerful smile and cute little jokes.  I liked waiting on her then, and part of me wishes I could have sat down and really talked to her for a while.

The other woman’s name has been lost in my memory, and I hated seeing her pull her car into the parking lot.  She’d normally park wrong, taking up 2 or 3 parking slots, and then come stomping in, looking for a fight to be served along with her dinner.  I didn’t care if she tipped me more than I’d made all day, I still was dreading having to walk to her table.  She’d make insulting remarks, and everyone was just expected to accept it from her.

I’m getting older now, and have officially joined the ranks of grandmothers around the world.  Those twilight years aren’t way off in the distance anymore, but looming ever closer.  It’s time for me to take lessons from the elders that I was exposed to when I was young.

I remember the bitter and sour and mean ones.  Nobody wanted to see them, nobody came to visit, and they’d gripe and complain about that along with everything else.  I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want to drive away the people I love the most simply because I’m bitter about the hand life has dealt me.  I’d rather skip the bitter, thank you very much!

The ones with humor and kindness and optimism were the ones that everyone loved to be around.  They were the ones with the smiles too.  Their family came to visit them, their friends enjoyed their company, their neighbors liked them.  That’s what I want in my twilight years too.

So pass me the humor, maybe a dash of salt, a little chili powder, and a spoonful of sugar with it.  Skip the bitter, slap on a smile, and guess what?

Life looks a lot better!