Grief

I’m stuck in my grief.

My sweet Dad went home to heaven 6 weeks, 1 day, and 16 hours ago.

And yet the world keeps spinning, groceries get purchased, laundry gets done, and my job continues to expect me to arrive with a smile plastered onto my face.

It’s like I’m walking around in a fog, slightly cognizant of those around me and irritated that they’re unaware of my pain. My heart hurts. I don’t feel happy. Instead, I feel like no one else gets it. Like they expect me to be over it.

I’m not over it. I will never be over it.

My Dad died.

I will never hug him again. I will never spend Christmas with him again. I will never be the same. I am changed forever.

My sweet Dad went home to heaven 6 weeks, 1 day, and 17 hours ago.

Write now

Sometimes being a writer is about as pleasurable as bathing a cat.

I’m referring to my previous post about going dark. Being that vulnerable was awful but necessary. It was how I was feeing at the moment and those moments are often. Hitting the post button after writing that was liberating because I took a risk and had come to a place of confidence in myself that no matter what the response or what anyone thought, I was okay. Writing is humiliating.

I happen to believe that what I write must be the truth, which isn’t always easy. The truth is often difficult for most of us to face. It’s much easier to live in a state of modified truth, telling ourselves what we want to hear and accept. Writing is liberating.

Even writing the first line of this post wasn’t easy. I labored over it for many minutes. Saying I’m a writer is both freeing and confining. Honestly, I’ve spent my life with words – anecdotes, memoirs, stories – swimming in my head. For the most part, I’ve avoided putting them on paper, instead I’ve become a master at finding other things to keep me busy. Writing is exhausting.

It wouldn’t be as frightening for me if I was a writer of fantasy. My brain doesn’t lend itself to fictional characters, mythical creatures, or imaginary friends. I only know how to write about experiences with complete honesty. Mostly complete honesty. Writing is terrifying.

I’ve been known to embellish a bit, sometimes being told that I was exaggerating. Fortunately for me a friend came to my rescue and explained that a good storyteller must spiff up their version of a story in order to make it more enjoyable for the listener or reader. Writing is difficult.

Now I know that I must be disciplined. I have an obligation to myself to purge the chatter in my brain once and for all. I have set goals and have a need to prove to myself that I am capable. I am hoping it will be much like milking a cow. Like the milk, my words will be rich and delicious. And like the cow, I will be relieved to have expressed it all.

Writing is humbling. Writing is risky. Writing is necessary.

The life that is

I’m not sure any of us knew what to expect and really still don’t. It’s one of those day to day, some good, some bad, kind of situations. Dementia? Alzheimers? It doesn’t even matter anymore. This thing that has pillaged the small tribe that is our family is The Boss.

It is so much.

It is loss, tears, and attempts to remember. It is frustration, denial, acceptance, and anger. It is fear, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, and exasperation. It is unfair.

Today my mom will spend her day with my dad. He’s there but she’s alone. She will wake early and climb out of the king size bed they shared for 45 years to go check on him in the living room where he now sleeps in the hospital bed hospice has provided. Her sleep wasn’t restful because she has to listen for him on the monitor on her nightstand in case he coughs or chokes. Sometimes she sleeps in a chair next to his bed if he’s anxious or afraid. His only comfort is her. She’ll check on him to see if he’s taken his oxygen off, which he usually has, and change the bedding he’s soiled. He’ll be happy to see her but won’t want to get out of bed yet. He likes to sleep late – he likes to sleep period! Several hours later she’ll get him up to move him to his chair which is only a few feet away, yet it is a monumental workout for both of them. As soon as he’s seated she brings him his protein shake. His morning routine no longer includes the newspaper or the crossword puzzle. Instead of staring at the paper, now he just stares.

As difficult and miserable as that all sounds, and it is, it is so much more.

It’s an opportunity.

It’s an opportunity for his famiy to tell him we love him as many times a day as it can be said. It’s an opportunity to shake the hand of the man who was your friend, your coach, your teacher, your mentor. To watch him smile that crooked grin.

It’s an opportunity to be the friend to him that you say you are. Besides family, few have actually shown up. But there have been a few former football players, a neighbor or two, the pastor and a couple of church members. While the food that’s dropped off is appreciated, you’re missing the bigger blessing by taking one minute to step in and speak to him.

It’s an opportunity to possibly catch a glimpse of the orneriness he still possesses. Recently, he looked at me and said he wanted to borrow $25. I gave him what I had and then asked him when he was going to repay the loan. He said, “I never said anything about paying you back.” Ha!

This devastating thing I refer to as The Boss has taken my big, strong, proud Dad and made him physically weak and dependent. Currently, 95% of the time he’s like a 3 year old. And it’s been fascinating getting to know what he was probably like 80 years ago. He laughs at the most inappropriate times, he doesn’t listen, and No is his favorite word.

Football seems to be the memory that he still holds on to. Perhaps because it’s so deeply embedded in his identity. Sadly, that too will be gone eventually.

Around 6 or 7 in the evening, he will ask to go to bed. My mom will try to convince him to stay up longer, but his favorite activity these days is sleeping. She will help him get out of his chair and walk him the few feet to his bed. She’ll cover him up and tuck him in and he may stay awake and watch a ballgame but usually he goes to sleep. And then my mom is alone again, left to spend another quiet evening at home. Tomorrow will be a repeat of today and yesterday and the day before.

The last time I was with him, he called me Pat, his sister’s name. He knew I was his daughter but had to be reminded of my name. At some point, and it’s already begun, my Dad will look at me and I will have no place in his mind anymore.

I can still hold my Dad’s hand, but I miss him everyday.

Conversation

I found myself caught in the middle of a conversation tonight. And it was a win-win lose-lose situation.

The conversation? Mine. By me. Including only me. Am I the only one who does this? Do you ever have conversations with yourself?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have dual personalities or multiple personalities or some mental defect. (Although some may disagree.) But I find myself having conversations like “you know you should be eating salad instead of chips and salsa!” Or “shouldn’t you just go to bed and try to sleep?” And then there are the arguments. “No! I don’t want to exercise! Yes, I know I need to cut back on sugar. But dark chocolate is healthy, even if it’s enveloped in a cookie!”

And most recently, “what do you have to offer? Do you have value? Is it too late to contribute to society? Are you willing to let a Lupus diagnosis from 20 years ago define you?”

No dual personality, although I suspect – no, I’m certain! – that there is a 25-year-old, beautiful, confident, intelligent woman with a body that has no hail damage, stretch marks, frown lines, age spots, or wrinkles inside of me that’s begging to get out. A woman with a gift.

Either way, it’s a win-win or a lose-lose and sometimes a win-lose situation.

Am I alone? Is this normal for the over 50 empty nester mom who is trying to reinvent herself? Not just reinvent, but remember! Remember the girl I was when I was 18 or 21. That girl! Confidence. That girl! Nothing to back up said confidence. All she had was a belief that she deserved more. That she had a gift. And that girl hadn’t lived long enough to have fear. Fear of rejection, fear of disapproval, fear of trusting. That girl came from a small town where she believed she had something to offer. That girl had the “big fish in a small pond” mentality.

And then, Life happened. She began to view life behind the curtains. No longer was she a viewer, she saw what went on backstage. Behind the scenes. If you’ve ever been to a Broadway show, you sit in the audience and you are entertained and all is well. Lines are rehearsed and remembered and repeated the way they are intended. As a member of the audience, you have no idea what goes on backstage. The chaos. The confusion. The stress. The meltdowns. The forgotten lines. And the realization that This. Is. Live.

No retakes, no do-overs.

Is it too late? Should I put a stop to the conversations I have with myself? Or do I let the world determine my value? Am I too old? I’m over 50. By the world’s standards, am I over the hill?

My brain says “give it up.”

But my heart says GO. PUSH. You have VALUE.

Is that wrong? Is that ego? How does someone recognize their gifts without being perceived as egotistical?

When I was 16 I believed in myself. I believed I had a gift. I wanted to be on a stage making people FEEL. I wanted to entertain, for people to experience laughter, sorrow, empathy.

If it sounds egotistical, I ask for your forgiveness.

It truly wasn’t about elevating my ego, it was about the ability to make people feel something. Even if it was at my own expense. I used to say I wanted people to laugh, even if it meant laughing at me!

We have been given an opportunity to start over. To begin a new season and write our own chapters. Part 2 of our life.

Should I listen to my heart? Or should I be realistic and recognize that statistics indicate that I’m on the downhill side of life?

And still, the conversations continue. Should I post this blog? Should I keep my inner thoughts to myself? Do I really want to know what people think?

Should I press the button? The “POST” button? Knowing that once it’s out there, it’s out there forever? Am I strong enough to handle the critiques?

Pressing the button before I lose the courage or talk myself out of it…