Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings (Don't be scared of Barry Manilow, people)

I don't write everything I feel or think on this blog. So many moments pass by that don't make the cut. Not an intentional cut, but life is full and time to sit and type requires discipline and I don't always have it in me. Who wants to read that many words anyway?

My work is not quite done for the day but I need to sit and take a rest. Maggie and Patrick are at cross country practice. Thomas sits at the dining room table working on his homework. Rose is reading a book. Nora is working on bike tricks. I have some of my favorite music playing in the bakery (Andrew Peterson) and the cool of evening is blowing in on a gentle breeze.

So this evening I think I will blog about how I am really feeling while I sit outside in the backyard and watch the sun go down. The work won't take me long to finish up when I go back inside.

The sunflowers next to the western fence are leaning to the side, loaded with blossoms. The gorgeous vine climbing up the wall next to the car port is covered with salmon pink blossoms, providing a drunken fest for a bunch of honey bees. The waxing moon is halfway thru her journey today, and slightly over half full, sitting almost on top of one of the neighbor's pecan trees. A train whistle blows as it cruises through town and butterflies hover around the leaves of one of the pecan trees in our yard.

Sometimes I am afraid to write about our grief journey because I think that readers might pity me. Or think that I am a mess. Or maybe it will make them uncomfortable or maybe someone will think I am unhappy.

Grief is such a raw thing.

Even though we are learning and adapting all the time, it comes up when least expected.

For example, last night I accompanied Patrick to his induction ceremony into the National Honor Society. As I walked by myself into the auditorium, I felt gripped with heaviness. As I sat down, I froze my face, hoping that no one would come up to me. As I waited, alone, sobs threatened to rack my body but I dared not let a tear escape, and I sat there stunned to think that Philip was gone, and that my son would walk across that stage and his dad would not be here in the flesh to shake his hand and joke with him and tell his funny stories about growing up to be the opposite of the National Honor Society member in his highschool experience.

It hurt very badly. I felt extremely alone.

Of course, as I watched the children light their candles and receive their collars, pride and joy welled up in my heart and I thought about how proud Philip must be of his son. Of his children.

And when the kids stood in a line in front and the parents lept up to take their flash photos, I couldn't help but grin, thinking of the story Philip would tell us every Christmas about the time he was an angel in the Catholic school Christmas play. He poked his head through the heavy velvet curtains on the stage, catching a glimpse of the audience of proud parents who were snapping flash photos. Being the class clown and consumate impersonator, he wheeled around, leaping up in the air, pretending to be a parent, trigger happy with his invisible camera. The drama only lasted a mere second or two until it came to a screeching halt when one of the nuns whacked him on the head with a ruler. He was so indignant that the nun had the audacity to whack a 7 yr old angel right on his halo! I wondered if Patrick remembered that story.

Living here in Alpine feels like I have come home. I have a dear old friend who is involved in our life, an old friend from over twenty years ago, who now brings me great joy. It has been great fun reminiscing, remembering all the good old days, and realizing that now, as two grownups, we still have lots in common, and it is like a miracle that we have come full circle.

But what is weird is that even the joy and the fun of a friendship with another guy sometimes triggers grief and makes me long for the ease that comes with an 18 yr marriage and almost 20 year friendship.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that learning something new hurts at times. Grief isn't something we just "get over." As Martha, our grief support counselor would often say, "You don't get over the loss of a loved one, you get through it, and learn to adapt." (I hope I didn't misquote her too very much!)

I have never felt sustained pain before in my life, before Philip's death, that is. I felt little bits of pain and sorrow. When a church friend died. When my friends' daughter died. It was intense pain. And it lasted for a long time. But it wasn't so sustained.

That is why I mention the sweet relationship with my old new guy friend. We share some of the sweetest moments I have enjoyed in a long time. And the joy of a sunset or a sunrise always gave me pleasure in the past, but now that I have felt true pain and grief, those things are almost more beautiful than I can stand. The other evening my friend took me to the symphony and we heard Beethoven for the first half and then Holst's The Planets for the second half. The beauty of some of that musical creation was so intense, I nearly wept with joy and it was a truly spiritual experience. The love of God washed over me, (especially during "Jupiter") and I thanked God for the ability to feel and to hear and to be. Even the blood-stirring, pounding notes of "Mars" made me feel stronger and able to defeat the difficulties that threaten to overwhelm me.

I have other friends who have lost loved ones and they tell me that these mixed up, painful grief feelings are pretty normal. I guess the symphony was a pretty good metaphor for me. All those instruments. Over six or seven french horns, who knows how many violins, all the trumpets and many different instruments, including the harps and the tympani and bass drums all working together to make something absolutely astonishing. I think that the occasional throbbing of grief pain is a note that blended in with all the other beautiful parts of my life creates music that is lovely and real.

I wish we could go back two years and have Philip back being the dad of our house. I wish the kids could have their dad patting them on the back as they do their new things and achieve success. But he is gone. And who knows if they would even be running in cross country or riding bikes to the library or making new friends if he were here. We are in a new world, on so many levels, and even though it pains me at times, I hope to embrace it fully, and to show that kids that even if the tears fall, we are going to live our life.

BTW, have I mentioned how thankful I am to live in the same state as my parents? Daddy was grandpa babysitter for part of last week and took kids to school events, and watched runners cross the finish line. He made them donuts, NOT the freshly milled whole wheat variety (aren't the kids lucky to have a grandpa!) and even took the girls to McDonalds (they are still talking about it!).

I am a very lucky* woman. And you know how I know it? Thomas came out and grinned at me and when I asked him if he could please go in and wash my bread baking pots and pans so I could finish blogging, he went right in, and I can even now hear the clanging in the kitchen.

Lucky=blessed with great favor!

PS the sun has set. The clouds are threatening to fill the sky. The moon is lightly veiled and now sits near the top of one of our pecan trees instead of the neighbor's. The butterflies must have settled in for their evening and I guess I had better go finish my work so I can settle in as well. Tomorrow after bicycling the girls to school I will bicycle up the hill behind our house to the University where I will attend a symposium on economics and small businesses. They offer a free lunch. Yeay for me.


Anonymous said...

That beautiful vine next to the carport is what I call coral vine. Your sister could tell you the proper name for it.
Your words are beautiful too, so glad you have this talent, you paint beautiful pictures with them. Guess that makes you an artist too!
I am just see Philip getting his halo popped by the nun and the expression on his face. Such a clown.
love you, Mom

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Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post, since it is rare how often you write about your grief. I follow another blogger who writes about her journey being a widow with children your age. I will include her link below. She speaks about how difficult and tiring it is to attend school functions as an only parent, as well as numerous other subjects, but it might be nice to know that you are not alone in your grief.

It is also amazing, too, how music (symphony or opera) can seem like an whole new experience after losing someone close. Life is such a fragile thing.



gingerhillery@mac.com said...

Hi Mom. Coral vine. That is what I thought it might be, but couldn't remember. We will have to get Christine to tell us the official name. I sure do like it. Thanks for being my biggest fan! You know I am one of yours, too!

Kamran, thanks for checking in with your advertising! Spam always makes me laugh, so thanks for the chuckle.

Hi Melaka, glad to see you again. Thanks for the link. I felt so much like I could relate to that blog you sent me to. The exhaustion of being the solo decision maker is near killing me. Maybe I should post about it. I don't know if I just want to keep something personal, or if I have gotten some negative response in the past from being too free with the grief stuff, or if I just want to let this blog be a picture of something more than just my grief...Who knows? All that said, I did feel better getting some of it off my chest last night. Thanks for the feedback.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

It helps me when you post about your grief because then I don't feel so all alone with mine. Just today I was showing someone around the farm. Yes, I'm under contract but they were doing a drive-by and I happened to be on the porch and I waved so they pulled in. I told them it was under contract but I'd be happy to show it since I've been under contract twice already and both fell through so you never know. They asked about the horses and I started telling the story about Lowdown and how I got him back after all those years and it was the last time I saw my mother and I choked up and almost started crying. I always worried about the day my mother was going to die. I knew it was going to hurt terribly. But at the same time, I didn't know it was going to be this bad. It's shocking all over again when something new happens that she is missing. Milestones. Kelly has her first boyfriend and I can't tell Mom. It makes me so sad. There is no one else who would understand like she would, no one else to take her place. I imagine this is how you felt at the school and Philip wasn't there. You have a wonderful friend in your life now, a true gift, but no matter how much you love this person, it doesn't take away missing Philip.

By the way, I looked at your house on Realtor.com and said a couple of things about it to you on my blog in response to your comment.