Life Topics

Gut Feeling

Staring into the darkness, I can make out some light coming from the sliders and the shadow of a tree.  The moon is full, accenting the shadowy clouds with a glowing outline.  I reposition myself to sleep, then open my eyes to stare at the wall.  The dog is on the floor snoring, as I look at the clock.  It says 4am.  I want to sleep but it’s not coming.  I fix the covers, roll over and make another attempt.  Still nothing.  4:30am.  Finally, I get out of bed and walk the house or start knitting.  The night is lonely.  This situation repeats itself for nearly a week as I crave the sweet comfort of sleep.  What can it be?

I have no answers to this dilemma, except maybe it’s in that dark place that we often listen to.  Don’t walk down that ally.  Don’t get in a car with that person.  A vessel that holds my fears, secrets, lies, sorrows, and occasional good advice.  This anatomical entity is positioned to be unreachable to the naked mind.  If I could easily access the residue that lives there, I could clean it out and leave the invaluable subtle intuitive relays.  But, for now, it is a burial ground of churning sadness and disappointment causing exhausting consciousness. Breath, please sleep, breath.  My gut is punishing me for hiding my emotions and leaving them there to die.  But they don’t die.

The gut is a multi-tasker and can hold grief, doubts and anxiety as well as keep you regular.  If filled with desultory sludge, it can hold enough weight to keep a person awake for weeks.  My nocturnal issues are obviously the result of having “too much to think” and using a churning gut as repository for all things negative.  I need to reach for help when I grieve and face my doubts and anxiety head on instead of taking big gulps to swallow them whole.  I believe a spirited eviction of sympathies will bring me peace of mind and a full night sleep.

I am getting tired as I type this, bedtime quickly approaches.  I’m still a little nervous that I won’t sleep.  I finish my wine and stretch thinking about things I must get done tomorrow; slight anxiety.  I will eradicate the anxiety tomorrow.  But, for tonight, I finally understand that my gut is the culprit and I am committed to clean it out.  I must create a strategy to release my buried feelings, relying mostly on the strength and tenderness of my own heart.

Good night.  Sweet dreams.

Life Topics

Thoughts on Grief

I’m told it’s something you never get over.  I’ve relied on advice, webinars, articles, and common knowledge to cope.  Friends have been supportive through hugs and coffee.  Daydreams come mostly at night when I’m alone.  Still, the waves of sorrow are following me around like a hungry stray dog.  Just when I think that I’ve come to terms with what happened, I hear that song or see a Christmas gift he would have loved.  Cue the tears.

Grief, I recently read, is love with no place to go.  So, will that love magically get transferred or dissipate into thin air?  Must I carry this “burden” of unanswered love forever?  I will truly love him forever no doubt.  The only thing I have left, as cliché as it sounds, is to hold dear the nuance of him; the memories.  I’ll funnel that love and grief into his legacy.  Cry loving tears that swell your eyes and stain your face.  Catch your breath and remember his jokes, his wit and kindness.  You might even have a good laugh as time goes on.  Above all, be kind to yourself because there’s no clock that tells you when to stop grieving.

Loss is something everyone goes through.  Some handle it better than others or appear to.  I should get over it, right?  I’ll never get over it.  Grief doesn’t work like that.  It’s an unending reminder that weaves its way into your daily life.  How you manage that love-with-no-place-to-go is up to each individual.   Unfortunately, life doesn’t teach or prepare you how to carry on.  Just accept and feel the intermittent pain that pulses through your body like the very blood you need to live.  It is now part of your life.

 

Life Topics

The Mask

Slathering the grey cream all over my face, I give myself a facial that will turn green on contact.  A goolie look I must admit.  All to make my lines, sags and wrinkles disappear from this 59-year-old facade.  Can I be so naive?  Yes, because there was a promise in the bottle, a resound commitment of improvement.  I have to give it a try because of all the years of damage and neglect etched all over my face. I look into the mirror and can make out the cheek bones I used to have, the forehead lines and the mess under my eyes that are visible under the mask.  In 40 minutes, I will wash it off and be beautiful.  They said so.  I guess this is called a “beauty routine.”  It’s an exercise that continues to disappoint.  My face will always be my face.

I’m not dissatisfied with my looks.  With each line and wrinkle, I’ve thanked God for letting me grow old, accepting the consequences.  I’m more than a pretty face.  As my weight has increase, my face has gotten bigger too.  Everything is more pronounced.  The lines where my nose meets my forehead are covered with my glasses thankfully.  A scarf can stylishly drape over the neck lines and keeping a straight face and not scrunching may help to eliminate new lines.  And maybe win poker games too.  Moving into my senior years has me wanting to erase mistakes; personal, professional, and facial mistakes.  Time to atone with toner.

After I rinse the mask, I look in the mirror and remember what I used to look like.  I remember a pretty girl with perfect skin and bright eyes.  She was carefree and thought she’d be 20 years old forever.  Years of sun damage, stress and even some sadness has reinvented her.  I really do love myself for who I am today.  All my experience and wrinkles have an important reason, waiting up for the kids to come home, working overtime, or caring for a sick child.  My face tells a story of someone who has lived a sometimes hard as well as comfortable life.  My journey has been grand and exciting, interrupted by moments of chaos and confusion.  It’s written all over my face.  And you can’t put that in a bottle.

 

Life Topics

A Little Box

I feel foreign in my own house.  My body feels like nothing is familiar. My mind is on everything and nothing at all.  Opening the refrigerator, I take out a can of seltzer and slowly move to the table.  My knitting scattered around, and half finished.  The computer monitor is lit brightly in my dark office. I try to get back into my daily routine, but I can’t sleep.  I must go back to work tomorrow, while my scattered thoughts are muted by confusion and sorrow.  I am devastated.

My world changed 2 days ago at 2am in the morning.  There has been a delay in my emotions that I didn’t expect.  Shouldn’t I be relieved?  We all knew he was going to die for months.  The quick decline in his fragile body became so pronounced it was immediately inevitable.   I thought I was fully prepared to lose him but denied it in my heart.  For months prior, I would visit him as much as possible trying to drink in everything that was him.  Just hoping to capture his love, his stories, his spirit in a little box that I could carry with me.

Children and grandchildren arrived over the weekend to see him before he passed, knowing that time was short.  He announced days before that he was done taking medication and stopped eating.  We would periodically go to his room to check on him.  Mom seldom left his side.  He was unconscious and silent, occasionally opening his eyes to try to communicate.  He was medicated with morphine to relax and help him breath.  I would put my face to his when he was awake and smile and talked soothingly through tears.  I don’t think he heard me, but he would scrunch up his face like he was trying to cry.  He was too weak to have tears.  I believe he was caught between wanting to die and wanting to live.  Afraid to die.

I awoke to see him take his last labored breaths and silently begged God for mercy, bargaining between let him go, and please let him stay.  A severe shock went through me as I realized what was happening.  My sister urged me to leave the room to let Mom have the precious last moments with him, and so I did.  I woke up my brothers and children so they could see him one last time.  We gathered in his bedroom as his lifeless body lay under the covers.  His mouth was agape, but he looked oddly at peace. Slowly we wandered around the room hugging and crying.  We lost our Dad that night.

An hour later, I toasted Dad with a glass of Jameson’s because that’s what he would have wanted.  That’s what I wanted.  Memories flooded my head as I sipped; good and bad.  I loved the person he was flaws and all.  He is finally at peace with his family who will now hold and protect him.  Our job here is done.  That little box I have will be tucked away for me to open when I think about him.  Sometimes there will be tears and other times laughter.  I am so proud that he has touched so many lives and that his spirit will live on.

I will miss you Dad.

Life Topics

Now We Wait

The sound of the oxygen machine was lulling me to sleep.  My eyes were getting heavy, but I stayed focused.  I laid on my side with my folded hands tucked under my chin and my knees bent resting next to his fragile body, just wanting to be close.  As a child, I always slept like this to comfort myself.  Now I was just breathing in what little life he had left.  Silently willing him to go but begging whispers asking him to stay.  I noticed a dark unfocused photo of his late sister on the wall above the dresser, and I felt like it was beckoning him, as I alternated from looking at his face, to looking at the portrait.  And in his heart I know he wants to be with her.

His mouth was wide open as he rhythmically struggled to get air.   His body would uncontrollably twitch with each breath, first his legs then his chest and arms.  The oxygen in his nose was doing little to help as his mouth was doing all the work.  I so wanted him to wake up and talk to me. I needed one last conversation with my Dad.   How little time he had left.  I wanted to cry, but just lay there in a kind of meditative anxiety.  Mom was sitting in a recliner in the room watching TV.  She didn’t want to leave his side.  Even though she had come to terms with his condition she was still losing the love of her life.

Phone calls had been made, texts had gone out.  Advice was asked, “should I come now.”  My answer is always yes.  There is no way to predict how long it will be, only lately there has been a deep decline.  I didn’t want anyone to regret not coming.  And at the same time, didn’t want to sound the alarm.  There is no right answer.  He has just given up on taking his medication and has not been eating.  He wants to mercifully rest in peace but this world and our love is holding on to him.

Now we wait.

Please pray for George.

 

Life Topics

Death

Death is an evil muse, an uninvited bitch, tearing our fragile heart out without a thought. Emotions can be like a roller coaster climbing to highs of comfort and acceptance, then down with the sweet memories that you have in the dark, alone.  You try to hear their voice again, remember their touch.  Confusion and sadness can drape the survivors, who wonder if there is a God.  “Why” echoes throughout the grieved, a question that is flatly unanswered.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.  I am on the threshold of my elder years and am starting to feel the tender pain of loss.  A pain that time will conveniently tuck away.  Hardly any time goes by that I hear of a death of someone I know or know of.  It’s depressing.  A dear friend has just passed and that caused me a quiet agony for all the memories we will never have.  Life without her has left a wide gaping hole.  She touched my life so profoundly that I feel like I’m a better person because of her.

The fear of having so many empty holes in my life scares me.  No one lives forever, however, we carry on as if death is a whisper that we cover our ears not to hear.  But our eyes and hands can see it coming after those who suffer.  All we can do is helplessly look on.  Dad is now fragile and is quickly failing.  He is like the living dead.  Every visit is our last, every hug is tighter, every laugh turns into quiet tears.  My ability to handle his impending death is doubtful.  I can’t bring myself to prepare.

I wish I knew what exactly I’m trying to say.  I just know that I am afraid of death.  Afraid of the aftermath, the sorrow, the loss.  And angry, yes angry!  I want my “whys” to be answered, but alas it’s not for me to know.  I guess the only answer to feeling this way is to live.  Don’t take the people in your life for granted.  Stop and have that conversation with your neighbor, turn off the TV and call a friend, hug for just a few seconds longer and build fabulous memories.  Because when you remember, you honor a life in a way that keeps them in your heart forever.

 

Life Topics

Hard to Say Goodbye

You died on a Monday.  I saw you that morning struggling to breath.  I’m so thankful to have given you a kiss as you slept.  The last kiss I would ever give you.  Oh, how many times had we kissed and embraced?  You were so tired and working so hard to breath like your body couldn’t do it any longer. I hugged your wife not only because I care about her, but because I couldn’t hold you.  She understood as I whispered “I love you” to her.  She always showed strength and grace through your illness personifying love and hope.  Her pain will never go away.  But your pain is gone now and for that I am relieved.   I had hoped you would quietly slip away, and you did.  God Damn it!  I wanted you to stay forever.

The last visit before you left, I asked you if you remembered the time I was walking the dog, and you came out and offered me wine.  Of course, I said yes, so you grabbed a couple of glasses of red wine and we sat on the front stone wall and sipped and talked on a glorious sunny Spring day.  People slowed down to watch us “day drinkers” having a ball laughing and talking.  Pretty soon other neighbors came over and we all chatted.  I liked how you quietly laughed when you said you remembered. It filled my heart.  It was our moment in the sun.

One day, you called me when I was sitting on the beach and thanked me for what I wrote about you on my blog.  There were a few people on the beach, as it was early, and they just watched me sob into my cell phone.  We were both crying.  All of your time was borrowed, and we knew it.  You were so strong and positive while you took your time saying goodbye.  I would have been a mess.  But, not you!  As I hung up, I looked at the horizon meeting the ocean, and drank in the soothing woosh of the waves as they hit shore.  I wiped away the last of my tears and realized that you were one of a few people in the world who know me, who really know me and for that I am grateful and comforted.

Everyone will miss you, especially me.  We stole looks and gestures when we were in each other’s company.  Always connected in some small way.  I know you will continue to be there when I’m looking for you.  In a corner sipping some fancy Italian drink or standing next to your wife always to support her.  We will always watch over your wife.  I promise.  Your spirit will never leave our little community, our little lives that we are forced to carry on without your grace.  I toast to your generosity, love and joy that you gifted so many.  Cheers.

You are a once in a lifetime friend.  True friends that I can only count on one hand.  You were not just a friend though, you were a mother, a wife, a neighbor, a confidant and a caregiver.  My heart breaks with you gone now.  Please carry me with you wherever you are.  Let the others who have passed know that I think of them often too.  I can only hope to laugh at our memories some day when the thought of you will bring a smile, not a tear.  You will live on in my heart until I take my last breath, and we once again sip red wine in the sunshine.

Life Topics

Anything

 

How come you ask nothing of me?
I say, “let me know if you need anything?”
Do you think that is just polite?
Is that empty to you?  Am I not in some small way, a
part of your precious life?  Am I overvaluing what
we mean to each other?  I pray not.

Maybe you don’t believe in me, trust my
character.  My tears are not empty, they carry
sorrow, hope and a promise.  A promise to be
present for all of it.  But most of all they carry strength,
commitment and love.

I will miss you for all that you are.  Every little
piece of your complicated life and the wit you’ve
displayed that has made me laugh from deep inside
my soul.  Few have gone there.  Most never will.

But I’m here NOW, and so are you.  I’m trying to
come to terms with the inevitable, it is unimaginable.
God have mercy.  Please see that I am available,
and willing to help in any way possible.  My heart
was made to care and my hands were made to comfort.

Life Topics

Yesterday Today and Tomorrow

She was very knowledgeable about her business.  Holding the ring, she pointed out the uniqueness of the setting as she rotated it in her fingers.  The stones were exquisite as their brilliance would light up with each motion.  “Can you see how the diamonds are held in this circular setting?” she said.  It was a gold band with three diamonds in a row.  I knew nothing about settings, but she assured me it was both fashionable and stable.  I really liked the ring but did not love the ring.  She continued by saying, “the diamonds are E H quality”, or some such letters that was supposed to impress.  It was lost on me.  He stood next to me leaning over the case, focused on the ring and listening intently.  It was going to be a major purchase if we decided to go with it.

He asked me to wait outside while he had a private conversation with the shopkeeper.  I quietly turned to him and said, “I need to talk to you.”  He insisted I wait outside. I repeated myself again, hoping to curtail their conversation.  I could see he was set to negotiate.  I didn’t want him to work to get the price down on something I wasn’t really sure about.  However, I went outside as he asked and waited until he emerged from the store.  He told me he had talked her down by several hundred dollars.

“Hey, I wanted to let you know that I don’t love the ring” I said.  He was a little bit surprised, as we walked down the street.  I said, “Maybe we can go to Boston to look for the right thing.”  He agreed, although a bit disappointed. Turning toward the beach we walked onto the soft sand and stared out at the harbor in silence.  The beautiful summer day reflected the sun off the water as the boats bobbed on their moorings.  His plan was to propose and present me with a ring that night.  It was our weekend away to celebrate 25 years together and to start a new chapter in our life.

The town had been all but shut down that day while they worked on the repairs.  A sewer breakage had caused all food establishments to close, and half the town was left without plumbing.  We decided to go anyway and try to enjoy ourselves.  The quaint hotel we stayed at had flushing toilets and was in the center of town near beaches and shops. Port-o-Potties lined the main street, and a scattering of people walked around.  Our evening plans were ruined as our favorite restaurant, The Mews, was closed.  That was the memorable location he planned to make it official.

As we walked back toward the main drag, I saw another Jewelry shop.  I said, “Let’s go in here and take a look.”
I had every intention of just looking.  The owner of the shop was animated and friendly.  He didn’t have the smug air of the last shop owner.  We began leaning over the cases to look at his diamond rings.  There were several off the list right away.  He held up “our most popular” rings looking for my interest.  Nah, no interest.  I did find one that was way beyond our means.  I kept going back to it, but eventually snapped out of it.  We were not looking to spend a ton of cash.

My eyes were a bit off focus because my false eyelashes were starting to flap off my eyelid.  I must have looked crazy.  Every so often I’d put my finger on the lashes to secure them on the dry glue without success.   My soon to be fiancé was staring intently at all the sparkly choices, pointing out possibilities.  And then, there it was.  A 3-diamond band that was sweet and simple.  It resembled the ring we saw at the other shop, but was in white gold, which made it pop.  The owner told us that the 3 diamonds represented, “yesterday, today and tomorrow.”  That resonated with us since we have been together for so long.

My boyfriend asked the owner if we could take a walk and talk about it.  “Of course!” he said.  So, we left the store and stood off to the side of the front window.  With tears coming down his face, he quickly said, “I know we’re doing this backwards, we’re about to buy a ring, and I haven’t officially asked you to marry me.  Will you marry me?”  I took his face into my hands, looked directly in his eyes, and slowly said “Yes. Yes, I will marry you” as my tears (and eyelashes) blurred my eyes.  We tightly embraced and started kissing in the middle of a busy sidewalk like we were the only ones in the world.

 

Life Topics

A Day at the Beach

We lugged all the beach gear from the trunk of the car, moving away from the hot concrete parking lot toward the sandy shore, a brilliant horizon of blue with white.  Bright colored striped chairs, thirsty towels, and a comfortable blanket under arms, over shoulders and falling from our grips.  Willing our feet toward the edge of the ocean we looked for a blank spot to set up homebase.  Near the hungry wandering seagulls and children playing became our nirvana, enough room to spread out.  Unfolding our accessories and taking off our shoes was a good place to start, a little sandy real estate to call home for the remainder of the day.  The sun was leaning west in the late afternoon, but the warmth was strong and comforting.  We had to shift our chairs to face toward the skewed rays, which put us in a line, not optimal for conversation.

After setting up camp, we decided that a cool swim was in order.  One by one we meandered toward the shore, as the breaking waves brought in little pieces of deep green seaweed.  At first it was a shock to feel the cold-water wash over our feet and shins, moving rhythmically over our shivering legs.  The ocean made a lulling whoosh sound coupled with the background din of the gulls screaming. We noticed parents bobbing around with their children, lifeguards gazing at nothing, and overweight women squeezed into bakinis walking the beach.  Turning to the deeper water, we all bravely dove in, in an effort to acclimate to the water temperature.   One person jumped right in after the count of three.  The rest of us splashed water on our arms and thighs before taking the plunge.

We floated weightless over the continuous breaking waves feeling a kind of freedom from our bodies.  We laugh, played, and felt happy to be with each other.  The cold water we originally walked into turned into warm bath water the longer we stayed in.  A sandbar 200 feet from shore brought us back to chest high water as I felt safer with the velvety sand under foot.   I kept my head above water not wanting to wet my hair, while still being playful.  We threw seaweed at each other and talked about nonsense.  Everyone was enjoying this escape from the hot summer day.  No one wanted to get out of the water, hanging on until the next big wave.

We will have a lifetime of days at the beach, but this one was special.  Sitting in my sand chair after the swim I felt completely content.  Two laid on the beach blanket on their bellies trying to tan their backs; one reading and one sleeping.  Two behind me, eyes closed,  silently facing the western rays for the late summer exposure.  I spent a few moments sunning myself, then put on my sweatshirt covering my burnt shoulders as I turned my chair.  I people watched for a while, then lovingly looked at my family that surrounded me.  Every one of them means the world to me.  I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.   My quiet observation brought me to a place of solitude and peace.  We chose to be here with each other, and that was enough for me.